As I speculated earlier, I think Russia's intervention along with Iran isn't to do anything more than prop up Assad in the northwest corner of Syria to keep a secure location for Russia's bases and for Iran to prop up Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The forces that Russia and Iran are committing are too small to do more than that--if they can do that.
The only real question is whether the Russian-Iranian escalation can keep Damascus in that Core Syria.
God help us, but Russia's small move into Iraq is probably designed to fool Secretary of State Kerry into thinking he scored a diplomatic triumph by trading a Russian free hand in Syria for an American free hand in Iraq.
And we'll thank the Russians for that:
If the humiliation of the Obama administration continues at this rate, by this time next week you should expect to see Secretary of State John Kerry on all fours at the United Nations, getting paddled by the Russian foreign minister and shouting, “Thank you, comrade! May I have another?”
Great minds think alike.
At which point Iran will push us out of Iraq by being a resolute ally while we dither.
Nobel Peace Prizes all around!
UPDATE: Again, Russia's forces aren't enough to win the war for Assad:
... Moscow’s contribution is unlikely to be decisive in the war, analysts said. While Russia boasts its military is stronger than it has been in 25 years, its forces still grapple with aging equipment and have a weak partner in the poorly trained Syrian army. There is also tepid support among the Russian public for a lengthy conflict.
But I don't think Russia is trying to win the war--defined as restoring Assad control over all of geographic "Syria."
Russia will settle for Assad surviving in the northwest. The article says Putin anticipates a
This article repeats the claim of more limited objectives:
"The strategic objective is to secure an Alawite 'safe zone'... leaving the eastern, desert part of the country to (IS)," wrote Igor Sutyagin, of the Royal United Services Institute, in a recent analysis note.
If Assad had done this nearly four years ago when I said he didn't have the troops to cover everything and had to contract to a Core Syria, he'd have an army capable of holding that ground.
Back then, I thought that contracting would save Syria's military and give Assad the chance to rebuild his military to retake lost ground all the way to the east.
Now? I think the Syrian military is too shaky after mind-numbing casualties it has endured to hold territory that extends to Damascus and points south. I think Assad's best chance to hold is a Rump Syria of the coastal regions pushed north as far as Russian and Iranian support can provide, plus an inland buffer zone out to the Hama-to-Homs highway.
Russian air power and Spetznaz could help defend this core region.
Strategypage has a lot of useful information on recent events. Just read it. I'll just note that they say that Hezbollah has informed their allies that they've had enough of the shock troop job and won't participate in those bloody attacks on behalf of Assad.
So we'll see how the Iranians do in that job. I just don't think Russia will participate in that apart from some special forces. So I don't think the much heralded "big offensive" will be very big.
UPDATE: Oh, and if anybody is thinking about the bargain Putin is offering to Europeans to halt the migration to Europe in exchange for a free hand in Syria and Ukraine (and I mentioned this Ukraine-Syria link earlier, with a bonus aside on the migrants), if Assad can't gain control of all of Syria, the migrants will keep coming anyway.
So Putin might get his objective in Ukraine, ending sanctions, even if Assad can't hold in his "fortress" northwest; plus Europe will still be crippled by coping with all those migrants.