What’s Russia up to in Syria? I would wager they’re after something big – retaking Palmyra
Vladimir Putin hasn’t sent his soldiers to Syria just to show solidarity with Bashar al-Assad. Nor has he flown them into the Russian bases around Tartous to keep Assad in power. That goes without saying. And Putin isn’t worried about losing the only warm water Mediterranean port still in Moscow’s hands.
He wants a victory. Syria’s army, the only institution upon which the regime – indeed, the entire state apparatus – depends is being re-armed and trained for a serious military offensive against Isis, one which is meant to have enormous symbolic value both in the Middle East and in the world. Military plans always get delayed. And the moment the first artillery piece sends off a shell, the plans always go wrong. In Syria, operational details change every day and every night. But I’ll wager a well-informed guess right now – and we’ll keep calling this a guess, if only for form’s sake – that the Syrian army is being primed to recapture the ancient Roman city of Palmyra from the Islamists.
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