Three days ago, the Russian Military gave this press conference. The scariest part is having to read the subtitles. A daunting task.

It’s overwhelming and scary. It is so official and so formal. But really, it is just some public relations for the Russians who have had a much more polite and cooperative tone in Syria over the last 5 or so months.

Here are some of the high points, but none higher than the presence of Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin at the press conference.

  • Moscow truly believes in what was “agreed” upon in the Anstansa Ceasefire agreement which was a meeting held by Russia, Iran, and Turkey sans the United States, who has carried the brunt of the anti-ISIS training and air campaign. (It isn’t exactly binding for the Americans.)
  • “The war in Syria has actually stopped” (That is actually something Russia said — deal with the disbelief in whatever way works best.)
  • Russia Claims to be focusingon  infrastructure — water and electricity topping the list
  • Schools
  • Training soldiers
  • Encircling American special forces at a border crossing between Iraq and Syria the French call al-Tanf  (yes, the “resistance” has allegedly cut off the American retreat in Eastern Syria)

This was one response from one respected analyst:

And indeed, the United States has not been one to abide such incursions on it’s self-defined deconflicted zones. The Axis of Resistance has breached the 55 kilometer red line 3 times and all 3 times it was neutralized with extreme prejudice, “targeting 60” soldiers at once, as the former Brookings Doha Fellow, Charles Lister points out:

Al-Tanf

Al-Tanf is a border crossing from Iraq to Syria or vice versa depending on where one might find one’s self standing. Many, many rumors and speculations swirl around what exactly is transpiring along the conflicted border between Iraq and Syria. The Iranian elite forces are near Americans but they are respecting the boundaries for now.

This is what Joshua Landis, the Pro-regime Obama advocate who is the Director of Middle East Studies at The university of Oklahoma, shared from Al-Arabiya:

Washington said on Friday that Russia’s intervention in Syria was “very useful” to reduce tension in southern Syria, while a senior Russian military official described US military warnings to the Russian forces and its allies as “ridiculous justifications.”

Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis stated that “Russia has been very helpful in Syria,” adding that “the ease we see today is largely due to its interventions.”

Davis asserted: “They (the Russians) are trying to contact other pro-regime parties and the pro-Iranian militias, and are trying to do what is required to prevent these parties from carrying out destabilizing acts.”

Russia has been very useful as they are America’s back channel in Syria, calling both Syrian and Iranian forces and delivering the American message, which is simple: “Stay 55 kilometers away at all times.” “Justification” is merely a matter of perception. It does not seem to be up for negotiation at this juncture of the peace process.

The likely — and therefore boring —  conclusion is the US-backed rebels in al-Tanf are doing one or all of three things: 1) finishing their training; 2) getting supplies ready; 3) preparing to get orders to deploy to Raqqa. All three are likely, possible and plausible. Less likely of a possibility is that the Iranians have the Americans pinned down in Syria. That is just a profoundly ignorant notion to hold and should otherwise be considered propaganda.

What’s Moscow’s actual aim? Likely Palmyra. Why the ancient city of Palmyra? Because the Russians were humiliated when Bashar al-Assad was beaten back there and Moscow wants blood in return.

On the same day Moscow held its press conference claiming Americans had been encircled, ABC published this bizarre piece saying the United States colluded with the Islamic State. But it is where Moscow tips their hand, laying down justification for a looming attack on an ancient city that has already been battered by 6 years of fighting.

Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the commander of Russian forces in Syria, said IS made a deal earlier this month with the Kurdish forces to leave two villages southwest of Raqqa and move toward Palmyra.

The only people that will be getting bombed by anyone but the United States coalition are rebels in Palmyra. For now, the 55 kilometer line in Syria holds and is respected by Tehran, Damascus, and Moscow. The assertions being made that the Americans are being forced to do anything is laughable at best and destabilizing propaganda at worst because Russia cannot sustain any kind of direct conflict with the United States due to their inferior fire power and the air power given/sold to Iran by Moscow is even older and even less equipped to confront the United States. Whatever the Americans end up doing in Syria they do by choice.

Tags: al-Tanf