Russia’s Renewed Syria Strikes Would Be Game Changer

Russia’s Renewed Syria Strikes Would Be Game ChangerRussia’s Renewed Syria Strikes Would Be Game Changer

The possible resumption of Russia's massive air campaign in the Syria war would prove to be a game changer, a lawmaker predicted after Moscow threatened to do so unilaterally if the US still rejected its demand to conduct joint airstrikes.

"Russia's comeback on Syria's battlefield would greatly and positively impact on the future developments in the Arab country," Mansour Haqiqatpour, a member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, told ICANA on Tuesday.

Russia, along with Iran, has been a principal ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's five-year-old war, while Persian Gulf Arab states, Turkey and western powers have supported various rebel factions seeking to dislodge him.

Moscow began its direct intervention in the conflict with the launch of an air campaign last September, which helped tip the war Assad's way and buoy his army against militant groups.

Russian President Vladimir Putin withdrew some of the Russian forces in March, although it maintained an air base and kept up strikes on the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

Countries involved in Syria peace talks, known as the International Syria Support Group, agreed in a November meeting on a roadmap outlining a peace process that envisaged a ceasefire, talks between the Syrian government and opposition, and a roughly two-year timeline to establish a unity government and hold elections.

A "cessation of hostilities" in place since late February has been strained to breaking point by frequent violations, which each side blames on the other. It does not include designated terrorists, including IS and Al-Qaeda-linked groups.

The latest round of Syria talks co-chaired by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov convened a week ago in Vienna focused, among other things, on consolidating the ceasefire.

  Tepid Response

Russia's proposal to the US-led coalition that they stage joint airstrikes against terrorist groups in Syria met with tepid US response on Friday, Reuters reported.

Such action would begin as of May 25 and be coordinated with the Syrian government, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a defense ministry meeting broadcast on state television, adding Moscow reserved the right to stage strikes unilaterally.

He said joint airstrikes should also target convoys carrying weapons and ammunition crossing into Syria from Turkey.

But the United States made clear on Friday it had little interest in the idea, noting Russia has floated similar proposals in the past and stressing that it expected Moscow to pressure its Syrian government ally and avoid unilateral strikes.

"There is no agreement to conduct joint airstrikes with the Russians in Syria," said US State Department spokesman, John Kirby.

Haqiqatpour noted that he believes Russia's decision to halt its air raids was a "big mistake" and it is now trying to put it right.

"Over the past few months, the Syrian Army has made great advances and remarkable gains on the ground … Now with the reengagement of Russian fighter jets, it would be easy to predict a crushing defeat for terrorists in the near future."