Russian President Vladimir Putin "holds all the cards" on Syria and the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS), retired U.S. Army Gen. Paul Vallely says.
"Putin is very much right on his strategy over there. Of course they've been feeding in Russian troops – Spetsnaz, their special operations, and equipment through Latakia, which is on the Mediterranean coast there of Syria," Vallely told "The Hard Line" host Ed Berliner Monday on Newsmax TV.
"And so they've been implementing a lot of changes there to support [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad, but in my opinion, nothing's going to be positive over there until Assad steps down.
"And Putin can really make a hero of himself if he would permit that to happen and allow the Free Syrian Army people – the opposition, not ISIS – and the Syrians to come together again and then be able to return many of those Syrians that are up as refugees now in Europe.
"So there's solutions there, but Putin really holds the cards on this."
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When host Berliner suggested that Putin would back Assad to a certain point to ease the way for him to get out, thus allowing Putin to present himself as the hero who saved Syria, Vallely agreed, saying:
"You're doing great. That is exactly what may happen and Assad has already made plans for he and his family and loyalists to go to Tehran in Iran and Iran said they'll take them. So Putin puts it out there, but keep in mind, you know, pure KGB, he's going to throw a lot of deception into his talk and he's not going to basically forecast what he's going to do.
"But you hit it right on the mark and that's what I'm going to say in Europe next week when I go. Basically, it's the card that Putin holds. He is the determinant of what's going to happen with Assad in Syria and to be able to bring Syria back together.
"Then, as it's going on right now, they're conducting offensive operations to include Hezbollah forces against ISIS in the center and the eastern part of Syria as we speak."
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