In light of the Russian buildup end August/early September, it’s a pretty stunning oversight that unfortunately impacts on the usefulness of the policy recommendations. Here are the only references in 43 pages, and one is a footnote.
1) “The second potentially positive external impact of an effort to deter (or otherwise halt) regime air attacks in the south is that it would signal resolve to the regime’s backers. While Russia attracts the most attention from Western policymakers, Iran and Hizbollah appear more influential on the ground and are becoming more so as the conflict continues. Their calculations thus bear particular emphasis.”
2) FOOTNOTE 119: “Though Russian support is substantial, particularly in protecting the regime from attempts to pressure it via the UN Security Council and in providing military supplies (including for its aircraft), its importance is diminishing relative to that provided by Iran and Hizbollah as the latter’s combat roles deepen and expand. Notably, Moscow has generally been unwilling or unable to elicit even minor concessions from Damascus, except on the September 2013 chemical weapons deal in which the threat of imminent U.S. military action was decisive. See Crisis Group’s “Statement on a Syria.”
3) “Ending regime air attacks on opposition-held territory would ideally be achieved through diplomatic means. If the Iran-P5+1 nuclear deal has indeed opened space for positive engagement on regional issues, perhaps Iranian and Russian officials who privately voice distaste for the regime’s more unsavoury tactics could be convinced to finally press it to stop pummelling civilian neighbourhoods from the air. No such will, however, is yet evident in Tehran or Moscow, and the matter is already too deadly to await a laborious ne gotiation process. If no immediate diplomatic path is visible, the U.S. should pursue other means to ensure that such attacks cease and consider a range of concrete actions that will convince the re-gime and its backers that continued aerial attacks carry an increasingly high price.”