Russia Offers a Carrot to Embattled Syrian Rebels by Thomas Grove – Wall Street Journal
More than 2,000 rebels who had been fighting the Syrian army abandoned their positions along a rocky outcrop here and surrendered their heavy weaponry to Russian officers in July with barely a shot fired.
The episode showed how Moscow is trying to demonstrate soft power in the Syrian war, as it tries to wind down a brutal military campaign that has cost Russia billions and courts donors to help reconstruct the battered country.
Russia lauded the operation, which paved the way for the return of United Nations peacekeepers to the Golan Heights demilitarized zone, as a victory for increasingly successful nonviolent tactics.
Russia’s bombing raids turned the tide of the war in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Moscow has sent warships to the eastern Mediterranean—likely for a military onslaught against Syria’s last major rebel stronghold, in Idlib province.
But Russia has also been negotiating conditional surrenders like the one in July, promising an end to violence, a general amnesty and efforts toward the restoration of public services—in exchange for loyalty to Mr. Assad. Analysts say the Russian military sees the tactic as more important as they move beyond only military operations and take on a potentially perilous occupational role that demands a modicum of trust…