Yesterday at the meeting with President Putin Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported that frigate 'Admiral Grigorovich' launched 'Caliber' cruise missiles on targets in Syria "in the framework of operations against Daesh in the provinces of Idlib and Homs." Experts believe that attacks with the support of the Navy will have a psychological effect, so operations in strategically important Aleppo will be completed faster. Member of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security, former Special Forces soldier, Alexei Kondratyev, spoke about the role of Aleppo in the fight against terrorists in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- Intense clashes are happening in Aleppo every day. Why is this city so important? What will change if terrorists will be driven out of it?
- Years ago, in an attempt to undermine Russia's budget, which is very dependent on oil and gas, the United States decided to build pipelines from Qatar through Syria and the Mediterranean Sea, through which oil and gas would be supplied to Europe. In order to do this legitimately, it was necessary to divide Syria into different segments, so that legitimate government had no control over its territory. On September 30 of last year all Syria had was just a very small coastal line and part of Damascus. In other words only a quarter of the country was under control of the government. We had a naval base on the territory of Syria, in Tartus, for more than a dozen years, so there was a threat to life and health of our servicemen. That is why Russia intervened and ensured the safety of its troops, supported the legitimate, friendly Syrian government, and, of course, limited the actions of terrorists to the Syrian territory.
After participating in the battles, Russia gradually began to participate in humanitarian missions, and Aleppo, the second largest city in Syria, is one of the key areas, one of the key conditions to resolve this problem.
On the other hand, before Barack Obama leaves, the Americans carried out operation in neighboring Iraq to oust militants from Mosul. They need a victorious war in order to show superiority of American weapons during this short-term operation and drive terrorists out of Mosul, make them run to Syrian Aleppo. In this case we would receive an additional terrorist group, while "democratic" Western community, which fights in Syria without invitation of legitimately elected president and government, would accuse us of bombing civilians, schools. It should be noted that no evidences were presented - just allegations, which were spread through all information channels. Any refutations were hushed.
- Is it possible to resilve this problem through negotiations?
- We are constantly urged to negotiate with terrorists when terrorist groups are badly damaged. An attempt to negotiate gives them a much needed break to restore combat efficiency and regroup. We saw this in the case with convoy, we still don't know who attacked it. By blocking this part of the territory, which was under control of terrorist groups, our country decided not to negotiate. Now there is an attrition war against terrorist groups that are under siege. They are running out of ammunition, running out of food and medicine. It is necessary to treat wounded, but it is impossible. Evacuate them? We already said: guys, drop your weapons, surrender, we will provide any medical assistance to injured.
We gave civilians the opportunity to leave. But militants won't allow them. More than 200 people have been executed in Aleppo. International community completely ignores international law. What UN humanitarian mission are you talking about if representatives of this organization refuse to go there? Basically, the UN agrees with its own total degradation, inability to influence the situation.
But Russia is bound with Syria by allied obligations. Russia cannot leave it. Russia must fulfill combat task, set for its Aerospace Forces, marines, intelligence agents, which should result in complete destruction of the terrorist groups and restoration of normal life of the civilian population and the government in Aleppo.
Our partners work there in the coalition of 67 countries led by the US, but so far the agreements that have been reached by John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov were not fulfilled by the American side. Americans still don't provide maps with locations of the terrorist groups. We still have completely different data on which groups are associated with the terrorists. They have their own list of who they consider terrorists and who they don't.
I'm sure that today, considering out military potential and those air and naval groups we have, we can completely destroy terrorist groups overnight. I adequately evaluate capabilities of our armed forces, knowing how prepared militants are today. But in urban areas every house is already a prepared position position, protected, fortified, hidden. It's very hard to drime the terrorists out. In addition, bombing urban areas using large-capacity high-explosive aerial bombs not always produces the results that we expect. Nevertheless, we are ready to resolve this task, and our armed forces will complete it perfectly. Today, the Russian Aerospace Forces are doing so much more than all groups of the coalition.
- Do you think that due to a large number of conflict participants the development of a joint platform to fight Daesh is impossible? In your opinion, what could make sides work together?
- ISIS ment a certain thing - the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. These people spread the ideas of pseudo-Islam, even though they have no relation to Islam itself. Any religion, including Islam, prohibits the killing of someone of your kind. These people are medieval barbarians, who destroy cultural heritage, five thousand year history of the civilized world, like it happened in Palmyra. What kind of faith are they talking about? Faith is defined by what you did for God. They kill children, wounded and people of other faiths. It has nothing to do with faith. But this group has created an entire state with its own territory, with its borders, with its armed forces, police, Sharia court, finances. Today this state is involved in human and organs trafficking, they trade weapons, ammunition, oil, gas and cultural values of our common history. It's a criminal quasi-state, which continues to expand, actively recruiting people using the internet. It has created sich a physical phenomenon as "terrorist tourism". If we find groups in our country that financially support the territory, which is located in the Middle East, we are becoming extremely wary. Fortunately we have many institutions that deal with this.
Even with the wave of patriotism that exists in our country, there are two things that can destroy it - national and religious issues. That is why we should monitor this situation. Since last year our committee, headed by Victor Ozerov, held meeting in different regions, including in Ingushetia, where we monitored the work that was carried out in the North Caucasus for more than two decades in the framework of the fight against terrorism. After this we made amendments to the law on the fight against terrorism. From 2006 to 2016, Russia adopted more than 50 laws on the fight against terrorism, 20 presidential decrees, more than 100 government regulations, including those that oblige local authorities to work in this direction.
Daesh is not some ephemeral group, but a quasi-state, which opposes the entire world. Understanding the essence of this phenomenon, we belive that it is like a fascist regime. If we negotiate with Daesh terrorists we will admit our helplessness. There is no other goal but complete physical destruction of this group, this quasi-state. At the same time, we should use many measures, both military and political, which should create conditions for people to not be interested in such groups. That is why our Russian Armed Forces created informational and reconciliation centers in Syria. Our officers not only distribute humanitarian aid, but also negotiate with representatives of the opposition together with representatives of Syrian security forces and government institutions. You can see how many groups of non-systemic and systemic opposition in Syria are now on Bashar Assad's side or simply stopped to participate in armed clashes. It's a great example, a lesson for our western colleagues. They could do it four years ago, but in reality there is nothing serious behind declaration of such brave intentions, because goals and objectives of the western community in Syria are different from ours.