Back in July, Western officials seemed to be absolutely sure that Syrian President Assad’s days “were numbered and predicted he would soon be forced to the negotiating table.”
However what came next changed the whole game in the region.
“Secret preparations were already underway for a major deployment of Russian and Iranian forces in support of Assad,” the agency says.
However even though Russia had been dispatching large amounts of equipment, and hundreds of troops on the ground over a series of weeks, it somehow went unnoticed by the West.
“One of the final pieces of the puzzle was when Moscow deployed aircraft flown only by the Russian military, eliminating the possibility they were intended for Assad,” the agency quotes a senior US administration official without revealing his name.
“That involved swallowing some pride, to be honest, in acknowledging that this process would go nowhere unless you got Russia and Iran at the table," the US official concluded.
However, he argues, an earlier understanding of Russia’s military plans is unlikely to have changed US military policy. President Barack Obama had made clear early on that he did not want Washington embroiled in a proxy war with Russia.