Putin – Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man
Almost everyone now recognises that Russia’s military intervention
in Syria to defeat the so-called Islamic State terror group was the
right call to make. Russian President Vladimir Putin isn’t crowing
about it. He doesn’t have to.
By Finian Cunningham
Clearing House" - "Sputnik"
- Putin’s vindication was made clear by the enthusiastic
reception afforded to him at the summit of G20 leaders in Turkey
last weekend. The Financial Times headlined: “Putin transformed
from outcast to problem solver at G20”.
The paper went on to note
that: “An audience with the Russian president was one of the hottest
tickets in town, as Western leaders were forced to recognise the
road to peace in Syria inevitably runs through Moscow.”
Even US President Barack Obama was seen to confer
with Putin as the two leaders held an impromptu and earnest
face-to-face discussion on the sidelines of the summit.
It was a constructive encounter with none of the
antagonism that Washington has all too often displayed towards Putin
over the past year. The Paris terror assault – with 129 dead and
hundreds wounded in simultaneous gun and bomb attacks – no doubt
concentrated the minds of world leaders attending the G20
conference, held in Turkey’s Antalya only two days after the mass
The atrocity was claimed by the Islamic State
terror network (also known as ISIS or ISIL), with seven of its
operatives killed in the suicide attacks. Days later, the conclusion
by Russian investigators this week that a terrorist bomb was the
cause of the
Russian civilian airliner crash on October 31
over Egypt’s Sinai desert – with the loss of all 224 people onboard
– has only added to the grim public realisation about ISIL and its
affiliates. French President Francois Hollande – who skipped the G20
summit due to the emergency situation unfolding at home – appealed
this week for a “global coalition to defeat Islamic State”.
This was made during a special address to both
upper and lower houses of the French parliament at the Palace
of Versailles. The French leader called on the US and Russia to join
forces, along with France and other countries. Hollande is to fly
to Washington on November 24 to discuss with Obama how to coordinate
efforts at combating ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Two days after that,
French president is due in Moscow to hold the same
discussion with Putin. Putin has already acknowledged the appeal
from Hollande, saying that he welcomes closer cooperation, adding
that Russia has been consistently calling for a greater joint effort
in combating terrorism.
Putin has even reportedly offered Russian naval
coordination with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle
in the eastern Mediterranean for future airstrikes against ISIL.
Within days of the Paris massacre, French warplanes launched
extensive strikes against Islamic State bases in eastern Syria.
Russia and its Syrian ally have pointed out that
previous military strikes by the US and France are in violation
of international law since these operations do not have consent
from the government in Damascus. It remains to be seen then how
Russia would coordinate military operations with France in Syria
owing to the legal implications.
Since the Paris mayhem, several French political
figures and former military intelligence personnel have urged
Hollande to re-think policy on Syria.
Opposition leader Nicolas Sarkozy, among others,
said that “to not coordinate with Russia is absurd”. A think-tank,
CF2R, with close links to French military intelligence, also advised
the Hollande government to view the Syrian leader not as the enemy,
and to dedicate efforts, in conjunction with Russia, on destroying
the ISIL and related groups.
In other words, Russia is
being proven right about its intervention in Syria. The most
effective way to defeat the terror networks of ISIL and other
jihadist groups like the Nusra Front is to support the Syrian state,
to coordinate with the Syrian Arab Army on the ground, and to target
the militants with a full-on campaign.
That is why Putin was received at the G20 summit
with a newfound respect among other leaders. When Putin ordered the
Russian military intervention in Syria, beginning on September 30,
it was not done in half-measures. In a matter of weeks, the Russian
air force has achieved more in terms of wiping out terror groups
than the US-led coalition did in more than a year of airstrikes.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted
in an interview this week that the US-led bombing supposedly
against the Islamic State has been ineffective due to its
conflicting priorities. Lavrov said that since August 2014, the
Western so-called anti-ISIL coalition was focused on “weakening” the
Damascus government and therefore it did not strike decisively at ISIL
formations because they are seen as assets in the Western effort
for regime change.
Some analysts go further and argue that the Islamic
State and associated jihadist mercenaries are the result of covert
Western sponsorship of these groups.
Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf Arab
states are also known to have been major funders and facilitators
of the jihadist brigades. Putin highlighted these links at the G20
summit when he announced that the financing of the terror networks
in Syria has come from “40 states, including members of the G20”.
Thus, while Russia has been vindicated in its
strategy and tactics on Syria, the appeal for a “global coalition”
against terror has intrinsic limits. This is because key Western
powers and their regional allies are committed in principle
against such a Russian-defined front.
The United States, Britain and France are
among those states insisting that the Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad has to relinquish power, sooner or later. Russia rejects
that demand as a violation of Syrian sovereignty.
These Western states are also known to have
supplied weapons, at least indirectly, to the jihadist terror
British leader David Cameron complained at the G20
summit that Russia has hit “non-ISIL opposition to Assad – people
who could be part of the future of Syria.” But who or where are
these “non-ISIL” groups that Cameron says “could be part of the
future of Syria”?
When Russia has asked the West for information and
locations on “moderate rebels” to avoid in its airstrikes, the West
has refused to provide any details.
France is as guilty as any other of the foreign
states for fuelling a covert war in Syria that has spawned the
terror problem of Islamic State and its affiliates. A problem that
has, in turn, rebounded with horrific results outside of Syria’s
borders, killing hundreds of French and Russian citizens in only the
past three weeks.
Vladimir Putin has
demonstrated true leadership on tackling terrorism in Syria and
beyond. As the old English proverb goes: cometh the hour, cometh the
However, the more troubling problem is this: how
many other statesmen are ready and willing to do the decent thing
and follow the Russian lead? Russia’s policy on Syria is the morally
and legally correct one.
The Paris and Russian airliner massacres, as well
as other recent terrorist atrocities in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and
other countries, cry out for a real anti-terror effort based
on respecting sovereignty and abiding by international law.
That challenge will expose those states that have
built their policies on Syria out of deeply criminal objectives and