There was a situation in which individual settlements were already exempted from the militants, but under the control of Damascus they did not return: Russian specialists hinder the cleansing of the local population. This problem must be addressed urgently, otherwise the country will face an acute crisis.
In Syria, the process of surrendering jihadist enclaves continues with the subsequent departure of militants and their families to Idlib. Now the Ar-Rastan enclave is on the turn, where everything happens quite routine and according to a well-established scheme. Militants until the last bargain about more favorable conditions for their departure, but for evacuation to the “goblin reserve” are fundamentally ready, so they do not exert serious military pressure on them.
The situation was different in the former Palestinian refugee camp Yarmuk near Damascus, where jihadists in principle did not make contact, and the less radical groups exposed a new condition, which was not the case before. As a result, the Tahrir al-Sham militants were exchanged for the population of two large Shiite villages in the province of Homs. These villages lived in full surroundings for four years, defended themselves by their own militia and had no connection with the government forces and Damascus. During the years of isolation, a special way of life was formed there, fueled in part by contraband, but it would be too difficult to remove the population without significant losses. It is even possible that the initiators of the exchange were Shiites themselves, so as not to suffer, and not “ash-Sham.”
This story forces us to talk about a problem that is not accepted to be discussed aloud. The fact is that the whole process of negotiations on the surrender of those who are ready to surrender, and the resettlement to Idlib of those who are not ripe before the final “pacification,” is mainly led by Russian negotiators. At the same time, local residents insist that the protection of settlements after the withdrawal of the militants was carried exclusively by the Russian military police.
For example, in East Ghouta, Yarmuk, in Ar-Rastan, and earlier in many settlements in the provinces of Homs and Hama, administrative power passed into the hands of elected local authorities with the assistance of the Syrian civilian governor. The Syrian military and especially counterintelligence, the Mukhabarat and paramilitary units, like the already semi-mythical shabihi, are excluded from the process. And the influence of civil governors basically comes down to the distribution of humanitarian aid, and even then – under the control of the Russian military, so that no one sticks.
In other words, the reconciliation of the enclaves and their adherence to the demilitarization program does not lead to the restoration of the power of Damascus over the territories from which militants leave. The population of such towns is simply locked from the outside world by checkpoints of the Russian military police and favorably accepts humanitarian aid, remaining in the self-government mode.
At first this was explained by the fear of the Muharabat and Shabiha, who in the first year of the counteroffensive were inclined to very rigid cleansing of the liberated settlements. But durign the liberation of Eastern Aleppo, tolerant Russians stopped this practice, which objectively contributed to a growing confidence in the Russians and Damascus on the part of the local people. But the inflection began in the opposite direction.
Already during the battle for Aleppo there were talks that there was no checking and filtering of the aborigines at all, and here and there the people even stopped asking questions, not to mention the sacramental question: “What have you been doing for the last five years?” It came to the point that any character could say that he had lost his documents, called himself by any name – and he was immediately given a new identity card with the Russian seal, since without such a laminated card, he and his family could not register for food rations and other assistance.
That is, it is enough to cut your beard a little to become an unhappy refugee. This is an administrative dead end.
The need to urgently feed everyone and settle them led to the collapse of the counterintelligence system. There were “sleeping cells”, more acts of terrorism and sabotage in the rear. According to the exclusive data of the newspaper VZGLYAD, in the ranks of the Muhabarat grumble was rising. Also because in connection with the reduction of the “front of work” his leadership began to lose political weight in the Syrian government. This further aggravated the competition between different factions in Damascus, which is very unpleasant from the political point of view.
There is a situation when efforts to reconcile the parties began to lead to an actual loss of government control over part of the liberated territory. That is, the jihadists from the city have left, but as it was outside the power of Damascus, it continues to be. And if earlier it looked like a great achievement of the process of peaceful settlement, now everyone became nervous.
The Russian military police, for example, do not let government forces go to the Douma in East Ghouta, and the local population shows Damascus a figure in his pocket, using the cover of “elder brother” in the face of Russians.
It would be fine – let it be. Another thing, about this in a strategic perspective.
In the course of further negotiations, for example, in Astana, the same elected representatives of the city of the Douma (this is just an example) may require autonomy from Damascus, followed by thousands of settlements. It will no longer be federalization, but the disintegration of a single state. This is unacceptable.
But right now it is urgent to work out a new mechanism of civil administration of such territories and population, otherwise the process of formation of a new Syria will again reach a deadlock. Even the conduct of elections under a single scenario throughout the territory of the Syria will be a big question. Eventually in the eastern part of Aleppo this issue somehow managed to be resolved. Perhaps, for the whole territory of Syria there is no single scenario at all. But to pass to certification not according to the principle “as it was called, so you are called”, but by reasonable criteria – it is urgently needed. And equally – gradually restore the civil administration, while avoiding sweeps and excessive violence. Experience shows that it is always more difficult to solve such problems than to conduct a purely military operation. Now we must also think over our head. And it seems that Russian will again have to think about future of Syria.