Damascus, Moscow exalt in re-capture of Palmyra from ISIS

Boosted by a succession of all-encompassing Russian airstrikes in and around Palmyra, troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad re-took the ancient Neolithic citadel on Saturday, driving ISIS from an area the terror group occupied since 2014.

A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, several of Palmyra’s ancient ruins have been completely or virtually demolished by ISIS according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

A crucial victory for sustaining the Assad regime and dismantling ISIS as an effective fighting force, the Syrian dictator told French diplomats assembled in Damascus:

“The liberation of the historic city of Tadmur (Palmyra) today is an important achievement and is evidence of the efficacy of the strategy adopted by the Syrian army and its allies in the war on terrorism.”

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Before and after shot of the Arch of Triumph in Palmyra from June 2010 (top) and present day (courtesy AFP/Getty Images via NPR)

The Kremlin congratulated Mr. Assad on the victory with spokesperson Dmitry Pskov telling Tass: “Assad highly valued the help Russian air forces have provided and underlined that such successes as regaining Palmyra would have been impossible without Russia’s support.”

Although Mr. Assad rejoiced in the re-claiming of the city, troops searching through the rubble had their worst fears confirmed: Historic sites, the temples of Bel and Baalshamin and the Arch of Triumph were completely destroyed and a number of other structures in the celebrated site were badly damaged.

Witnesses stated ISIS used several of the ancient buildings to perform public executions and countless graves were desecrated and looted during their year-long occupation.

The re-taking of Palmyra should provide daylight for the Assad regime as the ancient city was considered a portal to Damascus. Now relieved and entirely in Damascus’ hands, it is speculated Syrian troops are preparing to launch offensives north to surround the de-facto ISIS capital, Al-Raqqah.

 

 

Analysis

Less than a year ago, Syria was nearly overwhelmed by ISIS terrorists.

After several years of irresolute American military assistance, feckless American leadership and a disastrous program to train and arm moderate, anti-Assad rebels which produced less than a dozen worthwhile cadres, the Kremlin crossed the threshold, executed a brilliantly-planned aerial campaign and departed Syria leaving a fragile, but nonetheless tolerable, ceasefire in place.

Russia’s presence in Syria has led to an abrupt halt and stunning reversal of ISIS gains in Syria.

Dragged into the fight against ISIS, the White House, specifically Mr. Obama, again, owes a debt of gratitude to the Kremlin.

 

[The Guardian] [Photo courtesy RT News]

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