13:12 GMT +322 November 2019
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    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) speaks with US President Barack Obama (R) (File)

    Russia’s Syrian Puzzle: How the West Misread Putin

    © AFP 2019 / BERK OZKAN / POOL
    Middle East
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    Senior western officials were unable to recognize Russia’s objectives in Syria, and when the West woke up to the Russian President’s intentions, it was short of ideas how to respond and as a result had to “swallow some pride” and accept Russia’s terms, says Reuters.

    Russia’s air operation in Syria came as a big surprise to senior western officials and forced them to radically change their approach to the ongoing conflict, the agency says.

    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.

    And when the West did wake up to Russian President Vladimir Putin's intentions, it was short of ideas about how to respond.

    “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.


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