Andrei Baklanov: "After defeat of ISIS terrorists to retreat into shadows"
Another meeting on the Inter-Syrian settlement between Damascus and the opposition started in Astana against the backdrop of positive statements from Russia about the imminent destruction of terrorist organizations in Syria. The deputy head of the Council of the Russian Diplomats Association, Andrey Baklanov, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the importance of eliminating organized terrorist activity in the region to stimulate the peaceful political process in Syria.
- Andrei Glebovich, in your estimation, is the stage of Russia's active military participation in the Syrian crisis being completed?
- If we talk about what stage is over and which starts in Syria, it is worth remembering that the military action of the Russian Aero-Cosmic Forces was carried out in the extremely alarming situation, when there was a dangerous situation for Damascus and the ruling regime due to the fact that ISIS troops (terrorist organization, banned in Russia) were really close to the city. Two main tasks were set before our military operation on September 30, 2015: the lawful regime's salvation from attacks of international terrorist organizations, which were trying to overthrow the legitimate government, and the liquidation of the project under the conditional name ISIS, most linked to international terrorist centers of the group, which announced the creation of an 'Islamic state'. Then ISIS was the most organized, armed and dangerous group in ideological, military and political terms, so the goal was to help the Syrian armed forces to defeat ISIS.
- And judging by the statements of our military, these tasks are fulfilled?
- It can now be said that both tasks are close to their implementation, which is recognized, among other things, by those who do not like Bashar Assad. The Syrian regime has confirmed its legitimacy and control of the absolute majority of the country and its population - the task of maintaining the regime has been fulfilled. The task of liquidating the project under the conditional name of ISIS, which in no way is neither Islamic nor the state, has also been accomplished. Now ISIS is crumbling, a significant number of militants have been destroyed in combat, others have been exhausted. Some terrorists continue to move to other regions of the world, in particular, to European countries, and some, as we assumed, are repainting, mimicking, retreating into the shadows.
- Does it mean that we will have to fight terrorism at some other level?
- It should be recalled here that international terrorist associations have had two approaches for many years: one speaks about the need to create a "caliphate", so that all adventurous elements know where they can get together, and the other, on the contrary, points out the inadmissibility of creating such a "caliphate", since it will inevitably become the target of regular armed forces and sooner or later will be defeated. The second approach proved its validity. In this regard, there is now a redistribution of power in extremist organizations, those who managed groups until 2013-2014 becomes heads again - supporters of the sleeping cells model and of revealing themselves only when it is necessary to terrorize population. Now they will solve their problems in about 60 countries, strengthening hidden positions of militants and imposing grievances on the population to receive money.
- In this case, what will be the next stage of the Syrian crisis settlement and the fight against terrorism in the region?
- The general situation now is that, on the one hand, we have an unconditional victory over the organizers of the ISIS project, but on the other hand, the fight against terrorism is not completed, we have to continue it at a new level and in more complex forms. Terrorists will go underground and will be repainted in other colors, being what they really are, and present themselves as "free" or "democratic" forces. There can be a lot of demagoguery.
It is also important that, in addition to ISIS, there are other formations that have taken up arms against the legitimate government, they are now in other areas and the concept of four zones of low military confrontation and the transfer of the situation to peaceful channels are working quite successfully in relation to them. This idea proved to be very productive, but it has not yet completed. In general, the Syrian issue and the opposition to extremism in Syria is far from its solution, although the most cardinal tasks of saving the regime and liquidating the most powerful military-political group - ISIS - have been resolved. Now we and Damascus should do what we can in Syria, but also should not lower our sights in resisting any manifestations of extremism and terrorism. So,we should prepare for a more complex, positional struggle in a situation when terrorists and extremists will hide under other banners, being adventurous terrorist associations.