Assad’s army, seeking to end a three-year civil war that’s killed 150,000 people and displaced 9 million, started using longer-range Russian Smerch and Uragan rockets for the first time in February, according to Jane’s Defense Weekly and Stratfor, a U.S. geopolitical research company.
Syria has also intensified the use of MiG-29 fighter jets with ground-attack capabilities, Stratfor said, citing analyses of video footage.
“Russia is now doing everything to ensure that Assad wins convincingly,” said Alexei Malashenko, a Middle East analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center. “If Russia can show it’s capable of carrying out its own foreign policy, regardless of America’s wishes, it will be a major achievement for Putin.”
“The Russian strategy has actually not changed, it’s just that they’re no longer hiding behind a diplomatic facade since Crimea,” said Oubai Shahbandar, an adviser to the Syrian opposition.
Russia is supplying a “lifeline” of ammunition and spare parts for tanks, armored vehicles and helicopters, said Ruslan Pukhov, an adviser to the Defense Ministry in Moscow and head of the Center of Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. …
“Russia’s confidence in Assad’s hold on power has increased as the conflict has evolved in his favor,” Zotov said.
“No one is talking about Geneva III or IV now,” Zotov said, referring to the possible rounds of talks after Geneva II collapsed in February.