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What brought Assad to Moscow?

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s sensational visit to Moscow on Tuesday evening was clear evidence of Russia’s leading role in the struggle against the Islamic State

MOSCOW, October 21. /TASS/. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s sensational visit to Moscow on Tuesday evening was clear evidence of Russia’s leading role in the struggle against the Islamic State, whose defeat, Damascus hopes, will entail a political settlement in the country, polled analysts have told TASS.

As Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday morning, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad paid a brief working visit to Moscow on Tuesday evening for narrow and wide format talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. As follows from an official statement posted on the Kremlin’s website, Assad thanked Putin "for the political steps that Russia has been taking since the beginning of the crisis and that did not let the events in Syria follow a more tragic scenario." Russia’s air group in Syria joined the operation against Islamic State militants in Syria on September 30.

The president of the Middle East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, believes that Assad’s brief visit to Moscow showed to all of his neighbors that the Syrian president should by no means be ignored in shaping Syria’s future political system. "This is a hard fact. It does not depend on his visit to Moscow. His was a brave move by the leader of a country waging a war on terrorists. Assad, in contrast to his father Hafez Assad, who had been a career military pilot, is an eye doctor by profession. At the same time he is the commander-in-chief of Syria’s armed forces and a man of great personal courage," Satanovsky told TASS.

"Bashar al-Assad has for 15 years led a country that during the past four years been exposed to aggression fueled by support from the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. He is the sole head of state in the region that has been standing firm against western plans for deposing him alongside other Middle East and North Africa leaders in a series of 'Arab Spring' revolts that swept countries from Tunisia to Egypt. There can be no doubts that Assad will be one of the key figures in the real political process, which is about to be launched in Syria and for which Moscow has been exerting active diplomatic efforts," Satanovsky said.

He avoided saying anything about the technical details of Assad’s arrival from Damascus or Latakia to Moscow.

"This question may be of interest only to those who might be planning a terrorist attack against the Syrian president's flight," he said.

Russia’s veteran expert on oriental affairs, Georgy Mirsky, has brushed off speculations the news of Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Moscow was disclosed post factum to ward of the risks of a terrorist attack. "Firstly, Islamic State militants do not have surface-to-air missiles. Secondly, over the four years of the war there has been not a single attempt on Assad’s life," Mirsky said.

"The Syrian president’s visit to Moscow was expected to demonstrate to the whole world a meeting of two military allies - Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad - who are fighting against terrorism together. Military plans are not to be discussed by telephone. By meeting in Moscow the two leaders demonstrated that their alliance in the struggle against the Islamic State is really robust," the analyst said.

"As far as the content of talks between Russian and Syrian presidents are concerned, I believe that Assad hardly asked Putin for more military support. The Syrian army has enough tanks, planes and artillery. Russia’s air group is providing effective support for Assad’s army in its ground offensive against the Islamic State positions. But the operation is proceeding slower than expected," Mirsky said.

"If I were Putin, I would ask Assad if he had confidence in his army, if there was a chance to recapture Syria’s entire territory from the terrorists and how much time that might take. Or: does Assad think that Putin will be bombing IS positions for a year? I believe that Assad and Putin at their meeting identified the 20% of Syria’s territory that Assad would surely retain under control - from Damascus to Homs and Latakia. It is pretty certain the militants will never seize this area. Putin and Assad may have discussed measures to protect the regained territory and likely supplies of defensive weapons, too. Of course, these are only my guesses, because the information about the Putin-Assad meeting was very scarce," Mirsky said.

"As for the main question 'What brought Assad to Moscow?’ I would answer it in this way. The visit was to drive the message home: the Western politicians should forget about the possibility the Russian president might turn his back on Assad. Putin showed that he does not have the slightest intention of doing so," he believes.]

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors

TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors