WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — US Senator Mike Rounds told Sputnik on Tuesday that President Putin had shown the world, and Middle East countries in particular, that Russia was a reliable ally to its friends through the air campaign in Syria.
“Russia had them on the ropes,” New York-based foreign affairs analyst Joe Lauria stated. “Under the terms of the cessation of hostilities, Russia could continue to strike the Islamic State and al-Nusra, and provide air cover to the Syrian Arab Army on the ground.”
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the withdrawal of Russian air squadrons after victorious Syrian ground forces had reached Aleppo and Palmyra and driven close to Raqqa, the Daesh capital, Lauria noted.
However, “The liberation of Aleppo was not yet complete. Though the Syrian army reportedly had entered Palmyra and reached near Raqqa, the terrorist group has not been destroyed.”
Lauria suggested that the Russian pullout may be the result of a secret agreement or understanding being negotiated between the United States and Russia.
“Perhaps there has been a deal with the United States. Maybe Washington has offered a major concession on Ukraine, something President [Barack] Obama may gladly concede given what a disaster the US adventure in that country has become.”
Lauria also noted that the Obama administration might feel free to establish a no-fly zone over areas of Syria and step up its strikes against Daesh after privately getting clearance to do so from Russia.
“The United States has wanted Russia out of the Syrian theater the moment it entered. Questions now abound. With Russia yielding the skies will the US set up a no-fly zone as Turkey has desperately wanted?”
Lauria said it remained an open issue whether Syrian President Bashar Assad could use his strengthened position or remain in power, or whether he would now be forced to step down after a six-month transitional period.
“Perhaps the UN talks will yield a peace deal in which Assad stays at least six more months until a transitional government takes over, writes a new constitution and 18 months from now holds a general election? The next few days and weeks should be interesting.”
Institute for Gulf Affairs analyst Adam Whitlock linked the Russian withdrawal from air strikes to the success of the Syrian ceasefire and the growing momentum towards finally ending the five-year civil war in Syria.
“My immediate reaction is that with peace negotiations and the cessation of hostilities being moderately successful, Putin is doing his best to make Russia seem like benefactors.”
Russia had succeeded in strengthening the Syrian government and had forced opposition rebels to sit down with President Assad and seek a compromise settlement, Lauria pointed out.
“Now that anti Assad forces — terrorists from the Russian perspective — are cooperating, they have no real reason to stay.”
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