ISIS suffers a major defeat and the US government is not pleased. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com (the video is a prime demonstration of a weasel in action):
“You know I mean look… broadly speaking …. you know… it’s not a great choice… an either/or… but… you know…”
That was the response from State Department spokesman Mark Toner when two reporters asked him whether the US was pleased that the Syrian army, backed by Hezbollah ground forces and Russian airstrikes was set to retake the ancient city of Palmyra from Islamic State.
The lack of enthusiasm for the Russian-backed effort made for an amusing soundbite and might have come as a surprise to the uninitiated. But for those who follow the conflict in Syria it was par for the course in Washington. As recently as last August The Pentagon and CIA were still holding out some hope that rebel forces might manage to oust Assad and that somehow, ISIS and al-Nusra would subsequently be subdued. The worst case scenario would have seen ISIS itself march into Damascus and take control of the country, but that would have been fine too because then the Marines would simply march in and promptly eliminate the group paving the way for Washington and Riyadh to step in and install a puppet government.
Then the entire calculus changed when Russia entered the fray on September 30. From October on, Washington struggled with how to respond to gains made by Hezbollah and Russia. On the one hand, Moscow was hitting ISIS and al-Nusra hard from the air and the US couldn’t very well condemn that without admitting that “the terrorists” serve a purpose in Syria. On the other hand, relentless bombing runs by Russian warplanes paved the way for Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias to lay waste to the “moderate” rebels that stood between Assad and Aleppo and that, the US said, was “no fair.” Once Aleppo proper (i.e. the city itself) was surrounded, the rebels basically surrendered (that’s not what they’ll say, nor is it the line you’ll get from Washington and Riyadh, but it’s no coincidence that the ceasefire was agreed at the exact same time that the city was surrounded).
And so, with that bit of messy business out of the way, and with the rebels having agreed to lay down their weapons in exchange for Russia’s promise that the air force wouldn’t seek to wipe them out entirely, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah did exactly what we said they would do: turned their sights east towards Palmyra, Deir el-Zour, and Raqqa. Here’s what we said in October:
“Hezbollah and Iranian troops are advancing on Aleppo and Moscow is backing the offensive from the sky which means that the hodgepodge of anti-regime forces that control Syria’s largest city will almost (and we say “almost” because there are no sure things in war) certainly be routed, which would effectively serve to restore the Assad regime in Syria.
After that, the Russian bear and Qasem Soleimani will turn their eyes to the East of the country and at that point, it is game over for ISIS.
Well, we hate to say “we told you so,” but that assessment has proven to be 100% accurate and after a weeks long siege, Bashar al-Assad announced on Sunday that with the help of Russia and Hezbollah, the Syrian army has driven ISIS from Palmyra.