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Jordan Says It Knew of Russian Drawdown Plan in Syria

March 15, 2016 (Photo Credit: Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty)

DUBAI — Despite Gulf Cooperation Council states remaining silent about Russia's unexpected drawdown from Syria, their staunch ally Jordan has stated that their government has known about President Putin's plans.

A Jordanian official said that his government was informed of the Russian withdrawal plans in January.

“The Russian pullout was set up in January during a meeting in Moscow between the Jordanian chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lt. Gen. Mishal Al Zaben and his Syrian counterpart Gen. Fahd Jassem Al Freij, with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to discuss security and military issues on the Syrian-Jordanian borders and the repercussions of this on the [ongoing] Syrian peace talks," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

"The decision was discussed to check the sincerity of parties involved in the Syrian issue,” he said without further elaborating the statement.

The Jordanian official added that Syrian director of the National Security Bureau has been having meetings with Amman over the past months.

“Ali Mamluk, director of the Syrian National Security Bureau, has been meeting since the beginning of Russian air strikes with senior Jordanian officials in Amman and discussed with them the developments and the repercussions of the Syrian issue on Jordan.”

He added that the meetings of the Syrian security official aimed to form a front against terrorism which led to the revealing of an Islamic State militant plot to cause instability in northern Jordan recently with out giving further details.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country considers Russia’s decision to pull out its troops from Syria a “positive sign.”

“The fact that Russia announced they are withdrawing part of its forces indicates that they don’t see an imminent need for resort to force in maintaining the ceasefire,” said Zarif during a visit to Australia on Tuesday, according to BBC Persian.

“That could be a positive sign. We have to wait and see,” Zarif added.

The Russian pullout seems to have been followed by the Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militant group.

Hezbollah militia sources confirmed to a Lebanese website close to the group that hundreds of their members fighting alongside Assad's forces in Syria have started since Monday afternoon to return to Lebanon without warning.

Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser to Washington-based firm Gulf State Analytics, said Russia's withdrawal is a diplomatically "brilliant move."

"Putin's announcement of a 'withdrawal' from Syria is another brilliant move by Russia. Russia declared mission accomplished after six months demonstrating that Moscow seeks a full-blown diplomatic solution to the Syrian catastrophe,"he said.

"Russia will keep a presence in Syria as the price for its success in shaking up the regional chessboard to bring parties to an agreement in Geneva,"he added.

Karasik said that Bashar Al-Assad himself is going along with the plan where the Syrian leader has to be his own man. 

"The Arab states will surely see Putin's move as a positive in the sense that Russia remains an honest broker," he said.

According to Shehab al-Makahleh, political analyst and director of Geostrategic Media Middle East, the Russian announcement of partial pullout of troops from Syria should not be taken in surprise by careful observers due to four significant reasons, pointing out the announcement was expected since military officials recommended the air strike would last three to six months.

“The first reason is that Russian officials have earlier acknowledged their objective was to help the Syrian government retake territory from various terrorist groups, including ISIL, but also some militant groups backed and armed by the US. The task of the Russian Air Force was to reach a turning point in combating terrorists in Syria, destroying their infrastructure and inflicting heavy personnel losses,” he said.

The second reason, Al-Makahleh said, was Putin’s televised interview on Oct. 11 when he stated that "the military operation had been thoroughly prepared in advance," adding that Russia′s goal in Syria is "stabilizing" the legitimate power in the country and creating conditions for political compromise.

The third reason is “to give impetus to the peace talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition delegations, currently underway in Geneva, and this pullout will be a litmus test for all concerned parties in the Syrian conflict including the Americans and regional partners”.

“The fourth reason is that the “Russian air base in Hemeimeem in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia and a naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus will continue to operate, meaning that the announcement is a real acid test for the parties concerned and a test for their intentions to attain peace in the war-torn country,” Al-Makahleh said.

“The announcement will be effective on March 15 which coincides with the fifth year anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian civil war, which started with protests calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down," he added.

Email: amustafa@defensenews.com

Twitter: @Awadz

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