Russia in Syria
More than six years after the US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar sowed the seeds that led to a brutal conflict in Syria that killed upwards of 400,000 Syrians and caused millions more to flee their homes - causing a massive immigration problem for Europe in the process - the Russian General Staff has declared that all of Syria has been liberated of ISIS fighters.

"All terrorist units of ISIS on Syrian soil have been destroyed, and the territory is liberated. Therefore, as of today, there is no territory controlled by ISIS in Syria," Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov reported Tuesday. Senior military officer Sergei Rudskoi provided more details, saying that, "There is not a single village or district in Syria under the control of ISIL. The territory of Syria has been completely liberated from fighters of this terrorist organisation."

According to Rudskoi, there has been an "unprecedented" involvement by Russia's air force in recent days, with warplanes making 100 sorties and staging a staggering 250 strikes per day. At the same time, Russian special forces were active on the ground directing planes and "destroying the most odious leaders of militant groups behind enemy lines," Rudskoi said.

The Russian military began its involvement in the Syrian war against ISIS on September 30th 2015, at a time when ISIS had already overrun large swathes of Syrian territory and the Syrian military was sorely pressed and looked like it may soon capitulate to the jihadi mercenary force. In a relatively short period of time, Russian air strikes reversed this trend and, over the course of the next two years, ISIS were systematically routed from Syrian territory, thanks substantially to Russian involvement.

ISIS' success in the years prior to Russian involvement was largely the result of support from the US government and its Gulf allies (primarily Saudi Arabia and Qatar) and Turkey, which saw large amounts of weapons and fighters funneled into Syria, in an effort to overthrow the Assad government and turn Syria into little more than a vassal of the USA. In 2014, while speaking at Yale University, then US Vice President Joe Biden stated plainly that America's allies were behind the rise of ISIS.

As a leaked audio recording revealed last year, then Secretary of State John Kerry made it clear that he knew very well that Russian involvement in Syria was in the best interests of the entire globe in that their sole intent was to rid the world of the scourge of ISIS. Despite this, Kerry confirmed that the US government's approach was to allow ISIS to continue in its attempts to overthrow Assad and wreak havoc in the country.

As's Joe Quinn outlined in this article two years ago, one of the primary motivating factors in US efforts to remove Assad was his refusal to betray Russia, a long-term ally of Syria, and its geostrategic economic interests (oil and gas) in the region and beyond.

While Turkey had been complicit in the flow of jihadist mercenaries into Syria, the shooting-down of a Russian air force jet by a Turkish air force jet in late November 2015 alerted Turkish President Erdogan that something was not quite right. As Joe Quinn also outlined in this article, it is highly likely that a 'rogue' element in the Turkish air force, flying out of Incirlik NATO airbase, was responsible for the shoo-down of the Russian jet. This was a clear attempt by NATO forces to sour relations between Turkey and Russia and make Russian involvement in Syria more difficult.

But Russia is not so easily fooled and did not take the bait. Eventually Erdogan apologized for the shoot-down and Turko-Russian relations were restored. Within a few months however, in July 2016, an attempt was made to oust Erdogan in a coup. The allegedly US-backed coup failed, reportedly with Russian help, and with it Turkey's turn away from NATO and towards Russia's vision of a new Middle East was complete.

Over the course of the last year and leading up to today's announcement of the complete destruction of US/Saudi-backed ISIS forces in Syria, Russia has helped the Syrian army to liberate Syria's largest city, Aleppo, scurrilous and false American government accusations of 'war crimes' and 'chemical weapons' attacks by Russian and Syrian forces notwithstanding. More recently, and as a prelude to the final victory for the combined Russian and Syrian forces, Russia played a decisive role in the liberation of the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, which had been besieged for three years by US-backed jihadist mercenaries.

So while the victory of the Russian and Syrian militaries against US-backed jihadist mercenary forces in Syria should be celebrated by all people of conscience, the recent statement by the Pentagon that, despite the complete failure of its nefarious mission in the country, it plans to stay in Syria, means we shouldn't open the champagne just yet. More cause for concern is found in the reason given by the Pentagon for the prolongation of its illegal sojourn: "to make sure ISIS does not return". That, of course, is very much like the fox guarding the hen house so that no foxes can get in.