The Syrian truce has made it possible to concentrate all forces on a common enemy, and to negotiate to solve the Syrian conflict. This had not happened before, and the first signs of progress on both fronts are visible. The liberation of Palmyra is significant in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It should be acknowledged that this breakthrough was due to the Syrian Arab Army with Iranian and Russian backing.
It was clear from the start of the US-led coalition operation that fighting ISIS only from the air would be impossible, and that Syrian rebels could never become a reliable force against the group. Their main goal is to topple President Bashar al-Assad. Their fight with ISIS has mostly been a limited fight for survival.
Their military capacities are insufficient to fight on two fronts simultaneously with the same strength, so they had to choose the one they considered more important - that against Assad. However, even if they succeeded in taking the capital, they could not unite forces against ISIS. The Syrian army - united, systematic, organized, loyal to one leader and strongly backed by Russia’s military - is the most relevant ground force against the group.
There is no need to rehabilitate Assad or shake hands with a bloody dictator. On the contrary, the international community can benefit from Russia doing the “dirty” work. Moscow’s policy appears to be in the interest of most of the players involved. It saves the West from the humiliation of having to work with Assad against ISIS.
ISIS, which once seemed unstoppable, now appears much weaker, and Palmyra represents an opportunity to unite all players to finish off the group on the ground once and for all.Maria Dubovikova
Having achieved relative balance between Damascus and the rebels, Russia can concentrate on fighting the group by direct military support for the Syrian army via airstrikes, advisers, instructors and limited personnel. Palmyra is proof of the successful course taken by Russia, which helped save one of the world’s greatest historical treasures. Its liberation will be followed by an offensive on Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Sukhan.
The battles will not be easy, but victory does not seem illusory. ISIS, which once seemed unstoppable, now appears much weaker, and Palmyra represents an opportunity to unite all players to finish off the group on the ground once and for all. Cooperation and coordination of all forces would greatly increase the chances of successfully liberating ISIS’s stronghold Raqqa. This would be an extraordinary and vital breakthrough.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme
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