- - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Russia is building an army base at the historically important, world heritage site of Palmyra, Syria, inside the UNESCO protected archeological zone, without asking for permission from the relevant authorities. Anti-Assad forces along with Russian troops and Hezbollah recently liberated the town from the Islamic State.

The American School of Oriental Research’s Cultural Heritage Initiative posted pictures from the satellite imagery and analytics company DigitalGlobe that show the construction on the edge of the ancient site, reports the Associated Press.

Maamoun Abdulkarim, head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus said his organization was not asked for permission but added that ISIS is close to the town and the presence of Russian and Syrian troops is important to ensure that the site remains in government hands. “We refuse to give permission even if it was for a small room to be built inside the site whether it is for the Syrian army, Russian army or anyone else,” Abudlkarim said by telephone from Damascus. “We will never give such permission because this will be in violation of the archaeology law. During the time of war, sometimes archaeological authorities don’t have a say but security decisions dictate the orders,” AbdulKarim said. “Once the situation improves and peace is reached, then we will openly call for removing” the barracks.

Russia has stated that it is withdrawing forces from the Syrian theater and returning them to Russia. However, in reality, the Russian armed force have simply rotated different kinds of equipment between Syria and the Russian homeland for a different type of fight against the Islamic State. A new facility in Palmyra is proof that the Russian military is staying put and the new axis of Russia, Iran, and Syria in the Middle East is alive and well.


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