With Russian forces entrenched in Syria, Moscow seeks to extend its defensive depth and political reach - October, 2015

Despite strong objections from Moscow and Tehran, Western powers and their regional allies were ready to invade Syria under the pretext of fighting ISIS. As noted in my previous commentary, after Russia thwarted the initial Western-led invasion attempt of Syria exactly two years ago, Western powers with the support of their regional allies created a backdoor entry into the country - via ISIS. With the world community coerced into demanding an end to the wholesale bloodshed continuing unabated in Syria and Iraq and the resulting refugee crisis in Europe (orchestrated by Syria's enemies), Western powers were systematically preparing the ground for a military intervention. But unlike back in 2013, when Western forces sought to conduct airstrikes against Syrian forces via military assets stationed in the Mediterranean Sea but were blocked by Russia, Moscow would not have been able to stop them this time because they were preparing to use Turkey and Jordan as staging areas for their military operations. The writing was therefore on the wall and an invasion of Syria seemed all but imminent by the end of the summer.

It was increasingly clear for Kremlin officials that they needed to counter Western designs for the region by preemptively inserting combat troops and military hardware into Syria. Similar to how Russian paratroopers, despite direct threats by US General Wesley Clark, had rushed to secure a political role for Moscow in Kosovo, Serbia back in 1999, Russian troops needed to be ready to carryout a similar operation in Syria as well because like Serbia, Syria also holds geostrategic significance for Moscow. If Russian officials were forced to curtail their military response to the Western aggression against Serbia in 1999 due to Russia's sociopolitical situation back then, they today recognized that in Syria they were presented the opportunity to be proactive.

In other words: This is not the 1990s, a Western-backed alcoholic is not in power in the Kremlin and Russia's military is back. Itself now under persistent attack by Western powers, Russia has a lot of geostrategic interests at stake in Syria, not the least of which is power projection through its military assets stationed in the region. A resurgent Russia is seeking to extend its defensive depth and political reach and Syria and Novorossiya are perfect opportunities for the Kremlin in that regard. The Russian military had to therefore be on the ground and ready to protect Russian assets in Syria for the time when Western powers finally decided to make their move. At the very least, Alawite and Christian populated regions along Syria's Mediterranean coast, members of Assad's government and the Russian naval facility at the city of Tartus had to be placed under direct Russian protection. Such an action by Moscow would secure Russia's military and political presence in the Middle East for when the time comes for new borders to be drawn. It should also be stressed that such a move by Moscow would also prevent the near certain genocide of Alawites, Christians and secular Sunni Muslims in Syria by Western-backed Islamic extremists. Moreover, such an action by Moscow would also show the rest of the world that Russia is indeed a global superpower who's allies can truly rely on.

The Shi'ite Arc has been reinforced by the Russian Bear

Fearing that Western powers and their allies were poised for a renewed military offensive against Syria and seeing that Bashar Assad's Iranian-backed government had proven its worth after four years of successfully resisting the international onslaught against it, the Russian Bear seems to have found the political confidence - and was clever enough to usurp the anti-ISIS pretext Western powers had meticulously crafted for the past two years - to preempt Western powers and enter the fray in Syria to impact the outcome of the war. Almost exactly two years after Moscow successfully derailed the Western-led effort to carryout military strikes against Syrian forces, Kremlin grossmeisters have outmaneuvered Western powers once again, but this time quite a bit more audaciously. In early September, Israel's Mossad connected Debka File was among the first to report that Moscow had begun moving military hardware into Syria. For most of the month, Moscow was busy inconspicuously transporting significant amounts of military hardware to the embattled country. By late September, Moscow had several dozen front-line warplanes and an undisclosed number of modern main battle tanks and armored personal carriers ready for combat. Moving large number of weapons systems into Syria right under the noses of "coalition air forces" was a very bold move, and it seemed to have caught Western powers off-guard and thus unable to react in any meaningful way. Then, coming quite suddenly on the heels of President Putin's brilliant speech at the UN's annual assembly of world leaders, on September 30 the world woke to breaking news that Russian forces stationed in Syria had commenced tactical airstrikes. Western news agencies reported the following fascinating piece of information -
"The Russian three-star general, who was part of the newly formed intelligence cell with Iraq, Iran, and the Syrian government, arrived in Baghdad at 9 a.m. local time and informed U.S. officials that Russian strikes would be starting imminently—and that the U.S. should refrain from conducting strikes and move any personnel out. The only notice the U.S. received about his visit was a phone call one hour earlier"
For the past twenty-five years I was resigned into thinking that such things only happen in Hollywood films. I must say it's been utterly surreal watching aerial camera footage of precision bomb strikes by Russian warplanes after decades of watching US forces do the same around the world, exclusively and with total impunity. Russian warplanes conducting airstrikes in the Middle East as Western powers, including the Zionist state, watch helplessly from the sidelines is an astounding first for the entire region. It's been very exciting to see top-of-the-line Russian weapons systems (the SU-34 is one beautiful warbird) and Russian military personnel in desert camouflage stationed in the Middle East. The geopolitical enormity of what Moscow has done in Syria cannot overstated and I believe its repercussions will be felt in the region for many years to come. Russia continues to outmaneuver its opponents. Russia continues to impress and inspire.

A new Middle East is being formed in front of our eyes. This newly forming political dynamic in the region also has the potential to have a positive impact on the lingering Palestinian question. Perhaps this is why Palestinian leader Hahmud Abbas was somewhat defiant in his recent speech at the UN's General Assembly and the crazy warmonger, Benjamin Netanyahu sounded somewhat conciliatory. With the Russian Bear back in the region, Israeli officials will gradually come to the sobering realization that they no longer enjoy total military supremacy in the region. And it is no surprise that Turks are also singing a different tune. What a difference a few years makes. What is happening is a historic milestone in global affairs and a drastic reversal of roles between Russia and the US. Quite amazingly, the Iranian Arc has been suddenly reinforced by the Russian Bear.

The fact that Moscow is stationing some of its most modern tanks and warplanes and has commenced combat air operations in Syria underscores the strategic importance the Kremlin is placing on Russia's role in the region and the strategic importance of Syria. It also signals one thing: For the foreseeable future, the Russian Bear will be a permanent fixture within the Syrian landscape and regional powers will have to take this reality on the ground into account when formulating their policies. Having been checked by Kremlin officials, Uncle Sam has been made to swallow its imperial pride and begin "deconflicting" talks with the Russian Bear - and accept the notion that Bashar Assad has to be negotiated with as well. The Assad government has thus been saved and a zone of Shi'ite influence, stretching from Lebanon to Iran (or what has remained of it after the carnage of the past several years) has thus been preserved. This has given Lebanon's Hezbollah, Syria's Alawites and Iraq's Shiites a new lease on life. I hope to see this extend to Yemen's Houthis as well. Nevertheless, I suspect the next phase of Russia's military operations in Syria will be the liberation of certain territories under occupation by Western-backed extremist forces. With Russia providing air support, the Syrian army, Hezbollah, Iran and Iraq will be playing a decisive role on the ground. Syrian President Bashar Assad has already begun to set the tone by stating the following in a televised interview: "The alliance between Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran must succeed or else the whole region will be destroyed".

Make no mistake about it, this is the dawning of a new era. What is happening in the Middle East is a tectonic shift in geopolitics. If there is any truth to Israeli news sources, China is signalling its support of the Russian military intervention in Syria. While the Great Game in the region is no way near an end, but, as if overnight, the Middle East has been transformed and a new geopolitical landscape has clearly begun to form. As we watch President Putin's Russia make its moves in Syria, we are watching history in the making, and it's fascinating. The Russian Bear is on the prowl. Western powers are shocked and bewildered and Western propaganda outlets, as well as Western-funded "humanitarian" groups stationed in Syria are predictably enraged -
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter: Russian Airstrikes 'Pouring Gas on Fire' in Syria: http://www.voanews.com/content/russian-parliament-approves-use-of-military-force-in-syria/2985313.html
Putin Hits West’s Rebels Instead of ISIS: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/30/putin-orders-u-s-jets-out-of-syria.html
At least 39 civilians killed in Russian air strikes, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-10-03/is-command-post-bunker-destroyed-syria-airstrikes-russia/6825714
Russia Rejects 'Unfounded' Accusations Of Civilian Deaths In Syria Airstrikes: http://www.ibtimes.com/russia-rejects-unfounded-accusations-civilian-deaths-syria-airstrikes-2122321
Why Putin is doomed to fail in Syria: http://www.vox.com/2015/10/1/9431773/putin-russia-syria-doomed
Syria reveals the chaos of a world without American leadership: http://www.wsj.com/articles/what-u-s-retreat-looks-like-1443742339
The outcry in the US and elsewhere against the recent military intervention in Syria by Russia ironically comes on the heels of wide-spread complaints throughout the US that the Washington-led effort against ISIS was a total failure - 
Top American commander: Few U.S.-Trained Syrians Still Fight ISIS:http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/17/world/middleeast/isis-isil-syrians-senate-armed-services-committee.html?
Billions From U.S. Fail to Sustain Foreign Forces: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/04/world/middleeast/uss-billions-fail-to-sustain-foreign-forces.html
Western powers couldn't - or rather did not want to - get the job done. Consequently, President Putin has capitalized on the US inability - or rather refusal - to seriously go after ISIS by taking matters into his own hands. Moscow waited for just the right moment and then, just when Syria's enemies were preparing to escalate the crisis, Moscow preemptively jumped in. But, Moscow first made sure that Iran, Iraq and the Hezbollah was on board as well. It was a stunning move, to say the least. A game changer for the entire region and a sudden shock that has stunned Western powers into inaction. Russia is taking the fight to ISIS and other Western-backed terror groups in Syria and it is doing so with style as well as some shock and awe. Who now can talk against Russia's actions in Syria without sounding like a total idiot or a hypocrite? In other words, the anti-ISIS narrative Western powers painstakingly developed during the past two years was hijacked by Moscow. Now, Moscow is writing the rest of the story. With that said, Washingtonian reptiles could not be trusted with combating Islamic terrorism essentially because Western powers and their regional allies are the financiers and leaders of Islamic terrorism, not only in Syria but also around the world. Therefore, it's time we gave the Russian Bear a chance at going after Islamic terrorists. With Russian warplanes now conducting airstrikes against terrorist targets in Syria, we can all expect Western propaganda outlets posing as news organizations to produce report-after-report about "civilian deaths" and how Russia is "making things worst". After fueling infernos by destabilizing nations around the world with impunity for decades, what audacity do Washingtonian reptiles have in accusing Russia of "pouring gas on fire" in Syria?! Their blind imperial arrogance is as sickening as it is dangerous. Foreign Minister Lavrov was right to advise American journalists not to pay too much attention to what their leaders were telling them about Russian actions in Syria, but it was a futile effort on his part because there is no such thing as  American journalism anymore.

With one swift move of its chess piece, the Russian Bear has effectively defanged Western powers, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia. As if over night, the region's geopolitical climate has been altered quite drastically, once again by Russia's "little green men". There is a new dynamic at play throughout the Middle East now and Uncle Sam and its terrorists are not initiating it. In fact, right now, Western powers seem woefully impotent for there is nothing that they can do to turn the Russian tide. Needless to say, Americans will blame their poor House Negro in the White House for this historic setback, somehow forgetting that their favorite "war president" also stood down when the Russian Bear crushed Georgia's Western-backed military back in 2008.

A friendly reminder: US presidents do not make political policy, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Like all US presidents in recent history, President Obama is simply doing the bidding of the Pentagon, the CIA, the US State Department and a handful of powerful special interest groups in Washington. We need to look at the US presidency in this manner: What automobile sales directors are to automobile manufacturers, US presidents are to the special interests groups that run the American empire. US presidential elections are nothing but a two ring circus that takes place every four years. The only difference between "Democrat" and "Republican" officials is simply the style in which they pitch the same product.

Therefore, what is happening in Syria is not in any way President Obama's fault. Nevertheless, regardless of who is to blame for this US setback, it will now be Moscow calling the shots and initiating actions in Syria, as the US watches and contemplates what to do. It's a sudden and unexpected role reversal. And the irony in all this is that Western powers have been suddenly outmaneuvered by a nation that they were until recently claiming was isolated and on the verge of an economic collapse.

Syria is not Afghanistan and Russia today is a force to be reckoned with

Many around the world today are amazed by Russia's audacity in Syria. Many around the world today are bewildered by the lack of a discernible response by the "greatest military" in the world. Many are thus asking why does Washington seem so helpless? As I stated above, Washington's problem in Syria has absolutely nothing to do with President Obama or the Democrat party. Simply put: The problem for Washington is that the US military today has met its match. The Russian military today is a formidable force, a force to be reckoned with. I want to bring the readers' attention to some very interesting comments President Putin made back in 2012 -
"We have more aces up our sleeve that would push our Western colleagues and partners to a more constructive dialogue than we have seen before. What do I mean why this? Just a few years ago, as I know, they used to speak of us among their fellow allies as follows: "Russia could tinker with its military as much as it wants, we are not the least interested in what's happening there. All they have is rusted-out junk." But this is not true. Today, it's a different game"
Ever since Russia reportedly used a recently developed weapon to prevent the Western-led military aggression against Syria back in September, 2013, the military calculus in the Middle East seems to have changed. Western forces and the Zionist state today no longer enjoy military supremacy in the region and they can therefore no longer go on reckless military adventures. Russia has been developing cutting-edge weapons systems that can render US weapons obsolete. Some of these weapons are very likely stationed in Syria. This is perhaps why President Assad had been confident of a final victory. Therefore, take the above into consideration when reading the following comments recently made by President Obama in response to Hillary Clinton's criticism for his inaction in Syria -
She was, obviously, my secretary of state. But I also think that there’s a difference between running for president and being president, and the decisions that are being made and the discussions that I’m having with the Joint Chiefs become much more specific and require, I think, a different kind of judgment. I think Hillary Clinton would be the first to say that when you’re sitting in the seat that I’m sitting in, in the Situation Room, things look a little bit different
What President Obama was essentially saying was this: Having assessed the situation at hand, high ranking military officials in Washington recognize that they have no military options available against what Russia is doing inside Syria. Therefore, the US will not respond in any way, even if Russian airstrikes are now targeting US-backed rebel strongholds, shadowing US operated drones and threatening NATO member Turkey. What I am essentially saying is that the US military today is outclassed by modern weapons being produced by Russia's military industrial complex -
Russian Plasma Weapon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjHubNU0jjY
Russian systems of electromagnetic weapon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIaRACGX1KQ
Electromagnetic weapon of Russia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx5VJ12QVxA
Russian Fighter Jet Disables US Missle Destroyer Using Electronic Warfare Weapon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s4sKAMgYsU
Pentagon Worries That Russia Can Now Outshoot U.S. Stealth Jets: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/04/pentagon-worries-that-russia-can-now-outshoot-u-s-stealth-jets.html
Meet The Russian "Avtobaza" - Iran's Possible Drone Killer: http://www.businessinsider.com/meet-the-russian-avtobaza-irans-possible-drone-killer-2011-12
This is a new era in warfare and Syria has become a theater where newly developed weapons systems are being tested. No military, including the US military, will risk the prospect of facing these news weapons in a war. In other words, the US is no longer facing a third world army or some paramilitary force that it has gotten so used to fighting in recent years. And, this is not the 1990s. Russia's military has gone through a drastic makeover and is today modern fighting force. Man-for-man, I would dare say Russia's military today is better than its Soviet predecessor. Man-for-man, I have no doubt that the Russian military is better than any military in existence today, including Western ones. 

With Russia now firmly entrenched in Syria and with Iran gradually shedding its isolation, the aforementioned Shi'ite zone of influence cutting horizontally right through the Middle East has the strong potential to bring peace and balance to the region. As noted above, the losers in all this besides the arrogant and decadent West are their little monsters in the region called Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The global community will now watch as Russia, Iran, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon's Hezbollah merge forces to combat ISIS and any other threat Syria and Iraq faces. The global community will now also watch how Western powers will not lift a finger to help in the anti-ISIS war effort.

Why should Western powers and its regional allies not be happy about Russia finally entering the fight against ISIS terrorist? Weren't Western powers warning us about the barbaric brutality of ISIS on a 24/7 basis for the past two years in an effort to convince us that ISIS was a danger not only for Syria and Iraq for the entire world? Now that Russians have entered the war in Syria, why aren't they being embraced by the US and its regional allies? With the Russian military now in the equation, one would think Western powers would seek ways to engage Moscow and work with it to defeat ISIS; that is if Western powers really saw ISIS as a threat. 

All I see and hear from the Western news press now is how Moscow's military intervention in Syria will "backfire" against Russia and turn into another "Afghanistan". Is that what they only care about?! How much more obvious will the Jew-run news media in the Western world make it that they careless about combating terrorism? These bloodthirsty reptiles are not in the least bit interested in helping defeat terror groups that they created in the first place. What they instead really want to see now is Russians getting bloodied in combat. In my opinion, this is all a result of their centuries old bloodlust against the Russian nation. It is no surprise therefore that Russia's preemptive military move into Syria has become a pill they are having a very hard time swallowing essentially because Moscow has once again ruined their hegemonic plans. In their primordial anger, the alliance of evil now wants to see Russian blood spilled, as in Afghanistan, as in Chechnya. However, this is all wishful thinking on their part because they, due to their hate, are failing to take into consideration some very important political and military factors at play in Russia's role in Syria. 

Foremost, the Soviet Union was in a steep decline in the 1980s and the Soviet military at the time was not prepared to fight a guerrilla type warfare in a very large, rugged and tribal nation, against an enemy that was directly and openly being supported by a conglomeration of nations, including the US. It was more-or-less the same situation for Moscow in the north Caucasus during the chaotic aftermath of the Soviet collapse during the 1990s. Needless to say, times have changed. Russia today is a resurgent power and military technology has come a long way since the 1980s. Moreover, fighting techniques against guerrilla forces have pretty much been perfected by the Russian military due to its experiences in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Dagestan and more recently in Novorossiya. Finally, it must be emphasized that Syria is not Afghanistan and Syrians are not Afghans. In Syria, Russians are stationed in friendly territory who's boundaries are clearly marked. Moreover, any fighting Russian forces will be doing there (primarily via its air force) it will be doing alongside very reliable Alawites, Christians, Shiites, secular Sunni Arabs, Hezbollah troops and Iranians. What Russia has in Syria is a real coalition of the willing. In other words, Russia is not in Syria to occupy the country against the people's wish. Russia is there to protect its regional allies against the Western, Turkish, Israeli and Saudi terror onslaught. In fact, Russians are viewed as saviors by pro-government Syrians. Obviously, Russians also do not think Syria is another Afghanistan -
Once more: Syria is not Afghanistan. Syrians are not Afghans. And Russia has Iran's full support. Kremlin officials have once more played their hand absolutely brilliantly. Some major changes are in the air as a result. And those that stand to lose the most in the geopolitical landscape that is currently being formed are Western powers, Israel and Turkey: Western powers, because they have lost their hegemony and thus their total grip over the region; Israel, because it had until very recently enjoyed complete and total military supremacy over it neighbors; And Turkey, because Erdogan has no friends, the Kurdish question is fully out of the box once again and Ankara may yet come to face future problems from its sizable Alawite population.

With one brilliant move of the chess piece the Russian Bear has turned the old order in the Middle East on its head. Russia's role in the Middle East may yet come surpass that of the Soviet Union's. Moreover, Russia's presence in the region may come to be perceived by secular and moderate Sunni Muslims around the world as a positive development. The very recent mosque opening in Moscow, one of the largest in world, was a clear signal by the Kremlin that as its actions in the Middle East are not against Islam and that Russia, unlike Saudi Arabia, is in fact a friend of Islam.

On the grand chessboard of the Middle East Kremlin grossmeisters have dealt their Western opponents a sudden and debilitating blow. As if overnight, Moscow was able to assemble a significant military force in Syria thereby making itself an important part of the political equation for any future settlement. Russia now is fully part of the solution in Syria whether Western powers and their regional allies like it or not. Actions of the Russian Bear in Syria may prove decisive as it has drastically altered the political calculus of the entire region. Russian boots on the ground in Syria has altered the course of the war. In one fell swoop, Russia has not only deepened its defensive depth but also extended it political reach.

The Russian Bear is on the offensive to reinstate its defensive depth

Western powers have long realized that one of the most effective ways to contain or weaken a nation that hold immense potential as Russia is to take away Russia's zones of influence. This essentially is the age old policy Western powers pursued against Russia as soon as they got their chance in 1991. Naturally, Ukraine was looked at as one of Russia's vulnerable spots. We see this expressed by one of the American empire's most senior and most Russophobic foreign policymakers - 
"Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire. But if Russia becomes an empire, it cannot be a democracy at the same time. We might add that an imperial Russia will be forced to abandon economic reform in favor of central planning" - Zbigniew Brzezinski, in a 1993 Foreign Affairs article
Western designs against Russia in the Ukraine was not Zbigniew Brezenski's brilliant idea. Ukraine was looked at as a strategic prize by Uncle Sam as far back as the 1940s. Nevertheless, as soon as the Soviet Union fell apart, Western powers moved into Russian zones of influence despite their promises not to and despite strong Russian objections. Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, Western powers were busy conspiring against the Russian Federation in various theaters and manners. Former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact nations such Poland, Hungary and Estonia were brought into NATO and the EU. Yugoslavia was broken up and Serbia, seen as the last pro-Russian bastion in south-east Europe, was attacked and mutilated. The Islamic uprising in Chechnya was covertly supported by Western powers and their Islamic allies in the region. Former Soviet client states in the Middle East were attacked. Inroads were made into the south Caucasus and Central Asia. And "missile defense shields" began setting up around Russia. Moscow watched helplessly as its space shrunk. But, the tide was beginning to change. In 2007 Moscow announced it was resuming strategic bomber patrols and revamping its military. When Western powers crossed the line in Georgia and Ukraine, in 2008 and 2013 respectively, the Russian Bear reacted forcefully.

After nearly three decades of setbacks, the Russian Bear has been on an offensive, diplomatically, economically, politically and militarily. In the past eight years alone, Moscow has expanded it's military presence westward and southward as it has reestablished itself in Armenia, Belarus, Chechnya, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Kazakhstan, Kirghistan, Tajikistan, Crimea, Novorossiya and more recently, Syria. Moscow is systematically reclaiming zones of influence it had lost as a result of the Soviet Union's collapse as well as creating new ones it never had during the Soviet period. Recent news that Russia is in the process of establishing a new military airbase in Belarus is also part of Moscow's greater geostrategic agenda. Nevertheless, when it comes to understanding Moscow's actions be it in Syria, be it in Ukraine, disregard every single explanation you have heard from every single expert, analyst or observer in the Western media and consider the following.

Foremost, Moscow is not trying to resurrect the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire. Yes, many of the ceremonial rituals adopted by the modern Russian state are inspired by Czarist Russia. Yes, Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that the fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. Let's recall that President Putin is also known to have said: Those who do not feel bad about the demise of the Soviet Union have no heart, those who want it back have no brains. Therefore, despite what you may hear on Fox News, BBC or CNN, Bolshevism is not returning to Moscow and the Russian nation does not have the appetite - or is stupid enough - to ever seek the resurrection of the Russian Empire.

So then, why is Russia actively and somewhat aggressively expanding its zones of influence? Simply put: Because Russians don't want to be faced with confronting their enemies at their doorstep (i.e. when it's too late). In other words: Russia has the need to reestablish the - defensive depth - it lost when the Soviet Union collapsed. And that is exactly what it has been doing recently: The Russian Bear is on the offensive to reinstate its defensive depth and political reach.

This is not unique to Russia. Major powers seek to surround themselves with allied or, at the very least, neutral powers that do not pose an economic or militarily threat to them. For military planers in charge of securing national borders, securing something that is know as satellite states, defensive depth, forward defense, buffer zones or zones of influence are an essential part of a comprehensive national defense formula.

Western European powers have the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and allied buffer states in central and eastern Europe for their defensive depth. The United States has two natural barriers, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and two allied buffer states, Canada and Mexico for its security. On the other hand, Russia does not have the luxury of its peers in the Western world. Geographically the largest nation on earth, Russia does not have any natural barriers. Moreover, being that it occupies much of Eurasia and is therefore bounded by several political and cultural zones, Russia has been invaded many times by major powers throughout history. Centuries of warfare with major powers from around the world has left an indelible mark on the Russian spirit. Consequently, whether it's in central Europe, the Baltic, Scandinavia, the Arctic region, the Black Sea region, the Caucasus (north and south), central Asia, or the Far East, Russian officials are constantly on the watch. It's not an enviable responsibility, but it's amazing how successful Russians have been at protecting their land for the past several hundreds years.

Simply put: Without zones of influence and defensive depth, Russia is a very vulnerable nation and Russians know it. Unfortunately, so do Western powers, which is why we see them doing their best to push Russians out of Ukraine, Syria and the south Caucasus. This is nothing new for the West has been conspiring against Russia for centuries. And as to the question of why Western powers have always looked at Russia with fear, suspicion and/or disdain: Due to its size, location, natural wealth and its people's character, Western powers will instinctually looked at Russia as a natural enemy and they will do so regardless of how Russia behaves.

What Moscow has therefore been doing with its "near abroad" (i.e. former Soviet territory and with former Soviet client states) is something all nation-states do to protect themselves. As I noted above, this is especially the case with major nation-states like Russia who do not have natural barriers protecting them as well as nations that have been invaded continuously. 

Russia's geography has for ages shaped Russian leaders, dictated political discourse in the country and given the Russian people their unique characteristics. In my opinion, Russia's legendary military prowess is a direct by-product of the Russian people's genetic makeup (a mix of Vikings, Iranic peoples and Central Asian), its folk culture and the harsh realities of Russia's geography and history. Russians have evolved to be warlike and patriotic for had they not been, they would have disappeared as a nation many centuries ago. Russia's statecraft, including its political and military apparatus, is thus a reflection of Russia's natural needs and the Russian people's ability to pursue it.

During the early post-Soviet years, Moscow begrudgingly tolerated Western inroads into former communist regions of eastern-Europe simply because it was in no shape or form to react in any meaningful way. Western policymakers, however, knew very well that Ukraine, Belarus, the Caucasus and Russia's military presence in Syria would be Moscow's red lines. Perhaps it was their imperial hubris that blinded them, perhaps it was their desperation, regardless of why they did what they did in Syria and the Ukraine, the Western world will now have a rude awakening for this is not 1853, this is not 1941 nor is this the 1990s. The Russian Bear has come out of its hibernation and it is hungry and angry and there is absolutely nothing Western powers can do to stop it.

We are reliving the 19th century

The current political dynamic between Russia and Western powers in Europe and in the Middle East are strikingly similar the rivalry that existed between the Russian Empire and the British Empire (and at times France) during the second half of the 19th century. The Russian Czars back then sought to act as a counterbalance to Western interests throughout much of Eurasia. This often placed Saint Petersburg and London into direct conflict. In fact, Russia fought a bitter war in the Crimean Peninsula between 1853 and 1856 against a very unusual alliance made up of British, French and Turkish troops. The reason for this united front against Russia can be read in the Encyclopedia Britannica
"The war arose from the conflict of great powers in the Middle East and was more directly caused by Russian demands to exercise protection over the Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman sultan. Another major factor was the dispute between Russia and France over the privileges of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the holy places in Palestine"
Armenians need to take a moment to contemplate why this war was fought and who were the players involved. Decades long anti-Russian propaganda propagated within Armenian society society by Western interests have dulled Armenian senses. Armenians must recognize that Western support for Turks is the fundamental reason for much of the misery Turks have brought upon that part of the world. The reason why Armenians were driven out of their ancestral homeland; the reason why Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians were subjected to a genocide in Asia Minor; the reason why an aggressive Turkey still exists today, is the support Turks have been receiving from Western powers for the past two centuries. Not many Armenians know that during the early aftermath of the Second World War, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had amassed a large invasion force on the Turkish border with Armenia. Stalin's primary objective was to rip up the Kars Treaty and invade Turkey because of Ankara's collaboration with Nazi Germany during the war -
"After World War II, the Soviet Union attempted to annul the Kars treaty and regain the Kars region and the adjoining region of Ardahan. On June 7, 1945, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov told the Turkish ambassador to Moscow Selim Sarper that the regions should be returned to the Soviet Union, on behalf of the Georgian and Armenian republics. Turkey found itself in a difficult position: it wanted good relations with the Soviet Union, but at the same time they refused to give up the territories. Turkey itself was in no condition to fight a war with the Soviet Union, which had emerged as a superpower after the second world war. By the autumn of 1945, Soviet troops in the Caucasus were ordered to prepare for a possible invasion of Turkey. Prime Minister Winston Churchill objected to these territorial claims, while President Harry Truman initially felt that the matter should not concern other parties. With the onset of the Cold War, however, the United States came to see Turkey as usefully ally against Soviet expansion and began to support it financially and militarily. By 1948 the Soviet Union dropped its clams to Kars and the other regions"
Had the Red Army invaded in the autumn of 1945 and Turks dared to resist, no one doubted that Red Army soldiers, many of whom were Armenians, would be washing their combat boots in the Mediterranean Sea quite literally within days of crossing the border. I had a distant relative who was a conscripted soldier in the assembled invasion force at the time. I recall him telling me that an actual date was set for the invasion. I also recall him telling me about the excitement he and his comrades felt the night before their scheduled invasion. He said they went to sleep knowing for sure that they would be crossing the Arax River and heading west early in the morning on the next day. But it never came to pass. Late that night, word came to the Red Army commanders in Armenia that the Soviet Union's invasion of Turkey has been cancelled. It was later learned that direct threats from Britain and the US had forced Moscow to back down. It was also rumored that the Soviet Union was threatened with an atomic strike. Many today say that one of the main reasons why the US did not hesitate to explode two atomic bombs over Japan was to scare the Soviet Union from getting too ambitious. Nevertheless, soon thereafter, Turkey was quickly was placed into NATO to protect it from the Russian Bear. The Incredible Turk needed to be preserved for it had a significant geostrategic role to play for Western powers. Western policymakers saw the barbaric Turk as a bulwark against Russia, Iran and the growth of secular, pan-Arab nationalism. I would go as far as saying that the Turks is also seen as an insurance against the growth of a union of Christian Orthodox nations in south eastern Europe (i.e Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Ukraine) because such a union also has the potential of merging with the Russian Bear.

Western powers are the ONLY reason why Turkey exists today. Had it not been for two centuries of Western meddling on behalf of Turks, Turkey may very well have been partitioned between Russia, Greece, Georgia and Armenia; there would not have been an Armenian Genocide; and the Middle East would most probably not have been in the horrible condition that it is in today. 

It should also be said that the Russian Empire's role as a competitor and geopolitical counterbalance to Western powers throughout the 19th century was part of the reason why the Western elite sought to cause sociopolitical unrest inside the increasingly vulnerable empire via Marxists. Similar to how "Democracy" is spread around the world today, the Bolshevik movement was hatched in Western capitols and then exported to the Russian Empire for the sole purpose of destroying it. What's more, Armenians in particular need to be reminded that it was this Bolshevik revolution of 1917 that forced the Russian Czar to pull back its troops from deep within the Armenian Highlands. In fact, as late as 1917 Russian soldiers were holding a battlefront against Turks as far west as Trabizon, Bitlis and Mush and there was no Turkish army in sight. Turks succeed in emptying the Armenian Highlands of its native population only due to Western designs against the Russian Empire.

As the reader can see, even as far back as the early 19th century, Western powers were uniting with Islamic powers for the sole purpose of containing the Russian Bear. Ironically, the US was allied to the Russian Empire for much of the 19th century. Ironically, the imperial Russian navy saved the Union in 1863. The close friendship between the two powers at the time gradually dissipated as the Russian Empire began it's gradual decline during late 19th century and as the US was beginning to merge with the British Empire at around the same time. Today, the Russian Federation is playing the role of 19th century Russian Empire, the US is playing the role of 19th century Britain and France (with Britain and France playing supporting roles) and Saudi Arabia and Turkey are playing the role of the Ottoman Empire. Yes, we are indeed reliving the "Great Game" of 19th century. When John "Kohn" Kerry accused Russia of behaving like its the 19th, he, as usual, was only being half truthful for the US and its British, French and Islamic allies are also behaving very much like it's the 19th century.

The Russian Bear is preventing a genocide

The Western instigated wars in Serbia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine as well as Western aggression against nations like Venezuela and Iran should be a wake up call to all of humanity. Western aggression around the world also underscores the great importance of having the Russian Bear on the global political stage. Ask yourselves: Where would Syria and Iran be today had it not been for the Russian factor in the Middle East? Where would Armenia be today had it not been for the Russian factor in the south Caucasus? It's a very frightening proposition. We Armenians in particular see the paramount importance of having Russian boots on the ground in Armenia. Just think: If Moscow has gone this far to protect Syria, how far would it go to protect Armenia?

In a world reeling under a uni-polar political paradigm that has served Western interests for well over twenty years now, Russia's rise as a superpower projecting its interests upon the global stage is a very, very welcome relief. The global community has long been brutalized under the boot of the Anglo-American-Zionist political order. The rise of Russia is thus providing the bipolarity in global politics that humanity desperately needs. I also hope to see one day nations such as China, India and Iran rise to global prominence as well. For now, however, we must realize that it's only the Russian Federation that is able - and willing - to stand up to the political West.

Russia today has the moral authority as more-and-more nations are beginning to see the US as the greatest threat to world peace. Russia and Iran are actually the only two foreign powers in Syria that are operating fully within the confines of international law.

Syria's fate was decided a very long time ago by Western, Israeli, Turkish and Saudi interests. Bashar Assad's enemies wanted to neuter Syria politically (as they had done with Iraq and as they would later do with Libya and Yemen) because Syria was backed by Iran and Russia and because Syria was a vital bloodline for Lebanon's Hezbollah. But Syria's enemies had a problem: Russia's military presence in the country. Thus, when Moscow began broadening its military ties with Damascus between 2008 and 2010, Syria's enemies panicked and went into action. In my opinion, the Syrian tragedy began little over five years ago when Russian General Yuri Ivanov, the GRU's second in command was mysteriously murdered while on an official trip to the country. The current Western, Turkish, Israeli and Saudi backed Islamic uprising began in Syria merely a year after General Ivanov's murder.
A little over two years ago, they used the false flag serin gas attacks to psychologically prepare the western sheeple for a full-scale war against Assad's government. They were on the verge of beginning an aerial bombardment campaign against Assad's military but Moscow managed to put a stop to it essentially at the last minute. Assad's enemies pulled back and began thinking of alternative ways to realize their agenda in the Levant: Enter ISIS; enter the refugee crisis in Europe. They had since meticulously crafted conditions in the region that are extremely dire, which they were using as an excuse to militarily intervene in Syria once more. Ultimately, Assad's enemies recognize that they are too deep in the bloody mess they created in Syria during the past four years to retreat. Pulling back now would mean total victory for Russia, Iran, Assad's Alawites and Lebanon's Hezbollah. They are therefore stuck in a situation where they have to push forward with their plan but now, with the Russian Bear in the equation, they have to alter their plans and curtail their their actions. Best case scenario in all this is what I suspect has already begun to take place behind closed doors: A negotiated peace settlement and the partitioning of Syria. In any case, territory in Syria has been secured for the region's Alawite, Christian and secular Sunni Arab populations. Here is the latest evidence to backup what I am saying -
But there is also a worst case scenario: With so many powers in such close proximity to each other, the unintentional start of a world war is very real. Even FM Sergei Lavrov recently raised this very serious concern. Nevertheless, it still remains to be seen how all this will play out in the Middle East as well as in eastern Europe in the coming months and years.  There are too many potentially explosive and unpredictable variables at play, which makes accurate forecasts nearly impossible. Nevertheless, as I previously said: The Russian Bear will be in the Middle East for a long while and everything we see happening in the region today is in preparation of a new reality. It may take another few years and another few hundred thousand casualties, but the destruction that has been sown in the region is so severe that a new Middle East is all but inevitable. Syria, as we knew it, is all but dead. Since Bashar Assad's government proved resilient, Syria's Alawites have secured their existence and will likely have their state under the protection of its patrons, Russia and Iran.

For Armenians who have the spiritual depth and the intellectual capacity to see and understand what is happening, the moral of this story is essentially this: Had Moscow not had a vested interest in Syria, Western powers and their regional allies would have placed Syria under Wahhabist/Salafist Islamic rule and we would have had displeasure of seeing a genocide take place, with Armenians once again amongst the victims.

In a sense: The only thing stopping Muslim warlords from sexually molesting little Armenian boys in Armenia, as forces of "freedom and democracy" standby watching, is the Russian Bear.

The Russian Bear's presence in the Middle East is preventing a genocide. Exactly one hundred years ago the Russian Empire was similarly protecting Ottoman Armenians from assured annihilation. The protection worked quite well. As late as 1917, Russian troops were holding a battlefront against Turks as far west as Trabizon, Bitlis and Mush. The Western-financed Bolshevik revolution however forced Russians out of the region and the tragic result was the first genocide of the twentieth century. And as if that was not enough, what was left of historic Armenia in Turkey and Cilicia was simply abandoned by the victorious allies; namely the Britain, France and the US. If Bashar Assad's enemies ever get their way in Syria, we will no doubt witnessed the first genocide of the twenty-first century.

What Moscow has done in Syria is a historic milestone in global affairs and its repercussions will be felt for decades to come. While the Great Game in the region is no way near an end, as if overnight, the Middle East has been transformed and a new geopolitical landscape is being formed as we watch. We are watching history in the making and once again Russia is at the forefront. Therefore, let's all pray for the health and well being of the great Russian nation because Russia today is a rising global power and a bringer of sanity, ethics, structure and balance to global affairs. Russia today is the last front against Western globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. Russia today is the last hope for the preservation of the traditional nation-state, adherence to international law, conservative family values, apostolic Christianity and classical western civilization. I cannot imagine a world today without the existence of the Russian nation. The great leader of the Russian nation Vladimir Putin has been, and I say this quite literally, God sent. The role Russia is playing on earth today is that of a savior. Russia is in fact fighting evil. Russia's job is therefore sacred. President Putin is the man and Russia is the nation humanity needs to rally around if it is to defeat the evil emanating from the Anglo-American-Jewish world order. We can no longer tolerate the Anglo-American-Jewish world order.

President Putin echoed the sentiments of many millions of people around the world when he spoke the following words at the much anticipated address be gave at the UN: "we can no longer tolerate the current state of affairs in the world". The Russian president went on to give one of his finest speeches of his illustrious career. Even his enemies were clearly envious. President Putin was announcing to the world that the old order was no longer valid and that a new global order, a multipolar global order was forming with Russia in the lead.

The terrible bloodletting we are witnessing around the world today is the Western elite's effort to maintain the old political order that formed at the end of the Second World War. The terrible bloodletting we are witnessing around the world today is a result of the Western elite's desire to maintain its position as the world's top predator. However, despite how hard they try to preserve it, their time is gradually coming to an end. As the Western world slowly commits suicide via - genetically modified foods, sex tourism, low quality pop culture, psychiatric drugs, celebrity worship, proliferation junk foods, government sanctioned multiculturalism, overtaxation, underage drinking and drug abuseproliferation of pharmaceuticals, institutionalized atheism, overregulation, dwindling natural resources, epidemic of suicides, over-entertainment, modern art, Holocaust worship, undereducation, radical feminism, Satan worship, abortion, low birth rates, culture of violence, glorification of war, consumerism, commercialism, selfishness and individualism, mass homicides, child prostitution, child pornography, interracialism, illegal immigration, third world immigration, sexual debauchery, breakdown of traditional family, governmental corruption and the promotion of homosexuality - others in the world are slowly plotting course for a new period in human history. As the US and western Europe go into political, economic and cultural decline, the 21st century will be a Eurasian century.

October, 2015


Wall Street Journal: What U.S. Retreat Looks Like


A friend of ours quipped amid the Iraq debate of 2003 that the only thing Europeans dislike more than U.S. leadership is a world without it. Well, we are now living in such a world, and the result is the disorder and rising tide of war in the Middle East that even the Obama Administration can no longer dismiss. How do you like it? The epicenter of the chaos is the Syrian civil war now into its fifth year. President Obama justified his decision to steer clear of the conflict by pointing to a parade of horribles if the U.S. assisted the opposition to Bashar Assad. Every one of those horribles—and more—has come to pass in the wake of his retreat.

Syria has become a “geopolitical Chernobyl,” as former General David Petraeus recently put it. It was the breeding ground for Islamic State and is a new sanctuary for terrorism. It has nurtured a growing regional conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, while unleashing the worst refugee crisis on Europe since World War II. And now it has become an arena for potential major power conflict as Vladimir Putin forms an alliance with Iran to make Russia the new Middle East power broker.

Mr. Putin unveiled his strategy this week with a disdain for a U.S. President unseen in a Russian leader since Nikita Khrushchev “beat the hell out of” John Kennedy, as JFK put it, at the Vienna summit in 1961. Mr. Putin coaxed Mr. Obama to grant him a private meeting, then told the world to rally behind his alternative coalition to fight Islamic State and prop up the Assad regime. It’s as if he set up Mr. Obama for humiliation. Now Russian planes are bombing in Syria—but not Islamic State targets. They are bombing the anti-Assad forces that the U.S. has haltingly supported. The U.S. has been caught unaware and nonplussed. The White House has been left to stammer in protest and send Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate the terms of U.S. irrelevance.

The world is watching, aghast, yet we are now told by the same people who told us to stay out of Syria that Mr. Putin has fallen into his own quagmire. We doubt that’s how they see it in Moscow, Tehran or Damascus. For a limited deployment of 2,000 soldiers and some weapons, Mr. Putin is showing Russians their country has global influence again. He needn’t waste Russian blood because Hezbollah provides the cannon fodder. And he needn’t defeat Islamic State as long as he carves out an Alawite protectorate around Damascus and Syria’s coast. Mr. Assad needs Islamic State as an enemy for now because he can pose as the lesser evil. His goal—and the Kremlin’s—is to slowly win Western agreement that Mr. Assad is necessary for Syrian stability.

Mr. Putin is also showing that Russia is an ally to be trusted, in contrast to an America that abandoned Iraq in 2011 and won’t fight ISIS with conviction. His alliance with Iran gives him leverage throughout the Middle East, and his Syria play may even give him leverage with Europe over Ukraine sanctions. Perhaps he’ll offer to limit the barrel bombs that have sent refugees fleeing in return for Europe easing sanctions. Some quagmire. Mr. Obama could make Mr. Putin pay a price if he reversed his Middle East policy and revived American leadership. In Syria the U.S. could set up a no-fly zone to create a haven for refugees against Islamic State and Mr. Assad’s barrel bombs. He could say U.S. planes will fly wherever they want, and if one is attacked the U.S. will respond in kind.

In Iraq the U.S. could directly arm the Kurds. And the U.S. could rev up the campaign against Islamic State from more than 11 or so strike sorties a day. This would show a new commitment that might convince the Sunni Arabs that the U.S. is finally serious about defeating the caliphate. By now we know Mr. Obama will do none of this. He wants America out of the Middle East, so he will gradually find a way to accommodate Russia’s presence in the Middle East and Mr. Putin’s demands. U.S. allies in the region will get the message and make their accommodations with Russia and Iran. The next President will inherit a bigger terror threat and diminished U.S. influence, if not worse.


All of this ought to be an opportunity for the Republican presidential candidates to make the case against Mr. Obama’s policy of retreat. Instead Donald Trump says his policy would be to get along with Mr. Putin, somehow, and our Syria policy should be to let both sides kill each other. Never mind that this has been Mr. Obama’s policy for five years. After the 1961 Vienna Summit, Khrushchev famously concluded that Kennedy was weak and could be exploited. The Soviet leader followed by creating a crisis over Berlin and trying to send nuclear missiles to Cuba. The Obama Presidency has 16 months left. We haven’t seen the last American humiliation.

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-says-airstrikes-in-syria-to-last-a-few-months-1443777347

Business Insider: 'This is a major world event': The Syrian war is now fueling a 'global cold war'

U.S. President Barack Obama extends his hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 28, 2015.

One day after launching a campaign of airstrikes in Syria, Russia announced that it was considering going into Iraq. A foreign ministry representative said Thursday that Russia would consider any request from Iraq to conduct anti-ISIS airstrikes in the country, and Iraqi President Haider al-Abadi told Western news outlets that Russian airstrikes were "a possibility" and that Iraq would "welcome it."

"Our message to the Russians — I met with Putin — please join this fight against Daesh," Abadi told PBS NewsHour, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Daesh, as well as the Islamic State, is another name for the ISIS militant group. "Daesh is a dangerous terrorist organization, not only against Iraq, against Syria, against the whole region, against the whole world. It is time that we all join the same forces to fight Daesh."

This escalation signifies a "fundamental shifting of the balance of power in the Middle East," Ali Khedery, the longest continuously serving American official in Iraq, told Business Insider in an interview. Khedery called the Russian strikes a "major world event" and compared the country's actions to the formation of the Axis alliance leading up to World War II. "Now, an alliance really is consolidating and formalizing," Khedery said. "There is now a Shia axis locked in combat across Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. I expect an expansion of the conflict in the months and years ahead. This has the potential to escalate into a regional war, a holy war, and global cold war."

The alliance Khedery speaks of is between Iran, Syria, Iraq, and the Tehran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah. The group has already set up a coordination cell in Baghdad.

'A strategic enemy of the United States'

Russia started bombing targets in Syria on Wednesday, avoiding the strongholds of ISIS and instead going after areas held by other rebels who are fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who the US has said must step aside if ISIS is to be defeated. Initially, Russia insisted that it was entering Syria to wipe out ISIS, but experts say it's now clear that Russia's prime concern is propping up the Assad regime against nationalist rebels and maintaining its influence in the region. Thursday's statements from Russia and Iraq come days after Iraq announced an intelligence-sharing agreement with Russia, Syria, and Iran.

"Russia seeks to lay the foundation for a long-term strategic presence in the Middle East," Khedery said. "I think it’s catastrophic ... To me, this is the latest and greatest sign that Iraq is actually, as a government, a strategic enemy of the United States. It is allied with our strategic enemies — Iran, Assad, Hezbollah, and now, Russia."

The news of possible Russian airstrikes in Syria comes as Iranian troops arrive in Syria to join Assad's forces and Hezbollah fighters for a ground offensive, Reuters reports. Sources told Reuters that the operation "would be aimed at recapturing territory lost by Assad's government to rebels." It's unclear what the US will do moving forward. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the US had "grave concerns" about Russian strikes in Syria. And a US military official acknowledged that the strikes did "not correlate" with known ISIS positions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Khedery predicts that Russia's escalation in the Middle East will continue as Putin seeks to project Russian power and fill "a vacuum left by US President Barack Obama in the wake of his perceived inability or unwillingness to defend American and allied interests in the region," he said.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/russia-says-it-might-conduct-airstrikes-in-iraq-2015-10

New York Times: Is Putin Winning?


Once again, Vladimir Putin is on the move in ways the Obama White House did not anticipate. Once again, American foreign policy analysts can’t agree on whether he’s acting out of brilliance or desperation. Is Putin’s bombing campaign in Syria a geopolitical masterstroke? Is he filling a regional vacuum, creating a new Baghdad-Tehran-Damascus-Moscow axis, demonstrating the impotence of American foreign policy? Is his strategy of provocation putting NATO on the ropes?
Or is Putin actually acting out of weakness, trying to save a deteriorating position? Is his Middle Eastern gambit, like his Ukrainian intervention, a flailing, foredoomed to regain ground that Russia has lost of late? Should we ignore his bluster and macho photo ops, take note of his slumping economy and sanctions-bitten inner circle, and assume that his Syria intervention will lead to quagmire and blowback? The curious reality is that these interpretations are not mutually exclusive, because whether Putin is “winning” depends on how you define success.

If success means a more prosperous Russia with an array of client states, a solid domestic foundation for Putin’s regime, and Russia’s re-emergence as an attractive civilizational rival to the liberal democratic West (a recurring fantasy of Putinists), then there isn’t anything particularly impressive about the Russian leader’s record. Putin would probably trade all his territorial gains in Crimea and Donetsk for a Ukraine that was still securely in his diplomatic and economic orbit. He would clearly be better off if his one Middle Eastern client were not presently losing a civil war to ISIS and the Nusra Front. And he would presumably prefer that the Russian economy were not grimly stagnant and likely to remain so.

You can argue that he’s been playing a bad hand well, but his cards still look considerably worse than they did when oil prices were higher, or after his splendid little war with Georgia in 2008. And even his somewhat successful plays highlight the extent to which Russian power remains atrophied compared to its Cold War past. The front line of Russian aggression in Eastern Europe is territory that Moscow once ruled with ease, and even there Putin has to settle for stalemates. His Middle Eastern foray is inevitably limited; even after a major defense buildup, Russia is hardly positioned to lead a sweeping military campaign far from its own territory.

American hawks fear a repeat of Putin’s Crimea gambit in the Baltic states, which are certainly vulnerable to Russian mischief. But there, too, Putin would be playing for slivers of territory in his own backyard, while probably reaping domestic backlash and further weakening an already-weakened economic hand. A Russia that can’t control what happens in Kiev is not exactly poised to dominate Eastern Europe; Hungary 1956 or Czechoslovakia 1968 this is not.

But suppose we judge Putin’s maneuvers by a different standard: Not whether they’re delivering ever-greater-influence to Moscow, but whether they’re weakening the Pax Americana and the major institutions (NATO, the E.U.) of the post-Cold War West. On this metric, the Russian leader is having more success. His annexation of Crimea, for instance, saddled Moscow with all kinds of near-term and long-term problems. But it established a meaningful precedent regarding the limits of American and Western power, a kind of counterexample to the first gulf war, by proving that recognized borders can still be redrawn by military force.

His Syrian machinations, similarly, haven’t restored the Assad regime’s control of that unhappy country. But they have helped prove that America’s “Assad must go” line is just empty bluster, and that a regime can cross Washington’s red lines and endure. So too with the new bombing campaign: Without necessarily winning anything beyond Assad’s continued survival, it’s breaking NATO’s interventionist monopoly and giving the region’s powers someone new to play off against the West.

Putin’s gambits have also had second-order consequences for the fraying, fractious European project. His Ukrainian wars and Baltic saber-rattling have heightened none-too-buried tensions between Eastern Europeans and their German “partners.” His support, financial and diplomatic, for populist parties of the left and right (from Syriza to the National Front) has widened the cracks in the E.U. And now his Syrian intervention is likely to at least temporarily worsen the refugee crisis that’s dividing and disorienting the entire European continent.

To be clear: Putin is a Russian nationalist, not the leader of Spectre or the League of Shadows. He doesn’t want chaos for its own sake, and he no doubt believes that a weakened NATO, a divided E.U. and a crumbling Pax Americana are necessary preconditions for his own empire’s return to greatness. But that return seems far out of his reach, and what’s closer to his grasp is something more destructive — a wrecker’s legacy, not Peter the Great’s, in which his own people gain little from his efforts, but the world grows more unstable with every move he makes.

BBC: How Putin blindsided the US over Syria


They have consistently made clear their support for President Assad. It was hardly a great secret that they had moved military assets into Syria - and the Russian pilots hadn't flown their fighter aircraft over to the Eastern Mediterranean to earn some extra air miles.President Vladimir Putin had a meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday night to explain what Russia's plan was - and although there were profound differences, US officials said they understood better what Russia's intentions were.

And yet.

Isn't there something totally jaw-dropping, gob-smacking, eyebrow-arching, ear twitchingly extraordinary - and not to mention, casual - about the way the Americans learnt about Russian plans? It began with a phone call from a Russian diplomat to his counterpart in Baghdad to say "we've got something interesting to tell you". Then a three-star Russian general leaves the Russian embassy compound and knocks on the door of the American one, and asks to see the US military attache. He tells the American military man that bombing starts in an hour, so you'd better get out of Syrian airspace now and move any assets you have off the ground. And 60 minutes later, the bombing started.

Wow. To say the Americans were blindsided by this unorthodox line of communication is to put it mildly. Having had their "clear the air" meeting on Monday night there was an anticipation that though there might be big policy differences, there would be a degree of co-ordination and openness. Just consider this - the risks of a US fighter plane running into a Russian one with unimaginable consequences has just ratcheted up. Are they going to take it on turns to bomb targets? One day it's the Americans and their allies, the next day it's the Russians. You don't need to be a military historian to know that that is not going to fly (so to speak).
And that is before we get to the strategic objectives.

Are the Russians trying to destroy IS/Isis/Isil/Daesh or are they trying to prop up President Assad? The Americans see the two as very different, the Russians less so. On the evidence of one day's bombing it looks to be very much the latter. The target of Russian ordnance has been in places where IS has no presence. In other words, other rebel groups - any rebel groups - opposed to President Assad are being targeted. And that raises another huge question. What if the Russians start hitting US backed and armed rebel groups? That is not going to end well. And who knows how many US special forces there might be on the ground helping those rebel groups? What if they find themselves coming under fire - do they call in US close air support to see off their Russian attackers?

The Americans clearly came away with the understanding after the Monday night tête-a-tête that they had an agreement on one thing - that IS needed to be attacked and destroyed, and disagreement on another - the role of President Assad in Syria's future political settlement. Well - and it is day one of Russian action - it looks like Russia is not distinguishing between different rebel groups. If these groups are against Assad, they could find themselves in the crosshairs of the Russian Air Force. Ashton Carter, the US defence secretary, says there is a danger that Russia is pouring gasoline onto the fire. He also insists there have been no big surprises in what the Russians have done today. Hmm. I don't think the Americans had the way today unfolded in their playbook.

Once again Vladimir Putin has seemingly outmanoeuvred the White House. A senior US diplomat said to me the other day that when Obama leaves office he will be roundly applauded for the way he negotiated and ultimately delivered a deal on Iran, but will be justifiably vilified for the vacillation and vagueness over his Syria policy. Putin, on the other hand, has been totally consistent. He wants to protect Russia's only deepwater port on the Eastern Mediterranean and will do what it takes to protect it. So now it looks like the US administration has a choice to make - is it going to risk confrontation with the Russians, or is it going to accept that Assad ain't going anywhere and is there for the long haul? Not easy choices.

The key argument of Obama's speech at the UN on Monday was "Choose co-operation over conflict. That is not weakness, that is strength." Doesn't seem to be Vladimir's modus operandi. The already intractable problem of Syria has just become a whole lot more complex - and a whole lot more dangerous.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34405983

Wall Street Journal: Putin’s Syria Tour de Force: Before: Russia is ‘doomed to fail.’ Now: Obama is happy to talk.


Vladimir Putin doesn’t seem to share President Obama’s definition of “smarter.” Ten days ago Mr. Obama declared that the Russian President’s military deployments in Syria were “doomed to fail” and the Kremlin was “going to have to start getting a little smarter.” Mr. Putin then began sending fighter jets, and now it looks like Mr. Obama is the one who has been taken to school.

That’s the only way to read Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s call on Friday to Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu to explore what a Pentagon spokesman called “mechanisms for deconfliction” in Syria. In addition to the jets, Russia is sending T-90 tanks, howitzers, troop-transport and attack helicopters, a company of armed Marines, and further equipment to establish an air base near the coastal Syrian city of Latakia. Mr. Shoigu describes the build-up as “defensive in nature.”

Sure, as in Ukraine. Along with Iran, Russia is the Bashar Assad regime’s principal sponsor, providing weapons, diplomatic protection at the United Nations, and now direct military support. Mr. Putin sees an opportunity to rescue his client in Damascus, strengthen ties with Iran, establish a large military footprint along the eastern Mediterranean, further reduce U.S. influence, and create diplomatic leverage that he can use to ease Western sanctions imposed in response to his invasion of Ukraine. On present course he’ll accomplish all of the above.

A typical U.S. President would be angry and embarrassed. But Mr. Obama has gone from warning Russia that its intervention could “risk confrontation” with the U.S., to seeking face-to-face talks with Moscow in order to find “common ground,” as Secretary of State John Kerry said in London last week. There is a need to make sure U.S. jets don’t become targets of Russian anti-aircraft missiles, but Mr. Kerry is walking into another Putin snare. After failing at two previous attempts, the Secretary of State wants to restart peace talks in Geneva to reach a political settlement for the Syrian civil war—and this time he’s willing to be especially flexible about Mr. Assad’s grip on power.

“We’re not being doctrinaire about the specific date or time, we’re open,” he said, discussing the timetable for the Syrian dictator to step down. Mr. Assad, he added, would not have to leave “on day one or month one or whatever. There’s a process by which all the parties have to come together and reach an understanding of how this can best be achieved.”

That sounds like an Administration moving to reverse its demand for Mr. Assad’s ouster. It also coincides with the Administration’s admission that its feeble attempts to arm a credible opposition to the Assad regime have failed—a failure for which White House spokesman Josh Earnest had the ill grace to blame on critics of Mr. Obama’s Syria policy.

Mr. Kerry says the new focus is targeting Islamic State and hoping that the 50-year-old Mr. Assad will shuffle himself off-stage, perhaps to return to his former ophthalmology practice. What the Secretary didn’t explain is why Mr. Assad’s opponents would stop fighting when their central goal is to oust the dictator and crush his power base. Nor did he explain how the Obama Administration intends to foster a political settlement in Syria that would necessarily involve groups such as Islamic State, the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

The only hope the U.S. now has of a decent settlement in Syria is to create no-fly and no-drive zones, on the model of what the U.S. did in northern Iraq in the 1990s, with the explicit aim of protecting civilians and arming a credible militia to destroy Islamic State and the Assad regime. Syrians would fight for such a group if they were convinced the U.S. was committed to victory. That’s not going to happen while Mr. Obama is President, but it’s the right formula for the next one.

Meantime, Mr. Putin must be amazed at his luck in having Mr. Obama as President. Look for Russian negotiators to link talks over Syria to U.S. support for the government in Kiev, or military deployments in the Baltics, or enforcement of the nuclear agreement with Iran. Mr. Putin will keep stealing Mr. Obama’s lunch money as long as this weakest of Presidents lets him.

Deputy director of CIA John McLaughlin: The Great Game Comes to Syria

Assad has also had key support from his powerful allies Iran and Russia, who have provided military and financial assistance as well as diplomatic cover

Nature abhors a vacuum, but Vladimir Putin really loves one. The Russian president clearly sensed a big power void in Syria, where the civil war has intensified and where the United States has neither committed ground forces nor devised a compelling strategy to settle the conflict or defeat the Islamic State. Although the Islamic State has rampaged through Iraq, its headquarters is in Syria.

Into that vacuum, Putin has sent a substantial force of tanks, armored personnel carriers, air defense systems and upward of two dozen combat aircraft over the past several weeks. Russia is also building enough housing for 2,000 people, U.S. officials have said. What to make of Russia’s muscling into the war-torn country? For Putin, there are essentially five reasons, moving from the broadly strategic to the purely tactical.

Making Russia a Great Power Again. Gaining a pivotal role in the Middle East would be an important way station on the road to Putin’s overarching goal — restoring Russia to great-power status. The Syria problem allows him to vividly contrast Russia’s activism with what many see as Washington’s hesitation and timidity. Count on Putin to present himself as the regional peacemaker when he speaks at the U.N. today.

Shoring Up Assad … or His Successor. The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has been Russia’s only real ally in the region; Syria hosts Russia’s sole warm-water seaport at Tarsus. But Assad is weakening, particularly under assaults from the Islamic State, and now controls only about a sixth of the country. By establishing a ground presence, Russia hopes not only to increase Assad’s chances of surviving but also — equally important — to be in a position to influence the succession if he does not. More on this in a minute. This clear Russian interest contrasts with the more complex calculus the U.S. has faced. By virtue of opposing both Assad and the Islamic State, Washington has been paralyzed by the simple reality that opposing one of them inevitably helps the other. The U.S. has yet to devise a strategy that avoids this Hobson’s choice.

Regional Influence. Military intervention gives the Russians an opportunity to tighten relations with Iran, which shares Russia’s desire to prop up the Assad regime. Already Iran has military advisers and proxy forces — Hezbollah militia fighters from Lebanon — on the ground in Syria. Not that Putin is depending solely on Iran: Russia has played regional power broker for months in the run-up to the Syria deployment, hosting consultations in Moscow with leaders from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Palestine and Iran.

Hammering on the Islamic State. Putin genuinely wants to defeat the Islamic State. Russia says about 2,400 of its nationals are fighting with the IS; chances are, many of them are from Russia’s Caucasus region, which has a large Muslim population and hosts a number of separatist movements. Returning Russian fighters would pose a direct threat to Russia’s control in key parts of its southwest.

When in Doubt, Distract. Activism in Syria gives Putin a way to distract attention from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. At the same time, it obliges the Western coalition opposing the Islamic State to work directly with Russia. At minimum, the U.S.-led coalition has to de-conflict military operations with Russia, but inevitably, that will begin to draw it into a cooperative relationship with Moscow. That will only muddy the waters when it comes to the West’s Ukraine grievances.

Although Russia’s broad objectives are clear, its precise plans in Syria are not. Its major fear is probably that the Assad regime will fall to some combination of extremists dominated by the Islamic State, thus depriving Moscow of its closest ally in the region. Faced with that fear, Russia could pursue one of two paths. Together with Iran, it could go all out to preserve Assad in power, concentrating its firepower on the Islamic State — and perhaps even on the more moderate rebels the West tends to favor.

On the other hand, Russia may have concluded that Assad’s crumbled legitimacy — due to the horrors his regime has inflicted on his own people — makes it unrealistic to preserve the regime in its present form. It may thus settle on a more modest objective: Prevent a total breakdown of order by preserving the rough form of the Syrian state while easing Assad out gradually in favor of some other, more acceptable ruler. The latter scenario is not far off from what the United States and the United Nations have been trying unsuccessfully to achieve in Syria. So if events move in that direction, there could be scope for cooperation between Russia and the West on a phased strategy, working first to destroy the Islamic State and then deciding what to do about the Assad regime.

In the end, the main thing Russia gains from its deployment is enhanced leverage over what becomes of Syria. At the same time, the limitation of U.S. efforts to an air campaign and the failure of its program to train a large force of moderate rebel fighters mean that the U.S. has lost leverage and will have less influence over the course of events in Syria. In short, Putin is forcing the U.S. to work with him and ensuring that he will have a large voice in determining the future of the Middle Eastern capital that means the most to Russia. Overall, not a bad day’s work for Mr. Putin.

Foreign Policy: This Satellite Image Leaves No Doubt That Russia Is Throwing Troops and Aircraft Into Syria


Over the past year, evidence has steadily emerged of a growing Russian military presence in Syria. As Bashar al-Assad’s armies have failed him in the field, he has increasingly relied on outside help. Initially, that help came from Hezbollah and Iran, but now it appears to be Moscow’s turn. And Washington may finally be waking up to what looks like a substantial Russian intervention in Syria. New satellite images, obtained by Foreign Policy, of construction at an air base near Latakia leave little doubt that U.S. policy toward ending the conflict in Syria, such as it is, is now in total disarray. As they say, seeing is believing.

Admittedly, there has long been a Russian military presence in Syria. When opposition forces overran a Syrian listening post in October last year, the images revealed that it was staffed by the Russian military. More recently, analysts have noted pictures and videos that seem to confirm the presence of Russian combat forces fighting in Syria. Russian military vehicles have been sighted, while Russian soldiers have posted images and comments on Russian social media sites like VKontakte and the California-based LiveJournal, detailing their service in the war-torn country. (Some of the best open-source analysis has been on Bellingcat’s website.)

It is very strange world we live in, one marked both by the “little green men” of Russia’s “hybrid” warfare who Moscow can disavow and by data ubiquity that allows analysts to mock those disavowals. Still, there has always been a question about how extensive Russia’s support for the Syrian regime has been the past four years. Are those even Russians inside the Moscow-supplied combat vehicles? Open-source analysts have been quite enterprising in suggesting the answer is yes, hearing snippets of Russian in between bursts from the vehicle’s gun. But the Russians claim any Slavic accents are merely those of a very small number of trainers or advisors. Nothing to see here; please move along.

That is now very hard to believe. On Sept. 4, the New York Times published an article suggesting that Russia had shipped prefabricated housing and a transportable air traffic control station to an airfield near Latakia. It was a great scoop, but I was pretty baffled that the New York Times didn’t bother to purchase a satellite image of the facility. Had they done so, they would have realized that they buried the lede. Drag the slider back and forth to compare a Google Earth image of the air base near Latakia with a recent satellite image of the same air base.

The satellite image shows far more than prefabricated housing and an air traffic control station. It shows extensive construction of what appears to be a military canton at Bassel al-Assad International Airport (named for Bashar’s elder brother, who died in a car accident in 1994). This canton appears designed to support Russian combat air operations from the base and may serve as a logistical hub for Russian combat forces. In recent days, using aircraft tracking sites, a number of analysts have begun to document the near-daily arrival of Russian transport planes to the base. The Russians are also sending ships to Syria, though the ships often declare for a nearby non-Syrian port, like Port Said in Egypt, and then take a wrong turn at Albuquerque, so to speak. The White House, according to Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin, scheduled a National Security Council meeting last week to discuss the construction.

What is at stake is how to deal with a situation in which Vladimir Putin is going all-in on behalf of the Assad government while our policy is in tatters. Rogin reports that U.S. officials believe Russia will base combat aircraft at the site. That is easy to confirm from the satellite image. In recent weeks, construction crews have completed a taxiway that connects the runway to the construction area. That means aircraft shelters for Russian aircraft. The scale of the construction goes even further. A large area of ground has been cleared in many different parts of the air base. There are pallets and crates everywhere. Trucks are visible driving into the site. (We’ve annotated the image, but I highly recommend following @finriswolf on Twitter.) The image drives home the implication of all those flights and shipments heading to Syria: Russia is substantially expanding its involvement.

There is now little hope of establishing a no-fly zone over Syria, unless Washington wants to be in the business of shooting down Russian aircraft. From a broader perspective, U.S. efforts to arm the opposition to Assad mean fighting a proxy war with Moscow, either by trying to down the Russian planes or helping Syrian opposition forces kill Russian combat troops on the ground. That seems a much tougher task than fighting a proxy war with Iran and Hezbollah.

But beyond this narrow question of whether the United States wants to directly support combat operations against Russian forces in Syria, Moscow’s apparent commitment to Damascus raises fundamental questions about what U.S. strategy, if any, can succeed. I have long been opposed to collaborating with Assad. I don’t believe that he is committed to fighting the Islamic State; he only seems interested in attacking those opposition forces that threaten him directly. (In fact, by writing off parts of Syria to the Islamic State, he creates a second front for his opponents.) Nor do I believe he will ever command enough support to reestablish government control in Syria. If there is any hope of uniting Syrians, Assad must leave.

What Russia has done, however, is make it clear that it will not let Assad fall. He can’t win, but Russia won’t let him lose. That dooms Syria to what looks like endless war, as Assad fights to the last man. There are those who see Syria as a quagmire for Putin, a kind of matched pair to our own folly in Iraq; just as Washington collectively saw Afghanistan as payback for Vietnam. I am not so sanguine.

While Charlie Wilson’s war helped popularize the idea of bleeding Moscow, I don’t think that can be the basis of U.S. policy either. The moral cost is far too high. Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old boy whose corpse washed up on a Turkish beach, was fleeing Syria’s civil war, as are hundreds of thousands of the refugees now in Europe. More than half of Syria’s 17 million people have been displaced. Bleeding Moscow means bleeding these people. It may sound strategic in a Pentagon war room, but not when children’s bodies wash up on shore.

Columns are supposed to have a simple solution. An op-ed should have five paragraphs wrapped up in a neat little bow that explains how to fix the problem outlined in the first paragraph. One of my favorite professors (and FP colleague), Kori Schake, used to liken it to the answer in a beauty pageant. She was right, but for the life of me I can’t come up with one. It seems that, sometimes, the world’s pain can’t be solved in a few hundred words of sage advice.

So this column does not have a neat and tidy ending. And that is because I am not sure that it is now possible to save Syria. There is no path to resurrect a state that is failing, not so long as Putin has decided to do whatever it takes to preserve Assad’s awful regime and condemn Syria to endless conflict. We can, of course, make it difficult for Russia to resupply its forces in Syria. Already, some NATO allies, like Bulgaria and Turkey, have denied Russian aircraft over-flight rights. Iraq, too, appears to have turned back at least one aircraft.

And there is surely more we can do to shelter the millions of refugees now fleeing the conflict. Having helped create this mess with the invasion of Iraq and subsequent failure to stop the bloodshed in Syria, the United States and its European allies have an obligation to assist these people. This is especially true of those countries that were the loudest supporters of the invasion of Iraq. Coalition of the Still Willing, right? That includes you, Hungary.

But these measures won’t replace Bashar al-Assad with a figure who could rally moderate Syrians to restore a stable government, let alone stop the bloodshed. At best, they are only an expression of empathy and contrition. Putin has to be convinced to tell Assad it is time to go. Until then, and as long as Moscow is flooding Syria with military assistance, the country’s misery will continue.

The U.S. and Russia, Syria and Ukraine: Neo-Cons vs. Liberal Interventionists


As it stands today, United States policy in Syria insists that President Bashar al-Assad must go. But if the U.S. succeeds and the Assad government is scattered to the wind it raises the question: Who will defend the ethnic and religious minorities in Syria from the Islamic State, the al-Nusra Front, and all the other heavily armed homicidal maniacs that already control nearly half the country?

An orderly transfer of power in Syria would be terrific. But nothing taking place on the ground would suggest this outcome to be even a remote possibility at this time. The paucity of "moderate" elements among the rebels would seem to preclude a smooth political transition. The U.S. policy of "regime change" in Iraq and Libya unleashed long-term humanitarian catastrophes. The Assad government is the only game in town and if it falls prematurely Syria will probably end up looking a lot like Libya.

By portraying Russian actions in Syria as "aggression" and "interference" without acknowledging the far more significant role U.S. policy played over the past 12 years in creating the crisis, the American people are being led astray once again on the goals and consequences of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.

Neo-conservatism and liberal interventionism form two equally bogus parts of a bifurcated worldview that hobbles clear-headed thinking among U.S. foreign policy elites. Even in the face of the nightmarish failures that have destroyed the lives of thousands of innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Ukraine, the neo-cons (such as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland) and liberal interventionists (such as United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power) still cling to "regime change" as a viable policy.

Both schools of thought believe they can restore the United States' damaged credibility in the Middle East by vilifying Russian President Vladimir Putin and telling lurid tales of Assad's "barrel bombs" and human rights abuses. Both of them always assume the posture of taking the moral high ground. Yet they only choose to see "humanitarian disasters" when they fulfill some wider U.S. geostrategic objective.

We've been hit with a narrative that promotes U.S. power and influence but accepts zero responsibility for the consequences of its actions and those of its allies. Saudi Arabia is not only funneling arms and money to Sunni rebels in Syria and Iraq; it's using state-of-the-art American military technology in Yemen to blow to bits the Houthi and other Shia elements. The U.S. recently rewarded Saudi Arabia for its efforts with another billion-dollar arms deal. We also hear very little about the human rights abuses of the pro-U.S. government of Bahrain (where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is stationed) in repressing its own Shia population.

The Russians have called out the U.S. on its hypocrisy and the reaction has been fierce. Condemning the "former KGB man" Putin and his "despicable lies" and "aggression" flows freely from the mouths of politicians, government officials, and media commentators. Some members of Congress and Republican presidential candidates accuse Iran of "destabilizing" the Middle East. They ignore the fact that it was the United States that already set the place on fire. Gore Vidal used to like to compare George W. Bush to a little boy playfully skipping around the globe lighting matches and sparking wildfires without a care in the world.

The only lasting outcome of the Iraq war was to strengthen Iran's position in the region and so alarm America's Sunni allies they began arming some of the most bloodthirsty people on earth. Even on the U.S.'s own geopolitical terms the Iraq war was a grim flop. Bush, Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and everyone else who supported the Iraq invasion of 2003 should bear some responsibility for birthing ISIL.

ISIL's high production-value snuff films, which indulge in every imaginable stereotype of the Islamic terrorist, along with its command of social media, have successfully fused together 21st Century technology with 7th Century ideology and customs. ISIL's belief system is frighteningly anachronistic, but so too is the worldview of U.S. policy elites.

Trapped in the bi-polar world of the Cold War, U.S. policymakers still insist on "NATO expansion" right up against the borders of the Russian Federation while accusing Putin of trying to remake the Soviet Union. In Ukraine, the Russian response to the U.S. policy of "regime change" and NATO expansion is consistent with what "realists" (including Henry Kissinger) would expect as a defensive posture any large power would assume when confronted on its borders. Scholars making this realist argument have come under attack.

U.S. officials and the press seldom concede the crimes of Ukraine's "Right Sector," which is loaded with neo-Nazis whose ultra-nationalist credentials translate into political influence in the Kiev government. But within the dominant American foreign policy paradigm the Ukrainian Right Sector disappears from view, while in Syria "moderates" are conjured up out of thin air. It's all an Orwellian dance where those in power erase history and replace it with useful myths.

"American exceptionalism" and the idea that after Iraq and Libya the U.S. can lecture Russia on the proper conduct of international affairs are part of this fantasy world. American State Department officials seem incapable of viewing the world through any other lens than their own.

Both Russian President Putin and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter have cited the history of World War Two to point to the possibility of an alliance between the U.S. and Russia against ISIL (the same way they joined forces to defeat Nazi Germany). So "history" does sometimes creep into the discussion. Susan Butler's, Roosevelt and Stalin: Portrait of a Partnership (2015), shows there was no love between Josef Stalin and Franklin Roosevelt, but both leaders recognized that "realism" required an alliance against Germany. Why can't that same spirit of "realism" prevail today in U.S.-Russian relations with regard to the Middle East and Ukraine?

At a recent press luncheon, UN Ambassador Samantha Power responded to a question from Michael Gordon of the New York Times where she blamed Assad and his "barrel bombs" for the rise of ISIL in Syria and added that only by overthrowing Assad could ISIL be tamed. Gordon (of course) failed to ask the obvious follow up question: Who do you think will fill the power vacuum after Assad is gone?

It takes no insight, intellect, or skill to rail against Putin and demand that the U.S. "stand up" to Russia as Jonathan Alter, Howard Dean, and E.J. Dionne did recently on the "liberal" The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell Show on MSNBC. Penning defamatory op-eds about Putin and Assad has become a cottage industry and it's the easiest exercise in the world. All one needs to do is Google an old speech by Dick Cheney or George W. Bush condemning Saddam Hussein and switch out the name "Saddam" and insert the names "Putin" or "Assad." It's the same flatulent rhetoric from American pundits who still don't comprehend that the U.S. has lost the ability to cast moral judgment in international affairs.

The more difficult task is to chart out a rational path forward for a political settlement in Syria that doesn't end up sending another million war refugees fleeing into Europe. Russia keeps trying to explain to the United States that the most likely scenario that will play out if the U.S. achieves its goal of ejecting Assad before the Sunni terrorist groups are neutralized is that Syria will become another Libya. And given its geographical location, Syria could become a far more dangerous long-term problem because of the potential of triggering a wider war that might involve the bigger powers, not only by proxy but directly.

Just because the CIA trained and equipped rebel group (A) or (B) in Syria doesn't qualify them, ipso facto, as being the "good guys" - you'd think we would have learned that lesson from the 1980s when the CIA armed the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviets and planted the seeds for Al Qaeda. How dare those Ruskies bomb the Sunni cutthroats and assassins that happen to be on the CIA's payroll this week!

The Pentagon admits that its $500 million effort to train "moderate" rebels in Syria has been an unhappy disaster, and has only outfitted about four or five individuals to be anti-Assad fighters at a cost of about $100 million per rebel. That's not a very good return on a taxpayer investment - in fact, it equals the entire amount of the annual federal subsidy for Planned Parenthood.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond believes defending Assad will strengthen the opposition: "We need the Russians to understand that in coming to defense of the regime to attack ISIL, what they will do is forge a single united front under ISIL leadership against the regime." But al-Nusra, ISIL, and the other terrorist groups in Syria (along with the thousands of foreign recruits) are well known to shuffle and reshuffle their alliances in any way that serves their immediate tactical objectives. It's unlikely that expelling Assad now would lead these groups to put down their weapons, stop blowing up antiquities and cutting off heads, and come to the bargaining table. The ahistorical reportage on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine is summed up in the concluding paragraph of a recent New York Times article:

"Mr. Putin harbors both international and domestic reasons for interfering in Syria. On the international front, he wants to restore Russian influence as a global power and try to force an end to the diplomatic and financial isolation the West imposed after Moscow seized Crimea and supported separatists in southeastern Ukraine. He also wants to maintain control over Russia's naval station at Tartus, in Syria, its only remaining overseas military base outside the former Soviet Union." (NYT 10/1/15 p. A10)

The omissions are glaring. There's no mention of the U.S. invasion of Iraq that set off this clusterfuck in the first place, which ignited the bloodiest sectarian fighting in centuries, sent packing the Sunni technocratic class in Baghdad, and prepared the ground for the rise of ISIL. The characterization of Russian motives ignores the determined U.S. policy of "NATO expansion" in Eastern Europe and the role of the U.S. in the February 2014 coup that overthrew the elected president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. Inconvenient truths that contradict the U.S. line are airbrushed out of the discourse. Those who still wonder how the American people could be so misled into thinking the Iraq war was a good idea should peruse the current media coverage of Syria and Ukraine for their answer.

In a September 27, 2015, front page article by Michael Gordon, (who's worth reading to deduce exactly what line the CIA wants to push on any given day), criticized the decision of the Russian government to share intelligence on ISIL with the governments of Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Given the reports that hundreds of new ISIL fighters are now flowing into Syria from Russia it would seem a prudent step to try to find out who these people are. Yet Gordon's stenography turns a pragmatic idea -- tracking ISIL terrorists -- into something suspicious. Sounding the alarm about terrorists has been the journalistic gold standard for people like Gordon for years, yet his official sources now lead him to turn a blind eye to the shared interests of the U.S. and Russia in combating ISIL.

Maybe the goal of U.S. policy all along has been to crush the Arab regimes that emerged in the 1960s and '70s (Saddam, Gadhafi, Assad) that built Oil Ministries and other barriers that impede free access to their resources? Maybe American foreign policy seeks to remove any obstacle that interferes with building a neo-liberal Utopia? And maybe the vitriol aimed at Russia is because Putin is exposing the ruse?

Even during the height of the Cold War American diplomats such as George Kennan could use their imaginations to try to put themselves in their adversary's place and view the world from the Russian perspective. One of the more notable examples of this ability to perceive the world from your opponent's standpoint comes from a leader who President Barack Obama, Ambassador Power, and Secretary of State John Kerry hold in high regard: President John F. Kennedy.

During the Cuban missile crisis Kennedy constantly tried to see the crisis from the viewpoint of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. He understood the Russian perspective, the need to "save face," and the pressures from hardliners within the Soviet government. He tried his best to empathize with his adversary even while taking militaristic steps to thwart him. Neither was he afraid of cutting deals and making concessions. In a sense, it was Kennedy's realism that saved the planet.

Since the Bush-Cheney years it seems that the ability of U.S. diplomats to put themselves in "the Other's" shoes has atrophied. We hear American commentators and officials lament Putin's control of Russian state media. Yet they don't acknowledge their own ideological blinders that a "free" media system imposes where many of the same people who brought us the Iraq war (neo-cons and liberal interventionists) are now manufacturing a faulty and dangerous "consensus" about what is to be done in Syria and Ukraine.

Russia in Syria: Did Putin just clip Israel's wings?


Netanyahu says he and Putin agreed on ways to avoid conflict between their forces in Syria. For years Israel has had a free hand to attack arms transfers to Hezbollah.

Seated at the Kremlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin smiled and shook hands. At a follow-up media briefing, the Israeli leader announced a deal to avoid hostilities between their militaries in and around Syria. But all the pleasantries Monday couldn’t hide the awkwardness of the new wrinkle in Russian-Israeli relations. Moscow’s decision to boost its military presence in northern Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad has posed a potential challenge to Mr. Netanyahu, who for years has had a relatively free hand to carry out strikes against arms shipments that Israel says goes from Iran, through Syria, to the Shiite militia Hezbollah in Lebanon. If Israeli intelligence gets tipped off that Syrian forces are shipping advanced missiles to Hezbollah near where Russian troops are stationed, Netanyahu is liable to face a dilemma: should Israel attack the weapons convoy preemptively and risk injuring Russians? The coordination mechanism announced by Israel is supposed to avoid tactical “misunderstandings,” but potentially crimps Israel’s maneuvers. “It complicates reality. It potentially limits Israel’s freedom of action,” said Ehud Eiran, a political science professor at Haifa University who focuses on national security. “The fascinating question is whether it will constrain Israel or not. Israel has been looking at Lebanon and Syria as areas where it could fly freely.” Not since the collapse of the Soviet Union has Israel faced a potentially unfriendly superpower so close to its borders. Though Russia is no longer supporting a coalition of Arab states in direct conflict with the Jewish state as it did during the cold war, the fallout from the Russian intervention could boost the Iranian-led alliance of Shiite forces supporting Mr. Assad. Speaking to Israeli reporters after the Kremlin meeting, Netanyahu said Israel would continue to act to block weapons transfers from Syria to Lebanon and against the establishment of an Iranian-backed military front on the Golan Heights.


Israel’s policy of intervening against perceived threats from Syria goes back to 2006, when it bombed a nuclear reactor there. While acknowledging Israeli concerns about spillover from the war, Mr. Putin played down Israeli fears of a new front in Syria, saying Russia’s actions would be “responsible.” But that’s not the same as assuring Israel it can continue to operate freely in Syrian airspace, analysts say. “In effect, Russia is dictating by saying, ‘Our soldiers, rockets, and aircraft are there. Don’t mess with us,’” says Moshe Maoz, an expert on Syria at Hebrew University. He sees the new dialogue with Russia as a strategic mistake for Israel. “It’s going to advance the expansion of Iran. Israel can’t do very much about it, but Israel is shooting itself in the foot by agreeing” to the coordination with Moscow, he says. “Israel is undermining its relations with the Sunni Muslim majority” in Syria and the region by cooperating with an ally of Assad.


Indeed, over the years of the Syrian civil war, Israeli policymakers have disagreed over whether they prefer the chaos that would come with the collapse of the Assad regime and the consequent strategic blow to Israel’s chief enemy in Iran, or the relative stability if the so-called “devil that it knows” remains in power.  Even though the Russians are filling a vacuum in Syria left by Israel’s chief ally, the United States, some security analysts in Israel wonder if Russia might help to tamp down arms shipments to Hezbollah. Eyal Zisser, a Syria expert at Tel Aviv University, says such assistance is unlikely, but he does believe the coordination will have a tactical benefit by avoiding a flare-up with Israel’s enemies active in Syria. “The Russians are the only ones that speak with all the powers,” he says. “It’s important to keep the channels open, and avoid escalation.”

Israel National News: Russia vs the West in Syria - a One-Way Street

Netanyahu (L) said he and Putin "agreed on a mechanism to prevent [...] misunderstandings" [Reuters]

A new round of the "Great Game"[1] in Syria is evidence not so much of the growing power of Moscow, as of the intellectual helplessness and degradation of the West Western leaders, the media and experts state the obvious: the Kremlin is trying to save Assad. Of course it is, but principal points remain outside of the focus of their attention. It is not only about Syria. It’s about two polar ideologies, two worldviews incompatible with each other. At one extreme, we see the time-honored tradition based on the primacy of national interests and perceptions of those involved as Empire. At the other extreme, there is a schizophrenic conglomeration of amateurism, idealism, Neo-Marxism ideology, quasi-religious utopias of the universal triumph of democracy “for all, here and now” and violently distorted conceptions of human rights and civil liberties.

The first outlook generates calculating and cynical, but predictable policies. The second one paves the road to hell.Which geopolitical aims are pursued by Moscow in Syria?

Russia has only two allies in the Middle East - Iran and Syria. The Kremlin came to the conclusion that without the direct intervention of the Russians Assad’s regime would be doomed, because Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps would not withstand the onslaught of the Islamists for long. The fall of Assad’s regime would jeopardize the Iranian regime as well. Lebanon together with Hezbollah would not survive, and Shiite government in Iraq would be threatened by "jihadists". Moscow in that case would lose its influence in the Middle East completely – such a situation is unacceptable to the Kremlin.

Obama may cherish illusions that Iran's Ayatollahs will become US allies for as long as he wants them to, but in Tehran they even don’t try to conceal their contempt for him. Mullahs have friends already, and they sit not in Washington, but in Moscow. Both sides coordinate every step. Commander of the Quds Force general Qasem Soleimani visited Moscow twice - in August and in middle of September - where he met with Putin and the Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu. On behalf of the Russians, continuous contacts between Tehran and Moscow are maintained by the Russian President's Special Representative in the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

They manipulate Obama, cynically obtaining American weapons and technology from him, but it is Russia that they consider the power capable of influencing events.The second key point is related to Islamist threat. Putin's calls to destroy ISIS are not just empty rhetoric. The defeat of Assad would be the triumph of "jihadists", and the flame of "Green revolution" under the banner of the Prophet would inevitably spread to Muslim regions of Russia - the Caucasus, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. It can inflame the “soft underbelly” of Russia too – secular Muslim republics of Central Asia.

On September 15-17, presidents of five countries of The Collective Security Treaty Organization - Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan - held a summit on strategic security issues in Dushanbe. Dushanbe - the capital of Tajikistan - was chosen for a reason: it is an outpost of Russia on the border with Afghanistan. Besides the Taliban, it is being infiltrated now by ISIS agents as well, and Moscow is aware of this danger.

Putin assured the Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, that Russia will support him in any case, but it is impossible to stop ISIS while remaining entirely on the defensive, and Putin prefers an offensive campaign. Unlike the Europeans, Russia doesn’t accept returning "jihadists", who went to fight for the Caliphate - Russians prefer destroying them in Syria. One of the main aims of Russians in Syria will be Chechen militants, penetrating into Syria via Turkey. Russia intends to hunt them, and modern attack helicopters Mi-28NE called “Night Hunter” have already arrived in Latakia.

The third point – starting from the 18th century, the Russian Empire, and after it the Soviet Union, sought to increase its presence in the "South Seas" - the Mediterranean. It would turn Russia into a leading player in world politics, would let it go beyond the Eurasian steppes and dictate its own terms to the West. Over a number of years Putin has been counting on the development of the Russian Navy, which has become a strong force.

Russia's principal goal is preserving Syrian Latakia - its main base in the Mediterranean, and creating new bases. Obama's mediocre policy facilitates the rapprochement between the Kremlin and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and today the two countries are negotiating the construction of a naval base in Egypt. The Eastern Mediterranean becoming Russian – the aim that was unachievable in the face of such statesman-rivals as Palmerston, Disraeli, Churchill, Truman and Reagan, became ridiculously easy with Obama.

The fourth point - Russia wants to show to the whole world that it is a power that under no circumstances abandons its friends and allies to their fate. Putin didn’t betray Assad in his hour of need, and thus made it clear (for West especially) that “all roads lead to Rome”, i.e., to Moscow. It was a useful lesson – now all countries in the region apply for mediation not to Washington, Paris or London, but to the Kremlin. They manipulate Obama, cynically obtaining American weapons and technology from him, but it is Russia that they consider the power capable of influencing events.

Arabic Sheikhs – the minister of foreign affairs of the UAE Abdullah Sultan Al Nahyan, Saudi ministers of defense and foreign affairs Salman Al Saud and Adel al-Dzhubeyra –have already visited Moscow and now it is Benjamin Netanyahu’s turn. Russia is not an ally of Israel, but for Netanyahu it is much easier to come to an understanding with Putin than with Obama, and the involvement of the Kremlin can prevent the worst-case scenario, such as the supply of S-300 and upgraded weapons to Hezbollah. It is curious to note that in numerous interviews to Russian media during a previous visit to Moscow, that Netanyahu emphasized excellent mutual understanding with Putin.

As far as I know, Moscow planned to offer a deal to Netanyahu: the participation of "Gazprom" in Leviathan gas field development on the northern border of Israel in exchange for curbing Iran and Hezbollah. Blackmail? Yes, to a certain degree, but at least it is much more explainable than the demands to return to “Auschwitz borders”[2] immediately.

Point number five. Russia assumes the mission of the protector of Christian minorities in the Middle East, in the same way that it protected the Eastern Orthodoxy in the 19th century, and Great Britain, represented by Lord Shaftesbury [3], protected Jews in Holy Land. From 2012, this role is played by the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society headed by Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and the Mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin. And eventually, all of these efforts coming out of Moscow are based on the deep, uncompromising belief in Russia’s rightness and its divine mission; and not without reason, nowadays, they emphasize the continuity from Bysantium in Russia.

What does the West set against Russia? It betrays its allies by encouraging their worst enemies. This is done senselessly, egregiously, in ways harmful to own strategic interests. The West betrayed Qaddafi, who successfully collaborated with Europeans and held back Islamic fundamentalism and hordes of migrants from Africa. It betrayed Hosni Mubarak, and then tried to push el-Sisi into a corner, hindering his war with terror – in the name of  the Muslim Brotherhood that hates the West. It betrayed the former Yemeni President Abdullah Salah, who helped the US in the fight against al-Qaeda. It betrayed Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies in the name of the disastrous deal with Iran, a country which dreams of destroying the US and doesn’t conceal it.

Yes, it betrays – in dirty, cowardly and hypocritical fashion - Israel, its last stronghold in the Middle East, this in the name of the mythical "Palestinian people" that never existed. This "people" was the inspired invention of the KGB and the Arab League and turned out to be the "sacred cow" of postmodern culture. The US betrayed the friendly Kurds - in the name of "good relations" with the psychopath Erdogan, whose hatred of the West is no less than that of Ali Khamenei. It betrayed - in the name of political correctness - Christians of the Middle East inseparably connected to Christian civilization. While Russia is building its Empire, the West is concerned with self-destruction. This is a "suicidal syndrome" in the name of "progressive thinking" that killed both the progress and thinking. The result of this contest is predictable. History does not like idiots, and especially "useful idiots."

The writer is author of the soon to be published book "Agony of Hercules or a Farewell to Democracy (Notes of a Stranger).”


1. The “Great Game” was the strategic rivalry between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Asia in 19-th century; 2. In 1969 Israel foreign minister Abba Eban called the 1967 borders “Auschwitz boders”; 3. Lord Shaftesbury (1801 - 1885) advocates of Christian Zionism in Britain, he was President of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

Haaretz: Putin's Military Build-up in Syria Could Be a Game-changer for Israel

Several media reports over the last week have indicated a significant increase in the military aid that Russia is offering Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, including even the use of air crews and Russian fighter jets – all as part of efforts by Russia to sustain that regime. Although the latest efforts are drawing some feeble criticism from the United States, it seems more like lip service as compared to the original American stance that demanded Assad's ouster.

After four-and-a-half years of vicious civil war and despite the heavy blows he has sustained, it seems that for now Assad – who cannot currently hope to regain control of more than half of the territory of Syria that he’s lost – can continue clinging to power, propped up by Russian and Iranian aid, as well as by the West’s focus on the struggle against the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL.

Specifically, The New York Times reported over the weekend that Russia has sent a new delegation of military experts to Syria, with the intention of stationing 1,000 advisers in the port city of Latakia. This is thought to be a sign that construction is beginning on a Russian military base in the Alawite enclave, along the northern Syrian coast, which is under Assad’s control. The U.S. expressed concern over this report, and Secretary of State John Kerry warned his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that this move could further escalate the Syrian civil war.

Last week, several media outlets including the Daily Beast website, basing themselves on sources within opposition forces in Syria, reported the appearance of new armored personnel carriers supplied by Russia, and possibly Russian soldiers, in areas in which the fighting is going on. In Israel, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Russian aircraft have been stationed in Syria and have recently been involved in combat there.

In June, “Haaretz” reported that Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence estimates that, despite a string of defeats suffered by the Syrian army in the preceding months, Russia and Iran were determined to ensure the regime’s survival. According to that assessment, the two countries decided to transfer more weapons to Assad and to provide him with intelligence that will help his struggle against the multiple rebel militias that are trying to topple him.

The two countries operated separately in the past but recently, since the signing in Vienna of the nuclear accord between Iran and the six powers in early July, there are signs of new coordination between Moscow and Tehran.

Last month there were reports of a visit to Moscow by General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who involved in helping the Assad regime, Hezbzollah and a host of terrorist and guerrilla groups in the Middle East. One can assume that this is further evidence of an attempt at increasing coordination between the two countries.

Moscow has supported Assad throughout the war. In the summer of 2013, at a critical juncture for the Syrian tyrant, when U.S. President Barack Obama was planning an aerial attack – in retaliation for the killing of more than 1,000 civilians near Damascus by the regime, which involved the use of chemical weapons – Russia initiated a last-minute agreement to destroy the regime’s chemical stockpiles in exchange for calling off the attack.

Over the last year, Obama and Western leaders have meanwhile softened their rhetoric against Assad in light of the rise of ISIS, and due to concerns that toppling Assad will allow a takeover of Damascus by extremist Sunni groups. That would likely lead to large-scale massacres of civilians belonging to sects loyal to the regime, mainly the Alawites.

The American-led military assault against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has indirectly helped Assad by weakening one of his major rivals, forcing it to spend time defending itself rather than continuing full-force attacks on the regime. Now that the Americans aren’t striving to topple him, and Russia and Iran are increasing their support, Assad has better chances of stabilizing his defense despite the heavy losses he’s sustained, the poor morale in the army, and the continuing erosion by rebels of territory controlled by the regime.

For Israel, which for several years has not really supported the downfall of the Assad regime, preferring the present situation with a weakened president controlling a “small Syria” (covering less than half of the country's original territory) – the new developments are not encouraging.

According to foreign media reports to which Jerusalem rarely responds, every few months the Israel Air Force attacks arms convoys carrying Syrian war materiel to Hezbollah in Lebanon. These attacks, attributed to Israel and designed to prevent the terror group from acquiring advanced weapons systems, rarely provoke a response, given the weakness of Syria’s air force and the relatively limited capabilities of that country's, and Hezbollah’s, air defense systems.

However, if Russia is dispatching its jet fighters and establishing a new military base in Syria, Israel will have to deal with new and different kinds of constraints, especially if the aircraft are equipped with Russian air-to-air missiles. In recent years there has been much talk in Israel about a campaign conducted between wars: i.e., a low-profile military and intelligence effort aimed at preventing the empowerment of terrorist groups in the area, and at reducing the risk of another war. The entry of Russia into the Syrian arena changes the rules of this game.

In the early 1970s, when Russia sent military advisers to Egypt and Syria, a new division was set up hastily in the Military Intelligence’s central intelligence-gathering unit (known as unit 8200). This unit eavesdropped on Russian activity in the region. Israel’s relations with Russia have improved since then, but increased Russian military presence in the region may demand that Israel’s military intelligence undertake more forceful efforts to deal with this development.

Syrian military official: There’s been a ‘big shift’ in Russian military support for Assad

kerry lavrov russia syria

While the desperate flight of Syrians from their country's war was dominating news bulletins this summer, yet another diplomatic push to end the four-year-old conflict was quietly running into the sand. That largely unnoticed failure has reinforced the view amongst Syria experts that there is no solution in sight, with one of the biggest obstacles a seemingly unbridgeable international divide over President Bashar al-Assad's future. As a consequence, Syria looks set for ever greater fragmentation into a patchwork of territories, one of them the diminishing Damascus-based state where Assad appears confident of survival with backing from his Russian and Iranian allies.

While some Western officials say even Assad's allies now recognize he cannot win back and stabilize Syria, Moscow is setting out its case for supporting him in ever more forthright terms. Russia's foreign minister in recent days reiterated the Russian view that Assad is a legitimate leader, slammed the U.S. position to the contrary as "counterproductive", and likened the west's approach to Syria to its failures in Iraq and Libya. Russia meanwhile continues to supply Assad with weapons. A Syrian military official told Reuters there has recently been a "big shift" in Russian military support, including new weapons and training. Our ties are always developing but in these days a qualitative shift has happened. We call it a qualitative shift in Arabic, which means big,” the Syrian official said.

Such assertions are difficult to verify, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his concern over reports of increased Russian involvement in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday. The New York Times said Russia had sent a military advance team to Syria, citing American intelligence analysts. Reflecting the logjam over Assad, some of the ideas being tabled for advancing a political process sidestep the question of his future altogether - at least for now, according to a diplomat tracking the conflict. Yet this remains the biggest single obstacle to breaking a diplomatic impasse around a war whose repercussions are being felt like never before in Europe, which faces a migration crisis fueled by Syrian refugees.

In turn, it is a big complication for efforts to fight the Islamic State group that has flourished in the bloodshed of a conflict that has killed a quarter of a million people and driven another 11 million from their homes. Despite a U.S.-led bombing campaign against the jihadist group, Islamic State (ISIS) still holds wide areas of Syria and is poised for further moves toward the big, Assad-controlled cities in the west: Islamic State already has a presence in the southern suburbs of Damascus. "I don't see a tremendous amount of change out of the Iranians or Russians. There is some talk of them being tired, but their positions are pretty firm," said Andrew Tabler, a Middle East specialist with the Washington Institute.

"They think that Assad's immediate departure would lead to a collapse of the regime. Washington also sees a rapid collapse of the regime as something that would be a boon for ISIS. They are in a conundrum: if Assad goes right away, it would help ISIS, but if he doesn't go at all, you have no hope of putting the pieces of Syria back together again," he said. "This recent outburst of diplomacy is because everyone was becoming concerned, and rightfully so. But the results of that process were remarkably poor. They seem to cement the earlier political positions of the region when it comes to Syria."

The recent flurry of diplomatic activity followed the conclusion of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers and included high-level meetings between states with a stake in the conflict, with Russia taking the lead.

Unlimited Support

Assad has wagered on the West rehabilitating him as a partner in the war against Islamic State. But while the priority for U.S. policy in Syria today is battling Islamic State, not unseating Assad, Washington has stuck by its position that he is part of the problem, saying his brutality has fueled extremism. The 49-year-old who assumed power 15 years ago upon the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, has shown no appetite for negotiations despite losing more ground to rebels this year and admitting the Syrian army faces a manpower problem.

The military support from backers in Tehran and Moscow has allowed him to absorb the advances by insurgents who, while better equipped than before, still remain mostly defenseless against the Syrian government air strikes. "So far, there is no real political solution because of the unlimited support from Russia and Iran," said Bashar al-Zoubi, head of one of the biggest rebel groups fighting Assad in southern Syria, speaking to Reuters via Whatsapp from Syria. Assad, who describes all the groups fighting him as terrorists, has poured cold water on the idea of imminent political progress. In a recent interview, he said the war would only be near its end when states "conspiring against Syria" ceased doing so - a reference to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

A steady flow of Iranian officials to Damascus has also underlined Tehran's support for an ally who has safeguarded its interests in the Levant in alliance with Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed group fighting alongside Assad in Syria. Since concluding its nuclear deal, Iran says it is trying to launch a new push to resolve the Syrian war. But there is no sign of Tehran giving ground on Assad.

No Alternative?

Moscow and Tehran's backing for Assad is underpinned by the fact they see no alternative who can guarantee their interests. While Assad may control a fifth or even less of Syria, they still see him as the cornerstone of what remains of the state, including the military and security forces which many Syria experts believe would fragment were he gone. Russia is pushing for the Syrian government to be included in international efforts to fight Islamic State. Saudi Arabia is one of the states to have rejected the idea. A senior Russian diplomatic source said: "Proposals by our partners for the change of regime in Damascus are illegitimate. They only say Assad must go - and then what? I don't think they have any idea."

"There used to be no terrorists in Iraq, the same in Libya. And now the Libyan state has fallen apart and the terrorists are roaming there." The new U.S. special envoy for Syria, Michael Ratney, gave the polar opposite view after his Aug. 28 visit to Moscow. "We are cognizant that Assad’s continued tenure fuels extremism and inflames tensions in the region. That is why a political transition is not only necessary for the good of the people of Syria, but an important part of the fight to defeat the extremists," a U.S. statement said.

Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesSyrians gather at the Damascus district of Douma after barrel bombs dropped to residential areas from the warcraft by Syrian Airforces, killing a number of civilians, including women and children on Jan. 8, 2014. While insisting Assad must go, U.S. officials are not specific about when or how. That leaves open the possibility of a transition that begins with him still in office - an almost impossible sell to the rebels fighting him. In any case, Russia has rejected the idea of any pre negotiated exit for Assad. In comments closest in weeks to outlining what Moscow might see as an acceptable way forward on dealing with Assad, Russia said on Friday the Syrian president was ready to hold early parliamentary elections and share power with moderate opposition.

The U.N. mediator for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has invited warring parties to take part in U.N.-led working groups to address matters including political and constitutional issues, and military and security issues. One of the big complications he faces is dealing with the vast number of rebel factions. While some are getting better organized on the political front, disunity in opposition ranks is still seen as a major challenge to the diplomatic track. A Western diplomat tracking the conflict said de Mistura's plan would be "very slow". "At the moment no one is talking about (Assad) departing or not."
"The Syrians are loving it ... Damascus is calm."

In Syria, Putin Calls Obama’s Bluff, Russia Joins War Against the “Islamic State” (ISIS)


According to German Economic News (September 1st, based on reports from ynetnews and others), Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has apparently decided to establish in Syria a military base with thousands of soldiers and sufficient air power to do in Syria what the Obama Administration won’t, which is to defeat ISIS and the other jihadists.

On the same day, washingtonsblog bannered, “Former CIA Boss and 4-Star General: U.S. Should Arm Al Qaeda,” and linked to several sources indicating that not only David Petraeus favors arming Al Qaeda, but much of the American establishment (who have sponsored Petraeus’s entire career) also does. The British aristocracy likewise does. In fact, that academic propaganda-piece, The Russia Challenge, discusses “the stark choices Western governments face in their policies towards Russia,” while it says nothing about “the stark choices” that Russia now faces in its policies toward the U.S. aristocracy, and toward Britain’s and other U.S-allied aristocracies.

That British academic propaganda-piece comes from Chatham House, otherwise called the Royal Institute of International Affairs, which, since early in the 20th Century, has been allied in the U.S. with the Rockefellers’ and Morgans’ Council on Foreign Relations, and, post-WWII, also with the Bilderberg group, and with the Rockefellers’ Trilateral Commission (which brought the Japanese aristocracy into the overall U.S.-led plan for global conquest).

However, there are additionally many other front-organizations for this operation, such as the Brookings Institution. Brookings has always championed American empire, and I reported even recently on a Brookings ‘study’ of this type, by headlining “Brookings Wants More Villages Firebombed in Ukraine’s ‘Anti Terrorist Operation’.”(It’s actually an operation against the residents of the part of Ukraine that had voted 90%+ for the Ukrainian leader whom the Obama Administration had just overthrown. The residents there had refused to accept Obama’s imposed regime.) The intended defeat of Russia is to come not only in the competition over oil and gas (such as between the Arabic oil potentates and Russia), but also by extending NATO right up to Russia’s borders, such as by installing next-door in Ukraine a rabidly anti-Russian government, via a coup in February 2014. (John Fitzgerald Kennedy didn’t like it when Nikita Khrushchev tried something similar against the United States in 1962. It was called “the Cuban Missile Crisis.”) The evidence is clear and overwhelming, though almost entirely absent in U.S. ‘news’ media, that America’s aristocracy place vastly higher priority upon defeating Russia than upon defeating Islamic jihad. (The implicit message to the families of America’s 9/11 victims is: “Just get lost.” But that subtle message from the aristocrats isn’t on America’s ‘news,’ either. Only their PR is.)

In fact, I provided essential background for this development, on August 16th, headlining “How & Why the U.S. Media Do Propaganda Against Russia.” This is a position by the U.S. “Establishment,” which is the entire network of think tanks and other fronts that are financed by the U.S. aristocracy (tax-free, moreover, to the aristocrats who finance these operations) so as to conquer Russia in order that the U.S. aristocracy will win unchallengeable global control, over every other nation’s aristocracy. I documented there that not only the Republican Party but the Obama-Clinton or “Establishment” wing of the Democratic Party, have been fully in agreement with Mitt Romney’s infamous 2012 statement against Russia, which Obama publicly condemned at the time, that, “this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe”; and Obama’s very public attack against that statement helped him win the 2012 election, though Obama’s second Administration has actually been carrying out Romney’s policy there.

Obama has many cheerleaders in this global-conquest program, such as his advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is proud to have helped start today’s Islamic jihad movement in order to defeat the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union ended, Brzezinski’s hatred of Russians drove him to continue on as if it hadn’t. The war against “communism” has turned out to have been just a cover-story for these aristocrats’ war for global control, somewhat like the war against Islamic jihadists later morphed into a war against the residents of Ukraine’s pro-Russian far-east. Brzezinski was born to Polish nobility, and he retains that hatred from his childhood, which is why he has been so useful to America’s aristocrats, in order to help make the defeat of Russia into a “bipartisan” issue, and not merely an issue for Romney and the great bulk of America’s aristocrats, who are Republicans.

Basically, what Putin is apparently doing here is to go beyond the theatrics of Western aristocracies, the aristocracies that are led by America’s, and finally now to lay down the gauntlet, in Syria, against Islamic jihad. As I have previously documented, Islamic jihad is financed virtually entirely by multimillion-dollar individual contributions not only by the Saudi royal family, but also by the royals of the other Arabic oil countries.

Without that constant flow of funds, the Sauds’ operation on their own side for global empire would collapse. Theirs is to be an Islamic global empire, much like America’s Dominionist Christions have (though far less successfully) aspired to creating a global Christian empire. Ever since 1945, the U.S. aristocracy and the Saudi royal family have been united together. Increasingly in the decades after the end of communism, the only thing that remains after the beast of “The Cold War” is the skeleton of expanding the American aristocracy’s empire, still married to the skeleton of the Sauds’ imperial ambitions. It could become an Earth-killing embrace: skeletons all-around and everywhere.

In one of the rare mainstream U.S. news reports about the unity between Arabic royals and the international Islamic jihad movement, America’s PBS “Frontline” documented that Islamic jihad is taught in schools that are financed by the Saudi royal family. If the current report in German Economic News is true, then America’s President Obama will need to reassess his entire foreign policy, which has — overtly now, during his second Administration (after he had successfully fooled the American public to think that he didn’t agree with Romney) — been virtually obsessed with defeating Russia.

The U.S. regime has even bragged about its ability to stir up fear against Russia around the world.

America’s alliance with the Islamic jihad movement seems now to be directly challenged by Putin. If Obama is to continue his effort to replace the secular Shiite Syrian regime by an Islamic Sunni regime (one that will be controlled by the Sauds, and/or by the Qatari royal family the Thanis), the U.S. will then face the prospect of war against Russia, much as Obama has already built in Ukraine via his 2014 coup there, which is still prohibited from being reported about in the West — except via a few independent authentic news media (the few that aren’t controlled by aristocrats), which few (such as you are now reading) are allowed because they have only small audiences. As with the samizdat literature during the former Soviet Union, the truth is thus marginalized in the now overwhelmingly fascist-controlled,U.S.-dominated, West.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

Russia tells Washington: talk to us over Syria or risk 'unintended incidents'


Russia called on Friday for Washington to restart direct military-to-military cooperation to avert "unintended incidents" near Syria, at a time when U.S. officials say Moscow is building up forces to protect President Bashar al-Assad's government. The United States is leading a campaign of air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syrian air space, and a greater Russian presence would raise the prospect of the Cold War superpower foes encountering each other on the battlefield. Both Moscow and Washington say their enemy is Islamic State. But Russia supports the government of Assad, while the United States says his presence makes the situation worse.

In recent days, U.S. officials have described what they say is a buildup of Russian equipment and manpower. Lebanese sources have told Reuters that at least some Russian troops were now engaged in combat operations in support of Assad's government. Moscow has declined to comment on those reports. At a news conference, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was sending equipment to help Assad fight Islamic State. Russian servicemen were in Syria, he said, primarily to help service that equipment and teach Syrian soldiers how to use it.

Russia was also conducting naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, he said, describing the drills as long-planned and staged in accordance with international law. Lavrov blamed Washington for cutting off direct military-to-military communications between Russia and NATO over the Ukraine crisis, saying such contacts were "important for the avoidance of undesired, unintended incidents".

"We are always in favor of military people talking to each other in a professional way. They understand each other very well," Lavrov said. "If, as (U.S. Secretary of State) John Kerry has said many times, the United States wants those channels frozen, then be our guest."

U.S. officials say they do not know what Moscow's intentions are in Syria. The reports of a Russian buildup come at a time when momentum has shifted against Assad's government in Syria's 4-year-old civil war, with Damascus suffering battlefield setbacks this year at the hands of an array of insurgent groups. Moscow, Assad's ally since the Cold War, maintains its only Mediterranean naval base at Tartous on the Syrian coast, a strategic objective. In recent months NATO-member Turkey has also raised the prospect of outside powers playing a greater role in Syria by proposing a "safe zone" near its border, kept free of both Islamic State and government troops.


The four-year-old multi-sided civil war in Syria has killed around 250,000 people and driven half of Syria's 23 million people from their homes. Some have traveled to European Union countries, creating a refugee crisis there. Differences over Assad's future have made it impossible for Moscow and the West to take joint action against Islamic State, even though they say the group, which rules a self-proclaimed caliphate on swathes of Syria and Iraq, is their common enemy. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Friday it was too early to judge what exactly Russia's motivations at present were in Syria, but ‎that "adding war to war" would not help resolve the Syrian conflict. "If it's about defending the base in Tartous why not? But ‎if it's to enter the conflict ...." he said, without finishing the thought.


Diplomats in Moscow say the Kremlin is happy for the West to believe it is building up its military in Syria, calculating that this will give it more bargaining power in any international talks about whether Assad stays in power. Western and Arab countries have backed demands from the Syrian opposition that Assad must give way under any negotiated settlement to the war. Assad refuses to go and so far his enemies have lacked the capability to force him out, leaving the war grinding on for years. All diplomatic efforts at a solution have collapsed. Assad’s supporters have taken encouragement this week from an apparent shift in tone from some European states that suggests a softening of demands he leave power. Britain, one of Assad’s staunchest Western opponents, said this week it could accept him staying in place for a transition period if it helped resolve the conflict. France, another fierce Assad opponent, said on Monday he must leave power “at some point or another”. Smaller countries went further, with Austria saying Assad must be involved in the fight against Islamic State and Spain saying negotiations with him were necessary to end the war. The pro-Syrian government newspaper al-Watan saw Britain’s position as “a new sign of the changes in Western positions that started with Madrid and Austria”.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/russia-says-seeks-coordination-over-syria-avoid-incidents-100728012--business.html

Putin is turning the Syrian coast into another Crimea


After weeks of dancing around the issue, the Obama administration has expressed concern about “heightened military activity” by Russia in Syria. But what if we are facing something more than “heightened military activity?” What if Moscow is preparing to give Syria the full Putin treatment? For years, Russia has been helping Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad cling to a diminishing power structure in a shrinking territorial base without trying to impose an overall strategy. Now, however, there are signs that Russia isn’t content to just support Assad. It wants to control Syria.

The Putin treatment is reserved for countries in Russia’s “near neighborhood” that try to break out of Moscow’s orbit and deprive it of strategic assets held for decades. In such cases, unable to restore its past position, Russia tries to create a new situation in which it keeps a sword dangling above the head of the recalcitrant nation. Russia’s military intervenes directly and indirectly, always with help from a segment of the local population concerned. Russia starts by casting itself as protector of an ethnic, linguistic or religious minority that demands its military intervention against a central power vilified with labels such as “fascist” and “terrorist.” The first nation to experience the Putin treatment was Georgia in 2008, when Russian tanks moved in to save the Persian-speaking Ossetian minority and the Turkish-speaking Abkhazians from “the fascist regime” in Tbilisi.

Initially, Putin had feared that the US or the European Union might not let his war of conquest go unpunished. But nothing happened. President Obama talked of “reset” with Moscow, agreed to set up a joint committee to look into the matter and then allowed the whole thing to fade away. Tested in Georgia with success, the Putin treatment was next applied to Ukraine, where a pro-West regime was talking of joining the European Union and even NATO. Russia intervened in Crimea to “save” its Russian-speaking majority from oppression.

Facing no opposition, Putin simply annexed Crimea before giving the Donetsk area of eastern Ukraine the same treatment, this time with the help of “Russian volunteers” coming to help fellow Russian-speakers. In Ossetia, Putin gained control of key passages to Chechnya and upper Caucasus. In Abkhazia, he extended Russian presence on the Black Sea. In Crimea, he saved the Russian Navy’s largest base. In Donetsk he obtained a political pistol aimed at the temple of the government in Kiev. Pro-West Azerbaijan, meanwhile, is threatened after Putin helped Armenia snatch the enclave of Upper Qarabagh (Nagorno Karabakh) in Transcaucasia.

The Soviet Union had a military presence in Syria since 1971, when Hafez al-Assad, father of the present despot, signed a defense pact with Moscow. The pact gave Russia mooring rights in two of Syria’s ports, Latakia and Tartus on the Mediterranean. The older Assad, however, shied away from granting Russians permanent bases. Last year, Putin asked Bashar to let Russia build aero-naval assets on the Syrian coast to facilitate support for the regime in Damascus. Then still hopeful of surviving the civil war, Bashar managed to dodge the issue with help from his allies in Tehran.

Now, however, both Assad and the mullahs of Tehran know that they cannot fight this war much longer. Assad has publicly admitted he does not have enough men to keep the territory he still controls let alone recapture what he has lost amounting to 60% of the Syrian landmass. Reluctant to risk Iranian lives, the mullahs have sent Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and “volunteers” from Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight for Assad. But they, too, have suffered irreparable losses.

After weeks of talks between Assad and the Russians with the mullahs also engaged by both sides, it now seems that Russia has obtained what it wanted: the right to build permanent aero-naval bases on the Syrian coast. Recent satellite images show that massive construction work has already started. At the same time, Russia has won control of Bassel al-Assad airport, the second-largest in Syria, transforming it into a hub for its “air-bridge” operations spanning Iranian and Iraqi air spaces.

Russia is bringing in new aircraft and surface-to-surface missile ostensibly for transfer to Syrian forces but in reality under direct Russian control. According to estimates in the Iranian media, Russia now has some 20,000 military “technicians and advisors” in Syria. The stage is set for the full Putin treatment. Russia no doubt looks to the 1920s scheme under which Syria was divided into five segments, with France, then the colonial power, retaining direct control only of the area between the mountains west of Damascus and the Mediterranean coast. The French called that “la Syrie utile” (useful Syria) allowing the rest of the country, much of it thinly inhabited desert to morph into ungoverned territory.

Accounting for about 15% of territory, “Useful Syria” is now home to more than half of the population, partly thanks to influx of displaced people from other parts of the country. The strip between the coast and the mountains has the added advantage of being the principal base of the Alawite community to which Assad and his clan belong. Get ready for Russia to cast itself as the protector, not only of the Alawites but also of other minorities such as Turcoman, Armenians and, more interestingly for Moscow, Orthodox Christians who have fled Islamist terror groups such as ISIS. Russia has always seen itself as the “Third Rome” and the last standard-bearer of Christianity against both Catholic “deviation” and Islamist menace.

By controlling a new mini-state, as a “safe haven for minorities,” Russia could insist that if Syria returns to some normality it be reconstituted as a highly decentralized state. This is what Putin is also demanding in Georgia and Ukraine. The Syrian coast will become another Crimea, if not completely annexed, at least occupied. Unless stopped, the Putin treatment will not end in Syria. The two next candidates could be Moldova and Latvia, both of which have large Russian-speaking minorities.

On Friday, Russian fighter jets arrived in Syria. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter responded by saying he had a “constructive conversation” with his Russian counterpart, who insisted the buildup was “defensive in nature.” Carter said discussions would continue. In other words, Russia will continue to carve a foothold on the Mediterranean. While President Obama practices a postmodern diplomacy of perceptions — in other words window-dressing — Putin perfects his pre-modern power play. Putin has arranged it so that no matter what happens in Syria, he wins — and we lose. 

Source: http://nypost.com/2015/09/19/putin-is-turning-the-syrian-coast-into-another-crimea/

Why Syria is Russia's Stalingrad


Russia has entered the new “1942” Ukraine – is just a distracting maneuver

At the heart of any history is geography. The truism that most people often cannot understand because they simply don't know geography. When I listen to many politicians, political scientists, especially from the liberal camp, I inevitably begin to question their geography knowledge at least within the school course. When they start to swing a bugbear of democracy, trying to violently spread it everywhere, I want to get a closer look at the map of the Earth before uttering democratic mantras.

One glance is enough to see that the so-called democracy primarily prevails in the territories, geographically protected from possible adversary. United States of America is geographically located on protected by oceans continent, they have no enemies there. The 70 million Indians who lived there before the coming of the Anglo-Saxon colonists, were successfully destroyed by these same colonists, driving the few survivors to reservations. Got fenced off from the small and geographically cropped Mexico to stop the impoverished population from seeping in. And that's it. There are no enemies. Can start a new life with a clean slate, with no interference. And they created it. The founding fathers of the USA were not as brilliant for giving birth to the principles laid down in the constitution of the most successful country, as the lucky ones whom no one challenged to implement these principles known since antiquity. Let us envy them. 

карта мира
Map 1. The spread of "democracy" in the world.  Circled in blue.

If we look at Europe, it in essence is merely a huge peninsula of Eurasia, from the East bounded by Russia, which can be called a historical enemy only with a very big stretch. And then only to the extent that Europe, due to various kinds of selfish aspirations, will want to. What a good ground for democratic experiments. And once the main European players – Germany, France and England - were reconciled after the WWII, the kingdom of democracy reigned here.

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Map 2. The spread of "democracy" in Europe. The border is circled in blue.

And that's it! All other areas of the founding continent called Eurasia have no democracy in the American or European understanding and cannot have. Different cultures, different civilizations, their permanent collisions and interpenetration make such democracy impossible! And any educated person must understand it! But if he starts to repeat the song about democracy in Ukraine, a territory which has historically been a thoroughfare of the great migration of peoples, or in Syria, this center of the global “ethno-religious soup”, then you should know that before you is a rotten bastard executing an order for a very specific interest.

There can be no universal fundamental principles of state and social structure. The clash of civilizations is not a whim from Zhirinovsky, but an objective reality, from which there is no escape. And behind a demand to remove the main Syrian “dictator-villain” Assad, as earlier the Ukrainian monster-usurper, the offender of 'students' Yanukovych, and then to establish through “free and fair” elections democracy in a thoroughfare and “ethno-religious pot”, there is a quite specific tangible malicious calculation, cynically and despicably abusing this clash of civilizations.

I don't know exactly what will Vladimir Putin say in his speech at the session of the UN General Assembly, but I doubt he will dare to speak the truth. There are tactical considerations. There is a big geopolitical game, a struggle for world domination and global resources, and at the UN the major players will push their interests with all possible and impossible means under the guise of big words. The main intrigue is whether Europe has woken up, or will again follow in the footsteps of American politics.

A few years ago the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright rushed to say that Russia unfairly disposes of one-third of the world's resources. She was echoed that yes, it is true, and, unfortunately, the second global prize called Siberia went to Russia. Without going into details about the first prize, and who got it, I will note what followed. Our homegrown liberal media began to consistently and persistently hammer into the heads of the Russian masses that the main contender for the riches of Siberia is China, which will try to get a hold of them in a weakened Russia. Including through quiet migration expansion of part of its huge population, which is actually not happening for some reason. The West was thus exhibited as a friend and a role model, and somehow forgetting to mention how many times Russia was invaded by Europe in order to destroy Russia as a state. Hitler, Napoleon, the Swedes, the Poles, etc. Some historians say the number nine. I will not go into details, so as not to distract from the main thing – from the territory of China there have been NO invasions, except for the Damansky border incident. That's it!

History must be known, studied and conclusions drawn. And historical memory must be periodically refreshed.

And now back to geography in the light of today's geopolitical balance. There is a world wanna-be hegemon - USA, aspiring to world domination. It has global leadership, but no domination. For domination it needs to control the world's resources. It can never control the human resources of China, but China without mineral resources is not a competitor. And the world's mineral resources are controlled by the USA (think about the prize number one) and Russia (think about the prize number two). Controlling the prize number two, the US gets the coveted world domination. Obvious and clear conclusion. Therefore, the main goal of the United States – is the dismemberment of Russia, the separation of Siberia and the establishment over it of its control in the form of an informal protectorate, as now in Ukraine. It is important to understand that we are talking about dismemberment, and not about the destruction of Russia. Russia should stay in truncated borders to the Urals, as a natural buffer of Europe from the Muslim and Chinese civilizations. European democracy needs to feel comfortable on the European peninsula. Europe needs a truncated Russia with a strong army capable to successfully repel the attacks of the Islamists and take on all the hardships of a frontier state.

The idea of elimination of Russia was not born yesterday. The first stage - the collapse of the USSR was carried out successfully by planting the traitors in the country's leadership. This, and not the economic difficulties, caused the collapse of the USSR. Today the outright traitors are not visible at the top leadership. And the foreign policy shows that the Russian leadership is well aware and acts accordingly, often ahead of the curve. But all that happened yesterday, as the civil war in Iraq and Syria, the emergence of ISIS, the Ukrainian crisis - were only a prelude. The real fight starts now: follow the speech of the Russian President at the UN General Assembly.

Second, after the collapse of the USSR, the plan for the dismemberment of historical Russia is already so obvious that it can be confidently described. It seems that the Russian leadership did not want to believe it to the end, but when the realization came its actions were lightning fast and quite effective. If you look at the ethno-confessional map, it becomes clear that the main attack against Russia will target the underbelly, from the South through Central Asia, through the former Central Asian republics by ISIS opening a new front against them. The difficult economic situation in these countries, unemployment and poverty, will bring into the ranks of ISIS hundreds of thousands of angry local men who are able in a short time to sweep away the current regimes of Turkmenbashi-2, Karimov and Rakhmonov, then move the expansion to the relatively safe territory of Kazakhstan, which is beginning to rock in connection with falling prices for raw materials. It is not a guarantee that the situation will be kept under control. Russia is in principle capable of it, but by exceptional exertion of all its resources. In case of failure ISIS will already loom close to Omsk, Tatarstan and Bashkiria will rise up, and the coveted goal of Americans to cut the territory of Russia is very close....

For its implementation they need to do two things. The first is to send the main forces of the Islamic state to Central Asia, and second, to divert the military forces of Russia to the second front, so there will not be enough for the main, Central Asian front. The subsidiary will be obviously the Caucasian direction, where the situation is now under control, but there is no doubt that they will try again. They will fight Russia with the hands of ISIS. And not only with Russia. Ilham Aliyev has understood everything. He is the first on the path of ISIS. Azerbaijan has already started the process of breaking up with the West. This is very important. The Azerbaijani leader was smart enough not to unleash a second Karabakh war, to which he was persistently pushed. Very soon he will have bigger problems then Karabakh. Shiite Azerbaijan will be just swept away by the pseudo-Sunni ISIS.

распространение ислама.
Map 3. The spread of Islam and the possible ISIS offensive
And now about the second front against Russia, which was supposed to be the first. This is Ukraine. The events in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq were almost simultaneous, and provoked by one and the same power – United States of America. According to now completely obvious plan, Russia was supposed to get bogged down in the war with Ukraine, fall under global sanctions and resource depletion on the eve of a decisive blow of ISIS through Central Asia. It didn't happen. And today we can only stand to applaud the Russian leadership, masterfully responding to the global provocation of the USA in Ukraine. Sanctions against Russia have not, so far at least, took on a global nature, and Russia did not get bogged down in the war in Ukraine, got Crimea back without bloodshed, and created a buffer DPR and LPR with armies comparable to Ukrainian. Tactical successes are exemplary. Obviously, there will be no flushing of DPR and LPR. In the unrecognized form they will “hold down the front” against the Banderites as much as needed, untying Russia's hands in the Middle East, where the major strategic objective is the destruction of ISIS. With all due respect to the legendary Russian Che Guevara – Igor Strelkov, I must admit that he failed to calculate the game until the end, and his actions and calls for the spread of Russian Spring to the entire territory of Ukraine were premature and even harmful. The time has not come yet.

And now about Syria. Syria is today's Stalingrad. It can not be surrendered and it will not be. The stakes do not allow it. As the surrender of Stalingrad in the 1942 meant geostrategic catastrophe, the surrender of Assad, with the subsequent collapse in the Syrian army and the state will precede an unallowable geopolitical catastrophe in Central Asia. All the words of Americans about the coalition and the fight against ISIS are a lie and hypocrisy. They will not seriously fight ISIS. And they don't want Russia in any form in the anti-ISIS coalition. The decision about the transfer to Syria of Russian arms and military advisers only confuses their plans. How the U.S. will try to push Russia out of Syria, we will learn from the discussions at the UN General Assembly. The pressure will be insane, but we will not budge.

In time the Americans will still have to answer how ISIS got a hold of billions of dollars, the oil fields and weapons. The primary objective of ISIS is to overthrow Assad and destroy Syria. The Americans plan to simulate a war with ISIS for years, as already stated at the official level. In order not to interfere with its actions in Central Asia. Giving the whole of Syria into the hands of ISIS. The time will show how the events will develop in Syria. Having slept through a global geopolitical provocation of Americans in the Middle East and Ukraine, the Russian leadership largely nullified America's success with effective tactical successes . But the overall situation remains extremely difficult. It is necessary to understand without illusions. Our country is going through its 1942.

America's New Nightmare: How to Cope With Russia on the Ground in Syria


No matter how persistent Russia is in insisting that it supports not the mere regime of the Syrian President Assad but rather its fight against the Islamic State, Washington won’t listen: the US media is abuzz with fearmongering over Russia’s military aid to Damascus, trying to guess what it could mean and what to do next.

The US seems to have absolutely no clue how to react to the Russian activity in Syria. While some of its media sources opt to resort to hysteria, such as Fox News, which claims Damascus will soon be occupied by the Russian army, others prefer to look at different options, and are trying to compile something resembling an action plan. The US-based financial agency Bloomberg has come up with two relatively adequate responses, and examines all the pros and cons for each one.
 “The options are to try to confront Russia inside Syria or, as some in the White House are advocating, cooperate with Russia there in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIL),” it said. “For some in the White House, the priority is to enlist more countries to fight against the Islamic State, and they fear making the relationship with Russia any more heated. They are seriously considering accepting the Russian buildup as a fait accompli, and then working with Moscow to coordinate US and Russian strikes in Northern Syria, where the US-led coalition operates every day,” the agency says.

Others, however, seem to be so obsessed with the idea of toppling President Assad, that they are paying no attention to the IS threat; they will regard any cooperation with Moscow as a real failure.

“For many in the Obama administration, especially those who work on Syria, the idea of acquiescing to Russian participation in the fighting is akin to admitting that the drive to oust Assad has failed. Plus, they fear Russia will attack Syrian opposition groups that are fighting against Assad, using the war against the Islamic State as a cover.” However, the real fear for the aforementioned group is that “the US has no real leverage to fight back”. If “Obama decides not to accept the Russian air force presence in Syria”, the outlet elaborates, he will face another set of options. “The US could impose new sanctions on Russia, although the current punishments related to Ukraine have not changed Putin’s calculus, and there’s little chance the European countries would join in on a new round.”

“The US might warn Russia that its base is fair game for the opposition to attack, but that could spur Putin to double down on the deployment.”

“The US could try to stop the flow of Russian arms, but that would mean pressuring countries such as Iraq to stand up to Putin and Iran, which they might not agree to.”

“The White House’s concerns about escalating tensions with Russia inside Syria are legitimate, but cooperating with Russian forces on the ground or in the air would undermine whatever remaining credibility the US has with the Syrian opposition and the Gulf States that support it.”

“The US may not be able to stop Russia’s entry into fighting the Syrian civil war, but at a minimum America shouldn't be seen as colluding with Moscow. If that happens, the suspicion that Obama is actually working to preserve the Assad regime will have been confirmed.”

5 Messages Russia Is Sending to the World via Syria

Meanwhile, The National Interest, another US outlet, has come up with its own list of what Russia is trying to tell the world. First, it says, “the Kremlin is clearly signaling that it plans to take an active role in setting the agenda in the Middle East — and not to passively accept an American vision for how the future should unfold”. Second, “Putin is making it clear that he will not accept Washington's default position that the removal” of President Assad “is a path to greater long-term stability in the Middle East.” Third, “Russia is more confident of its position in Ukraine”, with “Moscow retaining most of the leverage.” Fourth, “the Kremlin enforces its red lines. Just as Moscow would not permit the Donbass separatists to face catastrophic defeat last summer in Ukraine, Russia has signaled that it will not sit by and allow Bashar Assad to be overthrown or removed by outside military action.”And, finally, fifth, “for Middle Eastern countries, like Egypt and Azerbaijan, that have opposed Russian policy in Syria, Putin's decision to up the ante may lead them to reassess whether the path to a viable settlement resides not in Washington, soon to be increasingly distracted by an election campaign, but through Moscow.” 

Israeli official: Iran's military mastermind went to Russia to talk to Putin about saving Assad

Israeli official: Iran's military mastermind went to Russia to talk to Putin about saving Assad

The increased presence of Russian and Iranian troops in Syria is the "result of a meeting between [Iranian military mastermind Qasem] Soleimani with Russian President Vladimir Putin" and is due to "Assad's crisis," a senior Israeli security official told Israeli outlet Ynet news Thursday. In August, two unnamed Western intelligence sources told Fox News that Soleimani had violated a travel ban and sanctions to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu and Putin in Moscow. The official added that cooperation between Russia and Iran has resulted in a significant military buildup in Latakia Province in western Syria.

"Russia ... has teamed up with Iran in an unprecedented attempt to protect the embattled regime of Bashar Assad from falling to rebel groups, including the Islamic State," Ynet reported.

Soleimani — a major general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and commander of the powerful Quds force — has reportedly sent hundreds of ground soldiers into Syria over the past few days. Meanwhile, Russian drones and fighter planes have been surveilling non-ISIS rebels in the country's north. Russian armored-personnel carriers with Russian-speaking troops have also apparently been involved in fighting, and Russia has set up an air-traffic-control tower and brought housing units for up to 1,000 personnel to Latakia in the country's west. Two tank-landing ships and additional aircraft have arrived, Reuters reported. "It's hard to forecast whether Russia's presence will decide the fate of Syria, but it will lengthen the fighting and bloodletting for at least another year because ISIS won't give up," the Israeli source told Ynet.

Iran, under Soleimani's purview, has long since taken over Assad's fight in crucial parts of Syria. In May, Soleimani traveled to Syria to "organize the entry of Iranian officials to supervise and aid" Iranian proxy forces in coastal Syria, according to Now Lebanon. One month later, a Free Syrian Army commander told the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi that "the regime has handed over the operations room to Iranian officers and leadership." "Syrian officers, among them Alawites, have become secondary members, whose tasks can sometimes be reduced to handing out tea and coffee," he added.

Al Qaeda-linked rebels took full control of Idlib Province last week, which Iran-backed militias had failed to secure during a counterattack in June. Idlib borders Latakia and is the second province no longer under government control — along with ISIS-controlled Raqqa. Now it appears that Iran is upping the ante in coordination with Russia. "Assad has lost significant territory over the past months; Putin is not about to tolerate his ouster," geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, told Business Insider in an email. Iran is not about to tolerate it, either. It is making "an effective play for regional hegemony," Michael Gerson of The Washington Post has written, and needs Assad to remain in power to maintain its bridge to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Russia, too, has its own interests to look after: control over its naval base at Tartus is at stake, and along with it Putin's ability to project power into the Mediterranean. As a result, Russia's incursion into Syria has less to do with fighting ISIS and more to do with countering Western actions that have bolstered rebel forces in the north and threaten to weaken Assad further. "If the West succeeds in turning the tide of the war while Assad is vulnerable, the political outcomes in Syria are more likely to be dictated by the US," Bremmer said. "Which means Putin needs to bolster Assad now."

Nasrallah welcomes Russia’s growing role in Syria

The leader of Lebanon Hezbollah terror group has welcomed what he described as Russia’s growing “combat presence” in Syria, saying it would have a significant impact on the war in the neighboring country. Moscow has denied that it is building up its presence in Syria to protect its long-time ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, but says instead that it wants to help him fight the Islamic State group. Hassan Nasrallah said Friday that the deployment of Russian warplanes and precision missiles, as well as “resources with operating teams” was a “great development” that would influence the situation on the ground.

Nasrallah spoke on Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV. He said Russia had been talking with allies about an expanded alliance against the IS after US-led airstrikes failed to uproot the extremists. Russia has been building up its military presence at an air base in Syria, including fighter jets, tanks, helicopters, air defense missiles, personnel and other equipment. Russia is a traditional ally of Syria and has supported Assad, who has clung to power despite a US-led international effort to force him to step down. In an interview taped with CBS’ “60 Minutes” for broadcast Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked if his country was “trying to save the Assad administration.”

Putin responded, “Well, you’re right.” He said any effort to destroy Assad’s government “will create a situation which you can witness now in the other countries of the region, … where all the state institutions are disintegrated.” The Russian leader added, “There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism.” US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday that he would talk to his Russian counterpart again about Moscow’s military intentions in Syria, but cautioned that if the Russians insist on fighting the Islamic State without simultaneously pursuing a political solution to Syria’s civil war they will be “pouring gasoline” on the conflict.

In comments at the Pentagon, Carter said the Obama administration is concerned that Russia could use the warplanes and other military force it has recently assembled in Syria to attack the Islamic State or the moderate Syrian rebels who are fighting against the government of President Bashar Assad. Carter declined to say whether he believes the Russian buildup is intended to undertake airstrikes or other offensive military action. “We’re going to be talking to them about their intentions both on the political track and the military track,” Carter said.

Syrian activists said Friday a UN-backed truce deal had been reached for two key Syrian battleground areas that will see the transfer of thousands of Shiite and Sunni civilians and fighters from one area to another. The deal will end months of fighting between Sunni insurgents and pro-government forces, including fighters from Hezbollah, and the besieging of civilians. The controversial transfer will allow a group of Sunni insurgents operating under a coalition called Jaish al-Fatah,or Army of Conquest, and their families safe passage out of the Zabadani area, along the Lebanese border.

In exchange, 10,000 Shiites, civilians and wounded pro-government fighters from two villages in rebel-controlled northern Idlib province will be allowed to leave, said Abdullah al-Muhaysini, a Saudi militant cleric living in Syria. The Sunni insurgents will head from Zabadani to the rebel-controlled Idlib province, while the Shiites will settle in the government-controlled suburb of Damascus, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. If implemented, the agreement would be another rare example of international diplomacy successfully brokering an end to fighting in specific areas in Syria. The UN previously brokered a cease-fire in 2014 to end over two years of siege on the central city of Homs.

But the deal would also underline concerns about forced demographic changes in the Syrian civil war, now in its fifth year, which has already displaced nearly half of Syria’s pre-war population. The opposition has accused Assad’s government of working with its allies, including Iran, on moving populations around to empty government-held areas of Sunnis. The insurgents against Assad are largely Sunnis, including foreign fighters from around the region and elsewhere who joined the war. Nasrallah said Iran played a key mediating role in the UN-brokered deal during negotiations held in Turkey, representing the Syrian government at the table. He said decisions were, however, made by the government.

Nasrallah said the deal will not force people to relocate but that civilians who want to leave Zabadani with the militants are free to do so if they want. He added that the deal allows for humanitarian supplies and goods to reach the two villages by road for those remaining behind. UN spokeswoman Jessy Chahine told The Associated Press on Friday that the UN facilitated contacts between the different parties but would not elaborate on details of the deal. The Observatory said the six-month truce deal would also include the release of rebel detainees. Turkey and Iran also sponsored the deal, it added.

Iraqi FM Wants More Airstrikes Against ISIS, Supports Russia’s Role In Syria

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Friday that he would like more U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq. “The frequency of the air force campaign goes up and down, and I hope that it will get higher frequency in the future,” al-Jaafari said during a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations.  "The Iraqi military has been winning, which is a result of civil efforts, the Iraqi military efforts and the international coalition, which played a decisive role in supporting the Iraqi military," he said. "With the intertwining of these factors -- the Iraqi military and international coalition -- objectives could be achieved."

Al-Jaafari added that Iraq needs military assistance from the coalition, but it has not and is not asking for ground troops. “It is true that we do need equipment, training, intelligence, air force coverage. But we do not need ground troops or ground bases from this country or that country." Not included in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS is Russia, which has recently escalated its military presence in Syria, where ISIS has its stronghold. American officials have said it isn’t clear what Russia’s intentions in the region are. Nevertheless, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has cautioned Russia that it could exacerbate the Syrian conflict.

“Regarding Russia playing a role in alleviating the crisis in Syria, we support all efforts to alleviate the crisis,” al-Jaafari said. Earlier this month, at least a dozen Russian planes flew over Iraq and Iran, delivering military equipment to Russia’s new air base in Syria. When asked why Iraq hasn’t closed its airspace to Russian planes, al-Jaafari gave a vague answer.

“We did not violate any of our commitments towards the international community,” he said. “When one of the countries requested to help us outside the coalition, we did not reject the offer but we made it a condition that they coordinate with the coalition because we have a moral commitment to the coalition.” He added, “I have no knowledge of any Russian experts being in Iraq to coordinate with the Iraqi forces."

Regarding Iraq’s policy towards Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who has killed thousands of his own civilians -- largely in areas held by rebels who oppose him, al-Jaafari said that Iraq has remained neutral because the people of Syria are “divided.” He compared this policy to Iraq’s handling of other divisive leaders in the region. “When the Tunisian people rejected President Ben Ali, we rejected him. And when the former Egyptian President Mubarak was rejected, we also rejected him. When the Libyan people rejected Gaddafi, we did the same.”

“But now Syria is divided,” he said. “Part is with the Syrian President Assad, and part is against him. So we stood neutral. Not with or against.”

Touching on the refugees from Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones flooding Europe, al-Jaafari asked the receiving nations to treat the refugees with respect. The refugees “are not failures," he said. "They did not flee their countries because of economic reasons. They have expertise. They have qualifications. They can be successful in different countries."

Assad: The alliance between Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran must succeed or else the whole region will be destroyed

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in comments broadcast on Sunday that the success of Russia's military intervention in his country's civil war was vital for the whole Middle East. "The alliance between Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran must succeed or else the whole region will be destroyed," he said in an interview broadcast by Iranian state television. Russia on Wednesday launched air strikes in Syria in a move Moscow insists is aimed at fighting the Islamic State group. But opponents including the United States claim Russian bombing raids are mainly targeting Western-backed moderate opponents of Assad. "The chances of success for this coalition are great and not insignificant," Assad said in his interview, according to an extract posted on Twitter, warning that the price Syria's allies pay "will certainly be high". He called on Western countries, which have along with Gulf allies carried out air strikes on IS in Syria since September 2014, to join forces in order to fight extremism. "If these states join the fight against terrorists in a serious and sincere manner, at least in terms of stopping them getting support, we will achieve results much faster," Assad said. Western and Gulf countries insist Assad must step down after presiding over more than four years of civil war.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/russian-failure-syria-destroy-mideast-002206061.html

Russia's anti-ISIS coalition with Syria, Iraq and Iran surprises U.S. officials

For the second time this month, Russia moved to expand its political and military influence in the Syria conflict and left the United States scrambling, this time by reaching an understanding, announced on Sunday, with Iraq, Syria and Iran to share intelligence about the Islamic State. Like Russia’s earlier move to bolster the government of President Bashar al-Assad by deploying warplanes and tanks to a base near Latakia, Syria, the intelligence-sharing arrangement was sealed without notice to the United States. American officials knew that a group of Russian military officers were in Baghdad, but they were clearly surprised when the Iraqi military’s Joint Operations Command announced the intelligence sharing accord on Sunday.

It was another sign that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was moving ahead with a sharply different tack from that of the Obama administration in battling the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, by assembling a rival coalition that includes Iran and the Syrian government. The effort, which Mr. Putin is expected to underscore in his speech at the United Nations on Monday, not only puts Moscow in a position to give military support to Mr. Assad, its longtime ally in the Middle East, but could also enable the Kremlin to influence the choice of a successor if Mr. Assad were to eventually leave power.

Russia’s moves are raising difficult questions for the Obama administration, which remains deeply conflicted about American military involvement in the Syria conflict. Ensuring that the Russian military and the United States-led coalition, which is carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State, “deconflict” and avoid running into each other is only part of the problem: The Obama administration and the Kremlin do not appear to agree even on the main reason for the conflict.

American officials, who have long cast Mr. Assad as the primary source of instability in Syria, assert that the Syrian leader’s brutal crackdown provided an opening for jihadist groups and that the crisis cannot be resolved until a political transition is negotiated that requires him to leave power. But Russian officials see the Syrian government as a bulwark against further gains by groups like Islamic State and Nusra Front and sometimes suggest that the defeat of the Islamic State should come before a negotiated solution for the Syrian conflict.

Even as the United States has banked on a diplomatic strategy of trying to enlist Russia’s cooperation in Syria, the Kremlin has continued to jolt the White House with its unilateral military and political moves.
“This is not yet coordinated,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday at the start of a meeting in New York with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. “Our presidents will be meeting tomorrow. This is the beginning of a genuine effort to see if there is a way to deconflict, but also to find a way forward that will be effective in keeping a united, secular Syria that can be at peace and stable again without foreign troops present, and that’s our hope.”

Robert S. Ford, the former American ambassador to Syria, said that Russian officials have long said they are not wedded to Mr. Assad but have insisted his government is legitimate and rebuffed efforts to impose a successor. Adding to the United States’ concern, Russian surveillance drones have conducted about half a dozen reconnaissance missions from a recently bolstered base near Latakia. The drones have flown over Latakia, western Idlib, and western Hama, according to a senior United States official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence assessments.

American analysts have not detected any Islamic State fighters in those areas, the official said. That raises the prospect that, despite its stated focus of fighting the Islamic State, Russia may take the opportunity to attack Syrian opposition fighters who are focused on battling Mr. Assad’s government and who are also backed by the United States. Mr. Putin has been dismissive of the Pentagon program to train and equip the moderate Syria opposition — an effort that has yielded only a small handful of fighters. At the same time, new volunteers have been arriving to replenish the ranks of the Islamic State even more quickly than they are killed.

Through it all, the United States and some of its allies have focused on expanding an airstrike campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. But the latest Russian moves in Syria have raised important questions about the American relationship with another crucial ally against the Islamic State: Iraq. With about 3,500 American advisers, trainers and other military personnel in his country, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq has cast himself as a vital member of the United States-led coalition to combat the Islamic State. However, the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, which has long been anxious that ousting Mr. Assad might strengthen the Islamic State, has also quietly enabled the Russian military buildup in Syria. While Bulgaria closed its airspace to Russian transport planes headed to Syria at the request of the United States, Iraq has allowed the Russian flights in its airspace.

“We did not violate any of our commitments toward the international community,” Ibrahim al-Jafari, Iraq’s foreign minister, said when he was asked about the Russian flights on Friday at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Iraqi military statement said that Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq would “participate in collecting information about ISIS terrorism,” an arrangement it said was important because of concerns that thousands of volunteers who have joined the Islamic State have come from Russia. American officials sought to play down the significance of the agreement but objected to the Syrian government’s participation in the intelligence sharing.

“We do not support the presence of Syrian government officials who are part of a regime that has brutalized its own citizens,” Col. Steven H. Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the American-led coalition, said. But some experts say that Iraq’s response to the Russians reflects the fractured nature of decision-making in Baghdad, its attempt to navigate a middle ground between the United States and Iran and that the Iraqi government has a divergent reading of how to deal with Syria.

“Power and authority in Iraq have become increasingly diffused, with various players now exercising unilateral power over the use of force,” said Ramzy Mardini, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council.
“Neutrality is the best Washington can hope for in Baghdad,” Mr. Mardini said. “Iraq is still a fragile state whose leaders are exposed to politics. In the discourse of Iraqi politics, forcing Abadi to side with the U.S. against Assad is like realigning him with the Sunni axis against the Shia one.”

'It's classic Putin': Russia's big move in the Middle East goes beyond Syria
'It's classic Putin': Russia's big move in the Middle East goes beyond Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 21, 2015. Russian, Syrian, and Iranian military advisers are building a coordination cell in Baghdad in an effort to bolster the Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Islamic State in northern Iraq, Western intelligence sources told Fox News. The move comes as Russia builds up its military presence in Syria and raises questions about what role, if any, Russian president Vladimir Putin intends to take on in Iraq.

"Moscow’s argument in the case of Syria" — that Russian support is to counter terrorism — "could also be valid in the case of Iraq," the Orient Advisory Group wrote in its weekly Middle East Briefing. "Baghdad can also 'invite' the Russians to fight ISIL there," the note continues, using an alternative name for Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh). "The Russians can say then that they thought that there is a need for a wider coalition to fight what they see as a national security threat."

Iraq has now reached a deal with Russia to begin sharing "security and intelligence" information about ISIS, the Associated Press reported on Sunday. Moscow got this ball rolling in May when Putin met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to discuss weapons transfers and intelligence sharing to quell ISIS' presence in Iraq and stop its advance toward Baghdad. Iranian Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani — who has been operating in Iraq for years and recently traveled to Moscow — met with the militias (and, intelligence officials believe, with Russian military advisers) in Baghdad on Tuesday. Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, thinks the coordination between Russia and Iran in Iraq is "perfectly sensible."

"The Russians have to work with Iran inside Iraq in order to use Iraq's airspace to transport weapons and refuel planes en route to Syria,Badran told Business Insider. "And Russia is of course trying to leverage the entire intervention as a way to lap up as much real estate in the Middle East as possible," Badran added. "It's classic Putin."

On Monday, a US official told The Wall Street Journal that the Russian buildup in western Syria is being coordinated with the Iranians. Reports have emerged that the Russians are now using an airbase in Hamadan, Iran, to refuel their cargo planes and fighter jets en route to Syria. And if Russia's ultimate aim in Syria is to establish a foothold from which to project power in the region — and to challenge America's influence there — it is not out of the question that Putin would test the waters in Iraq as well. "Putin is very good at sticking a wet finger in the breeze," Cliff Kupchan, a Russia and Iran specialist at Eurasia Group, told Business Insider. "He takes a step, looks around, and takes another step. He is a very tactical, rather than a strategic, thinker."

Even so, Kupchan noted, Iraq may be outside of Russia's sphere of ambition. "It's probable that there is coordination between the two [Russia and Iran], but a military coordination cell sounds like a stretch too far," said Kupchan, who worked for the State Department under Clinton. "If anything, though, it's a good talking point, especially when Russia wants to change the subject on Ukraine."

In pushing himself to the forefront of an "anti-ISIS coalition" and creating a distraction from Ukraine, Putin has coerced the US into accepting — and potentially embracing — Russia's role in the conflict. "It's hard to argue with a guy who seems to be loading up bombs to drop on ISIS," Kupchan noted. Russia also hopes that presenting itself as an anti-ISIS heavyweight in the region will convince the West to roll back its sanctions over Ukraine. Putin is expected to say as much when he addresses the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) walks past U.S. President Barack Obama (R) during a group photo at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg September 6, 2013. "An opportunistic pursuit of national interests lies at the heart of Russia’s Middle Eastern strategy," Yaroslav Trofimov wrote in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week. "Atop them is the goal of reviving Russia’s economy, dependent on energy exports — and hit by the double whammy of cheap oil and Western economic sanctions imposed after last year’s invasion of Ukraine."

Whether and how far Putin will go in building a military presence in Iraq remains to be seen. But doing so would likely serve at least one of Russia's key interests: undermining the US. "Too often policy analysts debate whether the Kremlin is strategic or merely tactical in its approach to foreign policy. But the answer doesn’t matter," Eerik-Niiles Kross and Molly K. McKew wrote in Politico this week. "They don’t need a master plan when one clear strategic objective drives decision-making: make the U.S. the enemy — and make them look weak."

Deepening Russian Involvement in Iraq Complicates Matters for U.S.

Syrian woman kisses a poster of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a pro-Syrian government protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Damascus, Syria

Russian reconnaissance flights over Iraq to spy on Islamic State militants would complicate the U.S.-led campaign against the extremist group but wouldn’t obstruct it, American officials said Monday after Baghdad left open the possibility of overflights by Moscow. At the same time, U.S. ability to share intelligence with Iraq could be diminished if the Iraqis are sharing information with the Russians, American defense officials said. An Iraqi defense ministry spokesman said Monday that his country would be open to Russian intelligence gathering in Iraqi airspace. The comments came a day after Iraq said it had reached an intelligence-sharing agreement with Russia, the Syrian regime and Iran.

“If Russia needs to participate in aircraft reconnaissance flights, it can make a formal request to the Iraqi government and there will be no objection in my opinion,” said the spokesman, Brig. Gen. Tahseen Ibrahim.

The developments of the past few days signaled a deepening military role for Moscow in Iraq in the midst of a Russian military building in neighboring Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad. Russian officials say “specialists” are on the ground in Syria to help train and equip the president’s forces. American officials were still trying to decipher Russia’s motives in Iraq and Syria—both of which have lost significant territory to Islamic State.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama met Monday on the sidelines of a United Nations summit. A senior administration official said Mr. Obama came away believing Russia’s intentions in Syria are to fight Islamic State. The two leaders agreed the U.S. and Russian militaries will hold discussions on how to avoid coming into conflict with each other as they both fight Islamic State, the official said.

“It does add a degree of complexity to our operations,” Col. Steve Warren, an American military spokesman in Baghdad, said of the possibility of Russian reconnaissance flights over Iraq. “But it doesn’t cause us to have to stop,” he said of U.S.-led airstrikes on Islamic State—also known as ISIS or ISIL. Mr. Putin ruled out sending large number of ground troops into Syria. Col. Warren said he had no indications that the Iraqis had reached out to the Russians for help. “I think that it is the Russians reaching out to the Iraqis,” he said. Iraq is already well-served by information from U.S. reconnaissance, Col. Warren added. Iraq is already well-served by information from U.S. reconnaissance, Col. Warren added. Though Russia has long exercised considerable influence in Syria, it has yet to get involved in Iraq where the U.S. has been active in supporting Iraqis fighting Islamic State.

Senior Obama administration officials said they expect Iraq could share intelligence from the U.S. with Russia, and therefore Syria, and now has to factor that into cooperation with Baghdad. Col. Warren said the U.S. and Iraqis currently share only intelligence that is specific to Islamic State targets in Iraq. The U.S. “always takes appropriate precautions to safeguard sources and methods,” he said. Defense officials said the U.S. already must take care to ensure that intelligence shared with the Iraqis doesn’t wind up in the hands of Iran—a close ally of both the Syrian regime and the Shiite-led Iraqi government. Similar restrictions could help mitigate the risk of Iraq sharing U.S. intelligence with the Russians and the Syrians, officials said.

Officials said, however, that it wouldn’t significantly change the U.S. approach to the fight against Islamic State, in part because much of the process for intelligence collection for the effort isn’t highly sensitive. U.S. officials stressed Iraq is a sovereign country, and Washington can’t block the government from cutting a deal with Russia.

“We know many nations in the region—like Iran—have significant interests in ISIL’s defeat,” a senior administration official said. “Our message to them has been consistent: Whatever unilateral actions they take should not interfere with coalition operations.” The Iraqi government said the intelligence-sharing pact would set up a committee to coordinate the efforts between the four countries.

But it remained unclear whether that committee would coordinate with other nations—particularly rivals such as the U.S.—and if so, how. Mr. Putin said Russia was setting up a center with Iraq, Syria and Iran to “coordinate the efforts of regional powers in fighting” Islamic State and other terrorist groups. He said Russia was open to any other countries joining. “It’s not about having a unified command…but at least coordinating our actions.”

Russia props up Assad as he reinforces coastal heartland

Russia's military build-up in Syria is aimed mainly at propping up President Bashar al-Assad and helping him reinforce his threatened coastal heartland, where he is seeking to bolster the communities that form his power base as his army falters. The Russian escalation has ended any prospect of Assad being ousted by military force, despite the near collapse of his army in the face of rebel advances, and will consolidate the de facto partitioning of Syria, most analysts believe. Residents of the coastal city of Latakia, a stronghold of Assad’s Alawite minority, say the increase in Russia’s military presence began as early as June and, along with it, preparations for an eventual breakup of the country of 23 million people.

 The population of Latakia has swollen fourfold during four years of civil war, and the government is now facilitating the settlement of other minorities such as Christians and Shi'ites. But since most Syrians are Sunnis, those who flee to the coast are not allowed to move their civil registration there, a move designed to prevent the Sunni majority from becoming a threat to the Alawites, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. With roughly two thirds of Syria controlled by mainly Islamist rebels, whether Syrian fighters backed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, or the cross-border Islamic State, it looks inconceivable that Russia could retake territory lost by government forces unless it were to commit ground troops.

That is not on the table so far, analysts say. What does seem clear is that Russia’s move was prompted by alarm that government forces were losing ground so fast that the survival of the Assad family, for decades Moscow’s closest ally in the Middle East, was in question. When Islamist rebels started to threaten Latakia, which is near the Russian naval base at Tartous, Moscow's only naval facility in the Mediterranean, the Kremlin decided to step in. Russia's close ties to the Syrian government go back to the Soviet era when Moscow counted Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad, as a firm ally. Even before the latest build-up, it had teams of military advisers and trainers on the ground.

Russia's plan is to help forces loyal to Assad hold and reinforce the Alawite enclave in the coastal and mountainous north-west, Syria-watchers say. If Assad were pushed out of Damascus and the capital fell either to Islamic State or other Islamist rebels, Russia and the Syrian government's allies such as Iran and Hezbollah will have dug him a well-fortified fallback position in Latakia. Amid uncertainty about President Vladimir Putin’s goals in Syria, there are contrary opinions about whether Moscow intends to follow its show of regional force with a diplomatic initiative to end Syria's four-year civil war.

But there is a near consensus that Assad's forces were fading, and Russian intervention will accelerate the partition of the country into warring fragments. The Russians were quick to send in air forces and more ground equipment, said Robert Ford, former U.S. ambassador to and then special envoy for Syria, who resigned because of differences with U.S. policy on Syria.

"It makes me think that the Assad regime was actually becoming very weak and the Russians became scared," he said. While the Kremlin says its deployment is part of the international fight against Islamic State, its main goal is to boost Assad and defend Russia's beachhead on Syria’s north-west coast, Ford said. "Why would you put the air units in Latakia instead of Damascus if you want to fight the Islamic State?" he said.

"Why do you send anti-aircraft equipment when the Islamic State doesn’t have any air force? "So it seems to me that this is designed to help Assad first," Ford said. After that they may attack Islamic State and other elements of the opposition in north-west Syria. He saw no evidence that the Russians would jettison Assad and risk the stability of what remains of the Syrian state.

A former senior Syrian official said Assad had asked Russia to intervene "because he was desperate and the army was collapsing". Assad had briefed his loyalists that Moscow would provide reinforcements and weapons, and take command of the air force.

"The Russian intervention is to help Assad preserve the status quo, maintain the areas of the regime, the enclave," the former official said. He had doubts, however, about Assad's long-term prospects. "This will allow the regime to continue with its policy of no negotiation with the opposition but it won’t solve the problem."

Fawaz Gerges, Middle East expert at the London School of Economics, said the Russian action was a turning point in stiffening Assad’s resolve that removed any prospect that he would leave the scene sooner rather than later. "Contrary to what the U.S., Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been trying to say and do, the Russian intervention in Syria shows that Assad is not going anywhere," Gerges said. At the same time, he said, the ramped-up Russian presence will reinforce Assad’s feeling that neither the United States, Turkey, nor any other regional power will intervene enough to tilt the balance of power away from stalemate.

Yet Putin, who sees Syria as part of a wider Russian bid for influence in the Middle East, is taking a gamble. "Russia now is taking big risks. Syria is a quagmire in which everyone is basically drowning. Everyone is losing and Syria could prove to be a graveyard for Russia's influence in the Middle East," Gerges said. Many analysts believe that while Assad's external foes now realize he is going to stay, that does not mean they want to cooperate with Putin. After Russia grabbed Crimea and divided Ukraine, some feel its surge back into the Middle East is a bargaining chip for its European agenda. Ford said Washington would continue bombing Islamic State in central and eastern Syria, and working with the Syrian Kurdish militia. "I think the Americans are going to pretend that the Russians aren't there," he said.

"If I were Assad in Damascus now," said Gerges, "I know that I have my superpower ally with direct influence, direct presence in the heartland, in my birthplace." Ayham Kamal, an analyst at Eurasia Group, agrees: "The Russian intervention will make it very difficult for anyone to push forward with regime change. Assad is there to stay, at the very least in a transitional capacity, and the rest depends on negotiations between the West and Russia."
Source: http://news.yahoo.com/russia-props-assad-reinforces-coastal-heartland-134342814.html

These are the 28 jets Russia now has in Syria


Russia now has a mixture of 28 ground-attack aircraft and multi-role fighters stationed in Syria and has begun flying large fixed-wing drones over the country, according to a U.S. official. The jets have arrived in recent days at Russia’s new airfield in the coastal province of Latakia, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the information. The drones, he added, were roughly the size of U.S. Predators.

In addition to the fixed-wing aircraft there are also 14 helicopters — Mi-24 Hind gunships and Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters — and a number of SA-22 surface-to-air missile systems, the official said. While there have been reports of the Russian SA-10 Grumble (also known as the S-300) surface-to-air missile system being moved into the country, there was no indication of their presence at this time, the official said.

Russia has longstanding ties with President Bashar al-Assad’s government, and has maintained a warm-water docking area in Tartus. Earlier this month, however, Russia began new construction at the al-Assad International Airport in Latakia, and soon after, satellite imagery confirmed the presence of Russian T-90 tanks, artillery and large transport aircraft at the airfield.

The Kremlin has pledged to support Assad, who has lost ground in recent months, but has also voiced a desire to target the Islamic State. Of the 28 Russian jets, four are believed to be SU-30 Flankers, while the rest are SU-24 Fencers and SU-25 Frogfoots — about a dozen of each. The 24 Fencers and Frogfoots provide some indication of what type of operations Russia could conduct out of its revamped airfield: close air support.

“In terms of an air to ground fight and the threat on the ground posed by [Islamic State] and anti-Assad forces, they’re very capable platforms,” said a Marine close air support pilot who declined to be named because of his active duty status.

Both Fencers and Frogfoots are jets that fly “low and slow,” much like the United States’ vaunted A-10 Thunderbolt. According to the pilot, the Fencers and Frogfoots both excel in low-threat environments. During the war in Ukraine last year, the Ukrainian Air Force lost multiple SU-25s to ground fire and shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, known as MANPADS, fired by the Russian-backed separatists.

Like the separatists, Islamic State fighters and anti-Assad fighters have been spotted with relatively sophisticated MANPADS, such as the Chinese FN-6 and Russian SA-16. While fighters on the ground might pose a threat to the SU-24s and SU-25s, the Russian SU-30s are a “game changer” to U.S. forces flying in Syria, according to the pilot.

“The SU-30 is the equivalent to a U.S. F-18, it’s multi-role,” the pilot said, referring to the equal abilities the SU-30 has when it comes to attacking both air and ground targets. “If the Russians are going to support the war against [the Islamic State], it’s a great platform, and if they’re going to start trouble with [the United States] it’s a great platform for that, too.”

While there have been no concrete plans announced to make sure Russian and U.S. flights do not cross paths, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter spoke to his Russian counterpart, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu,  on Friday about future operations in the region.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/09/21/these-are-the-28-jets-russia-now-has-in-syria/

Russian fighter jets enter Syria with transponders off


A U.S. official told CNN Thursday that Russian fighter jets turned off their transponders as they flew into Syria in an apparent attempt to avoid detection. The official said the fighters flew very close to a transport plane that had its transponder on and functioning. U.S. satellites rapidly saw that the aircraft were there, according to the official. The assessment over the weekend was that the fighter jets were on their way. The same official said the Russians have begun flying drones around the coastal city of Latakia. With no ISIS fighters in the area, the move raises serious questions about the Russians' intentions with their military buildup, which the U.S. has questioned the purpose of and watched with wariness. The action points to a higher likelihood that the Russian plan is to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rather than fight the terror group. The U.S. has its own effort underway to defeat ISIS but has also said that Assad must go. Asked about what the U.S. can do about the situation, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told CNN at a press conference Thursday that "it's a matter of seeing what the Russians do." Carter said he hopes the Russians will fight ISIS, "but if it's a matter of pouring gasoline on the civil war in Syria, that is certainly not productive from our point of view."

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/24/politics/syria-russian-fighter-jets/

Russian military presence in Syria continues as T-90 tanks spotted at Latakia


The Pentagon has expressed concern about the continuing build-up of Russian military forces in Syria, amid speculation the Russians may soon launch an offensive against Isis in support of their ally President Bashar al-Assad. Russia has dismissed the concerns, saying its actions in Syria are in line with international law. A US security source speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that seven Russian T-90 tanks have been spotted near an airfield in the Assad-friendly town of Latakia, along with artillery apparently deployed in a defensive formation. It is also being claimed the airstrip is being improved.

The appearance of the tanks - brought to the region aboard two cargo ships - appears to signal the Russians are preparing for some sort of military action. "We have seen movement of people and things that would indicate that they plan to use that base there, south of Latakia, as a forward air operating base," said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.

About two Moscow-sanctioned flights a day have been recorded at Latakia in the last seven days and around 200 naval infantry units, housing units and other military equipment have also arrived. As yet no combat aircraft or gunship helicopters are believed to have been sent. Although Russia, like the US and much of the international community, has declared itself an enemy of Isis, unlike the West it is also an ally of President Bashar al-Assad. There is concern in the West that Russia's military presence could lead to the former Cold War foes coming into proximity on the battleground.

Source: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/russian-military-presence-syria-continues-t-90-tanks-spotted-latakia-1519724

Russia’s involvement in Syria might be ramping up as SU-34s are spotted in Syria


Recent open source reports and unverified images of Russian equipment in Syria indicate that the Kremlin may slowly be ramping up its presence in the war-torn country in support of the beleaguered regime of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. On Tuesday a Twitter account associated with the Syrian al-Qaeda spin-off group Jabhat Al-Nusra tweeted four images of what appears to be multiple Russian attack aircraft, including possible a SU-34 fighter jet and a Russian drone. Though the images are unverifiable, the account stated that the aircraft were seen over Idlib province—an area that has seen heavy fighting and steady advances by Syrian opposition fighters. While the tweeted images have no landmarks on the ground as reference points, the Iranian state-sponsored FARS news agency released a report that Syrian aircraft bombed opposition forces in Idlib, including al-Nusra fighters on Wednesday.

The possible sighting of Russian aircraft in Syrian skies comes just two days after the Jerusalem-based newspaper YNET released a report indicating that Russian pilots and aircraft would be arriving in Syria in “the coming days” with the purported mission of flying airstrikes against the Islamic State and opposition forces that are threatening the Assad regime. While Russian fighter aircraft would be a new development, Russian drones have frequently been seen in Syrian skies in the now four year-old war. The presence of Russian jets in the skies above Syria, where United States and coalition forces have been waging an air campaign since August of last year, could make managing the airspace an even more daunting task than it is already.

When queried about the possibility of Russian aircraft in Syria, Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith said she had “nothing on this,” but recent reporting by the Daily Beast’s Michael Weiss states that the Pentagon is being “unusually cagey” about a bolstered Russian presence in Syria. While Russia’s ties with Syria has been long known—Russia operates a naval base out of the coast city of Tartous—there have been additional sightings of newer Russian military equipment in the province of Latakia and Syrian news reports of a new Russian military base under construction in the city of Jablah. In October 2014, Syrian opposition fighters supposedly also overran a joint Syrian-Russian intelligence center that monitored signals intelligence.

Oryx blog, a site that monitors military equipment and activity in the region, has reported extensively on these developments and has managed to provide solid evidence of recent Russia equipment shipments to Syria—from infantry fighting vehicles to machine guns—as well as the presence of Russian personnel operating some of this equipment. An Oryx post from Aug. 24 highlights the presence of a Russian BTR-82A, an armored personnel carrier, in Latakia province. The BTR is remarkable for two reasons, the report points out. The first being that the BTR-82A is a newer variant than what as been seen in the hands of the Assad regime in the past and the second that the tactical markings on the rear of the vehicle are consistent with how the Russian military marks its vehicles as opposed to the Assad regime.

Oryx’s report follows an Aug. 20 sighting from the Bosphorus Naval News showing the Russian landing ship—the Nikolay Filchenkov—packed to the gunnels with military equipment. What stood out to Naval News was the fact that the Filchenkov had a large amount of cargo on deck, most of which was covered by camouflage netting and tarps. This indicates that ship’s interior cargo hold were already full. According to both Naval News and Oryx, the tarps appeared to be covering a number of BTRs, though what variant is not distinguishable.

The Daily Beast report on Russian buildup quotes an unnamed intelligence official as saying that while no one is “surprised to see reports of new Russian military equipment in the region—which would also suggest Russian forces training on that equipment—the line between training and taking part in combat is fuzzy. But the intelligence community also hasn’t seen anything to indicate that Russians are not taking part in the fight.” Oryx seems to reaffirm this in a blog post that identifies what distinctly sounds like a Russian speaker in the background of a Syrian National Defense Force news report. The speaker, hard to make out over the sound of cannon fire, can be heard saying they are “moving out” in Russian, according to Oryx.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/09/02/russias-involvement-in-syria-might-be-ramping-up/

Russian marines fight Isis along with Hezbollah in Syria, says report


A group of Russian marines have been reportedly engaged in a battle with the Islamic State (Isis) terrorists. The Russian soldiers, along with the Hezbollah fighters and the Syrian army, fought the Isis in Aleppo province in northern Syria. It is reported that this was the first time that the Russian soldiers from its Marine Brigade 810 fought in a battle in Syria, an Israeli website that reports on military intelligence said. According to DEBKAfile, the Russian forces carried out a joint operation along with the Lebanese militant group and Syrian forces in an attack on the Isis at the Kweiris airbase located east of Aleppo.

Kweiris airbase is believed to be controlled by the Isis fighters from Chechnya. However, the Russians are focused on reclaiming the second largest Syrian city from the rebels, it is reported. By retaking the area around Kweiris airbase, Russians can once again open the roads between Aleppo and Damascus, which could then help the Syrians to bring in reinforcements and military equipment. Even as the United States is still mulling over the Russian proposal, which asks countries to fight extremists "in coordination with the governments of the affected states", Kremlin has expanded its military presence in Syria. Russia is believed to be building a military base to house 2,000 military personnel near the coastal city of Latakia.
Russia has stationed at least 48 military aircraft and attack helicopters at the Latakia airbase. The sudden spurt in the Russian presence in Syria took many by surprise as Kremlin literally sneaked in several fighter jets over the weekend. A US official told CNN that Russian fighter jets switched off their transponders while flying into Syria to avoid detection. The official said the fighters flew in trailing a Russian transport plane that had its transponder functioning.

Russian military forces start airstrikes in Syria - Ministry of Defense

 MiG-29 jet © Vladimir Astapkovich

The Russian Air Force has begun carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, the country’s Defense Ministry said. "In accordance with the decision of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces, Vladimir Putin, warplanes of the Russian Air Space Forces today [Wednesday] have started an aerial operation, involving  pinpoint strikes on ground targets of Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] terrorists in Syria,” spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, said. The Russia airstrikes are targeting military equipment, communication centers, vehicles, arms and fuel depots, belonging to IS terrorists, Konashenkov added.

Earlier, a US official told Reuters that Moscow gave Washington one-hour advanced notice of its operations. The bombing is taking place in western Syria, near the city Homs, the official added. A Pentagon official also told Russia’s RIA Novosti that Russia urged the US to clear the skies for the operation. Following the reports, Vladimir Putin said all Moscow’s foreign partners have been informed about Russian plans in Syria. During his meeting with the government, the president stressed that Russia’s participation in the anti-terrorist operation in Syria is based on international law and is being conducted “in accordance with an official request from the president of the Syrian Arab Republic [Bashar Assad]."

On Wednesday morning, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament unanimously gave formal consent to President Putin to use the country’s military in Syria to tackle Islamic State and other terror groups. The Russian air campaign in Syria is commencing just a few days after Putin’s address at the UN, in which he called for an international anti-terrorist effort in the country. The Russian president also met with US counterpart Barack Obama on the sidelines of the 70th UN General Assembly, with the two leaders agreeing that Moscow and Washington have common interest in Syria.

The Daily Beast: Putin Hits West’s Rebels Instead of ISIS

A Russian general told U.S. officials to quit flying over Syria just before Moscow’s air force dropped bombs on Western-backed forces. A Russian general asked the U.S. to remove its planes from Syrian airspace Wednesday, just hours before Russian airstrikes began there. The Russian three-star general, who was part of the newly formed intelligence cell with Iraq, Iran, and the Syrian government, arrived in Baghdad at 9 a.m. local time and informed U.S. officials that Russian strikes would be starting imminently—and that the U.S. should refrain from conducting strikes and move any personnel out. The only notice the U.S. received about his visit was a phone call one hour earlier.

The Russian strikes were centered about the city of Homs, according to initial accounts in the local press and in social media. That’s significant, because Homs is not known to be an ISIS stronghold. "The northern countryside of Hama has no presence of ISIS at all and is under the control of the Free Syrian Army," Major Jamil al-Saleh of the Free Syrian Army told Reuters. The FSA has receieved U.S.-made anti-tank missiles; the CIA and Pentagon have been recruiting FSA soldiers as proxies against ISIS. “There is no Islamic State in this area,” another FSA commander told Reuters. “The Russians are applying great pressure on the revolution. This will strengthen terrorism, everyone will head toward extremism. Any support for Assad in this way is strengthening terrorism.”

U.S. defense official told AFP virtually the same thing. “We have not seen any strikes against ISIL, what we have seen is strikes against Syrian opposition.” The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, opposition-linked on-the-ground monitors of the conflict, estimate that 36 people were killed in Homs alone, one of three largely ISIS-free provinces Russia bombed today. RIA Novosti denied Russian air strikes on Homs and said reports of civilian causalities were "part of an information war." The Daily Beast’s David Axe notes that Russian surface-to-air missiles and at least four Su-30 fighter jets are designed to attack other air forces, namely the U.S.’s, not lightly armed ground forces like rebels or ISIS. The Russian defense ministry distributed video of today's airstrikes.

“This bypasses legitimate discussion,” a senior defense official told The Daily Beast. Indeed, just yesterday, the Pentagon said it had ordered staff and senior officials to begin such talks. U.S. officials believe fewer than 1,000 Russians have joined ISIS. Secretary of State John Kerry told the United Nations on Wednesday that the U.S. would not oppose Russian strikes if they were “genuinely” intended to target ISIS, and he maintained the call for Assad to go. Kerry said ISIS cannot be defeated as long as Assad is in power. American officials said they would not alter their activities in the region. And a spokesman for the military efforts against ISIS tweeted Wednesday morning that “US and coalition aircraft are currently conducting operations in Syria and Iraq.” But despite the friction between Moscow and Washington—or perhaps, because of it—multiple American officials quietly welcomed Russian involvement in the conflict. As one U.S. officia told The Daily Beast, Putin is stepping into a “quagmire.”

“If he wants to jump into that mess, good luck,” the official said, referencing that Russia had once before become bogged down fighting Islamic terrorism, in Afghanistan. Sen. John McCain bashed the Obama administration hours after strikes began, saying its “decisions” and “non-decisions” have welcomed Russia into the Middle East in a way “we haven’t seen since 1973.”

Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/30/putin-orders-u-s-jets-out-of-syria.html

Putin’s Jets in Syria Are a Threat to the U.S.

Jet fighters from the Su-30 SM "Sokoly Rossii" (Falcons of Russia) aerobatic team fly in formation during the show in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, October 25, 2014. The show is conducted as part of a recruitment drive for Russia's military divisions, targeting the youth towards contractual military service, according to organizers.

Russian lawmakers unanimously approved Pres. Vladimir Putin's plan to begin combat operations in Syria -- and hours later Moscow's warplanes in the region began attacking ISIS militants. Right before the bombs rained down, a Russian general arrived in Baghdad warned the U.S. military planners to keep America's own warplanes out of the way. U.S. officials said they would not alter their flight plans. This is the beginning of a dangerous new phase of the international intervention in the Syrian civil war. Not only has Russia tried to order U.S. forces to step aside, it actually has the firepower to back up its demands. Some of the 35 warplanes Russia has deployed to Syria are specifically designed for fighting foes like the United States, not ISIS.

Seemingly out of nowhere on Sept. 21, they appeared at an air base in Latakia, a regime stronghold in western Syria—28 of the Russian air force’s best warplanes, including four Su-30 fighters and a number of Su-25 attack planes and Su-24 bombers. Soon six more Su-34 bombers and at least one Il-20 spy plane followed, part of a contingent of Russia forces reportedly including some 500 troops plus armored vehicles and SA-15 and SA-22 surface-to-air missiles. For U.S. and allied officials observing the deployment, there has been plenty of cause for confusion…and alarm. It’s not just that, more than four years into Syria’s bloody civil war, Russia has decided to jump in and make things more complicated.

No, it’s what kinds of weapons—planes and missiles, especially—Moscow decided to send, and what those weapons say about the Kremlin’s ultimate plan in Syria. Many of them don’t seem to be well-suited to fighting ISIS. They’re built to battle adversaries like the United States. To be clear, 35 warplanes and a few surface-to-air missiles aren’t a lot in the grand scheme of things. There’s no shortage of military aircraft flying over Syria five years into the country’s bloody civil war. Every day some of Syria’s aging Soviet-made planes —from the 300 or so that have survived four years of combat—take off from regime airfields to bomb ISIS militants and secular rebels slowly advancing on Syria’s main population centers.

Meanwhile hundreds of jets from the American-led international coalition have been waging, since the fall of 2014, an intensive air campaign against ISIS and al Qaeda targeting just the militants. What’s weird and alarming about the Russian contingent is that it’s not really optimal for attacking lightly armed insurgent fighters. Surface-to-air missiles are only good for destroying enemy aircraft, which Syrian rebels do not possess. And the Su-30s are best suited for tangling with other high-tech forces. Who in region possesses these high-tech forces? The United States, for one. Israel, too. Why, the United States, of course. Russia’s warplanes and missiles in Syria could pose a threat to America’s own aircraft flying over the country—all in order to carve out and preserve a portion of Syria that the United States can’t touch.

Officially, Russia has deployed its forces to Syria to reinforce embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and help defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State. “There is no other way to settle the Syrian conflict other than by strengthening the existing legitimate government agencies, support them in their fight against terrorism,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with American news networks ahead of his Sept. 28 meeting with President Obama at the United Nations in New York City. “There are more than 2,000 militants in Syria from the former Soviet Union,” Putin said. “Instead of waiting for them to return home we should help President al-Assad fight them there, in Syria.”

Sure enough, Su-25s, Su-24s, and Su-34s are capable ground-attack planes, roughly equivalent to U.S. Air Force A-10 attack jets and F-15E fighter-bombers. But that’s only a portion of the Russian air arsenal. The problem is, the Su-30s are next to useless for fighting ISIS. The Sukhoi fighters are primarily air-to-air fighters—and some of the best in the world. Besides Russia, China also flies versions of the twin-engine, supersonic Su-30 and has even begun outfitting them with new air-to-air missiles that U.S. Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle has repeatedly described as one of his biggest worries.

In a series of aerial war games in the last decade, India’s own Su-30s have tangled with—and reportedly defeated—American and British fighters in mock combat, sparking minor controversies in both countries as their respective air forces scrambled to explain why the Russian-made planes weren’t necessarily superior to U.S. F-15s and British Typhoon jets. It’s obvious why Russia, China, and India, among other countries, would deploy Su-30s to counter heavily armed enemies possessing high-tech fighters of their own. But that doesn’t explain the Russian Su-30s in Syria. “I have not seen [ISIS] flying any airplanes that require sophisticated air-to-air capabilities,” U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the military head of NATO, told an audience in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 28.

Moreover, Breedlove said Russia didn’t need to deploy the SA-15 and SA-22 surface-to-air missiles to Syria if its mission is to help Assad beat ISIS. “I have not seen ISIL flying any airplanes that require SA-15s or SA-22s,” he said, using one of several acronyms for the militant group. Breedlove said he suspects Russia is trying to set up what the military calls a “anti-access, area-denial,” or A2AD, zone in western Syria. Moscow has recently established these zones in the Baltic region and in the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014. “We are a little worried about another A2AD bubble being created in the eastern Mediterranean,” Breedlove said.

The point of these zones is to give Russia exclusive access to strategic regions, Breedlove claimed. In the case of western Syria, an A2AD zone helps to ensure that Moscow can send forces into the eastern Mediterranean, which NATO has dominated since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. Russian access to the Mediterranean via Syria requires that Assad’s regime survives, however. In that sense, Moscow’s strategic aims dovetail with the Syrian regime’s goals. Thus the Su-25s, Su-24s, and Su-34s very well could end up joining Damascus’s air war on the rebels and militants. The Su-30s, however, will probably be guarding against a very different enemy.

Of course, high-end warplanes can be repurposed to fight lower-tech foes—the U.S. has done just that, in its decade and a half bombing Afghanistan and Iraq. And many militaries deploy air-to-air fighters merely as precautions. A small contingent of U.S. Air Force F-22 stealth fighters, which can carry bombs but are best at aerial fights, plays a leading role in the coalition air campaign targeting ISIS. The F-22s act as “quarterbacks,” according to Carlisle, using their sophisticated sensors to spot targets for other planes and also protecting those planes against Syrian fighters and missiles. To date, the Syrian regime has not attempted to interfere with the U.S.-led bombing runs, but the F-22s keep flying.

But neither has the coalition tried to interfere with the Syrian air force’s attacks on opposition fighters—yet. U.S. Army Special Forces have been training, at great expense, a small number of Syria rebels the Pentagon had hoped could form the core of a reinvigorated, secular rebel force that can knock back ISIS. The problem is, many rebel trainees in the American program have made it clear they prefer to fight the regime first []. Many have dropped out of the program in the face of Washington’s demands, compelling the Pentagon to remove them from the training effort. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told Congress, using the administration’s preferred acronym for ISIS, that he wants recruits “to have the right mindset and ideology, not be aligned with groups like ISIL...[and] to fight ISIL.”

“It turns out to be very hard to identify people who meet both of those criteria,” Carter added. Worse, once the recruits complete their training and go to fight ISIS, the U.S. military will have “some obligations” to protect them, Carter said. If U.S.-trained rebels turn their weapons against the Syrian regime and Russian warplanes bomb them, would that compel American F-22s to attack the Russians—and then force the Russian Su-30s to intervene?

It’s not hard to see how Russia’s support of Assad could run afoul of America’s support for secular Syrian rebels—and how Moscow’s effort to establish an aerial foothold in Syria could draw U.S. and Russian jet fighters into battle with each other. Don’t pretend for a moment that that terrifying notion hasn’t crossed the minds of generals and politicians in both Moscow and Washington.

Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/30/did-russia-send-an-anti-u-s-force-to-syria.html

Turkey vows to protect borders after Russian jet incursion


Turkey's prime minister vowed Monday to take all necessary measures to protect the nation's borders from violation after a Russian fighter jet entered its airspace over the weekend, prompting Turkey to scramble jets and summon the Russian ambassador in protest. NATO said another Russian jet intruded into Turkey's airspace Sunday, and it called urgent consultations on the issue. The alliance strongly protested the Russian violations and noted "the extreme danger of such irresponsible behavior."

Russia admitted to the first incursion Saturday, but said it intruded "by mistake" and assured Ankara it wouldn't happen again, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a televised interview. However, a senior U.S. official said the Obama administration doesn't believe the Russian incursion was an accident, and officials are in urgent talks with allies about what to do. Neither country spoke about the second incident. The U.S. official wasn't authorized to publicly discuss sensitive military matters and spoke on condition of anonymity. In Madrid, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday that Washington is conferring with Turkish leaders about the infringement.

The incident comes amid Turkish concerns over Russian airstrikes in Syria that have targeted some foreign-backed insurgents. Turkey and Russia also have conflicting positions on the Syrian government, with Russia backing President Bashar Assad and Turkey insisting on his ouster. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said during an interview with Haber Turk television that NATO-member Turkey would enforce its rules of engagement if its airspace is violated. Those rules call for the treatment of any element approaching the Turkish border from Syria as an enemy.

"The Turkish armed forces have their orders," he said. "The necessary will be done even if it's a bird that violates Turkey's border ... Our rules of engagement are clear."

A Foreign Ministry statement said Monday that a Russian warplane entered Turkey's airspace near the town of Yayladagi, in Hatay province on Saturday. Two F-16 jets intercepted the Russian aircraft and forced it to fly back into the Syrian airspace. Also Monday, Turkey's military said a MIG-29 jet had harassed two Turkish F-16s for five minutes and 40 seconds on Sunday by locking its radar onto them. In a brief statement, the military said the incident occurred while 10 F-16s were patrolling the Turkish-Syrian border. The military said it didn't know which country the MIG-29 belonged to.

Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador and demanded that Russia avoid future infringements, the Foreign Ministry statement said. It warned that Russia would be held "responsible for any undesired incident," that may occur. The same message was also relayed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by telephone. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg expressed solidarity with Turkey and said the situation would be taken up at a meeting later on Monday. Davutoglu was also scheduled to chair a security meeting in Ankara in the evening.

"I call on Russia to fully respect NATO airspace and to avoid escalating tensions with the Alliance," Stoltenberg said. "I urge Russia to take the necessary steps to align its efforts with those of the international community in the fight against ISIL," he added, using an alternative acronym of the Islamic State group. Davutoglu told Haber Turk television that Russia assured Turkey that the airspace would not be violated again. "The information we got from Russia this morning is that it was an incident that occurred by mistake," he said. "They said they are respectful of Turkey's borders and that it would not happen again."

Last week, Turkey issued a joint statement with its allies involved in the U.S.-backed campaign against the Islamic State group asking Moscow to cease attacks on the Syrian opposition and to focus on fighting the IS. On Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Russian airstrikes were unacceptable and a grave mistake that could alienate Moscow in the region. Russia says the airstrikes that began Wednesday are targeting the Islamic State group and al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, but at least some of the strikes appear to have hit Western-backed rebel factions.
The Russian violation of Turkish airspace sounds more serious than people realize


It looks like a Sukhoi Su-30SM deployed to Syria has had a close encounter with Turkish Air Force F-16s past the Syria-Turkey border. Russian planes deployed to Syria violated the Turkish airspace twice in the last couple of days. According to NATO, the violations occurred “on 3 October and 4 October by Russian Air Force SU-30 and SU-24 aircraft in the Hatay region. The aircraft in question entered Turkish airspace despite Turkish authorities’ clear, timely and repeated warnings. In accordance with NATO practice, Turkish fighter aircraft responded to these incursions by closing to identify the intruder, after which the Russian planes departed Turkish airspace.”

Some more (sometimes contradictory) details appeared on the Turkish media outlets: although the first reports said the aircraft (initially IDed as Mig-29 Fulcrums – a type flown by the Syrian Air Force and not deployed in theater by the RuAF) breached into the Turkish airspace for 5 miles, according to Ankara, the Russian Su-30SM multirole plane violated Tukey’s airspace by “only” some hundreds of meters and returned to Syria after it was intercepted by two F-16s from the Turkish Air Force out of 10 flying CAP (Combat Air Patrol) near the border.

Furthermore, it seems that the Russian Su-30SM (as said, initially referred to as a Mig-29, before it was determined it was a Flanker-derivative multirole jet) maintained a radar lock on one or both the F-16s for a full 5 minutes and 40 seconds According the Russians, the violation was due to a “navigation error”: quite funny considered the type of navigation systems equipping a modern Su-30SM.

Although the navigation error can’t never be ruled out a priori, considering the equipment carried by a 4++ Gen. aircraft, and that it was flying next to a “danger zone” there’s reason to believe that the two pilots on board were perfectly aware of their position. What is even more weird is the fact that the Russian plane locked the Turkish F-16s for such a long time: instead of turning back the RuAF Sukhoi was ready to fire (or to respond to fire). Almot no details are currently available about the Su-24 Fencer violation.

As explained when a Turkish RF-4 was shot down by a Syrian coastal anti-aircraft battery after violating the Syrian airspace in 2012, aircraft entering a foreign airspace should not be fired upon but warned, intercepted and eventually escorted outside the violated airspace. In 2014, a Syrian Mi-17 was shot down by a TuAF F-16, while in 2013 it was the turn of a Syrian Mig-23. But now the Turkish F-16s defending Ankara borders face a different threat….
Russians seen fighting in Syria is a well-known militia leader from the Ukraine conflict nicknamed 'Motorola'

One of the Russians seen fighting in Syria is a well-known militia leader from the Ukraine conflict nicknamed 'Motorola'

A well-known Russian soldier implicated in war crimes in eastern Ukraine has now been spotted in Syria. Photos allegedly taken in Syria show Arseny Pavlov, better known by his nom de guerre Motorla, fighting in the country. One photo has Motorola holding a gun while wearing a uniform emblazoned with the Syrian regime flag and the likeness of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. This isn't the first sighting of Motorola in Syria. A photo of Motorola that emerged in mid-September, The Daily Beast reports, featured the soldier and a friend posing next to a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, likely within Syria. 

Russia is visibly and dramatically bolstering its military presence in Syria. Moscow has said that these deployments are intended to help prop the Assad regime by engaging in strikes against moderate rebels, the al Nusra Front, and ISIS. The deployments are still likely to benefit the Kremlin. Russia has moved dozens of fighter aircraft and military supplies to Syria's coast while also launching a naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean. These deployments — although not popular in Russia — help Moscow to expand their regional influence to levels unseen since the Cold War. 

Motorola's presence could actaully help Russia put a popular face on its Syria deployment. Motorola first gained prominence during his time as the head of the Sparta Battalion in eastern Ukraine. The militia group gained prominence after it seized the Donetsk Airport in January 2015, effectively routing the Ukrainian troops posted there. Pavlov allegedly executed Ihor Branovytsky, a captured Ukrainian soldier in April 2015. Branovytsky had been captured at the Donetsk Airport by Russian-backed rebel forces. After the killing of Branovytsky, Motorola allegedly participated in a telephone interview in which he claimed to have executed over a dozen captured Ukrainians.

"I've shot 15 prisoners. I don't give a s**t. No comment. I kill whoever I want," Motorola said in the interview. However, it has not been independently verified that the voice belonged to Motorola.Since fighting in eastern Ukraine, Motorola has been subject to a European Union blacklist. But the sanctions don't appear to faze him. "I do not have a bank account abroad and I do not plan to visit the countries of the EU, so their sanctions against me are misplaced and pointless," Motorola told the Georgian Journal in March 2015. Motorola told the Georgian Journal that he had previously served as a Russian soldier in the Chechen War in the 1990s. In the years between the fighting in Chechnya and Ukraine, Motorola allegedly ran a car wash in Russia close to the Ukrainian border. Motorola said that after being arrested for drunk driving in a stolen car, he chose to fight in Ukraine over serving a prison sentence.

Source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/one-russians-seen-fighting-syria-162635789.html

Kadyrov asks Putin to allow Chechen infantry to fight in Syria

© Said Tsarnaev

The head of the Chechen Republic has asked the Russian president to send Chechen units to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria, adding that his fighters have sworn to fight terrorists till the end.This is not idle talk, I am asking for permission to go there and participate in special operations,” Ramzan Kadyrov said in the Friday interview with the RSN radio. “Being a Muslim, a Chechen and a Russian patriot I want to say that in 1999 when our republic was overrun with these devils we swore on the Koran that we would fight them wherever they are,” the Chechen leader said. “But we need the Commander-in-Chief’s decision to do this,” he emphasized. According to the Russian Constitution, the president is also the commander-in-chief of the military forces.

Kadyrov also noted that Chechen special forces units were at a very high level of combat readiness and promised that “as soon as the terrorists in Syria understand that we are heading there they will very quickly get out,” adding that terrorists have little experience of real warfare. “We know them because we have destroyed them here, we have fought them. And they also know us,” the Chechen leader said. At the same time Kadyrov acknowledged that the fight against the IS threat must not be limited to power methods, but should also include education – the younger generation must be taught that extremist groups use the wrong interpretations of the Koran.

Earlier this month, the head of the Chechen republic reported that a charity foundation named after his late father was providing aid to Syrian refugees in Germany. Kadyrov wrote on his Instagram account that charity workers took almost 2,000 refugees for a holiday meal in the city of Kiel and that the foundation was providing German refugee camps with school furniture and equipment for children’s playgrounds. This week the Russian Air Force started to deliver surgical strikes on terrorist positions in Syria after the country’s upper house unanimously voted on Wednesday to endorse President Putin’s request to deploy the nation’s military abroad to fight terrorism. The head of the presidential administration, Sergey Ivanov, emphasized that Russia would not be involved in any ground operation - aid would only be in the form of airstrikes.

Iranian Troops, Hezbollah to Lead Ground Offensive Against Syrian Rebels, Sources Say


Hundreds of Iranian troops have arrived in Syria in the last 10 days and will soon join government forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies in a major ground offensive backed by Russian air strikes, two Lebanese sources told Reuters. "The (Russian) air strikes will in the near future be accompanied by ground advances by the Syrian army and its allies," said one of the sources familiar with political and military developments in the conflict. "It is possible that the coming land operations will be focused in the Idlib and Hama countryside," the source added.

The two sources said the operation would be aimed at recapturing territory lost by President Bashar Assad's government to rebels. It points to an emerging military alliance between Russia and Assad's other main allies - Iran and Hezbollah - focused on recapturing areas of northwestern Syria that were seized by insurgents in rapid advances earlier this year. "The vanguard of Iranian ground forces began arriving in Syria: soldiers and officers specifically to participate in this battle. They are not advisors ... we mean hundreds with equipment and weapons. They will be followed by more," the second source said. Iraqis would also take part in the operation, the source said.

Thus far, direct Iranian military support for Assad has come mostly in the form of military advisors. Iran has also mobilized Shi'ite militia fighters, including Iraqis and some Afghans, to fight alongside Syrian government forces. Lebanon's Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, has been fighting alongside the Syrian army since early in the conflict.

Russian offensive in Syria continues

Russian jets launched a second day of air strikes in Syria on Thursday, targeting areas held by an insurgent alliance that includes a group linked to Al-Qaida, but not the Islamic State militants Moscow said it had hit. Russia said it had launched eight air strikes with Sukhoi warplanes overnight, hitting four Islamic State targets. However, the areas where it said the strikes took place are not held by Islamic State. Al-Mayadeen, a pro-Damascus television channel, said jets carried out at least 30 strikes against an insurgent alliance known as the Army of Conquest. The alliance includes the Nusra Front, Al-Qaida's Syrian branch, but not Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate on swathes of Syria and Iraq.

The Army of Conquest has been advancing against government forces in northwestern Syria in recent months, and has support from regional countries that oppose both Assad and Islamic State. Russia's decision to join the war with air strikes on behalf of Assad is a major turning point in international involvement in the conflict. The United States is leading a separate alliance waging an air war against Islamic State fighters, which means the Cold War superpower foes are now engaged in air combat over the same country for the first time since World War Two.

They say they have the same Islamic State enemies. But they also have very different friends, and opposing views of how to resolve a 4-year-old civil war that has killed more than 250,000 people and driven more than 10 million from their homes. Washington and its allies oppose both Islamic State and Assad, believing he must leave power in any peace settlement. Moscow supports the Syrian president and believes his government should be the centerpiece of international efforts to fight extremist groups. Russia's first airstrikes in Syria, which Moscow said were aimed at Islamic State fighters, instead hit Free Syrian Army sites and killed dozens of civilians, an opposition Turkmen group said on Thursday.

Russian jets continued to bomb rebel positions for a second day in western Syria on Thursday. The bombardment marks a major escalation of the four-year conflict, where the United States and its coalition of Western allies and regional states have been flying missions for more than a year. Areas where ethnic Turkmens live in Homs and Hama came under attack on Wednesday, the Turkey-based Syrian Turkmen Assembly said in a statement. In the village of Telbiseh near Homs alone, 40 civilians, including Turkmens, were killed, it said.

The Turkmens, whose Syrian Turkmen Brigades armed wing is allied with the Free Syrian Army, say they have been targeted by both Assad's forces and Islamic State since the civil war began in 2011. "We strongly condemn Russia, which was not satisfied with its unlimited support of the murderous regime and now rains down bombs on the Syrian people, promising 'democracy'," the statement said. The Syrian Turkmen Assembly was set up in Gaziantep, Turkey, to unite factions of the Turkish-speaking ethnic group present in Syria and is backed by the Turkish government, which has been an outspoken critic of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Source: http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/1.678423

The Christian zeal behind Russia’s war in Syria


As the Russian military commenced airstrikes in Syria, another important national institution applauded the intervention. On Wednesday, a statement from the Russian Orthodox Church praised the Russian war effort, describing the mission to fight the jihadists of the Islamic State as a "holy battle." "The fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it," said the head of the church's public affairs department, Vsevolod Chaplin, in a quote reported by Interfax news agency and translated by Agence France Presse. Chaplin added: "This decision corresponds with international law, the mentality of our people and the special role that our country has always played in the Middle East."

To be sure, strategists in the Kremlin are probably not donning the vestments of Crusaders right now. As my colleague Andrew Roth reported earlier this week, the airstrikes are likely an opportunistic gamble by Russian President Vladimir Putin -- a move rooted more in cynicism than any religious conviction. And senior Muslim clerics in Russia have also endorsed Moscow's new war. But Putin has anchored his political brand in religious nationalism, centered on the Russian Orthodox Church, which has emerged as a major pillar in the Russian nation-state after decades of Soviet suppression. It's a key agent in spreading Putin-friendly patriotic propaganda, from anti-gay proselytizing to backing a more muscular Russian foreign policy.

Putin has invoked the history of the Russian Orthodox Church as a justification for Russia's controversial annexation of Crimea, the Black Sea territory it seized from Ukraine last year. As WorldViews discussed earlier, Crimea is where, in the 10th century, one of the first great Slavic princes is said to have shed his pagan beliefs for the Orthodox Christianity of the Byzantine Empire. In a speech last year, Putin described the site of the prince's conversion as Russia's Jerusalem. This worldview, as Chaplin indicated, extends south into the Middle East. Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, the Russian Orthodox Church has been outspoken about the need to protect the region's Christians and lent aid to its remaining, beleaguered patriarchates. The Middle East's Christians, according to a spokesman of the Patriarchate of Moscow in 2013, "have known for centuries that no other country would look after their interests in the same way Russia would." This is a debatable claim, but taps into a real history. For decades, Russia's czars coveted lands then ruled by the Ottoman Empire, and framed their imperial ambitions in religious terms, as I wrote earlier:
Beginning with the Catherine the Great in the late 18th century, the Russians had framed their own conquests in religious terms: to reclaim Istanbul, once the center of Orthodox Christianity, and, as one of her favorite court poets put it, "advance through a Crusade" to the Holy Lands and "purify the river Jordan."
This rhetoric so perturbed certain 19th century Western diplomats that they tried to champion another spiritual tradition to counter Russia's dangerous zeal: Islam.

Syrian Christian Leader: Russia “Really Targeting ISIS,” U.S. Airstrikes Are Just “Window Dressing”


Whatever  Russia’s motives in Syria, one thing is clear: persecuted Syrian Christians favor Russian intervention against the jihadis slaughtering them, while accusing the U.S. and Western allies of only engaging in cosmetic strikes.  Here are the words of a Syrian Christian leader — one well acquainted with the persecution his people are experiencing — concerning Russian intervention, as reported in Asia News.  Note also what he says of the non-IS rebels being struck by Russia, the groups the U.S. is eager to portray as simply “anti-Assad rebels,” but which in fact are also Christian-slaughtering jihadis:
Damascus (AsiaNews) – US air strikes in Syria are window-dressing, and have little real effect on the militias of the Islamic state (IS), who are left free to act on the ground. Instead the Russian attacks in recent days have been effective, forcing jihadists to fall back towards the Iraqi desert. This is according to Msgr. Jacques Behnan Hindo, referring to  testimonies of people living in areas of conflict theater. “Moscow’s intervention has been positive – said the prelate who leads the  archieparchy Syrian Catholic Hassaké-Nisibis, –  because they are really targeting Daesh [Arabic acronym for the IS/ISIS, Islamic State] and the militia are beginning to flee. They fled from the area in about 20 cars in a hurry in the direction of Iraq, leaving another 20 cars on site. A sign of a real retreat. “ The bishop of Hassaké-Nisibi lives under constant threat from IS: “I am less than three kilometers from the town – he says – a month ago their offensive was  repelled and they folded around the city. In the past two weeks, thanks to the attacks of the Russians, they began to retreat. ” In contrast, Msgr. Hindo reserves rather harsh words for the United States, who are not bombing the positions of jihadi militias but the Syrian government. “It’s not about being for or against the government – he says – but people never believed in America’s attacks. Only the Kurds have really fought on the ground, but to hold their ground “and it is not plausible that they can, alone, solve the emergency. Besides the United States, France, Britain only speak of “attacking the Daesh, but do not speak of the Nusra Front and other Islamist militias linked to Al Qaeda. Indeed, there are extremist groups that have changed names to rebuild credibility, and these are not even mentioned. This is also a big problem. “ The prelate denounces Washington’s “ambiguity” seen in the American’s attitude during the seizure of hundreds of Christians originating in the villages of the valley of the river Khabur. ”On the night of Feb. 23, when Daesh attacked, the American planes – he says – flew over the area for a long time without intervening. Then for three days we saw no more jets, leaving the field open to the militants. This makes us think that in some way have been helped by the Americans and their ambiguous attitude”.
Click here to read about the most recent Christians to be martyred in Syria — tortured, publicly raped, beheaded, and crucified for refusing to renounce Christ.

Source: http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/?p=44393

Why Syria Is No Second Afghanistan for Russia


The Bloody Genie and a Trap For Moscow

The year 1030 saw Russians at Aleppo amongst those who saved the Byzantine Emperor Romanus III from Arab captivity.  In the following year they were in the army which captured Edessa on the Euphrates.  In his book ‘Foreign Policy of Ancient Rus’, the famous Russian historian V.T. Pashuto , remarks “The present situation is hardly anything new”. There is a striking contrast in the Middle East between the positions of Russia and that of the United States of America (particularly under the Bush I and II, and Obama Administrations) which instigated the conflicts that eventually let the bloody ISIL genie out of the bottle.  In ancient times, as today, Russia is the supplier of arms to Damascus and contemplating the prospect of military intervention.  Thus Russia once again becomes the savior and protector of Syria, the eastern Christians and Islam itself.

But there are many questions we must ask ourselves including whether future Russian participation in the Syrian conflict against ISIL would be desireable.  Concerns as to whether or not Syria will become another geopolitical trap for us (as happened in Afghanistan) are quite reasonable.

No Empire was able to conquer the Afghan mountains

It is frequently asked whether once again thousands of our young men will give their lives under the scorching sun and dusty terrain of a foreign country without any clear objectives, benefit to Russia or hope of victory as happened during the Soviet Union's Afghanistan War. It is debatable whether it is worth reigniting the geopolitical game for the sake of controlling the Eastern Mediterranean base in Syria. How safe will we be from a repetition of the Afghan trap?  To create a “new Afghanistan” type situation for Russia the United States (including its Western and NATO allies together with their Al-Qaeda and so called 'moderate opposition' proxies controlled by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar) would have to openly deploy troops in Syria and blockade the Mediterranean Sea.

[Copy Editor Comment - The US doesn't necessarily need to openly deploy troops in Syria or blockade the Mediterranean Sea. After all, this was not done during the Afghanistan War.]

Afghanistan is an isolated mountainous country which possesses few roads and many treacherous passes in which the “spirits” lay in wait for us (Soviet Army) and ambushed our convoys. During the Afghanistan War the Soviet Army occupied the key points of the country but was stabbed in the back in the form of ambushes, surprise attacks on garrisons etc.. By the end of the war the capabilities of our helicopters were severely limited by the presence of US supplied Mujahideen “Stinger” missiles. It proved too difficult to prevail in the mountainous Afghan terrain for many Great Empires such as the British, the Soviet Union and the United States. Their attempts to subdue the region all failed.

Flying submarines and “Cuban Missile Crisis-2”

The situation in Syria is quite different from Afghanistan.  Syria is a flat country, half of which is desert where ISIL are mostly dug in. There are practically no mountains to contend with in Syria.  The average height of the Afghan mountain ranges are around 5,000 meters whilst the most important mountain range in Syria, Jebel Ansari, separating the coast and the inland plateau has an average elevation of only 1,200 meters.  Much of Syria's mountains are under the control of President Assad's Syrian Arab Army.

The logistical supply routes to a potential Russian Force will not be through inhospitable mountain ranges but via sea and air.   ISIL and the so-called “Syrian opposition” will not have the means to disrupt these supplies unless the US provides them with a ‘flying submarine’ that will fly in first and lie in wait for our landing aircraft.  The Russian Navy is powerful enough to provide ongoing support to Syrian Naval bases.  If Afghanistan had been located near the coast the strategic situation there would have been much more favorable for the Soviet Union. If the United States Navy were to attempt to block Russia in the Mediterranean Sea there would not be an “Afghanistan-2” but a “Cuban Missile Crisis-2” scenario.

Aleppo has to be stormed like we did in Grozny

Finally and most importantly, Russia should not send its troops to Syria as occupying forces where they can become targets of guerrilla warfare. The Syrian Army under the legitimate Assad government should be used for ground operations, garrisons and sweeps.  The clear cut task of Russian forces in Syria, were they to be deployed there, should be to control precision weapons  as well as to provide armored and artillery equipment/training to Syrian forces to strengthen the Assad Government's position.  What is needed above all is Electronic Surveillance and intelligence gathering to locate ISIL positions in the desert followed by air strikes against them.

The application of serious force is needed to bring about the inevitable defeat of the Islamists.  The United States and its NATO and Middle Eastern allies are well aware of this hence they “fight” against the Assad Government primarily through ISIL and their self-described “moderate Syrian opposition” proxies. These groups are based in cities such as Aleppo and are supported through the Turkish and Jordanian borders.  To deal with them will certainly be difficult but this is not Afghanistan and the battle for Aleppo could be turned into a kind of capture of Grozny in 2000 scenario.  In any case we (Russia) must not conduct these ground battles.  We must use the army of Bashar al-Assad that has withstood 4 years of war.  They know how to act in their own cities.

Syrians are not fighting for Assad but for their lives

There is a possibility that the US and its allies may want to first secretly arm ISIL and then lay the blame on them for attacks against Russia and Russian Forces in Syria but in such a scenario it is unlikely that modern and air defence weapons can be supplied because their origins would be too obvious. (Whether from the US, EU or other former Warsaw Pact countries). Having to fight against us with the hands of Syria Islamist thugs the United States will cover the remains of their reputation with shame that would be impossible to whitewash. Finally, a very important moral factor.  In the Syrian civil war Russia will be on the side of the alliance of Christians, Alawites and Shiites against ISIL which is a deadly threat for them all.  Assad's supporters are fighting not so much for him as for their own lives.  Frankly, they look at Putin as a savior.  The Syrians have already proven themselves capable of fighting against near nsurmountable odds and are therefore a very reliable ally.

Alawites were ready to give a pledge of allegiance to Catherine the Great

Russia's presence in Syria will have a direct impact on the conflict in Ukraine. We must understand that our main enemy there is Washington rather than their puppets in Kiev.  The US may soften its stance on Ukraine were it placed under pressure in weaker parts of its Empire.  Our main task is to protect our interests in Ukraine and the people in Novorossyia.  In this respect Syria could become a significant trump card. We don't consider Syria to be a strange Muslim country in the depths of Asia. It always retained a significant Orthodox Christian population from ancient Byzantine times and links between Russia and Syria have existed for centuries.  Attempts to swear allegiance to Catherine II by Alawites (to which the Assad family belongs) of Latakia and Tartus were undertaken in 1770. That a Russian Syria did not appear alongside a Russian Crimea was, in a sense, a historical accident.

Yegor Kholmogorov is a prominent Russian journalist, part-time politician, editor of the “Russian Observer” news website and famous for coining the “Russian Spring” term describing the 2014 anti-putsch movements in the Crimea and Donbass. In this essay, he argues that geography, the existence of a capable proxy in Assad’s army, and the fact that the US cannot publicly supply recognized terrorists in necessary quantity (ISIL), mean Russia will be militarily successful.  He further argues that check-mating the neocons in Syria will give Russia serious leverage in Ukraine.  It is an argument for Russian intervention. This article was originaly published at KP

Source: http://russia-insider.com/en/military/why-syria-no-second-afghanistan-russia/ri10028

Arabs Spurn Military Push by Moscow Inside Syria


Saudis’ strong stance highlights Obama’s dilemma, with some allies supporting Russian role and others opposing one

Saudi Arabia and other leading Arab states ruled out any cooperation with an emerging Russian military alliance operating inside Syria and vowed to dial up their support for rebels seeking to overthrow Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad. The tough stance of Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat highlighted the dilemma for President Barack Obama: He is caught between some allies who believe cooperation with Russia is necessary to defeat Islamic State, even if Mr. Assad stays, and others who oppose any role for Russia or Mr. Assad in Syria’s future. 

The position of Saudi Arabia, the most powerful Sunni Arab country, drove home the risks accompanying Russia’s decision to deploy military forces inside Syria as the country’s war entered its fifth year. Mr. Obama on Monday clashed with his Russian counterpart at the United Nations, then said the U.S. would welcome Russian participation in the fight against Islamic State, provided Mr. Assad eventually departs. Russian President Vladimir Putin made clear in a speech at the U.N. this week that his government is doubling down on its support for Mr. Assad as part of broader campaign to fight Islamic State militants who have taken control of large swaths of Syria and Iraq. Moscow is now aligned with Shiite-led Iran and Iraq in this fight. Top officials from Arab states attending the U.N. General Assembly this week in New York said it was impossible for them to support any coalition that doesn’t seek to remove Mr. Assad, who is an ally of Iran and whose forces are accused of killing tens of thousands of civilians since fighting broke out in 2011.

“It’s inconceivable that there will be a political solution with President Assad remaining in power,” said Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, in a meeting with journalists on Tuesday. He said Mr. Putin’s offer to other Middle East countries to join his coalition was a “non-starter.”

“There is a moderate Syrian opposition that is fighting against President Assad,” Mr. al-Jubeir said. “We expect this support [for those rebels] will continue and be intensified.” Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Bahrain are all part of U.S.-led military campaign targeting Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. But while Mr. Obama said he was prepared to cooperate with Russia and Iran, Mr. al-Jubeir made it clear that Saudi Arabia sees Iran, its longtime nemesis, adding fuel to the conflict in Syria. Iran has deployed military advisers from its elite military unit, the Revolutionary Guards, inside Syria and mobilized thousands of fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militia, Hezbollah. “Iran is part of the problem and can’t be part of the solution,” the top Saudi diplomat said.

Mr. Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both sharply criticized the U.S.-led campaign in Syria for having failed to stop Islamic State’s advances. “If the Syrian government is taken out…the whole country will become the safe haven for these terrorists,” Mr. Rouhani said in New York on Sunday. The moves this week by Tehran and Moscow have upended rules that have guided the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State for the past year, plunging the effort into uncertainty and bending regional alliances. U.S. officials Tuesday publicly proposed a plan that would enlist Russia and Iran in easing Mr. Assad out of power, while allowing him to remain for an agreed-on period. Under the U.S. plan, officials left open the possibility that Mr. Assad could take part in talks on a political transition, while Russia and Iran protect his minority Alawite sect.

But it was unclear whether the U.S. and its closest allies have sufficient leverage to impose such a vision for the outcome of the conflict, now that Russia and Iran have decided to become more deeply involved. Mr. Obama turned to trying to strengthen his international anti-Islamic State coalition, while attempting to cast Russian and Iranian involvement as a positive development.

“We want to make sure other countries are bought in,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Tuesday. “We’ve seen the downsides of unilateral U.S. military commitment to conflicts in the Middle East.” Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia’s alliance with Mr. Assad and Iran could be “very complicated for Putin himself.”

“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, and that means that he could even become a target for those Sunni jihadis,” Mr. Kerry said in a CNN interview.

Opening a U.N. summit on combating Islamic State militants Tuesday, Mr. Obama said the fight in Iraq and Syria will be lengthy and that Western and Arab allies will prevail only if there is new leadership in Damascus. Mr. Obama stressed his willingness to work with Iran and Russia to reach a resolution to the Syrian conflict that mandates the exit of Mr. Assad.

“This is not a conventional battle,” Mr. Obama said. “This is a long-term campaign.” Mr. Obama’s position on Mr. Assad isn't only opposed by Russia and Iran, but is also forcing him to manage potential differences among U.S. allies. While the Saudis oppose Russian intervention, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Tuesday that Russia is critical to the success of any solution in Syria “It is impossible to achieve peace without Russia involved,” Mr. Renzi said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, adding that it would be “an incredible mistake” to exclude Russia from talks on a solution. Greece’s newly re-elected prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, made a similar point in a Journal interview in New York.

“If we wanted to discuss about the perspective of global stability and security, I think that it is a mistake to exclude Russia from these discussions,” Mr. Tsipras said. “That does not mean that we agree with their strategy or all Russian policies.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron also said this week, in an interview with the Journal, that he is open to cooperation with Russia to defeat Islamic State forces, but he rejected the idea of backing Mr. Assad. European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish premier, also said that while efforts to stem the Syrian conflict were urgent, propping up the Assad regime was a recipe for continued violence and instability. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, speaking at the U.N. on Tuesday, expressed skepticism that Moscow was interested in combating terrorism, given its support for separatists in his country. “Over the last few days, we have had a conciliatory statement from the Russian side in which in part it called for the establishment of the antiterrorist coalition,” Mr. Poroshenko said. “Cool story, but really hard to believe.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France and its allies are discussing setting up safe zones in Syria, calling it “a common sense idea” to give Syrians facing persecution by Mr. Assad or Islamic State a place in the country so they don’t have to flee. Mr. Fabius said no decisions have been made on safe zones, which the U.S. has considered before but avoided due to diplomatic and military difficulties. Moving to assert a leading U.S. role, the Obama administration announced sanctions Tuesday against more than two dozen Islamic State leaders and five of its affiliates in what officials said was a stepped-up campaign against the terrorist organization’s funding, arming and recruiting. U.S. officials said Islamic State is still earning around $500 million annually from smuggled oil sales and hundreds of millions more from the taxation of individuals and companies in regions it controls in Iraq and Syria, all despite Western efforts to disrupt the group’s distribution system.

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/barack-obama-to-hold-meetings-host-terrorism-summit-at-u-n-1443530283

Council on Foreign Relations: One US option in Syria: Let Putin bleed

Al-Shishani isis chechen

Early September brought the news that the Russians were deploying military forces to Bassel al-Assad International Airport near Latakia on the Syrian coast. The Aviationist website recentlyreproduced satellite imagery showing twenty-eight combat aircraft, including four Sukhoi Su-30SM multirole (air-to-air and ground interdiction) fighters, twelve Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes, and twelve Sukhoi Su-24 attack planes. In addition, the Russians have deployed fifteen helicopters, nine tanks, three missile batteries, cargo planes, refueling aircraft, and about five hundred soldiers to the same airfield. The Obama administration has not said much about the deployment, only that it was seeking clarification from Moscow.

Pentagon officials were generally mum last Friday after Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, saying only that they are watching the situation closely. The administration’s critics and supporters have responded to these developments in ways one might expect—howling criticism or over rationalization justifying why the presence of Russian forces in Syria is actually no big deal. They both have it wrong, though. Of course, the Russian buildup is a very big deal and marks a new, even more complicated and potentially dangerous phase in the Syrian conflict, but that is precisely why we should welcome it.

Over the weekend I heard former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband explain that the Russian deployment was a function of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s weakness, of which Moscow has become all too aware. Under these circumstances the deployment should be seen as an elaborate Russian maneuver to improve its negotiating position in the inevitable diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis, which, while not including Assad himself, will have to include “regime elements.”

In Miliband’s estimation the Russians are ready to dump Assad in return for American flexibility on the nature of the post-Assad ruling coalition. Miliband is hardly an outlier. I have heard or read variations of these claims on any number of occasions, and each time they ring hollow. They are interesting reflections of what we think the Russians would be doing if the Russians were us. It reminds me of late February 2014 when all the smart kids were saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be so stupid as to take over Crimea and that he merely sought to pressure and manipulate Ukraine from the outside.

Those might be things that we would do, but they were never part of Putin’s playbook. Even as that big, creepy, crying bear was being pushed around the closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics and I was being told that the Russians were full of bluster and not much else, they were gassing up the tanks. More directly, Moscow has been fairly clear about its intentions in Syria, no? According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s growing military presence in Syria is intended to combat the self-declared Islamic State and defend the Syrian state.

Two caveats are in order here. First the Russians could be lying, but they really have no reason to dissimulate, confident that the United States is going to accept the Kremlin’s fait accompli just as it has in Ukraine. Second, Miliband may be correct; Russian statements have referred specifically to the “Syrian state” and not the Assad regime, which Kremlinologists of yore might interpret as an implicit nod to the confluence of Russian and American interest in a unitary Syrian polity. We’ll see. All this is a long wind up to the idea that while the West should not exactly learn to love Russia’s intervention in Syria, the United States, Europeans, and the Gulf states might actually come to like it.

Moscow may think it is somehow calling Washington’s bluff in the fight against the Islamic State, but folks should separate out the Russian bluster and the political posturing of Obama administration opponents and supporters on Twitter and consider the serious implications of the Kremlin’s move. The Russians just put themselves squarely in the middle of an extremely nasty, brutish civil war featuring a grab bag of extremist groups that includes the Islamic State, which would likely love to take a shot at the Russian military. If the reports of large numbers of Chechens filling the ranks of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s forces are accurate, it is payback time.

Those jihadists are arrayed against Moscow’s allies, a nefarious group that includes Hezbollah, Assad’s militias, what is left of the Syrian military, and agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.  If the risks to the Russians in this environment are not clear, they should be. They are no longer an indirect party to the conflict, they have a huge target on their backs, and they are going to have a serious fight on their hands that does not seem to favor Russian forces. Sure, Syria in 2015 is not Afghanistan in 1979, and one would think that the Russians have learned lessons from their painful past, but Putin seems to have drawn all the wrong lessons from the late Soviet period.

This is not to suggest that Washington should continue to wash its hands of Syria. There seems little chance that the Obama administration or the next one will commit (beyond general rhetoric) the United States to bringing about the end of the Assad regime, but they should do everything to help the refugees fleeing Syria’s hellish conflict. There seems to be no reason to match the Russians militarily there, however. Everything in foreign relations is linked, and it is precisely because Russia is a major strategic threat and because of the Kremlin’s adventurism in Ukraine, which threatens NATO allies like Poland and the Baltic states, that I welcome Moscow’s coming entanglement in Syria. Let Putin bleed.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/one-us-option-in-syria-let-putin-bleed-2015-9?ref=yfp?r=UK&IR=T

Andrew Foxall: Don’t Trust Putin on Syria

SYRIA is being destroyed. The civil war, now more than four years old, has left the country in ruins. The implacable Islamic State controls vast areas of the north and east, and the barbaric regime of President Bashar al-Assad maintains its Damascus stronghold. The Western powers — the United States and Europe — have no good options to combat the Islamic State, but they can’t do nothing. Either they must work with Mr. Assad’s regime to combat the jihadists, or ignore its existence and undertake military action alone to push back the jihadists. Thus far, though, the American-led air campaign against the Islamic State has done little to halt its advances. This stark choice is a result of the failure of recent Western policy. One person who understands this better than most is the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

On Sept. 4, Mr. Putin announced that Russia had been providing military aid to Damascus against the Islamic State — support that has recently been ramped up. He also called for “some kind of an international coalition to fight terrorism and extremism.” This is in keeping with Moscow’s Syria policy, which has been consistent since 2010: Block any American-backed move to remove Mr. Assad from power and instead force the West to embrace him as a partner. Russia has been isolated by the West because of its actions in Ukraine, but now presents itself as an unlikely savior — an indispensable partner in the West’s efforts against Islamist extremism. We’ve been here before. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Mr. Putin was the first world leader to speak with President George W. Bush. Days later, Mr. Putin promised Russia’s support for the American-led coalition against the Taliban in Afghanistan, urging others to join Russia in “fighting international terrorism.”

Islamist terrorism is an issue close to Mr. Putin’s heart; it helped him rise to power in the first place. Over several weeks in September 1999, a series of bombings destroyed four apartment buildings in Moscow and two other Russian cities. Almost 300 people were killed, with hundreds more injured. Islamist terrorists from the southern Russian republic of Chechnya were blamed for the attacks. Given that pretext, Russia’s traumatized public readily acquiesced when Moscow began a second war in Chechnya. A few months after the invasion, Russia’s then relatively unknown, recently appointed prime minister, Mr. Putin, was swept into the presidency. There are issues, however, with the official narrative. Critics point to evidence that the apartment bombings were carried out by Russia’s Federal Security Bureau, or at least with F.S.B. involvement.

Less than a week after the fourth bombing, a fifth bomb was uncovered in the basement of a building in another Russian city. It was disarmed before it could explode, and the bombers were arrested and identified. They turned out to be not Chechen terrorists but F.S.B. agents. Mr. Putin, himself a former head of the F.S.B., dismissed the notion that the bombings were a state-sponsored plot. Yet suspicions that Moscow manipulates terrorism for its own purposes have re-emerged. In July, Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s few remaining independent newspapers, reported that the F.S.B. had been controlling the flow of jihadists from the North Caucasus to Syria, where many joined the Islamic State. The newspaper’s investigation found that the F.S.B. had established a “green corridor” allowing Islamist radicals to travel via Turkey, since Moscow would rather have these jihadists fighting in Syria than in Russia.

So much for leading the international effort against terrorism. Yet, that same month, President Obama said he was “encouraged” by a call from Mr. Putin to discuss Syria, and that this “offers us an opportunity to have a serious conversation.” Mr. Obama should not be fooled. Mr. Putin’s master plan for Syria — promoted by his foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov — is clear: that the Western and Arab countries, which form the present anti-Islamic State coalition, should join forces with Mr. Assad, together with Kurdish and Iraqi troops; Iran, Hezbollah and Russia may also join this alliance. The coalition would obtain a formal mandate from the United Nations Security Council and then defeat the jihadist insurgency. Russia would then bring Mr. Assad to the negotiating table and oversee a political transition that preserves his regime. Mr. Putin plans to address the United Nations General Assembly later this month about this plan.

In promoting a rapprochement between Russia and the West over the Islamic State, Mr. Putin hopes to rehabilitate himself, just as he did after Sept. 11. Back then, Mr. Putin convinced the West that the threat it faced in Afghanistan and elsewhere was the same as Russia faced in Chechnya. By doing so, Russia’s president was able to tamp down Western criticism of Russia’s brutality in Chechnya. The Kremlin saw the West’s enthusiasm for cooperation as weakness. It led Mr. Putin to believe that he could act however he liked in Russia, and get away with it. That belief still prevails — but no longer applies only to Russia. If a new rapprochement on Syria goes ahead, Ukraine would be conveniently forgotten. This would risk undermining the West’s Ukraine-related sanctions, and provide Mr. Putin with tacit recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s dominance of eastern Ukraine.

Russia would thus have triumphed over the world order imposed by the West after the end of the Cold War. America’s enemies, from China to Iran, would see this as an invitation to redefine their relationships with Washington. The West should consider all options on Syria — including an international coalition with Russia against the Islamic State. But if that is the chosen course, the West must doubt that Mr. Putin can be trusted, that intelligence shared by Russia will be credible, or that the Kremlin can help negotiate a diplomatic settlement in Syria that the West and its Arab allies can support. Georgia and Ukraine show what happens when the West does not block Russia’s coercive diplomacy. We must not let Mr. Putin dictate the terms of cooperation. To do so risks repeating past mistakes.

Gary Kasparov: Putin Takes a Victory Lap While Obama Watches


With the Middle East in chaos and a belligerent Russian regime stoking the turmoil, the dueling speeches at the United Nations on Monday by presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin might have offered new insight. What the world saw instead was entirely predictable. Mr. Obama has already decided to continue his policy of disengagement from the Middle East, and his platitudes about cooperation and the rule of law rang hollow in the U.N.’s General Assembly hall. Of the conflict in Syria, he said, “we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the prewar status quo.” But every listener was aware that Mr. Obama had no intention of backing his words with action.

Mr. Putin, speaking about an hour later in the same room, included his usual NATO-bashing and obvious lies. “We think it is an enormous mistake,” Mr. Putin said, “to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face.” He spoke of national sovereignty—which is very important to Mr. Putin, unless it’s the sovereignty of Georgia, Ukraine or another place where he wishes to meddle.

In other words, Mr. Obama’s speech was routine because he knows he will not act. Mr. Putin’s speech was routine because he knows he will act anyway. The content of the speeches was irrelevant to Mr. Putin before he even opened his mouth. He made his first U.N. address in 10 years because looking like a big man on the international stage is the only ploy he has left to justify his rule in Russia. His devil’s bargain with the Russian people a decade ago was to provide prosperity in exchange for their giving up their rights and democracy. Now we have none of the above. Mr. Putin’s only remaining gambit is to claim that he is defending Russian greatness while surrounded by enemies (whom that he is an expert at creating). With his offensive in Ukraine sputtering along, new fronts were needed. He has found them in Syria and at the U.N.

In this light, the much-hyped private meeting between Messrs. Obama and Putin was the biggest possible prize. The only statement to come out of the meeting was that the U.S. and Russia would consider working together against Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Not that Mr. Putin cares about cooperation, as long as his goal of preserving Bashar Assad’s murderous dictatorship in Syria isn’t interfered with. Yet the images of the two leaders together are being splashed across the Russian media as a huge triumph for Mr. Putin. The narrative, which began circulating as soon as the meeting was announced, is that not only did the valiant Mr. Putin confront and condemn the weak Mr. Obama and the evil United States, he did so in New York City, the belly of the beast itself. As soon as the first pictures were taken, the meeting became a great success for Mr. Putin, and another self-inflicted defeat for American foreign policy—and for stability and democracy in the Middle East.

No matter how well-intentioned and popular the U.S. exit from Iraq was, or how well the White House spun its concessions to Mr. Assad in 2013, the results clearly have been disastrous. A look at a map of Iraq and Syria shows that the rise of ISIS was a logical response to American abandonment of the region’s Sunnis. A group like ISIS cannot thrive without support from locals, in this case Sunnis who see no other way to defend against the Shiite forces of Iran and Syria that are slaughtering them by the hundreds of thousands.

In world affairs, as in chess, you have to play the position that’s on the board when you sit down. Criticizing George W. Bush for starting the Iraq war in 2003 does not change the fact that in 2008 there was no mass refugee crisis or massive ISIS army on the march. Support for al Qaeda had been undercut by negotiations with Sunni groups in Anbar province, a game-changing policy that was as responsible for reduced violence as the surge of new American forces.

The American exit and Mr. Obama’s refusal to deter Mr. Assad ended any possibility of security. The people had to fight, flee or die, and they are doing all three in horrific numbers. It’s important to remember that the waves of refugees reaching Europe are not running from ISIS. They are fleeing Mr. Assad—who counts on active support from Iran and now Russia. No deal is going to change that. Iran and Russia have their own agendas in the region, and peace is not on either of them. Iran is the world’s leading state supporter of terrorism. Mr. Putin’s method of fighting the war on terror in Chechnya was carpet bombing. When that didn’t succeed, he bought off the region’s most brutal warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov.

The continued slaughter of Sunnis in the region will draw in more support from the Saudis and more foreign fighters from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Russia. The situation will metastasize like a cancer, which suits Mr. Putin fine. War and chaos create more enemies and more opportunities for him to look like a tough guy on Russian state TV. Iran’s regime needs conflict for similar reasons, which is why it can never give up “Death to America.” A growing war will also drive up the price of oil, a benefit that isn’t lost on Tehran or Moscow. These consequences may be acceptable to Mr. Obama, but he cannot pretend to be ignorant of his role in creating them. I, too, would like to live in the world of diplomacy and law that Mr. Obama seems to believe we inhabit. But unfortunately we do not. Power and action still matter, and in places like Syria and Iraq you cannot have power without action.

Mr. Putin didn’t say anything new at the U.N., because he didn’t need to. He knows that he has concrete assets that are more effective than mere words. He has tanks in Ukraine, jet fighters in Syria, and Barack Obama in the White House.
Mr. Kasparov, chairman of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, is the author of “Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped,” out next month from Public Affairs.

Vox World: Why Putin is doomed to fail in Syria

Fadi al-Halabi/AFP/Getty

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his Monday address to the United Nations General Assembly, described Russia's military intervention in Syria in the same world historical terms that every Russian leader has used since 1941: as a symbolic extension of the fight against Nazi Germany. Putin even called for world leaders to join him in a modern-day "anti-Hitler coalition" against extremists, particularly ISIS. For all Putin's grand rhetoric, though, his immediate aims in Syria are quite clear, and not quite as noble as saving the world from fascism. Putin's goal, first and foremost, is to bolster Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's forces to help them prevail in Syria's war. "There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism," Putin told 60 Minutes on Monday.

And, as perhaps a secondary goal, he's hoping to recruit the world and especially the West to join Russia in a grand coalition against extremists in Syria — thus bringing Russia back into the fold of respected nations and absolving it of its sins in Ukraine. Both of these goals are doomed, and not least because they are diametrically opposed. At best, Russia will merely entrench the status quo in Syria, worsening conditions without fundamentally altering them, and miring what is presently a small but politically embarrassing Russian force in a Mideast quagmire. At worst, this will deepen the very problems that Putin is hoping to solve, exacerbating both his own isolation and the armed movement, extremist and non-extremist, encircling Assad in Syria.

1) This risks bolstering the very forces Putin most wants to weaken: anti-Assad jihadists

Let's get one thing out of the way right now: Putin has represented his intervention as targeting ISIS, and Russia claimed its first airstrikes on Wednesday targeted the group, but the evidence very strongly suggests that Russia is in fact bombing non-ISIS opposition groups in Syria. That's not surprising: Putin is there to help Assad, and Assad's main enemies are the non-ISIS opposition groups. Those groups also happen to be fighting ISIS. So Putin is so far not bombing ISIS, but rather ISIS's enemies. Some of those opposition groups are moderate, including US-backed groups, and others are extremists, including the local al-Qaeda branch, Jabhat al-Nusra. Putin will likely bomb all of them. But it is the extremists who may ultimately stand to benefit.

Jihadist groups in Syria, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, are competing against one another for ideological legitimacy. Whichever group can best position itself as representing Sunni jihadism, the thinking goes, will get more recruits and donations, and thus win more territory on the battlefield. If you are an extremist group looking to claim the mantle of global jihadism, then being able to position yourself as combating not just Assad but a foreign invader — and a Christian empire at that — is pretty attractive. In 1979, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan inspired a call to arms from across the Muslim world to fight the non-Muslim invaders. So did the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. This Russian intervention is much, much smaller, and the reaction will likely be smaller as well, but jihadist groups may still be able to exploit it.

2) Assad's war is still unwinnable. Putin is doubling down on a losing bet.

If Putin's goal is to prop up Bashar al-Assad, then contributing Russian airstrikes and attack helicopters (the latter of which are present in Syria but don't appear to have been used yet) will help Assad on the margins, but they won't change the fundamental calculus of the war. It is a war Assad cannot win; he can only stave off losing. 

For one thing, this is likely to exacerbate outrage against Assad across the region, redoubling both the popular Syrian uprising and the wider jihadist movement. For another, the Putin-Assad coalition, joined by Iran and Hezbollah, is dominated by Shias and other non-Sunnis, which will deepen the sectarian dynamics of the war. Given that Assad represents a sectarian minority in Syria, the more sectarian the war becomes, the more impossible it becomes for him to win.

When Western leaders say that Assad has lost all legitimacy, that's not just rhetoric (even if they have little intention of doing much about it): Assad has lost the consent of Syria's Sunni Arab majority, not to mention ethnic Kurds and other groups, to accept his rule. Even if he could somehow defeat ISIS and all Syrian rebels — which would take a whole lot more than a couple dozen Russian aircraft — there's little reason to think that any number of atrocities will impose order in Syria.

So why is Putin doing this? As Vox's Amanda Taub has written, Syria is the sum of many of his greatest fears: fear of anarchy, fear of populist uprisings, fear of Western meddling, fear of any authoritarian regime's downfall, and fear of an ever-encroaching global chaos — all forces that Putin believes could one day be turned against him. What he's pursuing is not a brilliant, grand strategy of expanding Russian power, but rather a desperate effort to stave off these forces that so frighten him. This is why, as Andrew Roth writes at the Washington Post, Putin appears to have no actual strategy, no long-term plan, no endgame. He is acting out of fear and reactiveness. He does not hold a winning hand. 

3) This will not rally the West behind Russia, but rather will isolate Russia further 

A number of Russia watchers expected that Putin, this week at the United Nations, would try to use his Syria intervention as leverage with the West to get Russia readmitted into the ranks of respectable powers, from which it had been expelled over its invasion of Ukraine. And indeed, Putin this year gave his first UN General Assembly address since 2005 and made multiple requests for a meeting with President Obama, which he got. He used his UN address to lecture the West but also invite it into his grand coalition to fight ISIS.

But the US and other Western countries have not welcomed Putin's Syria adventure, and in fact have condemned it, casting him as part of the problem. They see that he is propping up Assad, who is the primary cause and driver of Syria's war, and they see that he claims to bomb ISIS but in fact bombs the rebel groups who fight ISIS (groups that also challenge Assad). The response from the Obama administration has generally been to accuse Russia, as Defense Secretary Ashton Carter put it, of "pouring gasoline on the fire." Carter added, "I think what they’re doing is going to backfire and is counterproductive." Not the words of a potential partner in Putin's "anti-Hitler coalition."

It is possible that the US will come to grudgingly tolerate Russia's military force in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to inadvertently signal as much in a bizarre gaffe of a press conference with his Russian counterpart. Still, do not confuse this with success for Putin. He is not seeking merely grudging Western tolerance of his Syrian intervention, but rather hoping that this intervention will be so welcomed and appreciated as to erase the Russian sins that got him globally ostracized and isolated.

That he's failing in this is not a surprise: Putin's two goals, of boosting Assad while currying favor with the West, are incompatible and opposed to one another. Even if he could achieve one of those goals, it would set back the others; handing Assad big battlefield victories would outrage the West. At the same time, actually getting Western support would require attacking ISIS, which would be bad for Assad, who relies on (and tolerates) ISIS as a means to distract the opposition groups that really threaten his regime.

Putin's mistake is twofold. He misread the West: Seeing Western leaders as unwilling to back the Syrian opposition and focused on confronting ISIS, he believed he could force them to back Assad. And he was trapped in his own propaganda bubble, perceiving all Syrian opposition as indistinguishable from ISIS and Assad as a peacemaker. But everyone can see that Russia's intervention is bad for Syria, not good for it, and so far the Russians are not even fighting ISIS. What Putin believed would at least earn him some begrudging acceptance and cooperation from the West has, thus far, only deepened his isolation. 

4) The Russian public is skeptical of Putin's Syria adventure

So, to review, Putin's Syria intervention seems likely to fail in both of its objectives — advancing Assad in Syria's war and getting Russia back into Western good graces. It could also cause him a very serious problem that's not getting much attention: It may eat into his popularity at home. For Americans, declining poll numbers sound like only so big of a deal. But for Putin, a strongman authoritarian, popularity is essential to maintaining his legitimacy and perhaps his very hold on power.

A recent poll by Moscow's Levada Center shows that only a small minority of Russians support giving Bashar al-Assad direct military support. Only 39 percent of respondents said they supported Russia's policy toward the Assad regime. When asked what Russia should do for Assad, 69 percent opposed direct military intervention. A tiny 14 percent of respondents said that Russia should send troops or other direct military support to Syria. That's a pretty striking contrast from the overwhelming public support that Russians gave to Putin's efforts in Ukraine.

It's clear that Putin is taking this problem seriously. In what seems to be an attempt to shore up public opinion among Russians who are worried about casualties in a faraway war, the Kremlin has already promised that only volunteers, not conscripts, will be sent to Syria, and that the military intervention will consist only of airstrikes. Russia's economy is already struggling, and a new war will be an expensive additional burden. If Russia's presence in Syria makes its forces a target of terrorist attacks there, or, worse, if it coincides with attacks at home, that could damage public opinion even further.

To be clear, none of this means that Syria will be enough to overcome Putin's reportedly sky-high approval, nor does it mean that one unpopular Mideast adventure is going to bring the downfall of the Putin government. But the point is that he can't afford to gamble with his public support. Putin's hold on power, as solid as it might look from the outside, isn't. It's beset by a number of problems and, at the moment, is premised in large part on his most important asset: overwhelming popular legitimacy.

Russian elites are said to be getting impatient with Putin, who got many of them slapped with sanctions. That leaves Putin reliant on public support to keep himself in office; a hit to his poll numbers is also a hit to his basic legitimacy. That's a precarious position to be in, particularly given Russia's current economic downturn. No single unpopular policy is going to bring it all crashing down, but the point is that he's not in a position to go gambling with his popularity, and yet he's just done exactly that.

An addendum: so does this all mean that, because Russia is doomed to fail in Syria, that this is good news for America or for Syria or for anybody else? It does not. The net result of this will be failure for Russia, but it will also be a worsening of conditions for Syrians. There will be more bombs falling on Syrian families. There will be a deepening of the preexisting sectarian divisions that help drive this war and will make any peace, whether it comes in a year or a decade, that much harder. Syrian civilians, as always, will bear the greatest burden. There is an odd tendency in Washington to see any Russian success as bad news for America and any Russian failure as good news. This was a logic that helped drive any number of Cold War proxy conflicts, some legacies of which are still with us. The likelihood of Russian failure in Syria should not be cause for schadenfreude, much less celebration, by anyone.


Turkish-Russian relations in decline


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to attend the opening ceremony of the newly reconstructed Moscow Central Mosque this week. However, we can say that such a visit was quite unexpected when recent developments in the relations between the two countries are concerned. Both countries are having a difficult time, both economically and politically. The first critical problem between the two countries emerged in April 2015. “Genocide” statements made in Russia during the 100th anniversary of the so-called Armenian genocide disturbed Ankara. Following that, Turkey’s official remarks calling Russia to mind its own history prolonged the tension. 

Russia is concerned about the abeyance in the construction of the “Turkish Stream” natural gas pipeline which will transport Russian natural gas to European markets through Turkey, running beneath the Black Sea and bypassing Ukraine. The two countries have not signed any official document on the Turkish Stream yet. Ankara expects Russia to grant a discount for natural gas prices before signing any document. Besides, the Turkish Stream project got stuck in the uncertain political environment after the June 7 elections in Turkey. 

Moscow is also disturbed by Turkey’s interest in Crimean Tatars. Turkey does not officially recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Actually, Turkey displayed a softer stance than expected in Moscow. Nevertheless, meetings and statements made in Turkey about Crimean Tatars are bothering Moscow. For instance, the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry announced the report about the current conditions of Crimean Tatars prepared by the Turkish delegation after a visit to Crimea on April 27-30 was “disappointing.” 

Turkey’s Syria and Iraq policies are also criticized by Moscow from time to time. Lately Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave a statement to Egypt’s El-Ahram newspaper, saying, “Military operations by Turkish warplanes on [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK positions in Iraq are suspicious in terms of legitimacy.”This statement was another indicator of this attitude. President Erdoğan said, “Russia’s statements were quite shocking for me. I have difficulty understanding that,” as a guest on Becky Anderson’s program “Connect the World” at CNN International. Those sentences were implying that Ankara feels uncomfortable with Moscow’s attitude. 

Turkey faces two terrorist threats in the south: The PKK and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Turkey officially recognizes the PKK and ISIL as terrorist organizations but this is not the case for Russia. Russia officially recognizes ISIL as a terrorist organization, but the PKK has never been included in Russia’s official list of terrorist organizations. Russia is charging Turkey with going to extremes in its fight against the PKK but at the same time, it accuses Turkey of incompetency in its fight against ISIL. On the other hand, Turkey could not get the desired reaction from Russia about the PKK issue. 

The most important problem is observed in the Syrian crisis. From the outset, the two countries adopted different approaches in the Syria issue, and they have not taken any step backward. Russia has supported the Syrian regime on every occasion while Turkey has stood against it. Russia is seeking for a solution with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but Turkey wants an al-Assad-free way. U.S.-led coalition forces’ plans to launch a joint military operation on ISIL positions and to create a buffer zone have been a source of concern for Moscow. Russia believes the Libyan experience will be repeated in Syria and there is an effort to topple the al-Assad regime under the guise of fighting with ISIL. Turkey’s opening the İncirlik Airbase to U.S. warplanes has further escalated Moscow’s concerns. As a counterattack, Moscow has boosted its longstanding military relations with Syria. 

To sum up, Turkish-Russian relations are passing through a tough time. Strengthening mutual ties that have been established in the last two decades and maintaining high-level dialogue will sustain the relations. The two countries have practically strategic relations in certain areas, but there are also some disagreeable points that are not clearly uttered. Both Turkey and Russia should review some policies in order to keep up the relations that have been put on the right track in the last two decades. However, this is not an easy task. The two countries seem like they are growing away from each other. That’s why President Erdoğan’s visit to Moscow on Sept. 23 will define the atmosphere in bilateral relations. 

*Assoc. Prof. Fatih Özbay is a senior fellow at the Caspian Strategy Institute and professor at Istanbul Technical University Faculty of Arts and Sciences Department of Humanities and Social Sciences

Source: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-russian-relations

Russia is changing Turkey's calculus in Syria


Russia’s recent deployment of aircraft and military equipment in Syria runs counter to Turkey’s efforts to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The introduction of Russian aircraft and surface-to-air missiles prompted many to argue that Moscow is seeking to prevent the establishment of a US- and Turkish-backed air-exclusion zone over parts of northern Syria. While Russia’s actions may complicate the air campaign in northern Syria, the intervention has the potential to undermine Turkey’s Syria policy, independent of Ankara’s participation in the anti-ISIS coalition’s airstrikes.

Despite agreeing to open Incirlik airbase to US aircraft in July, Turkey remains dissatisfied with the coalition’s singular focus on the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Ankara has indicated that its participation in the air-campaign is designed to create an ISIS-free zone between the Syrian town of Azaz and the Euphrates River. Ankara envisioned that the increased air traffic over Aleppo would result in the creation of a de facto air-exclusion zone. In doing so, the Syrian air force would face difficulty striking Turkish backed rebels, ultimately contributing to the regime’s expulsion from Syria’s largest city.

In other parts of Syria, Ankara has pursued a similar policy. During indirect discussions with Iran, for example, Ankara helped broker a ceasefire arrangement in the southern town of Zabadani between Jaysh al-Fateh and the Syrian regime/Hezbollah. The 25-point agreement provides for UN monitoring and a regime commitment to refrain from conducting air operations in the ceasefire areas. If the Zabadani agreement remains in place, Ankara will have created two de facto air-exclusion zones in rebel held areas in the north and south.

Jaysh al-Fateh includes numerous different rebel groups, including Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra and the Salafi Ahrar al-Sham. The group also receives support from numerous other rebel groups that the US supports via aMilitary Operations Command office in Reyhanli. Jaysh al-Fateh has battled ISIS in northern Aleppo while also managing to expel the regime from Idlib and is now threatening the regime stronghold of Latakia. 

Russia’s deployment of SU-30M, SU-24M, and SU-25 aircraft, as well as attack helicopters at Al-Assad International Airport could complicate any Turkish backed offensive in Latakia. However, much will depend on Moscow’s rules of engagement and potential Russian strikes on Turkish-allied rebel positions in Idlib and Aleppo. The base’s location and size suggests that Russia’s primary mission is point defense of Latakia, rather than a large-scale operation to retake territory the regime has lost to the opposition. However, Russian forces could also choose to bolster the regime’s front line positions along the northern and southern fronts with the rebels, or strike ISIS targets independent of the coalition.

The Russian strategy appears to have two aims: Bolster Assad’s military forces and strengthen the regime’s hand in any future negotiations to end the conflict. Ankara has an immediate interest in working with the United States to discern Russian intentions, particularly as they pertain to Idlib and in northern Aleppo. Beyond this, Ankara will resist the incorporation of Russia into air operations against ISIS. Turkey has also rejected any role for Assad in a future Syrian government, but has signaled that it will support the terms in the June 2012 Geneva Communiqué. Thus, in any potential transfer of power scenario, Assad could remain in power while the opposition and the government work to establish a transitional governing body.

Turkey, however, continues to argue that the Syrian regime is the root of the current problems inside Syria and that Assad has no place in any future government. Ankara believes that Assad will only compromise if rebel forces threaten the regime’s hold on power. The anti-ISIS air campaign is only one piece of a far broader effort to put pressure on the regime to force it from power. Russia’s military actions are partly designed to counter the success of Turkish-backed rebels and is therefore diametrically opposed to Ankara’s Syria strategy. In the near term, Ankara may turn to Saudi Arabia to increase the flow of TOW anti-tank missiles to the Syrian conflict to offset Russia’s introduction of tanks and armored personnel carriers. 

Any rebel-Russian clashes, however, risk diverting forces from the fight against Assad and ISIS. Ankara could try to take advantage of the memories of the Afghan jihad to boost the morale of certain rebel brigades it supports. However, the further radicalization of the Syrian insurgency could pose a longer-term problem for Turkish efforts to use Ahrar al-Sham to marginalize ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra (albeit to a much lesser extent). Turkey believes that the two groups’ foot soldiers are ideologically flexible and can be convinced to join with other Salafi or nationalist elements of the Syrian insurgency. While references to the Afghan jihad may temporarily boost morale, it risks undermining a key element of Ankara’s ongoing efforts to undermine ISIS.

While Russia’s deployment remains relatively limited, but the decision has an outsized effect on Turkey’s approach to the Syrian conflict. In response, Ankara may choose to deepen its support for the Syrian rebels to bolster the insurgency’s capacity to combat a better-equipped regime backed by Russian land and air forces. These dynamics suggest the hardening of battle lines in the Syrian civil war, which have increasingly begun to reflect the interests of the outside powers h elping to sustain both sides of the conflict.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/russia-is-changing-turkeys-calculus-in-syria-2015-9?ref=yfp

Buisness Insider: 'Shut out': Turkey finds itself 'in a very difficult position' with the Russian moves in Syria

'Shut out': Turkey finds itself 'in a very difficult position' with the Russian moves in Syria

The Russian incursion into Syria is hampering one of the region's most important players. Turkey, which has long sought Syrian president Bashar Assad's transition out of power, has been supporting some of the most powerful rebel groups in northern Syria since the civil war erupted in 2011. A Russian bombing campaign against rebels including Turkey-backed rebel groups, however, now threatens to undermine Ankara's entire Syria policy, which has been predicated on bolstering anti-Assad rebels and establishing a "safe zone" for displaced Syrians. It also precludes any possibility of Turkish intervention in the north.

"Turkey is shut out," Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said in an interview. "The Turks are struggling to understand the new rules of the game, much like the US and others backing the Syrian opposition in its various forms."

"The question now is whether Turkey would want to openly challenge Russia," Schanzer added. Since the Russians began their air campaign against the rebels on Wednesday, Turkey has expressed "serious concern" over the air strikes. On Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accused Russia of hitting the rebels to bolster the Assad regime. But Turkey's ability to condemn Russia for the way it has upended Ankara's plans in Syria is limited given Turkey's extensive economic relationship with Russia.

"Turkey finds itself in a very difficult position with the Russians," Aaron Stein, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, said in an interview. Russia's intervention on the side of Bashar Assad has further complicated Turkish president Recep Erdogan's desire to limit the territorial gains of the Kurdish YPG along the border. "If the Russians are able to maintain their current state of operations and they continue to strike targets along the Idlib-Latakia dividing line, that will ease the pressure off Assad," Stein said. "As a result, Turkey's instinct will be to increase support for the rebels. But Ankara will also have to consider the possibility that bolstering the rebels further might lead weapons to fall into the hands of the YPG," the military arm of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

In an interview with al-Monitor, Salih Muslim, the co-chair of the PYD, said that the Russian incursion into Syria has undermined Turkey's ability to intervene in any meaningful way — a welcomed development for the Kurds. "Turkey’s Syrian policy is totally bankrupt," Muslim said. "Two years ago I was talking to a Russian official and he asked me, 'What do the Kurds most fear?' 'Possible Turkish intervention,' I replied." Moreover, Muslim notes, Russia's intervention will the Turks' ability to impose a security zone in the north, which has long been opposed by the Kurds.

"The Russians will not meddle in the north," Muslim said. "But should Turkey attempt to intervene, then they will. Russia has a joint defense agreement with Syria. They will prevent Turkish intervention not to defend us [Kurds] but to defend Syria’s border."

Turkey's plans for a safe zone may be scuttled for now, but Ankara will likely compensate by doubling down on its support for anti-Assad rebel groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al Sham as the situation escalates. "Ankara would be extremely concerned if the Russians took their campaign into Aleppo, because it opens up the possibility of another massive refugee flow into Turkey, which is already at its limits," Stein noted. There are more than one million Syrian refugees in Turkey, around 30% of whom live in 22 government-run camps near the Syrian-Turkish border.

In order to prevent another refugee surge, "there will be considerations of providing the rebels with surface-to-air missiles to blunt the efficacy of Russian air craft," he said. In any case, the Russian intervention will lead to a hardening of battle lines on all sides. "The Russian intervention could prompt new phase in this conflict that could make things even bloodier," Schanzer said. "We ignore that possibility at our peril."

Source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/shut-turkey-finds-itself-very-153200637.html

Violence instead of democracy: Putin slams ‘policies of exceptionalism and impunity’ in UN speech

  • ‘Stop playing games with terrorists, join under UN against ISIS’...
  • ‘Final solution to refugee crisis is recovery of Middle East’...
  • ‘Ukraine’s territorial integrity cannot be ensured by arms’...
The export of so-called ‘democratic’ revolutions has continued, but has unleashed poverty and violence instead of the triumph of democracy, Russian President Vladimir Putin said addressing the UN General Assembly. Attempts to push for changes in other countries based on ideological preferences have led to “tragic consequences and degradation rather than progress,” said Putin in his speech to world leaders and policy makers gathered at the UN General Assembly’s anniversary 70th session in New York on Monday.

“We should all remember what our past has taught us,” Putin said. “We, for instance, remember examples from the history of the Soviet Union.” It seems however that some are not learning from others’ mistakes, but keep repeating them, he said, adding that “the export of so-called ‘democratic’ revolutions continues.” 

“I cannot help asking those who have caused this situation: Do you realize now what you have done?” he asked. “But I am afraid the question will hang in the air, because policies based on self-confidence and belief in one’s exceptionality and impunity have never been abandoned.”

He cited the example of revolutions in the Middle East and Northern Africa, where people have wished for change. However, instead of reforms and the triumph of democracy and progress “we’ve got violence, poverty and social disaster, and human rights, including the right to life, to which no weight is given.”

“Rather than bringing about reforms, aggressive foreign interference has resulted in the brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself,” he said. A single center of domination emerged in the world after the Cold War era ended, Putin stated. Those who were at the “top of this pyramid” were tempted to think that “if they were so strong and exceptional, they knew what to do better than others."

“Therefore they do not have to reckon with the UN, which instead of automatically authorizing, legitimizing the necessary decisions often creates obstacles or in other words ‘stands in the way’.” A single center of domination emerged in the world after the Cold War era ended, Putin stated. Those who were at the “top of this pyramid” were tempted to think that “if they were so strong and exceptional, they knew what to do better than others."

“Therefore they do not have to reckon with the UN, which instead of automatically authorizing, legitimizing the necessary decisions often creates obstacles or in other words ‘stands in the way’.” 

‘Stop playing games with terrorists, join under UN against ISIS’

Power vacuums in the Middle East or regions of North Africa have led to the emergence of lawless areas which immediately started to be filled with extremists and terrorists, Putin said. Islamic State militants (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), who gained a foothold in Iraq and Syria, are now seeking to dominate the whole of the Islamic world, he said.

“[Islamic State] ranks include former Iraqi servicemen who were thrown onto the street after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many recruits also come from Libya – a country whose statehood has been destroyed as a result of gross violations of UNSC resolution 1973.”

Some of the extremists have defected from the ‘moderate’ opposition in Syria, which has been supported by some Western states, he stressed. “First, they are armed and trained and then they defect to the so-called Islamic State. Besides, the Islamic State did not just come from nowhere. It was also initially forged as a tool against undesirable secular regimes,” he explained.

He described it as “hypocritical and irresponsible” to turn a blind eye to the channels through which terrorists are financed while making declarations about their threat to the whole world. “We believe that any attempts to play games with terrorists, let alone arm them, is not only short-sighted, but ‘fire hazardous.’ This may result in a global terrorist threat increasing dramatically and engulfing new regions of the world,” he said.

IS trains militants from many nations, including Europe, and Russia is not an exception, he said. Putin urged for cooperation with Syrian government forces fighting terrorists on the ground. “We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face,” he said. “We should finally acknowledge that no one but President Assad's armed forces and Kurdish militia are truly fighting Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria,” he added.

Russia has been providing military-technical assistance to Iraq, Syria and other states who lead the fight against terrorism in the region, he noted. Putin proposed the joining of efforts and the creation of a broad international coalition against terrorism. He proposed discussions at the UNSC about a resolution aimed at coordinating forces to confront IS and other terrorist organizations, based on the principles of the UN Charter. 

‘Final solution to refugee crisis is recovery of Middle East’

If a comprehensive strategy of political and economic stabilization of crisis-struck countries is developed, then there will be a hope of tackling the problem of the refugee crisis, Putin stated.“The flow of people who were forced to leave their homeland has literally flooded the neighboring countries and then Europe,” he said calling it a “new painful migration of peoples.” He stressed that the fundamental solution to the refugee crisis is rooted in restoring statehood where it has been destroyed, strengthening government institutions where they are weak and providing comprehensive assistance to the peoples’ countries of origin. 

‘Ukraine’s territorial integrity cannot be ensured by arms’

Cold War thinking and the desire to explore new geopolitical areas are still present among some in the international community, said Putin. “First they continued their policy of expanding NATO,” he said. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, “they offered post-Soviet countries a false choice – either to be with the West or with the East. Sooner or later the logic of confrontation was bound to spark off a grave geopolitical crisis. This is exactly what happened in Ukraine where the discontent of the population with the current authorities was used and a military coup was orchestrated from the outside that triggered civil war as a result.” Putin once again called for the full implementation of the Minsk accords brokered by the Normandy Four in February. He said that the accords will guarantee Ukraine’s development “as a civilized state.”

“Ukraine’s territorial integrity cannot be ensured by threats and the force of arms. What is needed is the genuine consideration of the interests and rights of people in the Donbass region, [and] respect for their choice.”

Source: https://www.rt.com/news/316804-putin-russia-unga-speech/

Do you realize what you have done? - Putin gives the war party a bootin’


Western policy in Syria and Ukraine has failed. Monday's events at the UN, suggest a change of tack. A new, more stable, international order could take hold. You almost felt sorry for Petro Poroshenko. The end for Ukraine as a major international cause célèbre was as ignominious as it was swift. As wretched as the violence on the streets of Kiev as Euromaidan began to tear Ukraine apart. First, the President’s delegation at the United Nations General Assembly exited as Vladimir Putin began his speech. Then, at the rear of the room a handful of Ukrainian activists held a tattered national flag.

Nobody seemed to pay them the slightest attention. One man picked his nose. So did a woman nearby. Other delegates fixed their gaze on the real action below. Eventually, two officials arrived and ejected the group. No matter how Kiev tries to spin the incident, it was a humiliation. Pitiful in the extreme. Barack Obama had earlier attempted to gently draw a line under the miserable Ukrainian situation which has dogged East-West relations for almost two years now. Poroshenko’s sad stooped walk betrayed the fact that he knew it. The attempts to rage against the dying of the light only made the spectacle more lousy.

America’s policy in Ukraine has failed. Its attempt to land “the big prize” and push NATO to Russia’s underbelly has been in vain. While the two Christian superpowers - Moscow and Washington - were tearing themselves apart over a semi-failed state, the real enemy was running amok in the Middle East. ISIS thrived in a vacuum while the big boys were distracted and at each other’s throats.

Teutonic tactics

As ever in Russia/US relations, the key is Germany. Berlin is buckling under the weight of a migrant crisis which threatens the entire European Union project. This summer, the result of America’s meddling in the Arab world came to Europe. A refugee crisis of the kind not seen since 1945. As a result, the continent’s barely concealed tensions have resurfaced. A new iron curtain has descended over Europe. This time based on different attitudes to asylum seekers to the left and right of Vienna.

Europe demands that something be done about ISIS. Syria, which was once seen as a geopolitical game, has become an existential crisis for the EU. Putin knows this, Barack Obama knows this and Angela Merkel is tearing her hair out hoping they can both dig her out of a massive hole. For those of us who desire a rapprochement between Russia and the West yesterday was a momentous day. The two-year hiatus in Putin-Obama summits had followed a few very uncomfortable encounters involving the two men. Meanwhile, relations between Moscow and America’s client states in Europe had atrophied considerably.

In New York, the two Presidents played a different game. Both delivered jabs at the other in their keynote speeches, but neither reached for a right hook. Obama and Putin were consistent on long-held positions but carefully avoided creating any new tensions. Then they met, face to face. A chinwag supposed to last 50 minutes, extended to 94. There is now genuine hope that Russia and America can co-operate to some degree in restoring order to the Middle East. In Putin’s post meeting press briefing, Ukraine essentially didn't exist.

Consistency in a mad world

Putin’s speech corresponded to his enduring principles, but offered little new. As ever, the President reiterated concerns over the spread of US military power in Europe, “why did NATO expand if the Warsaw Pact no longer existed, if the Soviet Union was gone?” He also pointed out that Libya was destroyed thanks to the manipulation of the UN Security Council by NATO. “Do you realize now what you have done?” Putin asked. "I'm afraid the question will hang in the air, because policies based on self-confidence and belief in one’s exceptionality and impunity have never been abandoned.

Indirectly warning against the hegemonic influence of the US, Putin claimed that Washington abused its dominant post-Cold War status, ignoring the UN. “The attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the United Nations - are extremely dangerous,” he commented. Warming to his theme, the President lashed out at the imposition of a “false choice” between east and west on former Soviet states by Western interests.
A Russian domestic TV panelist had suggested that Obama’s earlier speech “was like being lectured: about how to live, how the US is better than everyone else.” Putin stayed away from directly confrontational attacks on America. Instead, he retreated to his long-standing opinion that Washington abused its position at the "top of pyramid" that emerged in the 90’s.

Rather than rake over tensions in the former Soviet Union, he decided to stir the coarse sands of ennui in international Middle East policy. More-or-less blaming Washington for the rise of ISIS, Putin insisted that “only President Assad's forces are truly fighting terrorism and extremism in Syria.” The President then suggested a broad international coalition against terrorism, "similar to the anti-Hitler coalition" of the past. Putin implored Muslim religious leaders to show "guidance" to stop the spread of terrorism associated with the faith. 

United we stand?

Later, in his press conference following the Obama talks, Putin ruled out the notion of Russian soldiers engaging in ground operations in Syria. He insisted that instead, Moscow will try to support Kurds & the Syrian army against ISIS. Putin further revealed that he had discussed the idea of airstrikes with Obama. However, the largest sign of the new reality was when he stated that Russia was “ready to restore relations with America to the normal scale.” Adding that, “it wasn't our choice to limit them.”

Compromise is not a dirty word. It's now time to shout it more loudly. Europe is creaking under migration and fears that unless Ukraine stabilizes, a new wave could eventually come from that troubled state. Germany and France, in particular, are furiously searching for a way to "solve" the Middle East nightmare. Meanwhile, even the previously hard-line British are softening their stance on cooperation with Russia. Iran proved that when Russia and the West work together, great progress can be made. When they compete for influence, as in Ukraine, disaster is never far away. Vladimir Putin has outlined a roadmap to potentially resolve the Syria crisis. The West despises Assad. Nevertheless, his government is far more palatable than ISIS or the total collapse of the Syrian state.

Source: https://www.rt.com/op-edge/316884-ukraine-syria-putin-unga/

Putin v. Obama: High-handed Lies vs. Unvarnished Truths


Obama addresses make painful listening. He represents ruthless US ambitions to rule the world – even at the risk of destroying it. His remarks at all times reflect willful deception, entirely lacking truth, candor and straightforwardness. He’s a shameless demagogue, a con man, a disgrace to his people and office he holds – masquerading as a legitimate leader. His rants lost credibility long ago. His policies speak for themselves. His agenda threatens humanity’s survival. His neocon infested administration deplores peace and stability. His claims otherwise ring hollow. His Monday General Assembly address was true to form.

His praise for UN achievements over seven decades belies its dismal record. Its mandate “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” failed to prevent them throughout its entire history – US-led NATO and Israel bearing most responsibility. Obama ludicrously claimed “unparalleled advances in human liberty and prosperity…lift(ing) more than a billion people from poverty…constraining bigger countries from imposing our will on smaller ones…advancing the emergence of democracy and development and individual liberty on every continent.”

Fact: Only a fool or liar believes this rubbish. Human liberty and prosperity were never more imperiled.Fact: Billions of people are mired in poverty worldwide. Half the US population is either impoverished or bordering on it. Poverty in other Western countries and Israel are increasing. So-called “real progress” Obama touts is nonexistent. 

Fact: No nation imposes its will more on other nations of all sizes than America, none more aggressively, recklessly, and ruthlessly. 

Fact: None wages more direct and proxy wars. None more greatly threatens world peace and stability – none more intolerant of democracy anywhere at home and abroad, none more disdainful of rule of law principles, none more hated for its villainy. Obama revealed his rage for war, saying he’ll “never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.” 

Fact: America’s only enemies are ones it invents. Endless wars on humanity reflect longstanding bipartisan US policy. The so-called “threat of terrorism” he hypes often is entirely fabricated. It’s manufactured to serve US imperial interests. State terrorism alone matters – the greatest threat to world peace. Obama lied accusing Russia of “aggression” in Ukraine and annexing Crimea. He bears full responsibility for ousting a democratically elected government, installing Nazi-infested putschists to replace it, using them to wage war on their own people, ignoring the will of Crimeans and Donbass to embrace democracy, reject fascist rule. Obama: “(W)e want a strong Russia that’s invested in working with us to strengthen the international system as a whole.”

Fact: Longstanding US policy calls for regime change, replacing Russia’s democratic governance with a US-controlled puppet regime, balkanizing the country for easier control, stealing its vast resources, exploiting its people. Obama: “(W)e joined an international coalition under a UN mandate to prevent a slaughter” in Libya…(W)e helped the Libyan people bring an end to the reign of a tyrant.” 

Fact: Obama waged naked aggression against a nation threatening no one, destroying Africa’s most developed country, massacring its people, creating an out-of-control cauldron of violence and chaos. No UN mandate authorized his war. He turned truth on its head calling Bashar al-Assad “a dictator, slaughter(ing) tens of thousands of his own people.”

Fact: In June 2014, Syrians overwhelmingly reelected him in a process international monitors called open, free and fair. Obama bears full responsibility for endless war and mass slaughter – one of many high crimes on his rap sheet. Assad courageously defends his nation and people. He deserves universal support. Obama’s claim about wanting ISIS degraded and destroyed is polar opposite his agenda. Its recruits are US proxy foot soldiers, serving Washington’s imperial agenda, supported, not attacked, by Pentagon airstrikes. Obama: “(T)he United States is increasing the number of refugees who we welcome within our borders.”

Fact: False! Pathetically few are permitted entry. None are “welcome.” Obama and Bush/Cheney bear full responsibility for the greatest refugee crisis since WW II – the direct result of US imperial wars. Obama’s address was beginning-to-end demagogic rubbish, total misinformation, one Big Lie after another – praising US democracy and the rights and needs of people everyone. America is a fascist police state, ruled by money controlled duopoly power. Democracy is pure fantasy. Endless wars and exploitation destroy the hopes, dreams and lives of people wherever America shows up – a scourge on humanity, a cancer threatening life on earth.

Putin is the polar opposite of Obama. World peace and stability are his top geopolitical priorities. No world leader more deserves Nobel Peace Prize recognition. War criminals like Obama nearly always win. Putin’s address was polar opposite Obama’s – forthright, candid, honest remarks, highlighting the importance of world nations working together cooperatively for peace and stability.

“Russia stands ready to work together with its partners on the basis of full consensus,” he stressed, denouncing rule by force – “a world dominated by selfishness rather than collective work, a world increasingly characterized by dictate rather than equality.”

A world without “democracy and freedom…where true independent states would be replaced by an ever-growing number of de facto protectorates and externally controlled territories” – America’s worldview, accepting no alternatives. “(S)overeignty (is) the right to choose freely one’s own future for every person, nation or state,” said Putin. Instead of learning from past mistakes, they’re repeated, he explained – with tragic consequences.

Instead of solving major problems, new ones are created, old ones exacerbated. “Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster. Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life.”

“(P)olicies based on self-conceit and belief in one’s exceptionality and impunity have never been abandoned.” Endless wars rage. “(T)he Islamic State…did not just come from nowhere.” Imperial powers use it “as a tool against ‘undesirable’ secular” governments they want replaced.

Islamic State terrorists seek “dominance in the Islamic world. (Its) plans go further than that. The situation is more than dangerous,” Putin stressed. He denounced “hypocritical and irresponsible…loud declarations about the threat of international terrorism” while financing and supporting it at the same time. President Putin rightfully “denounced “hypocritical and irresponsible…loud declarations about the threat of international terrorism” while financing and supporting it at the same time.” Guess who he was referring to.

“We cannot allow these criminals who already tasted blood to return back home and continue their evil doings,” he stressed. World leaders must unite to eliminate their scourge, working cooperatively with Syria’s government, he urged. Claims about Russian territorial or other nefarious geopolitical ambitions are baseless, a diversion from the current disturbing state of world affairs, he explained. He proposed nations work together cooperatively – “guided by common values and common interests, rather than ambitions,” according to international law, including UN Charter principles.

“(W)e must join efforts to address the problems that all of us are facing and create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism.”

The alternative is endless wars, devastating consequences, including unprecedented human refugee floods seeking refuge, millions perhaps heading to Europe, already overwhelmed with numbers they’re poorly handling. Putin stressed the importance of restoring legitimate governance in Libya, supporting Iraq’s government in its fight against terrorism, and “comprehensive” assistance to Assad – “the legitimate government of Syria.”

He urged the “full and faithful implementation of” Minsk ceasefire terms in Ukraine, ending the bloodshed once and for all – respecting “the interests and rights of (Donbass residents) and respect for their (democratic) choice.” He denounced “unilateral sanctions” illegally imposed, “circumventing the UN Charter,” permitting only Security Council members to impose them. Putin addressed other vital issues, presenting ideas and vital solutions to pressing problems – polar opposite America’s destructive agenda.

Russia will work cooperatively “with other countries (to) make the world stable and safe, as well as provide conditions for the development of all states and nations,” he concluded. Following their addresses, both leaders met privately for 90 minutes. Obama left with no comments. Putin told reporters “(t)oday’s meeting was very constructive, practical and surprisingly frank.”

“We found a lot of common ground, but there are differences as well. In fact, they are known, so there is no need to repeat them.” He touched on the dismal state of US/Russian relations, reflecting Washington’s agenda, not Moscow’s. He urges peace and stability, respect for the sovereignty of all nations, a united front to defeat the scourge of international terrorism. Obama wants endless imperial wars for unchallenged global dominance – an agenda for unprecedented human slaughter and misery.

Source: http://www.greanvillepost.com/2015/09/29/un-high-handed-lies-vs-unvarnished-truths/

The Fiscal Times: Even in the U.S., Putin Is Crowned Winner in U.N. Showdown


When you run a heavy-handed government that has systematically beaten down most of the independent domestic press and replaced it with servile government-run news outlets, you expect to see positive headlines after you deliver a major speech. But when Vladimir Putin woke up on Tuesday morning, a day after delivering his first address to the United National General Assembly in 10 years, even he must have been pleasantly surprised by what he read.

“Vladimir Putin Steals Barack Obama’s Thunder on the World Stage,” read one headline. “Obama Has Turned Putin into the World’s Most Powerful Leader,” read another. “At the U.N., Putin Checkmates Obama on Ukraine, Syria, ISIS,” went one more.

Now, Putin can presumably order up whatever headline he wants from TASS, Sputnik or Russia Today – all of which are government-controlled and have English-language versions meant to spread the Kremlin’s message abroad. What likely surprised him was that the headlines above, and others like them, were from U.S. news outlets. In order, they were published by CNN, the New York Post, and the Washington Examiner. The Russian media outlets, in fact, were relatively restrained compared to some of the U.S. coverage of the clash between Obama and Putin on Monday. The U.S. president spoke harshly about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its support of Bashar al-Assad, the beleaguered Syrian dictator whom Obama characterized as a murderous despot who must be removed.

Putin blamed the U.S. policy of fomenting regime change for the unrest in the Mideast in general and Syria in particular, and said it would be an “enormous mistake” to fail to support Assad who, he said, leads one of the only armies “truly” battling the terror group ISIS. He also announced that in its capacity as current chair of the UN Security Council, Russia would convene a ministerial meeting aimed at creating a new coalition to fight ISIS – this in addition to the announcement that Iran, Iraq, Russia and Syria had all recently announced an intelligence-sharing agreement to coordinate the fight against ISIS.

When the dust cleared, many U.S. outlets – particularly those of a conservative bent – adjudged Putin the winner. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page declared that Obama had been “cornered” by Putin and Iran on the Syria question and noted that “Mr. Putin publicly laughs at the feeble U.S. efforts to build a pro-Western anti-Islamic State coalition.”

Putin’s apparent public relations victory on Monday was even more of a success than most in the West realize, because of the way it will play to a Russian audience. When Putin first came to power more than 15 years ago, he set about winning over the Russian people by extracting the Russian Federation from the economic morass left behind by decades of failed Communist rule. He was largely successful, and the Russian people loved him for it. Putin’s trouble now is that the Russian economy is under pressure on various fronts. Overly dependent on the sale of oil and natural gas, the Russian economy is faltering because of plummeting energy prices. International sanctions related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and continued support of armed insurgents in other parts of the country have also taken a toll. The ruble is worth about half of what it was a year and a half ago.

Faced with a population experiencing greater and greater economic pain, Putin has made his new mission not to restore Russia’s economy but to restore its image in the world. He has, almost explicitly, promised to turn Russia back into a superpower again. The Kremlin’s increased military assertiveness, the Crimean invasion and now the presence of Russian troops in Syria combined with Putin’s very public effort to take on a leadership role in the Middle East are all part of that effort.

In the end, it’s not at all clear that Russia has the capacity to project the kind of global power that the former Soviet Union did during the years of the Cold War. The Russian Federation is smaller, poorer and weaker than the Communist empire that eventually crumbled under its own weight at the end of the last century. For Putin though, the issue may not be so much the long-term success of an effort to rebuild Russian global influence but the short-term gain that looking like a major world power again provides him in the domestic political arena. If nothing else, it might buy time to engineer a much-needed economic recovery.

Source: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/09/29/Even-US-Putin-Crowned-Winner-UN-Showdown-0

Putin taught America a lesson of multipolarity


The US refused Bashar al-Assad's removal, as John Kerry claimed. He also admitted that the White House's policy failed. Boris Mezhuev, political scientist and Professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences told Pravda.Ru in an interview whether it can be considered as Putin's triumph.  According to him, Russia's consistency played an important role in the Syrian issue.

 "Russia yielded to no persuasions of stupid advisers concerning the Assad's surrender. It maintained unity with Assad, and that is the only guarantee to establish relationship with the US," Mezhuev noted. The expert added that there can be traced the methodology of Russian victory, which is not to surrender anybody and not to discard trumps in any case.  

"It is clear that one should keep to hard, strong stance. Moreover, there could be observed predictability of the allies. Russia maintained its legal relations with everyone it wanted to and did not quarreled with any of the influential players in the region. It fell out neither with the Saudi Arabia, nor Israel, Turkey, Egypt.  Such a diplomacy showed that Russia is the most compromise force. With China such an alliance is not possible. Putin showed manliness and persuasiveness, as proving his point of view," Boris Mezhuev told Pravda.Ru.

He also noted that the policy of pulling chestnuts out of the fire had failed.  The main issue now is not to let the IS enlargement. An alternative coalition of former IS sponsors may wait in the wings, and launch a great war in the Middle East after the threat, i.e. the IS leaves.  It was a striking lesson of multipolarity for the US, a lot of things will happen in America, and they will be amazed. It will be just another world, that will remind of the state of war, but specifically in this region. That is, peace is based on multipolar relations but not on the fact that "we have friends in the Saudi Arabia, and we listen only to them," the political scientist concluded.

Source: http://english.pravda.ru/news/world/30-09-2015/132206-putin-0/

Media Starts Blaming Their Man Obama for Syrian Catastrophe

The Washington Post has decided to run an article from editorial page editor Fred Hiatt pinning blame for the Syrian catastrophe on President Barack Obama. Hiatt is far too mild, fails to acknowledge that conservatives have been warning about the fallout from Obama foreign policy for years, and does not come to grips with the media’s role in protecting Obama for so long. However, it is still remarkable to see the President taken so clearly to task by a member of his adoring media. “This may be the most surprising of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacies: not just that he presided over a humanitarian and cultural disaster of epochal proportions, but that he soothed the American people into feeling no responsibility for the tragedy,” Hiatt begins.

Hiatt observes that despite rampant ISIS vandalism of historical sites, and one of the biggest refugee crises the world has ever seen, “the ‘Save Darfur’ signs have not given way to ‘Save Syria.'” This should not be a surprise. No one on the Left was going to launch a populist crusade to “raise awareness” about the plight of Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds, Assyrian Christians, and others victimized by what Obama dismissed as the “JV team” of terrorism. The media only assigns credibility—usually disproportionate credibility — to populist crusades originating on the Left. With those points out of the way, the rest of Hiatt’s critique is devastating. He slams Obama for trying to sell indecision and inaction as “smart power”:

He has argued, at times, that there was nothing the United States could do, belittling the Syrian opposition as “former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth.” He has argued that we would only make things worse — “I am more mindful probably than most,” he told the New Republic in 2013, “of not only our incredible strengths and capabilities, but also our limitations.” He has implied that because we can’t solve every problem, maybe we shouldn’t solve any. “How do I weigh tens of thousands who’ve been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?” he asked (though at the time thousands were not being killed in Congo).
Hiatt also calls President Obama out for his habit of taking little check-the-box actions to get the public off his back, when it became impossible to tout inaction as smart policy, intriguingly including the much-ballyhooed recent plans for a safe zone on the Turkish border as an example. He also mentions how the big Obama plans for a white-hat “moderate Syrian army” trained and equipped by the U.S. turned into fifty soldiers per year, without going into the ugly details of what al-Qaeda did to the first fifty guys the President sent into the meat grinder.

Hiatt also claims that “when Obama pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq, critics worried there would be instability; none envisioned the emergence of a full-blown terrorist state.” That is not true. Republican critics were strident in warning that Obama’s talking-point-driven Iraqi pullout would lead to disaster. They did not see ISIS coming across the border in a handful of militarized pickup trucks and knocking over Mosul, but smarter men than President Obama—notably including his ultimate presidential rival in 2012, Mitt Romney — were yelling from the rooftops that Iraq was not ready to be trusted with its own security. Romney said in October 2011:

President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.
Most of the GOP presidential field followed suit, while Democrats mocked them for lacking faith in the towering genius of President Obama, and the media sided with the Democrats. It is sheer historical revisionism to suggest that critics of Obama’s pullout were muttering vaguely about how it might be a tad premature. They explicitly warned of disaster, and they were right. As for Syria, Hiatt notes that “critics” worried President Obama’s blustery threats to Bashar Assad “might prove empty.” (“Critics” in this sense means “everyone who knows anything at all about either Barack Obama or Bashar Assad.”)

Obama’s now-infamous comments about a chemical weapons red line were another example of the feckless “get off my back” approach Hiatt criticizes earlier in his piece. Obama never thought Assad would call his bluff and deploy WMD against his own people; he thought he was setting up an exceedingly unlikely precondition for action, to justify never taking action. He was pretending to be a tough-guy bully without any intention of lacing up his gloves and climbing into the ring. Assad, and his patrons in Russia and Iran, took Obama’s measure perfectly and used his empty threats as leverage to weaken American influence in the Middle East. Hiatt then returns to all things nobody could have envisioned:

Not just the savagery of chemical weapons and ‘barrel bombs,’ but also the Islamic State’s recruitment of thousands of foreign fighters, its spread from Libya to Afghanistan, the danger to the U.S. homeland that has alarmed U.S. intelligence officials, the refugees destabilizing Europe.
It is notable that he studiously avoids mentioning Libya, a crucial piece of the migration puzzle, or the way President Obama played his cards during the “Arab Spring,” which the President completely and dangerously misinterpreted as a flowering of liberal democracy, rather than the replacement of icky semi-competent corrupt regimes with murderous Islamist fascists.

It’s a matter of established fact that the Turks — not the loveliest of regimes, to be sure, but a potent NATO ally — have been yelling about the dangers of the Syrian bloodbath and calling for the West to knock over Assad for years. This was, in part, because they had a close-up view of both the ISIS recruiting and outbound refugee problems. There have been huge Syrian refugee camps in Turkey for a long time. But taking Turkey’s advice would have involved President Obama going up against Iran, and the North Star of his foreign policy is his unshakable belief that Iran is the incipient regional hegemon the West can do business with, the only Muslim power with the capability and will to enforce order on the Middle East.

To be sure, there has never been much of an appetite in any quarter of either European or American politics for war in Syria, except for the Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 41% -Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) 46% interventionist wing of the Republican Party. Some who might have rallied around a serious plan to take decisive action against Assad, al-Qaeda, and ISIS were not prepared to sign up for the usual desultory cruise-missile strikes, followed by Obama collecting applause from the media for “doing something about weapons of mass destruction.”