If anyone doubted Vladimir Putin when he said that his only goal in Syria was to crush the opposition to Assad, the latest military strikes should clear that up. Russia’s intention would be questionable if we thought it was there to do anything else other than keep Assad in control. However, he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
Russia will soon have to face the threat of ISIS not only controlling Aleppo, but the entire region. The question is whether Russia is aware of how dangerous the group actually is.
— Business Insider (@businessinsider) October 9, 2015
Make no mistake, Putin is not targeting ISIS. If you follow ISIS then you find rebels. Any strike that happens to knock out some ISIS fighters would only be a bonus, although Putin doesn’t want to get rid of ISIS too soon.
In other words, Putin wouldn’t kill off ISIS before taking out the rebels, because the rebels would then have the upper hand. So, Putin’s current interest in ISIS is only to lead him to the rebels. It’s like catching a mouse with cheese.
The problem is that the strategy poses a huge risk, one that may require International intervention. However, Russia doesn’t play well with others and any entity that thinks of going in more aggressively will have to remember that the only goal for Russia is keep Assad in power. Anyone who interferes with that goal will find a huge headache, and potentially a much bigger problem.
There’s one other scenario that should be considered however unlikely it seems at the time. If facing certain destruction, the rebels may turn to ISIS to form a more powerful front. ISIS may consider this a strong strategic move since they would be the next targets once the rebels are eliminated. There’s an old Beouin Arabic proverb that says, “Me and my brother against my cousin, but me and my cousin against a stranger.” Right now, ISIS and the rebels are fighting cousins, but if they have to unite to fight the Russian stranger, they might.
What that may mean for Russia is taking ISIS head on in Syria, alone. By the looks of it that may happen sooner rather than later. Russia, like the rest of the world, has underestimated the power of ISIS.