The threat to Assad: how the withdrawal of Moscow from Syria changes the map of the civil war

The new balance

According to analysts, the Geneva peace accords were made possible thanks to made by Assad’s army superiority in the West. Now, after the departure of the Russian air force, this superiority may be in question.

In late February, the Washington Institute for the study of war in the prediction of events in Syria for three months assumed that the truce, which on 22 February, agreed Moscow and Washington will be waived. Government troops, according to experts, will attempt to cast the opposition groups from Aleppo and lift the siege with loyal Bashar al-Assad towns of Foix and Kefraya, and Russia continues strikes on the positions of the armed opposition.

A few days before the start of the truce, Assad’s troops launched an offensive in the controlled banned in Russia “Islamic state” (IG) Palmyra, the taking of which could open the way to Damascus to attack to the East of the country. At the same time Assad forces continued their attempts to establish control over Aleppo, which control the troops of the Western-backed opposition, and the other part — the Islamic state and “dzhebhat EN-Nusra” (also banned in Russia).

However, after the ceasefire went into force on 27 February military activity in Syria dropped significantly — according to the U.S. state Department and the Syrian human rights activists, at 90%. Signals on what steel its presence in Syria and Hezbollah — the main ally of Assad at the land theatre of operations. American intelligence-analytical Agency Stratfor citing a reliable source reported that Hezbollah has shifted its forces in Syria close to the border with Lebanon. According to Stratfor, the patron of Hezbollah, Iran has received a signal about the need to reduce military presence in Syria. About the withdrawal of Hizbollah from Syria and Lebanese reports edition Janoubia.

At the same time opposing Assad and Pro-Western opposition Islamists announced the preparation of a new offensive. The representative of the movement “dzhebhat EN-Nusra” (the movement does not participate in the negotiations in Geneva, and not covered by the ceasefire) on Tuesday said that within two days the group will begin an offensive against government forces. On Sunday, the militants movement in Maaret-EN-Noumena (Idlib province in the West of the country) has turned the weapons against their former allies from the “Free Syrian army”, were disarmed and dispersed a rally of the Pro-Western opposition.

Syrian political analyst Ali Salim Assad does not agree that the government army will be severely weakened after the withdrawal of Russian troops. Since the end of September 2015, when Russian interference in the Syrian conflict, the government army combat readiness has increased significantly, he said. Played a major role and supply the Assad regime of weapons from Russia: judging from the shooting of the TV channel “Russia 24” on the territory of Syria was a missile volley of fire “Hurricane”, “Pinocchio” and “Tornado”. Official data on the supply of arms Russian officials are not provided. In addition, the expert noted that the Syrian army be Russian military experts who will assist government units in the conduct of the battle.

The chances for peace

Some analysts and negotiators the announcement of the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria are cause for optimism. According to analysts Stratfor, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria may indicate that the Geneva talks are progressing successfully. The withdrawal of Russian troops from the country “will completely change the whole situation, especially in regard to political settlement of the conflict”, said the Agency Sputnik representative of the opposition of the Higher Committee on negotiations Monzer Majus, adding that the opposition was ready for direct talks with Assad government.

But so far, no breakthrough occurred. As noted by The Financial Times, there are many reasons to doubt the success of the diplomatic efforts and the duration of the truce. The parties still have a number of unsolvable contradictions, the main one is the requirement for Assad to step down as President, which insist on the opposition and the Western coalition.

According to the expert, UC Berkeley Sheriffs Zuhur, to force Assad to resign as President in order to achieve a political settlement or to agree on the division of the territory of the country can now only Moscow or Tehran. None of the publicly capitals such signals have yet been sent.