Thomas Wictor

The bizarre Russian kabuki theater in Syria

The bizarre Russian kabuki theater in Syria

We live in an era of dishonesty, willful blindness, and stupidity. This makes it hard to know what’s really happening. I can’t tell you with 100 percent certainty what the Russians are up to in Syria, but I know it’s kabuki. It’s a stylized performance for the masses, meant to save Russian face.

Here’s what the US and Syrian opposition groups are saying.

Russia launched a naval bombardment Wednesday of ISIS targets in Syria, a senior Russian official said, ramping up a newly muscular presence in the Middle East. Four Russian ships fired 26 missiles into Syria, hitting 11 targets, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin during a televised meeting.

Shoigu said the strikes were launched from the Caspian Sea using precise long-range missiles that flew 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) to their targets. Russia says it launched missiles at Syrian targets from the Caspian Sea.

Wednesday also appeared to mark new and closer military cooperation between Russia and the embattled Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Russia and Syria launched coordinated attacks Wednesday on Islamist factions in towns in Hama and Idlib provinces in western Syria, with the Syrian shelling apparently conducted in concert with Russian airstrikes, according to an opposition group.

If the report is correct, it could offer fresh evidence that Russia’s primary goal is propping up al-Assad rather than fighting terrorism…

Russian warplanes conducted heavy airstrikes Wednesday on Islamist factions, accompanied by shelling from government forces, according to the UK-based, anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The head of the observatory said there were no ISIS positions in the areas targeted and that fierce clashes were taking place on the ground between regime forces and their allies and armed Islamist rebel factions, including the Ahrar al-Sham and al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

Look at the map that CNN provides.


See how much territory the Islamic State controls? Why would the Russians avoid bombing those terrorists if the goal is to prop up the Assad regime?

Yet by almost all accounts, that’s exactly what’s happening.

‘More than 90%’ of Russian airstrikes in Syria have not targeted Isis, US says

Russia has been aiming at moderate Syrian opposition who are anti-Assad, said State Department in first statement on specific figures of recent Russian strikes

A large majority of Russia’s military strikes in Syria have not been aimed at the Islamic State group or jihadists tied to al-Qaida, and have instead targeted the moderate Syrian opposition, the US State Department said on Wednesday.

“Greater than 90% of the strikes that we’ve seen them take to date have not been against Isil or al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists,” said spokesman John Kirby.

The Russians are attacking the only groups that don’t pose a threat to Assad. “Moderate” opposition groups can’t fight. Only the Islamists have the potential of overthrowing Assad, yet the Russians are leaving Syrian ground troops to engage in more futile back-and-forth with them.

Why wouldn’t the Russians bomb the people doing this?

ISIS has released a significant new execution video from the historic city of Palmyra, in the Syrian desert.

Child executioners are shown in the video being forced to brutally slaughter a group of more than 25 regime soldiers.

The video shows the soldiers lined up on their knees on the stage of the Roman amphitheatre, which had formerly been used for an annual festival in the city.

A baying crowd of men and boys gathered in the restored ruin waiting for the slaughter, many wearing military uniforms and headscarves.

I don’t watch Islamic State videos anymore. Though they’re fake in the sense that what we see on screen isn’t what occurs, the victims do die.


The map accompanying the piece above shows the Islamic State area of operations in Syria.


Again, why aren’t the Russians bombing these guys if the goal is to prop up Assad?

Finally, we have this.

A number of cruise missiles launched from a Russian ship and aimed at targets in Syria have crashed in Iran, two U.S. officials told CNN Thursday.

Monitoring by U.S. military and intelligence assets has concluded that at least four missiles crashed as they flew over Iran.

The U.S. believes, based on intelligence reports of damage assessments, that some buildings were damaged and civilians may have been hurt.

It’s unclear where in Iran the missiles landed. The Russian ships have been positioned in the south Caspian Sea, meaning the likely flight path for missiles into Syria would cross over both Iran and Iraq.

The Russians have been firing a relatively new cruise missile called “Kaliber,” using it for the first time in combat.

Four out of twenty-six cruise missiles is 15 percent. The missiles flew over Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan.

That means this is the route they took, generally speaking.


All four “wayward” cruise missiles not only landed in Iran, they also hit buildings and caused civilian casualties.

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it’s enemy action.

—Auric Goldfinger


Let’s recap.

The Russians are not bombing any of the terrorists who have the ability to overthrow Bashar al-Assad.

Four advanced Russian cruise missiles “accidentally” fell in sparsely populated northern Iran, destroying buildings and causing casualties.

On June 6, 2015, Russia provided the Alexander Shabalin to help Egypt rehearse an amphibious landing.


It was the first-ever Russian-Egyptian naval exercise. About a month later, the Egyptian navy took part in massive amphibious landings in Yemen that inserted hundreds of armored vehicles and self-propelled artillery pieces from the United Arab Emirates to fight Iranian proxies.

Azerbaijan—an ally of Israel and enemy of Iran—gets 85 percent of its arms imports from Russia. However, Russia does not have close ties with Azerbaijan. In fact the alliance between Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan has spawned a “Caucasian Cold War,” yet Russia continues to arm the Azeris at a frantic pace.

Turkey and Israel have stated their intention to bring Azerbaijan up to NATO standards, and Russia is helping, despite the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty “Flank Document” of 1997, which specifically requires the United States to protect the right of Azerbaijan to reject any Russian request to station troops or weapons in that nation.

The Russians are using aerial cluster munitions in Syria, but they have sensor fuses that are set to cause the bomblets to self-destruct in midair before they hit any targets.

It’s a harmless pyrotechnic show, nothing more.

Russian surveillance video of their air strikes is of such poor quality that it’s generally impossible to know what they’re hitting.

However, there’s no doubt that the majority of these very large high-explosive bombs landed in empty fields.


When you add up all the circumstantial evidence, it appears that Russia is doing nothing to save Bashar al-Assad. The Syrians have been bombing for four years. Why are so many people saying that a handful of Russian air strikes has turned the tide of the war? The “big Syrian offensive” seems to have already fizzled.

Nobody’s telling us the unvarnished truth. CNN reported that US officials were “shocked” that Russia “secretly videotaped” and posted on YouTube a conference that defense officials of both nations had on Syria. Well, here’s the “shocking” video that the Russians posted.

The Americans would clearly have seen the camera operators filming from the Russian side. That video wasn’t “secretly recorded”; the American outrage is more playacting. Also, not only did the Russians edit out the sound, they used only video in which nobody is seen speaking! That means they took care to make sure that lip-reading software could not be used to find out what was being discussed.

So relax. The whole world—Russia included—is getting ready to dump the mullahs, Assad, and Hezbollah.


Russian officers to arrive in Israel to coordinate military action.

Netanyahu and Putin have agreed on several issues in principle, including a Russian pledge to stop the flow of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah, as well as to allow the Israeli air force to carry out operations freely in Syria, even in areas where the Russian army is stationed on the Syrian coast.

Senior officers in the Russian and Israeli air forces will discuss the mechanisms for the coordination of Israeli overflights of Syrian airspace to avoid any conflict with Russian aircraft on operations against opposition groups. Israel is likely to request Russia to coordinate its moves in the Mediterranean in a manner that does not affect Israeli submarines gathering intelligence about Lebanon and Syria.

Another report by Israel Radio on Sunday claimed that Tel Aviv will provide vital intelligence to the Russians in a bid to reduce Iranian influence in Syria.

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