Israel Seminars - Ronny Simon - The end of the Russian presence in Syria

The end of the Russian presence in Syria

Israel, March 29, 2016

After half a year of intense Russian presence in Syria, Putin announced that the Russian forces will withdraw from the country. (September 30th – March 14th).
Assuming that the proclamation is indeed a tactical move and not just deception, In a retrospect, we need to view what were the goals of Russia in Syria, were they accomplished and what happens now? 

Russia was officially invited by the Syrian regime to assist them in the civil war in Syria. Since the west, generally, supports those groups of rebels, that Russia was invited to uproot, Russia's involvement brought much tension between Russia and the U.S.A.
In order to justify Russia's presence in Syria, the operation was presented as if Russia arrived to fight the IS. Sure enough, Russia couldn't care less about the IS (Islamic State). Only after a bomb blasted in the Russian air craft above Sinai, an operation of the Islamic State, the Russian air force gave some attention to the IS.
Russia's only interest in Syria is to have a stronghold, a naval base, in the Mediterranean Sea. Invited by the Syrian regime, Russia could claim that its presence in Syria is by the invitation of the legal regime and therefore the only legitimate 
foreign force in Syria.

From an Israeli perspective, having the Russian army deployed so close to our borders required special attention. The Israeli army was well coordinated with Russian forces to avoid any misunderstandings and any mistakes in the way the two armies operate. Russian aircrafts in the Syrian air space and very close to Israel's border presented a new challenge to the Israeli air force.
Russia limited its involvement to bombing and air strikes, while on the ground, the regime's army backed by Iranian forces and Hezbollah terrorists, was able to conquer some rebel's posts. The Russian air strikes caused the death of hundreds of civilians and massive damage to infrastructure. The positive aspect of the Russians presence in Syria, from an Israeli perspective, also meant that Iran will be limited in its involvement in Syria.

Now, when the Russian army started its gradual withdrawal, a stronger Syrian regime, will allow (They don't have a choice) a greater Iranian influence in the country. Iran that stated for years it is not involved in Syria in any way is no longer hiding its intentions. Iran is heavily deployed in Syria and in fact controls what happens in Damascus. With a rapid recovery of the regime forces and Iran's growing influence, the Russian short involvement may be the turning point in the Syrian civil war. In any case, the Russian short but disastrous involvement in Syria opened a wide door to Iran to occupy Syria de-facto. 

Russia is content with what was accomplished-a base on the Mediterranean Sea with the local regime's blessing. In a future Syria, when the country will be divided to provinces, the Russian base is located in Elewite territory (The Asad family are Elewites and the majority of them dwells on the shores of the sea). That means that in a new Syria, the present regime may get to hold a small portion of the country. 
That is the portion Russia helped securing for the Asad family that is where their naval base is located.

Whatever will happen is Syria, the decisions about the country's future will take place in Teheran and Moscow.

The articles in this section are reflecting the Israeli point of view regarding local and regional events.
I'm not a state official and I have no access to inside information. The articles and the opinions I'm expressing are mine alone and are based on observing and knowing the region and country for many years.