Assad has Putin. Erdogan has Obama. Netanyahu has both. King Salman has neither. Sooner or later, Middle Eastern dictators will have to stop relying on superpowers for the security of their horrible regimes.
When the Russians first intervened, the Assad regime’s position had become so shaky that it looked like it might fall, and this situation was reflected in adamant postures among rebels to the effect that they were determined to fight on until the regime was forcefully overthrown. Thanks in large part to the Russian intervention, that is no longer the situation.An excerpt from, "ART OF WAR: What’s Behind Russia’s ‘Ides of March’ Military Drawdown in Syria?" By Shawn Helton, 21st Century Wire, March 18, 2016:
Opposition groups have been given reason to believe that a military victory for them is out of reach, and that a negotiated settlement involving the current regime is the only alternative to endless warfare. At the same time, the shoring up of the regime has stopped well short of giving the regime any capability to achieve military victory. The current Russian drawdown accentuates the point that Moscow is not going to help the Assad regime achieve any such capability.
In short, the entire sequence of Russian moves, including the initial intervention and the current reduction of forces, has helped to create and maintain the necessary hurting stalemate to make possible a negotiated settlement. By contrast, greater U.S. intervention into the kind of situation that existed last year only would have fed opposition recalcitrance about pushing toward a military outcome and would have pushed resolution of the conflict even further out of reach.
Other Russian behavior, including in the partial cessation of hostilities and the U.N.-mediated political negotiations, are consistent with the current Russian aim in Syria being a peaceful settlement. If Putin is so clever, we should build on the fruits of his cleverness to pursue a peaceful compromise, which would be in U.S., Russian, and Syrian interests alike.
From a propaganda perspective, the latest military move by Russia has prompted policy makers at Western think-tanks to characterize the strategic decision as a sign of a rift between Putin and Assad – but as we’ll see in the Sputnik News article below, the timing of the military drawdown has everything to do with the upcoming peace talk negotiations in Geneva.An excerpt from, "Why Putin’s Policy in Syria Has Laid the Groundwork for a Political Settlement" By Fyodor Lukyanov, Huffington Post, March 18, 2016:
President Putin’s decision to start pulling Russian troops out of Syria made headlines around the world this week. But if one recalls official statements at the start of the operation and after it was in full force, the decision was to be expected. It was said from the very beginning that the operation would continue for only a limited time, that there would be no permanent extensive military presence in Syria, that the purpose was not to support President Bashar al-Assad’s regime but save Syrian statehood, and that the future of the country would have to be determined by the Syrian people through political talks. What has transpired in Syria is nothing less than what was contained in those official statements — what they said is happening now.
What are the results? The Assad regime has been saved from collapse and has increased the territory under its control. It does not embrace the entire country, but it still covers the territory where a big part of its population lives. The change in the balance of forces on the ground inspired hope that political talks could take place and would not be just an exchange of accusations, as before in the various conferences in Geneva, Vienna, Cairo and Moscow. The opposition can no longer hope to win militarily, and neither can the regime after the eventual exit of Russian troops. Moscow does not want to become a hostage to Damascus’ policies, which seek to maintain the status quo. But few in Moscow believe that the present Syrian regime will last long without changes. Syria needs profound reforms in order to restore its statehood. And Moscow’s decision to partially pull out is also a signal to the Syrian authorities that Russia will not do their work for them.