How are the Russian-Syrian operations and the operations of the United States and its coalition in Syria going and, more importantly, what can we expect from them? According to Western sources, Isis/Daesh has recently reduced its size by 40% overall and by 20% in Syria, while it had lost only 14% of its territory throughout 2015 when the Caliphate’s Daesh expanded – without recovering the same amount of territory – in Eastern Syria.
Another area where the Caliph Al Baghdadi has lost much of his territorial control is the area along the border with Turkey – while the Caliph has arrived up to the areas along the border with Jordan, the traditional area of smuggling and transit of its militants. Areas towards the Lebanese border and in the Palmira region are reported to be under Isis/Daesh control.
Hence, so far, both the US Coalition’s and the Russian-Syrian pressures do not seem to be sufficient to definitively destabilize Al-Baghdadi’s Caliphate, despite its current territorial losses.
Therefore Isis/Daesh is likely to restructure itself in the form of a first-phase Al Qaeda, as indeed it already appears to do.
This means that Isis/ Daesh could create – or has already done so – a small and centralized organizational structure, with informal peripheral networks in Europe, North Africa and Central Asia, with a view to organizing mass terrorist actions and blocking the Western resistance against the jihad, as well as finally disrupting the European security forces.
Nevertheless why the Russian-Syrian actions and the other US-led action do not work fully?
Firstly, we must analyze the Caliphate’s weapons: it has acquired most of the stocks abandoned by the Iraqi and Syrian armies, including sufficiently advanced weapons to counter the Russian and the Coalition’s weapon systems.
Absolute technological superiority is not needed.
The will to fight and the higher mobility of the Caliphate’s armies are more than enough.
In essence, Isis/Daesh can avoid attacking the best equipped areas of both coalitions, while it can predict and avoid the West’s points of attack thanks to a joint and unified command/control centre located far from the lines.
Said centre employs the same technologies as the anti-jihadist forces, as well as similar logics of action. Mimicking the enemy is an effective way of fighting it.
Furthermore mobility replaces technological superiority and currently nobody – except for the Russian Federation – wants to fight “for Gdansk”, which today means fighting for Damascus.
A Caliphate’s conventional strategy “from the weak to the strong” – just to use the same terminology as the philosophers of war, Beaufre and Ailleret – where the Western weakness is twofold: both on the ground – where Isis/Daesh is much more mobile and causes politically unacceptable damage to the West (with the exception of Russia and the Kurdish and Yazidi militias) and within the Western public, slackened off by the fairy tale of “good” immigration which blocks the European governments’ reactions on the necessary presence of Western troops on the ground.
Not to mention the fact that Isis/Daesh has taken possession, on its own territory, of the Hamas line in Gaza: a very thick and dense network of underground tunnels, which protects from air attacks and allows the economic activities needed to support the organization.
Another primary goal of the Caliph Al Baghdadi is to saturate Western police forces and making them actually unusable since they are already scarce in number and weapons, while Europe dies in “multiculturalism”.
This is a primary goal of Isis/Daesh which, in the future, will certainly attack – probably also territorially – some areas in European countries “from the weak to the strong”.
The bell tolls for us, too – just to make reference to John Donne’s verse, which became famous as the title of Ernest Hemingway’s novel on the Spanish Civil War, which in fact paved the way for World War II.
Hence, we will soon have a core of militant jihadists not necessarily trained in Syria, but connected via the Internet, and a vast network of “fellow travelers” who can serve as cover, logistical support, recruitment area, political and media manipulation for the more gullible or fearful Westerners.
This will be – and, indeed, it already is – the structure of Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate in Europe.
The “branches” of Al-Baghdadi’s Caliphate are equally efficient: in the Barka province in Libya – and now in the Sirte district with the agreement between the Isis/Daesh and Gaddafi’s tribes – as well as Jund-al-Kilafah in Algeria, Al Shaabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, Jundallah in Pakistan and Abu Sayyaf in Malaysia.
The void of Western inanity is immediately filled by ISIS, which does not know international law, but only a miserably manipulated Koran.
Hence a mechanism similar to communicating vessels is in place: the more the Isis/Daesh crisis deepens on its territory of origin, the more threatening and powerful the peripheral groups become.
While, at the same time, in Europe we are witnessing some mass radicalization manoeuvres which rely on Al Qaeda’s old techniques: at first, the more or less crazy “Manchurian candidates”, who played havoc in small areas.
Later – as today – mass actions, like that in front of the Cathedral and train station in Cologne, which will certainly bring good results to the Caliph in the future; then again real, visible and very effective terrorist attacks.
Not to mention similar mass actions in Hamburg and Zurich.
Finally, when and how it will be logistically possible, we will witness the creation of small “Caliphates” in Europe, in the areas which the enormous long-term stupidity of EU leaders has left fully in the hands of Islamic mass immigration that has seized neighborhoods and cities.
The war against the Caliphate is and will be a very long war and the West – probably with the only exception of the Russian Federation – has in no way the political and psychological ability, nor the power to fight it with a view to winning it.
The West will die of soft power, as well as of a lot of talk with Islamists who do not want to hear it – all convinced of their alleged cultural, religious and military superiority.
Years of peacekeeping, “stabilization” and peace-enforcing have turned the European Armed Forces – already largely undersized at that time – into traffic guards and organizers of elections – always rigged – just to be as quick as possible and go away without disturbing the sleep of European peoples.
The very size of the European Armed Forces, considered individually or in a ramshackle coalition “against terror”, is not even comparable with those of the United States or Russia, after decades of equally unreasonable reduction of investment in the military and in the public safety sectors, even after the first Al Qaeda attacks.
Quos Deus perdere vult, dementat – Those whom God wills to destroy he first deprives of their senses.
On the contrary, Russia has implemented a thorough reform of its Armed Forces in 2008, after the war with Georgia, and it has worked much more on the “human factor” than on technology which, however, has not been neglected.
So far the Russian forces in Syria have deployed artillery groups and other ground forces while, according to reports coming from Russian sources, Russia is deploying batteries of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles again on Syrian territory, over and above providing “Buk” anti-aircraft missile systems to the Arab Syrian Army.
The S-400 missile – also known as “Growler”, according to the NATO designation – is an anti-aircraft missile which intercepts aircrafts flying up to 17,000 kilometers per hour, while “Buk” (also known as SAM 17) is a surface-to air missile system (also known as “Gainful” according to the NATO designation) with radars for the acquisition of targets, which are the enemy cruise missiles and strike aircrafts.
Nevertheless, why does Russia deploy such an advanced anti-aircraft structure if Isis/Daesh has no planes?
The simple answer to this question is because Russia wants to reduce and eventually eliminate Western raids, often objectively inconclusive or scarcely effective, also due to the lack of a network for target acquisition.
Conversely, Russia wishes to take Syria as a whole, after destroying or minimizing Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate.
President Putin needs a victory in Syria – firstly because the defeat of Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate avoids the jihadist radicalization of the over twenty million Muslim residents and citizens of Russia.
If the Russian and Central Asian Islam takes fire, Russia can no longer control – militarily or economically – the energy networks towards Europe and the Mediterranean region, which is the central axis of its geoeconomy.
Moreover, Vladimir Putin wants to become the only player of the Syrian crisis because, for Russia, ousting the West from a NATO neighboring country, which is pivotal for control over the Mediterranean region, means to become – in the future – one of the two players or even the first player in the Mare Nostrum, with strategic consequences which are unimaginable today.
Finally the Russian anti-aircraft missile systems are needed to wipe out the aircrafts of the powers not coordinating with Russia and to strengthen military cooperation with the countries which have accepted the Russian air superiority.
For example Israel which, for the time being, offsets by Russia the de facto breaking of military and strategic relations with the United States and the political anti-Semitism mounting in Europe.
Furthermore, Putin also holds together – in a hegemonic way – Iran, Bashar al-Assad’s Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah, thus setting himself up as a mediator and power broker between the Shi’ite bloc and the West when, in all likelihood, the clash between the Sunnis and the “Party of Ali” will become disastrous and fatal for European security.
Furthermore, the Russian President wants to push the United States away from the Middle East definitively, regardless of the United States maintaining or not their preferential relations with Saudi Arabia.
Finally, within the UN Security Council, Russia will do its utmost to capitalize on its hopefully future victory against Isis/Daesh, by exchanging it with the achievement of other Russian primary interests: the management of the Arctic; the forthcoming militarization of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; the regionalization of NATO eastward and possibly a new military agreement with China, which would make the composition of the UN Security Council completely asymmetrical.
Not to mention the great attraction which Russia would hold for a Eurasian peninsula left alone by the United States and devoid of acceptable defenses in the Southeast.
In this case, the Eurasia myth of the Russian philosopher and strategist, Alexander Dugin, would come true very quickly.
Giancarlo Elia Valori (@GEliaValori)
Honorable of the Académie des Sciences of the Institut de France.