Western Inertia Enables Russian Geo-Political Gains
The geo-political gains that Russia are achieving in the Middle East due to EU / USA / NATO / UN inaction will not be reversed with diplomacy. Whether the US administration – current or pending – does or does not decide to change their policy on the region is irrelevant now because when or if they do it will likely be too late as it will risk direct military confrontation with the Russians already on the ground.
Summary Satellite Imagery Analysis of Russian Military Buildup
The following observations were made at Bassel Al-Assad International Airport Sept 4. to Sept 24. 2015 to include:
1. Additional helicopter hard-stands;
2. Ground clearance taking place for future construction;
3. Construction of large new concrete surfaces and taxi ways;
4. Initial positioning of mobile housing units;
5. Temporary tent facilities;
6. A battalion’s worth of armoured vehicles & tanks in temporary soft surface parking locations;
7. Several new helicopters deployed to location with rotors removed to facilitate air transportation;
8. Transport aircraft on runways with open nose cones for loading / unloading troops and equipment;
9. 15 x new helicopters arrived to the airbase between Sept 4. & Sept 20. identified as Mil Mi24 attack helicopters;
10. Also new on Sept 20. – a large number of fighter aircraft sitting on parking bays parallel to the two runways at the airbase;
11. 4 x Sukhoi Su30MKI multi-role fighter aircraft;
12. 12 x Sukhoi Su25 ground attack aircraft;
13. A further 12 x Sukhoi Su24‘s to the base on Sept 24.;
14. Additional construction ground clearance land scars and further deliveries are observed on satellite imagery today Sept 24.;
Russia & Assad -VS- The West, The Kurds & the Non Islamist Anti-Assad Militias
The Russians have moved to support Assad their long time ally. The West in the event of an intervention would do so to assist the Kurds against ISIS most likely but also to assist the anti-Assad non Radical Islamist militia’s, the latter bringing them into direct conflict with the Russian forces.
Loss of Near Time Regional Opportunity & Increased Complexity
There will now be no NATO / US bases in Syria for the foreseeable future without direct conflict with or agreement from the Russians meaning “boots on the ground” from the West are unlikely to be within easy reach if direct military intervention is eventually agreed by the Western allies and their coalition partners.
Even in the event that the USA and the coalition partners limited their actions to supporting the Kurds against ISIS the planning and logistics would be exponentially more complex due to the existing Russian presence.
The Russians have stolen a march in the region right under the noses of the West – Russia has been allowed to take the initiative in the Middle East. Western Europe is weak – the compromising of Europe is Radical Islam’s stepping stone to undermining the US. Europe needs the US to have strong leadership – the outcome in Europe will dictate the outcome in the US.
The Russian-Iranian-Chinese Triumvirate
In addition, the Iranians are controlling matters in Iraq (outside of the KRG) through their Shi’ite militia and on the ground QUDS forces. The Chinese too are making in-roads in the region driven by the rapid growth in oil and gas imports, Chinese trade with the Middle East has risen from around 20 billion USD a decade ago to an estimated 230 billion USD last year, with the trade volume expected to exceed 500 billion USD by 2020. The Russian-Iranian-Chinese triumvirate are leaving the West in a distance second place in the region.
Western Europe is Distracted
Meanwhile Western Europe’s resources are being stretched and infrastructure overwhelmed with all the negative effects of the conflict in particular the refugee crisis and the associated internal security risks which we have discussed in our post Schengen: Compromising Europe’s internal security by “democratic consent” previously and replied to criticism of our hypotheses in that post through Rebuttal to Comment on the LinkedIn Forum: Counter Terrorism & Geopolitical Security
Putin’s Coup De Grâce
The Russians have spectacularly come out on top in this one – Putin must be a very happy man – and the US runs the risk of losing existing bases in Turkey due to poor relations with Erdogan over the ISIS fight and his governments hijacking of that alleged process to further persecute the Kurds, the only consistent and viable opposition to ISIS in the region since 2013 and additionally bomb the PKK and murder countless Kurd civilians in the process.
Ukraine too and the US influence therein is threatened and the Crimea and the Black Sea firmly under Russian control both outcomes threatening Western Europe’s energy needs. It is easy to be tongue in cheek and suggest that Obama must be on the FSB payroll – they could hardly have done a better job themselves.
The Middle East – A Russian & Iranian Sphere of Influence
The conclusion – the continued unopposed build-up of Russian forces in Syria will mean that a direct Western intervention in the region is rapidly becoming an impossibility without a willingness to accept the risk of a direct military confrontation with Russia and the escalation of the conflict beyond all recognition – and not even the most hawkish US Republican would consider such an option as acceptable.
In the mid-term it would suggest that the Middle East is inexorably moving toward being an undisputed Russian & Iranian sphere of influence.
1. Additional helicopter hard-stands:
2. Ground clearance taking place for future construction:
3. Construction of large new concrete surfaces and taxi ways:
4. Initial positioning of mobile housing units:
5. Temporary tent facilities:
6. A battalion’s worth of armoured vehicles & tanks in temporary soft surface parking locations:
7. Several new helicopters deployed to location with rotors removed to facilitate air transportation:
8. Transport aircraft on runways with open nose cones for loading / unloading troops and equipment:
9. 15 x new helicopters arrived to the airbase between Sept 4. & Sept 20. identified as Mil Mi24 attack helicopters:
10. Also new on Sept 20. – a large number of fighter aircraft sitting on parking bays parallel to the two runways at the airbase:
11. 4 x Sukhoi Su30MKI multi-role fighter aircraft:
12. 12 x Sukhoi Su25 ground attack aircraft:
13. A further 12 x Sukhoi Su24’s to the base on Sept 24.:
14. Additional construction ground clearance land scars and further deliveries are observed on satellite imagery today Sept 24.:
STRATFOR – Full Video Analysis Here;
ALL SOURCE ANALYSIS;
GEONORTH – Imagery Coordination Center