TEL AVIV – Russia has exploited the United States’ near-complete absence in Syria to wield its influence beyond President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, including to the heretofore Western-backed Syrian opposition, an Arab intelligence source told Breitbart Jerusalem.
The Russian-controlled Hmeimim airbase, southeast of Latakia, has become a pilgrimage site for opposition operatives, the source said, which “attests to America’s flagrant weakness. Russian representatives maintain ties to opposition circles that were until recently backed by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, and today their only interlocutors when it comes to the ceasefire or a possible end to the conflict are the Russians.”
The source said that this outreach to U.S.-backed rebels is not only intended to embarrass Washington and Riyadh, but also to signal to the Assad regime that “Russia’s Syrian agenda may differ from Assad’s.”
Russia’s growing influence in Syria was also evidenced by the fact that they held reconciliation sessions in parallel to the Syrian reconciliation commission, he said.
“The Americans have signed off on the military maneuver that the Saudis held, but the latter feel they are compelled to find new alliances that will fill the void left by America,” he said. He was referring to the completion on Tuesday of the Saudi-led Muslim anti-terror coalition’s Exercise North Thunder, its biggest military manoeuver as of yet, as Breitbart Jerusalem reported.
He added that Moscow has opened a channel of communication with every militia besides the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, and other jihadi groups.
“These opposition officials have realized that Syria’s future lies in Moscow, and have considered splitting from their organizations if they fail to reach an arrangement with Russia,” he said.
“Years of investment in training and arming the opposition, not to mention billions of dollars, are on the road to being lost in the space of just a few weeks,” he said.
Colonel Ahmad Assiri, King Abdullah’s military advisor, said on Monday that “the threats we’re facing have forced us to build coalitions,” in a seeming indication of Saudi Arabia’s disappointment in the Obama Administration.