TEL AVIV, Israel – Sham Maher Assad, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s niece, has claimed on Facebook that Russia’s announced military withdrawal from her war-torn country is not as significant as it seems.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly ordered the withdrawal of most of his military forces from Syria.
According to Sham, however, the withdrawal is not as serious as it is portrayed in the media.
Under the title “Breaking News,” she wrote that Russia’s military experts and ground troops will remain, which will “keep the balance of power intact.”
“The forces that will withdraw are about a half of the second regiment of the fourth division of the Russia army, a nuclear submarine, a warship, 20 out of 100 Sukhoi warplanes, 25 helicopters out of 125, one aircraft carrier that was supposed to arrive in Syria only on Thursday, and one out of three reconnaissance aircraft,” she wrote.
Clarification: the military experts will remain, and when Russia said “most” they meant most of the air presence. The use they made of the term “principal contingent” was interesting because the base of Khmeimim, which was recently established to cater to airborne units, remains. The maritime base, which has existed for a long time, remains intact as well. It then becomes clear that Russia meant most of the recently arrived attack units. Putin announced that he would leave troops to protect the Khmeimim and Tartus bases. The perpetuation of the S400 missile defense system is crucial to protect us from incursions and bombardments. All this means that the ground forces and security experts remain, which is the most important thing.
Assad also posted pictures of herself at the frontline in the ancient city of Palmyra.
Sham is one of two daughters of Maher Assad, a top Syrian general in the army of his brother, Syrian President Assad. Maher commands both the Republican Guard and the Syrian army’s elite Fourth Armored Division.
A Syrian Information Ministry spokesperson told Breitbart Jerusalem that Sham Assad’s remarks are accurate. “The Russians aren’t withdrawing from Syria, they aren’t abandoning the Assad regime, and will most certainly not adopt a policy that doesn’t serve its goals,” he said.
Some in the international media have reacted with skepticism regarding Russia’s alleged withdrawal from Syria.
Writing at CNN.com, Leon Aron, Director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, opined, “Short of the tiger turning herbivore, Putin is not leaving Syria. To paraphrase Churchill, as far as Syria is concerned, Russia’s involvement is not at an end, not even at the beginning of an end. It’s just the end of the beginning.”
The BBC’s Moscow correspondent, Steve Rosenberg, remarked, “Russian TV may be trumpeting it as “Operation Return” with live coverage of bombers leaving Syria and emotional homecomings for the Russian pilots. But Moscow is not pulling out all its forces.”
“Don’t be fooled: The withdraw from Syria is another propaganda win for Russia,” was the title of a piece at Business Insider by Anna Borshchevskaya of the Washington Institute For Near East Policy.
Commentary magazine dubbed it “Russia’s Faux Withdrawal from Syria.”