Straw in the Wind? Russia begins evacuating citizens from Syria
Let's hope that Putin knows something we don't.
Russia began a small-scale evacuation of about 100 of its citizens from Syria Tuesday, in what experts warn could at any moment develop into a huge air-and-sealift of the up-to-40,000 Russians and their dependents believed to be in the war-torn country.
Russian media reported that officials from the Russian Embassy in Beirut safely escorted three busloads of Russians, mainly women and children, out of Syria on Tuesday. Two planes sent to Lebanon by Russia's Ministry of Emergency Services will airlift about 100 people to Moscow, reports say.
The evacuation is being characterized as a limited operation aimed at bringing out a few people who have requested it. Without offering any further explanation, Russian official sources say the numbers of Russian citizens requesting repatriation has actually fallen, from about 1,000 last October to less than 100 in December.
But under the guise of ongoing war games in the eastern Mediterranean, the Russian Navy has, since last summer, maintained a squadron of warships. That squadron includes several huge amphibious assault vessels capable of carrying thousands of people, within a few hours sailing time of the Russian Naval supply facility in Tartus, Syria.
Earlier this month the fleets were rotated, and another squadron with at least five big troop transports was sent out to the region.
Perhaps they see Assad's position weakening internally. It has been rumored that the Syrian president and his family have taken up residence on a Russian warship where he maintains communications with his inner circle of advisors. If true, it would be a clear sign that Assad does not trust his own advisors.
You don't have to be a military expert or soothesayer to realize that the Assad regime is in its final days. And given the horrific body count of civilians and clear war crimes of many in the Syrian government, overthrowing the dictator might be looked on kindly by the Hague if any war crimes trials were to happen. Once the regime begins to collapse, it will be every man for himself. Assad is probably wise not to be around when that happens.