As Syria’s civil war enters its fourth year, it’s become something of an open secret that ISIS, for all their bluster and Hollywood-level video editing capabilities, are at best an unhappy side effect of efforts to train and arm the Syrian resistance and at worst, are a "strategic asset" funded and supported by coalition governments.
In other words, there is indeed a geopolitical chess match going on here that will have far-reaching consequences when the blood and dust settle, but it has nothing to do with ISIS’ far-fetched quest to establish a Medieval caliphate and everything to do with installing a government in Syria that will be more friendly to the interests of the West and its Middle Eastern allies.
ISIS will remain in play as long as they are necessary, but once the time comes for the US to clean up the mess left by Syria’s three-front war once and for all, that will be all she wrote for this particular CIA asset. Until then, everyone apparently gets to use Islamic State as an excuse to pursue their own political agenda, as evidenced by Turkey’s new war on "terrorists." Not wanting to miss an opportunity to justify what would otherwise be a rather brash declaration, Russia is reportedly ready to send in the paratroopers should Syria request Moscow’s help in battling terrorist elements. Here’s more via Tass:
The Russian Airborne Troops are ready to assist Syria in countering terrorists, if such a task is set by Russia’s leaders, commander of the Airborne Troops Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov told reporters on Tuesday.
(USSR paratroopers ca. 1975)
"Of course we will execute the decisions set forth by the country’s leadership, if there is a task at hand," Shamanov said, in response to a Syrian reporter’s question about the readiness of the Russian Airborne Troops to render assistance to Syria’s government in its battle against terrorism.
Shamanov noted that Russia and Syria have "long-term good relations." "Many Syrian experts, including military, received education in the Soviet Union and in Russia," Shamanov added.
In other words, two (or three, or four) can play at the "use ISIS as an excuse to go to war with our real enemies" game and just like the US can send in trainers and "forward spotters" to protect its interests in Iraq, so too can Russia send in a few airborne troops to protect its interests in Damascus.
It’s now only a question of political will and as we’ve outlined on a few occasions recently, it’s not entirely clear how much longer Vladimir Putin is willing to support Bashar al-Assad in the face of the debilitating, Saudi-engineered slump in crude prices and the biting economic sanctions imposed on the Kremlin by Europe.