In the current “cessation of hostilities” in Syria, it was considered noteworthy when Russia said it was pulling its military out of the country. It turns out that Russian jets are leaving Syria, but that doesn’t mean Russia is leaving. Fox News has reported that Russian attack helicopters are entering Syria in replace of the jets, according to defense officials.
So while the jets are down by about half in Syria, the numbers of helicopters—which include advanced gunships—have swelled to the most since Russia started its airstrike campaign in Syria’s civil war last year. And Fox News reports that Russia’s tanks and missiles sent towards the end of 2015 are still there. The report comes as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad implied there is much work to be done to achieve a political resolution to the conflict that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
In an interview to RIA Novosti and Sputnik and posted to the Syrian Arab News Agency website, Assad told the Russian media that he believes that theoretically an outline of a new constitution could be ready by August, but specifically highlighted the lack of opposition unity what he believes to be a major roadblock to that. “There should be a single image for the opposition. This doesn’t exist,” Assad claimed.
Those words, combined with his suggestion for a unity government involving opposition and government loyalists, sound like Assad doesn’t intend on leaving power for a while.
In case the American position on Assad was unclear, meanwhile, US spokesman John Kirby clarified on Wednesday. “Assad has lost legitimacy to govern in Syria. Nothing’s changed about our view of that,” Kirby said in comments released by the State Department. “We also have said and continue to maintain that he, in our view, cannot be a part of the future of Syria, that Syria needs to move to a government away from him and one that’s responsive to the Syrian people. But ultimately how they get to that process is for the Syrian people to decide.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, March 31, 2016)