NEW DELHI: The Russians are set to finish Daesh “in less than a year” with a major war driving the terrorists out of the safe havens they had occupied in Syria.

The Syrian Army is just three days away from controlling Aleppo, and has already cleared large parts of Palmyra, and cleared Homs altogether of Daesh elements, according to Syrian Ambassador to India Riad Abbas. The Russian air power has cleared the path for the Syrians to take control of their country again, with the troops on the ground making steady progress as a result.

Ambassador Abbas who for the first time in the past three years sounded very optimistic told The Citizen, “finally the war is actually against Daesh. The Russians are driving it, as till now everyone but these militants were being killed.”

Homs is where the conflict started, with the rebels first making their presence in the small town on the Syrian borders. This writer had visited it at the time, to find the Army getting the worse for it as it was forced into hand to hand combat to flush out the so called ‘rebels’ and were being killed on a daily basis. One met an Army general in hospital amongst others who insisted even at that time, that the fight was not being led by the ‘opposition’ as the United States was describing them at the time but that there had been a heavy influx of drug mafias, extremist groups and other disaffected persons into Homs. He said these people were heavily armed, and that the arms were coming to them through Turkey.

The hospital was full of wounded army soldiers. This was over four years ago and since then the Syrian Army has held ground. It has fought the long war with determination with over 80,000 soldiers being killed. For the world reading this as just a sectarian conflict, it might be interesting to know that over 70 per cent of the Syrian Army is Sunni. The Defence Minister at the time the conflict started was a Muslim, he was also the brother-in-law of President Bashar al Assad and died later in action. The present Defence Minister is also a Sunni, as are the top generals and officers in the Syrian Army. It has taken the brunt of the fire power used against it by the mightiest countries in the world---US and Nato----combined, and yet held out, refusing to desert the Alawite leader Assad.

Except for a few desertions in the beginning, the Army has remained intact. And when asked the reason for this Ambassador Abbas, who himself had served in the Army at one point in time, said it was because it was trained and nurtured as a highly integrated force, meshed together, with no sectarian differences at all. Interestingly in Syria the most insulting question a visitor can ask a local is his/her religion or sect. This is seen as the height of bad manners, and is met with a polite admonishment.

The Russians, according to the Ambassador here, have no need currently to bring in any troops. “The Syrian Army is enough” he said to move into areas ‘softened’ by the Russian Air Force. Palmyra, the ancient city that had fallen into the hands of Daesh that were making videos of blowing up the heritage buildings, is almost fully back with the Syrian Army. A little bit, according to the Ambassador, remains to be secured but the militants are on the run. The mercenaries who survive the battle are being told to ‘disappear’, a reason for the European Union now bringing Turkey under pressure to close its borders so that the remnants of Daesh do not enter their part of the world. However, Syrians believe many have already moved through the borders into Europe and could make their presence felt in the future.

The Syrian Army is poised to enter Aleppo that was a huge loss for the Assad government, and an important part of Syria to fall into the hand of Daesh. After this, the Army expects to take another week to ten days to recapture Raqqa that is functioning as the capital of Daesh these days. The Russians are clearly in charge, and are making full use of the soldiers on the ground in what is emerging as a huge, methodical strategy to sanitise Syria of the ‘terrorists’.

The war to de-stabilise the Syrian regime by the US, Nato, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others failed to remove Assad. As a senior Syrian official had told this reporter, “Obama will go but Assad will say”, a prophesy well on its way to coming true. Ambassador Abbas was categorical that the war was being won now steadily, with town after town being regained and Daesh on the run. It is a massive operation that is yielding results so fast, that the Syrians are now even able to put a dateline on it. Amb Abbas was optimistic that Syria would be free of the menace, and restored in less than a year at the pace of the military operations.

It is now increasingly clear that the US was not fighting Daesh, as is being pointed out by Syrian leaders. As instead of weakening the militant extremists, the US and Nato action had served to strengthen them. From all accounts they are unable to withstand the Russian led military operations now, and are being driven out in hordes. Russia has also declared Syria as a no fly zone, thus, preventing the entry of US, Nato and other fighters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin remains focused on Turkey and has made it clear that the war against Daesh will not end in Syria. The Kurds who have been fighting Daesh along the borders of Turkey and Syria have told The Citizen several times from the region that recent military action by Ankara was against them, and not Daesh. The Kurds have good relations with Russia and have for long been agitating for autonomy, some for independence. Kurds and Alawites, incidentally, make up over 50 per cent of the population in Turkey so President Erdogan has been clearly playing with fire. As it now turns out with the Russians in control.