It's difficult to tell exactly what is going on here. The Russians are the kings of disinformation, especially when it comes to intelligence or the military, and they may be playing 3-dimensional chess while offering up the mission accomplished banner.
A deep rift with Tehran over the continuation of the Syrian war and an irreconcilable spat with Syrian ruler Bashar Assad over his future prompted Russian President Vladimir’s shock order Monday, March 14, for the “main part” of Russian military forces to quit Syria the next morning. This is reported by debkafile’s military and intelligence sources.
The final limits of the military withdrawal, five months after the Moscow embarked on its intervention, were not defined. But the Kremlin did say that Moscow would retain a military presence at the naval port of Tartous and the Hmeymim airbase outside Latakia. This left the bulk of Russian military aerial and naval presence in situ; Putin is unlikely to give up this strong foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Russian president did not fix a timeline for the military withdrawal – only its start. Neither did he promise to discontinue all military operations in Syria.
He did say only that “The task put before the defense ministry and Russian armed forces has on the whole been fulfilled” and he spoke of a “fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism.”
A sign of where Moscow as heading now was disclosed by his order to the Russian foreign Minister to “Intensify our participation in a peaceful solution of the Syrian conflict”
This was a reference to the UN-brokered talks resuming in Geneva Tuesday, March 15, between the warring sides of the Syrian conflict.
debkafile’s intelligence circles noted that, after Putin’s bolt from the blue, Russian warships in the Caspian and Mediterranean Seas remain ready to interfere in the fighting from a distance, if the Assad regime’s situation deteriorates....MORE