ISIS retakes UNESCO heritage site Palmyra — so where is Putin’s army now?

Michael Weiss writes: “Our future Russian allies, with all their international legitimacy, are too busy elsewhere in Syria to help much against ISIS.”

So witheringly tweeted former U.S. ambassador Robert Ford on the day that the CIA went public with disclosures about Russian government hacks designed to get Donald Trump elected president; a report emerged that Trump’s imminent appointment for Secretary of State is ExxonMobil CEO Rex W. Tillerson, a personal friend of Vladimir Putin who awarded him Russia’s Order of Friendship in 2012; and news broke that ISIS has recaptured much of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, its most successful territorial revanche in two years.

Moscow, as Ford implied, was evidently too busy bombing the rebel-held parts of Eastern Aleppo to prevent one of its major symbolic prizes in the war in Syria from slipping its grasp.

The crossroads of several antique civilizations, Palmyra was sacked by the head-chopping fanatics of the so-called Islamic State in May 2015, just days after they seized the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi. After promising not to powder the standing Roman, Persian and Assyrian ruins which have made the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ISIS did indeed blow up millennia-old monuments, horrifying historians and archaeologists.

Palmyra’s recapture last March by Syrian government loyalists, backed by heavy Russian airstrikes and Russian-seconded ground mercenaries — including neo-Nazi veterans of the 1990s Balkans wars — was met with cheers from some Western officials, such as then-British MP and now British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, as a triumph of culture over barbarism.

Which was exactly the intended propaganda point being made by the Kremlin. [Continue reading…]

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