Diplomat Drops a Bombshell: US Expected ISIS to
Seize Damascus by October
In an article in a British newspaper Russia's
ambassador to the UK reveals the Russians were told
by the Western powers that after the US proclaimed a
no-fly zone ISIS would capture Damascus
By Alexander Mercouris
February 16, 2016 "Information
Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to Britain, dropped
something of a bombshell on Monday, though one that
has gone completely unnoticed.
In a piece in the print edition of the London
Evening Standard defending Russian policy in
Syria he made the following extraordinary
summer we were told by our Western partners that
in October Damascus would fall to IS (ie. the
Islamic State - AM).
they were planning to do next we don’t know.
Probably, they would have ended up painting the
extremists white and accepting them as a Sunni
state straddling Iraq and Syria”.
The summer - when these conversations between the
Western powers and the Russians allegedly took place
- was the time when the US was in discussions with
Turkey and Jordan about setting up a no-fly zone and
safe havens in Syria.
I discussed in this article how “no-fly zone” is
a euphemism for a US bombing
What Yakovenko is therefore in effect saying is that
the US was planning in the summer to start a bombing
campaign to overthrow the government of Syria in the
knowledge that this would result by October in the
victory of the Islamic State and its capture of
has previously explained that
it was to stop the US proclaiming a
no-fly zone - i.e. commencing a bombing
campaign aimed at overthrowing the Syrian government
- that Russia intervened in Syria.
The fact Yakovenko says the US told the Russians
this would result in the Islamic State capturing
Damascus by October explains why the Russians felt
they had to act as they did.
Is Yakovenko however telling the truth?
The first thing to say is that the British and US
governments have not denied what he is saying.
That however is not conclusive. It is not difficult
to see why the British and US governments might
think that in light of the incendiary nature of what
Yakovenko is saying denying it would simply give his
comments more publicity if they denied them and that
the better approach is silence.
If so, then the fact Yakovenko’s comments have been
almost entirely ignored shows this approach has
Is Yakovenko however senior enough to know the
details of the discussions that took place in the
summer between the Russians and the Western powers
as he says?
The answer to that question is almost certainly yes.
is no longer the most important diplomatic posting
for a Russian ambassador in Western Europe, it
remains an important posting, and any official
appointed to be Russia’s ambassador to Britain is by
definition a senior official whom Moscow will ensure
is kept well-informed.
If there were discussions of the sort Yakovenko
says, he would almost certainly have been fully
briefed about them.
What Yakovenko says is also consistent with things
In the summer - having just captured Palmyra - the
Islamic State was on a roll, making it not
implausible that it might reach Damascus by the
The Syrian army in the meantime had suffered a
succession of heavy defeats, and had been forced to
withdraw from Idlib province.
In light of all this, in the context of a US bombing
campaign, it is not implausible the US was telling
the Russians in the summer that the Islamic State
would seize Damascus by October.
As for the US’s discussions about setting up a
no-fly zone and safe havens, there was nothing
secret about those, and they were openly
Why however would the US tell the Russians that they
expected the Islamic State to seize Damascus by
That is not a difficult question to answer.
No-one in the early summer thought there was any
likelihood the Russians would intervene militarily
in Syria. The US probably thought it was not
risking anything by telling Moscow its military
plans and what their likely consequences would be.
Probably what the US expected was that the threat of
a bombing campaign leading to the seizure of
Damascus by the Islamic State would terrify Moscow
and persuade the Russians to force Assad to stand
down, which has been the US objective all along.
In that case the US seriously underestimated the
Russians' resolve and their willingness to act to
prevent what the US was threatening from coming to
Overall Yakovenko’s disclosure makes sense, and is
therefore probably true.
What it shows is how reckless the US’s Syrian policy
At the very time the US was pretending to fight the
Islamic State it was in fact preparing steps that it
knew would facilitate its victory.
Even if this was intended as a diplomatic play it
was an extraordinary thing to do.
The families of US victims of jihadi terror would
surely feel betrayed if they were ever find out
about it, whilst it is not difficult to imagine the
consternation and recriminations in Washington when
the Russians unexpectedly pre-empted the US strategy
by intervening in the way they did.
As for the people of Damascus - spared not just US
bombing but rule by the Islamic State - and the
people of Europe - who would have faced a far bigger
refugee flood if what Washington was telling the
Russians had come to pass - they both have reason to
be grateful to the Russians for making sure that
things turned out otherwise.