Egozi: Russia to Control Syria

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By Arie Egozi

Russia, in its efforts to gain full control of Syria, is operating one division of the Syrian army as part of the Russian army in order to achieve its goals. This unprecedented move emphasizes, according to Israeli experts, the Russian plan to gain full control over Syria.

Recently, soldiers from division number 5 of the Syrian army were sent to eastern Syria to Deir al-Zor province in an attempt to reduce Iran’s dominance as much as possible, and Lebanese Hezbollah units were also forced to hand over their barriers and positions and transfer security responsibilities to them.

Units of Syrian division number 5 are being trained by the Russians in training camps in northwestern Syria. During training, the fighters are sent to the various combat fronts and sometimes even accompanied by Russian military advisers who train them to operate.

Division number 5 is currently operating on all fighting fronts in Syria where Russians have a vested interest in taking over the desired territory and are not hesitant, with Russian encouragement, to engage in firefighting against Iranian and Hezbollah forces.

The Russians have decided to put an end to the Iranian presence in Syria that is mostly connected with Teheran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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

The Russian effort continues 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,” an Israeli intelligence source 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 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 of 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, Interfax news agency cited a government resolution as saying last May.

President Vladimir Putin ordered his Defense and Foreign Ministries to hold talks with Bashar Assad’s regime over obtaining maritime access in Syria, as well as further military facilities and additional real estate on land and at sea. 

During the engineering preparation operations, the Russian forces have found ancient historical monuments and have kept hold of them in the presence of the Regime delegation which did not seek to prevent it. The Russian engineering forces had carried out excavation operations before, looking for monuments in Palmyra in 2017 and 2018 and had looted many of them deporting them to Russia, the source said. 

Professor Uzi Rabi, the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, said that the Russians expected that Assad will be open to all their demands after their investment in the Syrian civil war, “now when the Russians are in a very bad situation, a combination of the Corona pandemic and the low oil prices, they discovered that Assad is playing power games, and that angers Moscow very much. In this case, 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 to gain huge contracts that will help their badly harmed economy.

The message from Moscow is very clear – you have to fully obey, otherwise, you will have to leave the presidential 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. Putin demanded that Russian companies will get all the concessions they want. 

Last April, Russia signed a 49-year lease with the Syrian government for the port of Tartus.

Officially, the Russians and Syrians say the port would serve as the mother port for the Russian industry, and would have a positive effect on trade between the two countries and would also improve the Syrian economy.

Arie Egozi, iHLS Editor-in-Chief