Author: Paul Antonopoulos
Paul Antonopoulos is currently a Candidate for an MA Degree, writing his dissertation on the Saudi-Iranian Geopolitical Rivalry in the Syrian War and is an analyst for Al-Masdar News. You can follow him on twitter. Al-Masdar News is also on twitter.
A very highly placed Israeli officer told Al-Monitor, on condition of anonymity, only a short time after the start of Russia’s involvement in Syria, that “Syria can become Russia’s Vietnam.” This has obviously been grossly misjudged. Russia is yet to commit any ground troops, and, for the foreseeable future, most likely will not, unlike the American campaign in Viet Nam.
Russia has shown that an effective air campaign complimented by reliable ground forces such as the Syrian Arab Army can have a profound impact on defeating terrorist groups like ISIS. The Russian air-strikes have exposed the mythology that ISIS can only be defeated with the deployment of American ground forces in Syria as air power alone cannot do it alone. This begs the question: why does America not coordinate its air campaign with the so-called moderate rebels it arms and funds? Or perhaps they know, away from the public eye, that such moderate forces do not exist in Syria.
It would seem that Russia has learnt from the failures of the Viet Nam War and emphasises coordination with ground forces. Israeli Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, said in a press briefing: “It is impossible to defeat the Islamic State from the air; you need strong ground forces to accomplish that.” This is one thing America does not do with its Kurdish and ‘moderate rebel’ allies.
Ben Caspit of Al-Monitor claimed that “the increasing involvement of Russia and Iran, together with a massive Hezbollah presence, is not helping. Instead, they are only increasing the regional chaos.” Rather, he must question this statement; ISIS expanded under US-led coalition air-strikes, but has shrunk since the commencement of Russian strikes on September 30. The evidence shows that Russia has helped bring stability to the Syrian people as more and more towns are rescued from the clutches of ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Therefore, is it conceivable that Putin and Lavrov have embarrassed their American counterparts, Obama and Kerry? All evidence suggests that Putin and Lavrov are in a league of their own in understanding the Syrian War, ISIS, and the repercussions in the wider region—something the United States has failed to understand, as it did in its war against Viet Nam.