“From the beginning of the Syrian uprising, Assad has promoted violent extremism in the hope that violent extremists would replace his real enemies: Syrian nationalists seeking the end to corrupt and violent family rule,” Fred Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former special adviser for transition in Syria under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told Business Insider via email.
Aaron Stein, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, told Business Insider last week that Russia’s airstrikes probably won’t be enough to shift the battle lines in Syria. In fact, he said, it will likely only lengthen the four-plus-year-old civil war.
“The Russian strikes are tactical in that there’s not enough aircraft or military power to seriously change the dynamics on the ground,” Stein said. “They can halt rebel offenses … but they can’t reclaim all the territory that’s been lost. The more likely thing is it will prolong the conflict.”
Even if Russia and Syria together were able to defeat ISIS, which is something “neither is interested in nor capable of,” the “conditions of political illegitimacy that permitted ISIS to set up shop in Syria would still exist,” Hof said.