December 28, 2015 | Quote

‘Sit and Shut Up’: Russia is Backing the Remaining Supporters of the Syrian Revolution Into a Corner

In any case, experts say the airstrike that killed Alloush and several other Jaysh leaders was part of a larger strategy employed by Russia and the regime to turn military victories into diplomatic leverage ahead of negotiations over Syria's future.

Those talks are due to begin in late January. Until then, the goal is to back the rebels and their remaining supporters into a corner to bolster the position of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“It's all part of the rules of engagement Russia wants to set up,” Tony Badran, a Middle East expert and researcher at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, told Business Insider on Saturday.

“Russia hits Jaysh al-Islam, forcing the group to decide between removing itself from the political process altogether — at which point it will be labeled a terrorist group — or coming to the table, emasculated, to talk to Assad. All while Russia reserves the right to strike the group.”

Russia reserves this right, Badran argued, because Washington has waffled in negotiating a definitive list of terrorist groups in Syria — a contentious process that US Secretary of State John Kerry has delayed in order to ensure talks are not derailed before they even begin.

“Washington has given Moscow a huge political gift in not holding Russia accountable for its pattern of targeting moderate rebel groups and their leaders instead of ISIS,” Badran said. “And Moscow is going to leverage it.”

“If you're Putin or Assad, these are part of your strategic calculations,” Badran said. “The thinking goes, 'If you don’t sit and shut up, you’re going to be eliminated.'”

Read the full article here.


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