Egozi: Future of Russian Presence in Syria

russian presence in syria

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By Arie Egozi

Russia continues with its effort to turn Syria to its front base for its defense forces. Israeli sources say that the U.S is “totally unaware” of the obvious results of this massive effort that, according to them, will affect the U.S ability to operate in the region.

The Russian effort continues in full force. Military sources told Zaman al-Wasl, the news website of the Syrian opposition, that Russia has taken full control of Palmyra Military airbase in the Syrian desert from regime forces, making it the fifth Russian military base in Syria. 

To make all these steps Russia is performing a massive “shaming” campaign against the Syrian president.

“They want to control Syria totally with a puppet government”, Israeli intelligence sources said.

And the takeover continues in full force. A Russian military delegation received the airport from a Regime delegation headed by the commander of the 22nd Air Force Brigade, Maj. Gen Tawfiq Muhammad Khaddour in early June. The airport has been evacuated from all Iranian presence and from all regime-related military and logistical forces, sources told the website.

Russia started to reconstruct the airport with engineering and drilling equipment so as to remake it into a Russian military base capable of receiving Russian military and civilian planes and military troops. The base will be similar to the Hmeimim base, and will be independent from any regime presence. 

According to the sources, It is still unclear whether the Russian military control is a long-term or a short-term agreement with the Regime. 

The rehabilitation engineering operations carried out at the airport, however, indicate that the Russian military stay won’t be short-lived. The source indicated, as well, that a large number of shields had already been brought to the airport and deployed to the ground in a way that is suitable for the Russian military and civilian presence.

Russia’s essential motive behind controlling Palmyra airport is military related. There is, however, a strategic motive having to do with using the airport for touristic purposes, especially since Palmyra includes some of the most important tourist sites in Syria and the whole middle east region, and since it is the only place with significant touristic infrastructure like the Palmyra Hotel.  

Russia wants to significantly expand its military bases in war-torn Syria, the Interfax news agency cited a government resolution from last May.

An Israeli source said that the Russian ambassador to Syria was recently nominated as a “special adviser of president Putin in Assad’s palace in Damascus.”

Russia is forcing Syria to accept its demands for a massive military presence. Russia expected that after its massive intervention in the Syrian civil war president Assad will accept all their demands unconditionally.

Professor Uzi Rabi, the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, told iHLS that the Russians expected that Assad will be open to all their demands after their investment in the Syrian civil war. “Now that the Russians are in a very bad situation, a combination of the Corona and the low oil prices, they discovered that Assad is playing power games, and that angers Moscow very much. In this situation, Washington looks at the situation without intervening in any way, expecting that Russia will be badly affected by their new struggle to get at least some eggs if not the golden ones.”

Moscow is using all its arsenal in its efforts to be the main “contractor” that will rebuild ruined Syria, after the long civil war. This in order to gain huge contracts that will help their badly harmed economy.

The message from Moscow to Assad is very clear – you have to fully obey, otherwise you will have to leave the presidency palace.

Israeli experts say that Putin has sent a clear message to Assad – accept all our demands or you will be thrown out of his palace. They made it clear that Putin demanded that Russian companies will get all the concessions they want. 

Arie Egozi, iHLS Editor-in-Chief