September 30th, 2015

Russia and Syria: maybe this…

is what Obama meant by a red line in Syria:

Russia’s launch of air strikes against rebel targets in Syria will not alter the strategy of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, American officials have said.

“The US-led coalition will continue to fly missions over Iraq and Syria as planned and in support of our international mission to degrade and destroy ISIL,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Explaining the dramatic sequence of events, Kirby said: “A Russian official in Baghdad this morning informed US Embassy personnel that Russian military aircraft would begin flying anti-ISIL missions today over Syria.

“He further requested that US aircraft avoid Syrian airspace during these missions,” he said.

In Syria, between ISIS and Assad there are no good actors. Instead, there are actors of greater or lesser badness, in different ways. Russia and Assad have long been allied, so it’s no surprise that Russia would support him and see the crisis there—and the vacuum left by the US, as I wrote yesterday—as a golden opportunity.

There’s certainly no reason Putin would or should pay much attention to the bluster of President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry. I don’t think anyone else does, either:

Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s involvement in Syria a possible “opportunity” for the United States.

Kerry predicted, in an interview with CNN’s Elise Labott, that Russia’s presence in Syria means Moscow could find itself in a “complicated” situation that could affect its policy toward the war-torn country and its leader, President Bashar al-Assad.

“If he’s going to side with Assad and with Iran and Hezbollah, he’s going to have a very serious problem with the Sunni countries in the region,” Kerry said of Putin. “That means he … could very well become a target for those Sunni jihadists.”

Kerry explained: “It’s an opportunity for us to force this question of how you actually resolve the question of Syria. And the bottom line is, you cannot resolve it without including the Sunni(s) in a political solution, a political agreement ultimately, and that will mean that you’re going to have to have some kind of transition, some kind of timing. Because as long as Assad is there, you simply can’t make peace. Period.”

Kerry also said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must leave as part of an “orderly transition,” rather than calling for his immediate ouster, marking a change in the U.S. position.

“Assad must this” and “Assad must that.”

I don’t doubt that Putin is in a “complicated” position. I assume he will negotiate it more or less successfully, taking heed of his own best interests. If we entered the fray in Syria more than we already have, we would be in a “complicated” position, too. But we already are in a complicated situation. As I said, there are no good actors there—or, if there are any, they are remarkably weak.

However, I’ve come to assume that our administration will not act in our own best interests.

As time goes by, I keep thinking of that famous moment in the second presidential debate of 2012. You know, the one where Obama snarked back at Romney’s assertion that Russia was our number one geopolitical foe on the world stage with the cute little quip “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”

So, speaking of the 80’s [and in the following excerpt, “Assad” refers to the present-day Assad’s father]:

In the 1980s, Assad’s government established a military cooperation with the Soviet Union. Sophisticated Soviet arms and military advisers helped the development of the Syrian Army, which raised the tension between Israel and Syria. In November 1983, a Soviet delegation arrived in Damascus to discuss the opening of a Soviet naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus. The countries’ relationship encountered problems: Syria had supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, while the Soviet Union supported Iraq, and when the rebellion against Yasser Arafat broke out in al-Fatah in 1983, Syria supported the rebels while the Soviet Union supported Arafat. In 1983 the Syrian Foreign Minister Abdul Halim Khaddam visited Moscow. Soviet Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko argued that Syria and the Soviet Union must resolve their differences concerning the Palestinian movement as stopping the internal conflict would allow the “anti-Imperialist struggle.”

During the diplomatic crisis between the United States and Syria, which escalated into minor clashes, Syrian counted on Soviet help if war should break out. Vladimir Yukhin, the Soviet ambassador in Damascus, expressed his country’s appreciation “for the firm Syrian position in the face of Imperialism and Zionism.” The Soviet attitude did not satisfied Syria completely. Assad’s government considered entering the Warsaw Pact to gain Soviet support and to match the United States and Israel. Syria and the Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in October 1980, which was focused on cultural, technical, military, economic, and transport relations.

It was “complicated” back then, too, and in the late 80s, as the USSR faltered within and then fell, the alliance between the two countries was weakened:

The collapse of the Soviet Union on 31 December 1991 marked the end of the main source of Syria’s political and military support for more than two decades.

Then in 2011, with the advent of the Obama administration and the Syrian civil war, the ties between Russia and Assad Junior were strengthened considerably. This move of Putin’s is the latest in a series in which we’ve been caught without influence and without credibility.

[ADDENDUM: And—in news that should be no surprise whatsoever—Putin appears to be bombing anti-Assad forces and not ISIS forces at all:

Hours after the airstrikes took place, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter compared the move to “pouring gasoline on the fire” because it’s contradictory to say that fighting ISIS and supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad can work together.

“It does appear that they were in areas where there probably … were not ISIL forces and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach,” said Carter.

Okay, Ash. Let us know what you plan to do about it.]

]

25 Responses to “Russia and Syria: maybe this…”

  1. MHJ Says:

    Putin’s position might become “complicated” by virtue of having to choose among options. The US situation will be far simpler as we will have no options but to go along with whatever Russia and Iran cook up for us.

    Having no good options is a sign of very, very bad strategy.

  2. MHJ Says:

    It’s also very telling that Kerry seems to think that such complications are a bad thing.

  3. Cornhead Says:

    Russia needs higher oil prices.

    Vlad will hit the oil fields and pipelines controlled by ISIS in Iraq.

    That’s a big part of what this is about.

  4. G6loq Says:

    Also, keep this in mind:
    Qatar-Turkey pipeline
    It’ll get a lot more complicated.

  5. carl in atlanta Says:

    Admiral John Kirby gave me the creeps when he was the Pentagon spokesman; it’s even worse now that he’s taken over for Jen Psaki at the State Department. He’s the picture of an administration toady and propaganda-spewer. Believe nothing that comes out of this man’s mouth.

    Here’s a link to this creep’s Wikipedia page.

  6. rickl Says:

    The fun will really begin when one of our planes gets shot down.

  7. T Says:

    I remember what Henry Kissinger said many years ago. He pointed out that there are two kind of people in international affairs, those who think diplomacy and negotiation should be used 99% of the time and those who think that diplomacy and negotiation should be used 100% of the time.

    The Sept 28th edition of the WSJ included an article by Bret Stephens:

    . . . moral leadership can never safely be a substitute for weapons unless those leaders are willing to throw themselves at the mercy of their enemies’ capacity for shame.

    So it is with diplomacy. Something this unteachable administration simply refuses to believe.

  8. T Says:

    Sorry, forgot the Stephens link:

    http://www.wsj.com/article_email/an-unteachable-president-1443485444-lMyQjAxMTA1ODIzOTkyMzk5Wj

  9. G6loq Says:

    there are two kind of people in international affairs, those who think diplomacy and negotiation should be used 99% of the time and those who think that diplomacy and negotiation should be used 100% of the time.
    aaand this kind:
    The Obama administration official most likely in line to become the next U.S. envoy to the Coalition to Counter the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) has falsely presented himself as an official U.S. ambassador by the administration for the last five months, according to documents reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon.
    Cackle!

  10. George Pal Says:

    No bad actor is without his good points. Assad protected the minorities in his country – done nowhere where America had instituted ‘regime change’ or ‘nation building’ (check minorities in Iraq, especially Christians; see what had become of the last Christian church in Aghanistan – under American ‘good guy’ Karsai). Assad had become ornery and then ruthless against those who sought to overthrow him. Quelle surprise! The lengths power will go to keep it.

    Putin, it turns out, becomes a defender of wobbly Europe, and by extention, NATO, the very entity that had made its threatening way to the doorstep of Russia. Putin will not have his country endure one point of the globalist Gay agenda and is excoriated for it by the NYT. Putin defends the Christian heritage of his country, and is thought backward, as in reactionary, as in unsophisticated by the elite presently selling out their countries. Putin loves and defends Russia – and this from a KGB official of the great Soviet. And what had Harvard given us lately? The anti-Putin.

    At this rate of topsy-turvey vertigo must be expected. If it passes we will have a new New World Order, perhaps a renascence of the Old World.

  11. Molly NH Says:

    And yet the Lefties were all aglow over Vlad a brief while back when he karayoked
    Fats Domino’s *Blueberry Hill *
    Tsk, tsk, they didn t do their homework !

  12. parker Says:

    First, Putin will attack the ‘moderate’ western supported ragtag groups fighting the Assad regime. There will be days of bluster, but no one will do anything significant to deter Putin. When/if this is accomplished Putin will turn his attention to ISIS cheered on by Iran and Iraq. It will take boots on the ground to defeat ISIS. I think Putin is more than willing to do so. With victory over ISIS Putin becomes the protector of Syria and Iraq, and the “strong horse” in the region.

  13. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “as long as Assad is there, you simply can’t make peace. Period.” Kerry also said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must leave as part of an “orderly transition,”

    This administration is completely out of touch with reality.

    Whereas Putin assisting in Iran’s defeat of ISIS is entirely within Putin’s strategic interests. As is Iran gaining nuclear weapons capability, given Iran’s focus upon the “little” and “great” Satan’s.

    Islamic terrorism, focused upon the West, acts as a proxy form of aggression for both Russia and China.

    Each has a long and consistent history of protecting rogue regimes in the U.N.

    “China puts two democracy activists on trial amid crackdown”

    “China’s ruling Communist Party under President Xi Jinping has in recent years tightened a crackdown on intellectuals, lawyers and activists critical of the government, with scores detained and dozens jailed.”

  14. Ymarsakar Says:

    It will take boots on the ground to defeat ISIS. I think Putin is more than willing to do so. With victory over ISIS Putin becomes the protector of Syria and Iraq, and the “strong horse” in the region.

    And if Hussein uses that to declare war on Russia and institute emergency rule to refuse to step down?

    Putin has to be thinking about that potential, so he may do the first strike. That’s how wars are started.

    “China’s ruling Communist Party under President Xi Jinping has in recent years tightened a crackdown on intellectuals, lawyers and activists critical of the government, with scores detained and dozens jailed.”

    China has a couple of exchange students, or more like rings of them, in inner cities and Democrat funded universities in the US. So they’re probably seeing first hand reports of what happens when lawyers and intellectuals take over a power like the US. In other words, they are learning from us, but coming to slightly erroneous conclusions.

  15. parker Says:

    Y,

    Bho is not going to war against Russia in order to suspend the 2016 electon and cling to the throne. If that is his desire, a race war will serve his purpose.

  16. Ymarsakar Says:

    To anti Americans, it doesn’t really matter what Hussein’s desire is. Hussein isn’t pulling all the strings of the Left. If he were, was the Left merely a joke and clown without a clown car, before 2007?

  17. parker Says:

    Granted bho is not the puppet master of the leftist cabal, but he certainly has a messiah complex and sincerely believes he is the fairest of them all.

  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    but he certainly has a messiah complex and sincerely believes he is the fairest of them all.

    But isn’t that what causes wars due to misunderstandings? When a person thinks they cannot lose, it is more likely they are to aggravate issues.

  19. parker Says:

    IMO, bho actually believes his mere words will win through… lowering sea levels, cooling the planet, red lines, bring a gun to a knife fight, we are the ones we have been waiting for, blah, blah. The very idea of a hot war with Russia is not a part of his MO. What is he going to do… send a drone to assassinate Vlad?

    Russia, China, and Iran, to name a few, are not impressed. Putin, rightly so, does not see bho as presenting a credible threat to whatever it is he wants to do in the ME, Ukraine, or elsewhere.

  20. Matt_SE Says:

    I think Assad should be backed or left alone by the US. He may have been “not nice,” but he was never a madman.
    Look at all the hornet’s nests kicked over by Obama, and all the swarms that now surround us.

    Time to leave well-enough alone.

  21. Ymarsakar Says:

    What is he going to do… send a drone to assassinate Vlad?

    That depends on what Russia views as a step too far that endangers their interests. Same for China. If the Chinese think our black ops are blowing up their economic infrastructure, even if that is fake intel, they may act upon it by sinking a US carrier, as a prelude to invading Taiwan or Japan or South Korea.

    Chinese internal pressure must be relieved, and a short victorious war overseas is just the ticket for many such regimes.

  22. Ymarsakar Says:

    Time to leave well-enough alone.

    Ironic that you would phrase it like that because:

    Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.- You know Who M O

    Never allow.

  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    “It does appear that they were in areas where there probably … were not ISIL forces and that is precisely one of the problems with this whole approach,” said Carter.

    I suspect they are lying about that one.

    The reason why anti Assad forces are with ISIL is the same reason why Libyan rebels were with AQ. They don’t have the data penetration to tell the difference, since it’s not necessary for there to be a difference.

    If they are determining ISIL forces from the groups that had US weapons sold to them, then their penetration of the organization layers there is almost zero. ISIL has expanded a lot since then.

    “But we must not and will not be confused in our fight against ISIL with support for Assad,” he said. “Moreover, we have also made clear that we would have grave concerns should Russia strike areas where ISIL and al Qaeda affiliated targets are not operating. Strikes of the kind would question Russia’s real intentions fighting ISIL or protecting the Assad regime.”

    The Hussein REgime is running a black ops campaign to crack the Libyan and Syrian dictatorships. For their own reasons. They succeeded with Libya, they are still working on Syria.

    That’s why they are lying, this is a deception op. Or else we are supposed to believe Hussein was also fighting and bombing AQ in Libya, bombing ISIL when they took over parts of Syria and Iraq? If the US was serious about bombing ISIL, they would not have been able to take Iraqi cities at all, they would have been annihilated on the highways.

  24. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    @ T – good Kissinger quote. I am keeping that.

    Many good comments here.

    As with the establishmen Republican who was complaining that the Tea Party leaning group just “can’t get to yes,” there are people in DC who believe that their job is to get to some kind of deal. To have no deal, to make something happen that everyone didn’t join hands about, does not enter their heads. So too here with Kerry. He’s afraid it will get complicated, and it will be hard to make a deal.

    That idea is the problem.

  25. Sarah Rolph Says:

    The press conference with Carter was very depressing. I was going to tweet “So Walter Matthau is our defense secretary now?” but it wasn’t funny. But that’s what it felt like, as if the guy at the podium was acting, and he was stretching and reaching in a way that seemed like parody. I guess he was simply caught off guard. When he talked about budget details for much longer, and with more passion, than he talked about the national security crisis unfolding as he was speaking, and it was very much like a bad joke. Although it got worse when I realized he seems very worried indeed about the budget, which I suppose is a national security crisis in itself.

    Then I watched the other SNL routine on the news, Kerry and Lavrov pretending to have an agreement. If it had been a skit instead of a horrible reality Kerry would have said “we have come to an agreement. Mr. Lavrov has told me to fuck off and I have told him that I am looking into the appropriate process to be used in the event of fucking off, and we will be following up on this project in the coming weeks and months.”

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