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MOSCOW, February 8. /TASS/. Russia’s military successes in Syria, too obvious to ignore, are number one reason behind the vocal propaganda campaign launched in the West over Moscow’s participation in the anti-terrorist operation in Syria. A big question mark has emerged over plots, being hatched by the leading Western powers and many regional players. Effective strikes by the Russian air group strengthen the positions of the Syrian army and give Bashar Assad’s supporters a firmer stronghold at negotiations with the opposition. Is a ground operation involving Arab countries possible in Syria in a situation like this? Experts have no certainty on that score. They see the sole way out of the current unpredictable situation in a political dialogue by the rival parties, however hard this dialogue may be to conduct.
The confrontation in Syria has entered into the critical phase. With Russian air support government troops are thrusting towards Aleppo, Syria’s ‘northern capital.’ The offensive is unfolding against the background of an aborted round of Geneva negotiations between Damascus and the opposition, which exchanged mutual accusations and paused the dialogue at least till February 25.
NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg believes that the Russian air group’s operation in Syria hampers peace settlement and causes tensions in the region to soar. The leading Western countries claim that Russia, while pretending it fights against terrorist groups, in reality is out to eliminate that part of the Syrian opposition which enjoys support from the United States and its regional allies. In the wake of the latest developments around Aleppo Turkey and Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia have been urging the West to give up hope for a political settlement involving Moscow. The possibility of a ground operation in Syria has become one of the most widely discussed themes. In part, such a hint came from the Saudi Arabian defense minister's adviser Ahmed Asiri.
"It is quite obvious that as the Syrian Army pushes forward with Russian air support, some groups that might have positioned themselves as opponents of the Assad Regime at negotiations and in the further settlement process are disappearing and others disband themselves," senior research fellow at the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Nikolai Sukhov, has told TASS. "As a matter of fact, this explains why Western propaganda resources have been activated. Whereas before the countries that supported those groups had to put up with certain financial losses, now the whole architecture is falling apart. The question is being discussed which groups should be considered terrorist, but very soon it may turn out there is nobody to talk about at all."
Sukhov called for distinguishing between "real events and information warfare." As for discussions regarding the possibility of a ground operation by Arab countries, Sukhov believes that "it's nothing but just media pressure against Russia, while in reality this possibility is very doubtful." "Firstly, the United States itself is unprepared for such an operation. At least it will remain unprepared for it for some time. Secondly, the involvement of Arab troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates looks doubtful." The Saudis’ performance in the campaign against Yemen was very unimpressive, he said. "True, the army is equipped with sophisticated hardware, but its combat potential leaves much to be desired." In his opinion, the Turkish army is a much stronger force. "But I doubt that the Turks will be prepared to go that far in aggravating the conflict, for its effects will be hard to predict."
The propaganda campaign against Russia first and foremost stems from the military successes, agrees Professor Irina Zvyagelskaya, of the oriental studies department at the international relations institute MGIMO. "Military successes will certainly add a lot to the strength of the current Syrian regime, Zvyagelskaya told TASS. "The stronger the positions of the legitimate authorities, the harder it will be to conduct negotiations with them to bargain over certain terms. It is quite obvious that none of those who support the opposition and the opposition itself by no means wish to see Assad gain strength. This is the underlying reason for the reaction of some Arab states, which say they will be prepared to send their troops to Syria."
Zvyagelskaya doubts whether the United Arab Emirates has sufficient military resources. Those of Saudi Arabia are certainly greater. "But in Yemen Saudi Arabia failed to demonstrate any military successes. For now all this looks more like a warning, but the arrival of some small, token military contingent should not be ruled out," she believes.
Zvyagelskaya sees the sole positive aspect in the current situation: the talks as such.
"One should remember, though, that the talks will be tough-going. The negotiators who have agreed to meet at the discussion table are very complex personalities, by no means eager to conclude a compromise. Whatever military people may be saying, this conflict cannot have a military solution, and being aware of this is most important of all. It is hard to imagine a situation where the whole of Syria has been freed to have become an integral state again. Nothing is clear at this point. The political process is the sole resource that can bring about a more or less decent way out of this conflict. The process will be hard, indeed, but it will have to be adhered to."
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