Mikhail Remizov: "The capture of Syria’s Palmyra is a response to Russia for Aleppo’’

This weekend, a terrorist group Islamic State (banned in Russia) recaptured Palmyra, by attacking the city with  4-5 thousand fighters and dislodging the Syrian army beyond the city borders. Vestnik Kavkaza spoke with the president of the National Strategy Institute, Mikhail Remizov, on the causes and consequences of the attack on Palmyra.

- How does the new capture of Palmira by the militants of ISIS change the situation in the Syrian war?

- It's quite a serious blow to Syrian President Bashar Assad and a big problem for Russia. First of all, it is an image blow,  because the capture of Palmyra was a symbol of success of our joint actions with Syria. It is also weakening  the negotiating position in the relations with the West. In general, the capture of Palmyra can be estimated as an indirect response to the refusal to yield to the US pressure. Apparently, the US has seriously pressured Russia on the Aleppo issue, Moscow has decided to resist this pressure, which is quite fair and reasonable in the current situation. At the same time, kind of a complex combination has emerged, which implies the transfer of the ISIS militant forces to the area of ​​Palmyra from Raqqa and possibly from Mosul. This could be hardly possible without the backroom agreements between the terrorists and Americans, for example, on the issue that they would not force an offensive in Mosul. Indeed, it is not forced now.

At the same time, since the defeat of ISIS is a consensus position for the United States and Russia, at least, declaratively, in the future the co-operation is not excluded, especially if Trump keeps that foreign policy tendency, which emerged in the course of his election campaign: the priority has been given to the defeat of ISIS before deciding Assad's political fate. The loss of Palmyra does not close the doors for the cooperation, although weakens it, and limits Russia's bargaining position.

- Why did the militants of all the liberated cities attack exactly Palmyra?

- Still, Palmyra is the largest and most iconic center, that was liberated from ISIS with a decisive participation of  Russia. Exactly the recapture of Palmira  is a blow to Moscow’s image.

- How soon can we expect the recapture of Palmyra by the Syrian Army and Russian Aerospace Forces? 

- The return of Palmyra under the control of Damascus cannot be considered as an end in itself. The following tasks of the Syrian troops’ offensives after the end of the operations in Aleppo should be calculated on the basis of a set of strategic and military-political considerations. You cannot attack Palmyra right now, only because it has been just lost. It is more rational to focus on other goals, since we should not let the enemies or strategic opponents control our actions, not under any circumstances, it is important to have initiative.

On the other hand, the question about our goals in Syria has been raised in all seriousness. When the situation is developing successfully, albeit more slowly than we would like, the uncertainty of the target can be taken out of the brackets. When it develops unfavorably, it becomes a more serious internal problem. I think it is the main question for us today: to define our objectives and the strategy of exit the conflict.

- What measures will help to avoid such recapturing of the cities by the militants of ISIS in the future?

- The recapture of Palmyra raises more questions about the quality of the Syrian army's actions and the level of support from Iran, because the Iranian role in the ground component is bigger than Russian. But there are questions to the actions of the Russian group as well, because the intelligence activities are included in the range of activities conducted by Russia in Syria. Either the intelligence information was not received in time, or there was no correct response to it. Perhaps no one on the ground could respond in time of the attack. Perhaps there is some discoordination of the military planning between the Russian group and Syrian army. It is dubious that we will find this out.

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