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What Is Russia’s Strategy in Syria?


What Is Russia’s Strategy in Syria?

Juan Cole

Russian MiGs for the first time on Wednesday gave close air support to the Syrian Arab Army as it attacked rebels north of Homs. The Russians also continued their airstrikes against rebel-held Idlib Province. And, the Russians for the first time launched cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea on rebel targets. Over the past week and a half, Russian strategy is becoming apparent.


Cole provides some interesting observations here, but we need to pull the camera farther back. There is indeed some importance in who is a Muslim of which group and where because these are patterns of trust and distrust. But neither the governments nor the ruling classes of Russia or the United States much care, not in any central way. If Russia turns out to be less fickle than the United States in terms of its alliances in the region, it will be because it may have some greater interest in stability as opposed to instability.

Central to the greater context is the US' ongoing assault on the general region. Reading from east to west:

  • Pakistan. Drone strikes, puppet government.
  • Afghanistan. Invasion, gov't farmed to opium trade
  • Iran. Current black ops, economic and undercover harrassment
  • Iraq. Invasion followed by undercutting of the puppet government, however intentional, but funding of ISIS directly and through the Sauds.
  • Kuwait. Iraq gulled into invasion of Kuwait, allowing ongoing stationing of US forces
  • Syria. Direct bombing, funding and arming of conflicting groups
  • Lebanon. Periodic invasions, with and through Israel
  • Palestine. Subject to Israeli genocide with a view to eventual complete occupation
  • Egypt - placement of torture chief and therefore presumably US intelligence liason as the head of the country in response to the Arab Spring
  • Libya - destabilization, bombing, troops.
  • Saudi Arabia - US troops support the Saudi monarchy
  • Ongoing US and Saudi bombing of civilian population in Yemen

And the coup in the Ukraine. And there are other actions, of course, and it is unlikely that nearly all are publicized. These are almost all current, with current violence within each country. The one theory that seems to tie them together consistently is that the US seeks not use or transport principally, but control of hydrocarbons to potential imperial competitors: China, Russia, India, Brazil, Europe, and alliances and power blocs involving these. For this, control of the productive areas and transport channels may be ideal, but disruption is sufficient and often cheaper.

What does that leave for Russia? Build up in NATO to the West, persistent and increasing US militarism across half its southern border and beyond, and an uncomfortable history with China and Japan.

Russia cannot keep up with American military spending, and there are lots of reasons to believe that the US cannot either. But they obviously do not want a hostile and extremely aggressive power to achieve a seal across the entire southern and western borders along with a complete circuit for an oil pipeline to the Mediterranean.

I strongly suspect that this does have some circumstantial relation to groups of Muslims. It would be interesting to see all that tied in to the larger picture.


The sub-marine Levant Basin, which contains oil and gas fields offshore of Israel, extends north to offshore of Syria (and south to offshore of Ghaza and Egypt), though seems less explored for oil and gas than the region offshore of Israel. This would mean that the same style of geological structures and structural oil and gas traps seen in seismic lines offshore of Israel would also extend north to offshore of Syria.

Does 2+2+4 or have I made 2=2+5?


Good comment. I would add that similar incursions--sans the bombs, but involving covert--"War on Drugs"--death squads made a political patchwork quilt out of both Central and South America; and it's very likely that when the CIA-directed campaigns of character assassination aimed at Hugo Chavez failed, Cancer was introduced to invoke "the real thing."