As Syrians gather in their capital Damascus to celebrate, there is a sense that the New Year will bring a measure of peace – the first time such hope has been felt over the past five years of war in the country.
Russia’s military intervention to help its Arab ally at the end of September has been the seminal event of the year. After three months of sustained Russian aerial operations in support of the Syrian Arab Army against an array of foreign-backed mercenaries, there is an unmistakable sense that the «terrorist backbone has been broken», as Russian President Vladimir Putin recently put it.
This past week sees several local truces being implemented across Syria with evacuation of militants from towns which they have held under armed siege. The civilian populations in these locations have been effectively held hostage as human shields by the militants, thus preventing Syrian army advances up to now. The Western media, such as US government-owned Voice of America, invert reality by claiming that it is the mercenaries themselves who have been under siege from the Syrian army instead of the fact that the mercenaries have been holding civilians in their midst as hostages, as was the case earlier in the siege of Homs, which was eventually also broken.
What has changed dramatically is the advent of Russian air power – over 5,000 sorties in three months – which has enabled the Syrian army to wipe out militant bases, oil smuggling and weapons supply routes in northern Syria along the Turkish border. This has left militants further inland to wither from the severance of supply lifelines. Hence the readiness now to accept truces and evacuation deals – under the auspices of the United Nations and International Committee for the Red Cross.
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