Russian President Vladimir Putin convened a meeting of Russia’s Security Council this morning, and on this occasion there is no doubt at all about what was the main topic of discussion.
Here is the Kremlin’s summary:
“Participants in the meeting exchanged views on the situation around Palmyra, as well as the advances made by the Syrian Army in Aleppo.”
As I have said previously, for the Russians Palmyra is a key objective, and they consider their prestige to be bound up with its liberation. That guarantees that they will ensure it is taken back, and that ISIS’s recapture of the city is short lived. Indeed they will ensure that ISIS pays a fearful price for its recapture of the city.
The Kremlin’s photo study of the meeting, whilst showing some civilian officials on Putin’s right, is careful to conceal the officials to his left, and the list of officials provided by the Kremlin’s summary is unusually short, and is undoubtedly incomplete.
The concealed officials on Putin’s left are of course the senior military and intelligence officials who are being given the task of retaking Palmyra. As is standard Russian practice, their identities are being withheld.
The meeting has all the hallmarks of a planning meeting, with reports being solicited from the relevant military and intelligence officials concerning the situation in Palmyra – including almost certainly the officials and agents on the ground in Syria – and with a detailed discussion of the plan to retake the city.
We shall undoubtedly see this plan put into action over the coming days and weeks.