President Assad 'humiliated' on Syrian soil by Russian soldiers

Halt, who goes there? President Assad 'humiliated' on Syrian soil by Russian soldiers
3 min read
13 Dec, 2017
Syrian activists have shared a video clip that appears to show President Assad being prevented from following Vladimir Putin during a visit to a Russian airbase in Latakia.
Assad appears to have taken orders in Syria from a Russian officer [screenshot]

A video that appears to show Bashar al-Assad being controlled by Russian soldiers during Vladimir Putin's recent visit to Syria has been used as "proof" of the "humiliating" position the Syrian president stands.

The clip shows Assad walking awkwardly behind Putin at Russia's Hmeimem airbase in Latakia province, as a Russian officer grabs the Syrian leader by the arm and appears to tell him to halt.

Assad duly complies and moves his hand downwards, indicating that he understands he should wait there while Putin strides confidently on.

Syrian activists say it highlights the power dynamics between the two leaders, with Assad completely in Putin's debt.

The fact that the incident happened at a Russian airbase on Syrian soil have led many to ask who really runs the country?

"Putin's giving us a wink! Looks like he told Assad he could follow, gave other orders and snapped some pics to let us all know who's the boss," one commentator theorised on Twitter.

In your debt

Many Syrians have been disgusted by Assad's public displays of gratitude to Putin considering that thousands of civilians have died during Russia's air campaign in Syria.

Last month in Sochi, another photo was widely shared by activists showing Assad warmly embracing Putin who returns the hug but looks mildly bemused.

Putin's stopover to Hmeimem airbase came as the Russian president announced "mission accomplished" in Syria.

Other important announcements by Putin on Monday shows the confidence he has that the Syrian regime is now secured.

Putin also declared a withdrawal of Russian troops and aircraft from Syria after a two year military campaign which has seen Moscow's air strikes help turn the tide of the war in Assad's favour.

Although many were sceptical that Russian troops really would leave, the defeat of the Islamic State group and containment of the Syrian rebels would be an opportune time for Putin to wind down his country's costly intervention in Syria.

It also corresponds with Moscow's more vigorous diplomatic efforts at finding a political solution to the war, but one which will undoubtedly benefit Russia.

Russian soil, Syrian land

Putin's other important declaration was that Russia is here to stay in Syria. Moscow's military bases have been viewed as Syrian land annexed by Russia and the public rebuke of Assad in Latakia was one sign of it.

Russia's bombing has devastated Syria, destroying whole towns, hospitals, schools and refugee camps.

The air offensive has allowed regime troops and militias to push back against the rebels and Moscow's bombing was crucial in the regime's capture of East Aleppo in 2016.

Russia hasn't been Assad's only foreign backer. Iran has arguably played a bigger role in the war, providing the regime with desperately needed cash and plugging the holes in Syria's decimated military with thousands of Shia fighters.

Many suggest Assad is wary of Tehran's influence with whole districts in Damascus and businesses being reportedly bought up by Iran.

Tens thousands of Shia militia fighters still remain in the country and given Iran effective control over huge areas of Syria. 

It appears that even in peacetime Assad might have to rely on Russia for support, as Iran will look to use its leverage in Syria to get what it can.