As I point out in “The Ten Real Life Exploits That Da’esh / ISIS use to Hack The World,” Da’esh is a distributed organisation. Attacking what appears to be the centre weakens it but, like a dandelion clock, it blows the spores widely.
Russia has a substantial military air presence in Syria, at the request of Assad. The use of sea-launched missiles is interesting because there were Da’esh targets nearer to the Caspian Sea, which might be regarded as a more proximate threat to Russia.
Also, it is quite clear that Putin’s actions are in support of Assad. As Russia launched airstrikes this week, against rebel positions, Assad deployed ground forces to sweep up. All reliable intelligence from the area is that the positions were not those of Da’esh.
However, the support of Assad is diametrically opposed to the wider global view that, while Da’esh must be defeated, Assad must be removed.
Putin has a personal agenda. He is moving Russia back towards its totalitarian past. His treatment of opposition, regarding them as dissidents who may be killed without compunction, is evidence of that. The regimes he supports adopt similar views, and “disappearing” people and harassing those who express contrary views is commonplace amongst Russia’s “friends.”
Putin is also moving Russia towards his particular view of being a superpower, one which gains power by force and fear: the same tactics as Da’esh uses. He is using action in Syria to demonstrate that he can, if he thinks fit, launch attacks almost anywhere in the world. Having convinced much of Russia that its internal problems are due to external influences, again the same argument that Da’esh uses in relation to the supposed undermining of Islam, Putin has considerable support at home, especially amongst those whose access to free media is rare, either due to restrictions or of their own will.
It is interesting that Putin’s model for power is so similar to that of extremist groups. Controlling the information flows is essential – as the Communists of the 20th Century did so successfully.