The headlines of the Middle Eastern media have recently been marked by such words as “surprise” and “shock” after the announcement that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin declared a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria. This reaction can be compared to the shock that Arabian media sources expressed six months ago, when Russian warplanes launched an assault against ISIS in the Syrian Arab Republic. Back then newspapers and journals, especially those sponsored by the Gulf petrodollars were promising disaster to Russia forces, the failure of its “occupation plans akin to the one that Soviet troops tried to carry out in Afghanistan.”
Now, the reaction is not nearly as toxic as it used to be. Those media sources are now forced to recognize that the Syria regime survived, while terrorists groups received a major blow and they are not going to recover from it any time soon. Yet, the attempts to blame Moscow for some vicious plans in Syria haven’t been abandoned all together, along with the attempts to find some tension between Moscow and Damascus.
Certain journalists argue that this step was made in line with the US-Russian agreement, while others object that Moscow managed to outplay America. There is a number of delusional statements that Moscow has allegedly “got scared by the Arab-Islamic coalition led by Riyadh.”
Against this background, there’s an ever increasing number of voices that provide an adequate assessment of Moscow’s decision. The well-known political figure in Lebanon, the speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri said that Putin did everything he could to facilitate the settlement of the Syrian conflict. The Syrian opposition and the external players supporting it should do their share of the work instead of complaining about the “destructive Russian military presence.” The opposition should be responsible for the fate of the country.
According to the Iraqi online journal Sawt al-Iraq the partial withdrawal of Russian troops opens numerous perspectives for the solution of the Syrian crisis in accordance with the views of the opposing sides of the conflict. This could provide greater stability to the extreme turbulent situation, when forces on the ground are largely fragmented.
The Kuwaiti newspaper Farnas believes that this step will improve the image of the Russian leader in the region and may reduce the tension in Russia’s relations with Turkey – a NATO member and other Arab states that were frustrated with the Russian military presence in the region.
A Syrian journalist wrote in the newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi that Russia has confirmed its status as an initiator and the ardent supporter of the political solution of the crisis, just like it claimed from the very beginning of its operation. Its efforts have been limited to a clear time frame and pursued clear objectives.
A famous Syrian comedian actor Darid Liham announced that he’s proud of “Russia’s contribution to the fight his countries has been engaged in.” The Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper analyzed that this announcement received in the social media only to come to the conclusion that despite some differences in opinions, the general attitude of Syrian activists and bloggers to this decision remains “positive and optimistic.”
Iraqi media person Imad Ali notifies that the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria – is the step that Vladimir Putin made “freely”, without any kind of external pressure being applied from the outside, in accordance with the plan he had in mind. He believes that what is remarkable is that Russia’s troops arrived at the request of the legitimate government of Syria, unlike all the previous interventions of the US, including the one in Iraq, which was carried out against all norms of the international law.
Yuri Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.