Russia’s operation in Syria has weakened the position of US-backed Islamic militants, changed opinions in the US and brought a resolution to the conflict closer, Northeastern University professor and terrorism expert Max Abrahms told Sputnik.
Washington and the Syrian rebels who are backed by the White House are coming to terms with the impact of Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, a “game-changer” which has strengthened the government’s position and brought a resolution to the conflict closer, Northeastern University professor and terrorism expert Max Abrahms told Radio Sputnik.
”It looked from the perspective of the rebels in Syria but also from Washington DC that ‘Assad’s days were numbered,’ because the rebels were increasingly winning territory, getting closer and closer to taking over Damascus,” Abrahms said of the situation before Russia’s air operation.
Predictions in the US were that Russia would make the same mistakes the US did and “get bogged down in Syria much like the US got bogged down in its own counter-insurgency campaigns in Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Others presumed that Russian involvement would be ineffectual, or that Russian support for Assad was weak.
“There’s no question that Islamic State (Daesh) has been weakened in Syria, as well as the position of the other terrorist, or rebel groups, whatever you want to call them,” Abrahms said. He cited their loss of territory and oil revenue as well as waning budgets for fighters and propaganda as proof of their growing weakness.
“More and more the leadership of the Islamic State (Daesh) is saying to foreign jihadis, don’t even come here, go to Libya.”
Another consequence of Russia’s air operation is a change in the US political outlook towards Syria, Abrahms said. The White House has changed its rhetoric on regime change, and the fortunes of US presidential candidates with differing policies regarding the future of Assad is indicative of changing public perceptions.
“A lot of Americans think that they’re stuck between a rock and hard place: do they want to see Islamic State and al-Qaeda and groups like that gain strength or do they want to see the growing influence of Russia and Iran and Assad? So I think a lot of Americans aren’t very clear on whether they think Russian involvement has been a good thing or a bad thing.”
Abrahms said the victory of Bernie Sanders, who is not in favor of removing Assad, over the more hawkish Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire Primary, is an example of reluctance among Democrats to back regime change.In the Republican primary, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz took first and third place, respectively, and they currently have attracted more delegates than the other candidates vying for their party’s nomination. They have both said that Syria is more stable with Assad in power, as he is preventing the spread of Daesh and other terrorist groups, Abrahms said.
“Marco Rubio who is much more neo-conservative, he finished fifth. So there does seem to be a growing view among not just the American public but also among American leaders, both Democrats and Republicans alike, that regime change in Syria is probably not the best idea right now.”