Putin’s War in Syria Not Going Well So Far

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The New York Times reports that Russian jets in Syria are “conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out each month this year.”

Got that? As many in a day as we do in a month. So how’s that working out? Zack Beauchamp points me to an analysis of the first week of the Russian campaign from the Institute for the Study of War:

The offensive reportedly included reinforcements in the form of “hundreds” of Iranian troops….Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani personally oversaw operations….Direct assistance from Russia in the form of airstrikes “synchronized” with the ground operations.

….Nonetheless, the Syrian regime and its allies have thus far failed to achieve significant gains…. Confirmed reports indicate that pro-regime fighters have seized only six villages and towns…. At the same time, regime forces suffered heavy losses in manpower and materiel in the face of heavy rebel resistance. Free Syrian Army (FSA)-affiliated rebels forces claimed to destroy at least twenty tanks and armored vehicles as well as a helicopter gunship in a “tank massacre” on the first day of the offensive.

….Operations against the Syrian opposition will likely prove harder and slower than anticipated by either Russia or Iran….The foreign allies of the Syrian regime may be forced to expend further financial and military resources in order to preserve their initial gains.

We’ll see how this goes. But both Russia and Syria are all-in on this campaign. Russia is maintaining a sky-high operational tempo along the border between regime territory and rebel territory, and the Iranians are helping out too. Nonetheless, it’s rough going and the Syrians are apparently taking heavy losses. How long can Putin keep this up before his glorious nose-thumbing at the West turns into an exhausting quagmire?

Hard to say. Maybe the rebels are at the end of their rope, and Syrian regime troops will soon break through. I wouldn’t count on that, though.


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