Since Donald Trump became President of the United States, we have been witnessing some interesting developments in Syria. We have only fragmentary and seemingly unconnected information at this time, but, as one puts the pieces of the puzzle together, it appears likely that some kind of deeper level of coordination between the US and Russia exists.
While it cannot be said with certainty, Trump and Putin have probably agreed to cooperate in the fight against Daesh in Syria without making it publicly known. These represent only intentions, especially after the misunderstanding in recent days about joint strikes between Moscow and Washington against Daesh in Syria.
The following list is intended to facilitate an understanding of a tentative hypothesis that posits secret coordination between the US and Russia.
Let us start with some points concerning recent months.
1. Russia has fought terrorism in Syria for nearly two years, repeatedly requesting the US to cooperate in this effort, at least in terms of sharing sensitive information on intelligence.
2. Trump, during the election campaign, always said he would be willing to work with Moscow to fight terrorism in Syria, focusing on Daesh as the number one priority.
3. Once becoming president, Trump reiterated this position without backtracking, as many had anticipated.
4. Over the past ten days (21st, 23rd and 31st January 2017) the Russian Federation has conducted at least two aviation missions involving as many as six Tu-22M3 strategic bombers over the village of Deir ez-Zor, representing an important display of firepower.
5. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) reported that they targeted structures and facilities used for making weapons in addition to the command centers and arms depots of Daesh.
6. The areas around Deir ez-Zor have been under Daesh control for a very long time.
Now let us look at some recent but rather obscure events that have never been fully clarified.
7. The most cryptic news coming out of Syria usually involves areas around Deir ez-Zor and Palmyra, which has included the cowardly bombing by the international coalition of the Syrian Army on September 17, 2016, and also in recent weeks, as well as the extraordinary crossing of hundreds of Daesh members from Mosul to Deir ez-Zor that did not provoke any air intervention from the international coalition.
8. Given the above, it is likely that the American deep state (CIA and State Department) is in contact with Daesh, coordinating the repeated attacks on the Syrian state.
Some considerations on the Russian operations in Syria, in addition to the earlier observations.
9. From experience, thanks to the story of the heroic sacrifice of Alexander Prokhorenko, we know that Russian aviation relies on Russian special forces (acting as spotters) for bombings in such locations as Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor, relying on such soldiers to identify and confirm targets on the ground that are often disguised as civilian structures (e.g., weapons-manufacturing plants and arms depots). But we also know how dangerous and difficult it is for spotters to infiltrate such areas.
10. Russian strategic bombers have employed «dumb» bombs that do not require laser-guided targeting systems. Evidently Russians have been confident in their ordnance hitting their targets.
11. Given points (1), (6), (9), (10) and the repeated attacks in recent days of strategic bombers, it is evident that the Russian ministry of defence has acquired new, previously unknown intelligence information regarding ground targets in the area of Deir ez-Zor that was. Moscow has been requesting from Washington the sharing of intelligence information for years now. The Obama administration has consistently refused to cooperate. Trump has always offered the opposite.
In addition, a note on recent news of joint efforts between the American and the Russian air forces in Syria.
12. The episode involving the joint bombing conducted by the Russians and Americans (but denied by sources in the international coalition) has taken on a particular significance when Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, declined to comment on the story, perhaps indicating possible differences of opinion between the Trump administration and members of the US-led international coalition.
Finally, two logical deductions, consistent with those reported previously.
13. It is very likely that Moscow received from American sources, thanks to the points (7) and (8), the coordinates of Daesh in Deir ez-Zor. This would also explain the issues covered (4), (9) and (10).
14. The Russian MOD has not released information on how they acquired the information that led to the bombing of the past days.
In summary, we can draw a picture of events in recent days in Syria, assuming a hidden coordination between Moscow and Washington.
We know, for example, that Trump does not intend to overthrow the Assad government. With no need for ground troops (AKA terrorists), the newly established administration does not intend to finance or arm «moderate rebels», as was repeatedly stated by the new president in the election campaign.
Equally likely is that as a result of the US-Russian joint mission in Syria against Daesh, confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defence and repeated by RT and not denied by Spicer (12), the US deep state (especially the Republican Party, the mainstream media and intelligence communities at high levels) has strongly protested against this, maintaining the traditional hostility towards Moscow.
It is therefore likely that the Trump administration has gone from active support (joint missions) to hidden coordination with Moscow to avoid further friction with some of the components of the so-called ‘deep state’.
To confirm this hypothesis, strategic bombers have struck with unguided bombs targets that were previously unknown, probably thanks to newly acquired intelligence (otherwise it is not clear why these targets would have not been previously engaged in such missions given the critical situation in Deir ez-Zor for the Syrian Arab Army).
Regarding paragraphs (6), (7) and (8), it is easy to understand why it is likely that this kind of information is in the possession of Washington. This is also one of the reasons why the previous administration has consistently refused to cooperate with Moscow. The American deep state has deep, hidden links with terrorism in Syria, and the US intelligence community has every intention of maintaining these secrets.
In conclusion, the call scheduled between Trump and Putin on Saturday, January 28 is another indication of an agreement that is currently developing without much publicity to combat terrorism in Syria. Keeping an eye on the situation in Syria and the talks between the US and Russia over the coming days, it will become easier to evaluate the accuracy of this tentative hypothesis.
FEDERICO PIERACCINI | SCF