So the Russian military is now flowing into Syria to buttress the Assad regime in its fight with the Syrian opposition rebels and ISIS. Meanwhile the Free Syrian Army, which the U.S. spent 50 million dollars on so far, has a total of maybe 9 U.S. trained fighters in the fight. And an FSA commander who was recently interviewed admits that many of his fighters have been defecting to Al-Nusra and ISIS and the other jihadi splinter groups in the witch’s brew cauldron of the Syrian theater of operations.
So it is safe to say that Russia is now going to dominate in that theater while the U.S. is being effectively rendered irrelevant. But this is not entirely Obama’s fault because it is only fair to ask: What could America have done differently over the past couple of years to have prevented the present turn of events? If the U.S. had armed the moderate Syrian opposition in the early stages of the Syrian uprising there is no guarantee that those weapons and fighters would have not leaked over to the radical Islamists such as ISIS/Al Qaeda. And the American public was not in any mood to send ground forces and build up a military contingent there as Putin is willing to do now on behalf of Russia…and there was no friendly government there anyway to provide a base of operations for the U.S. as Assad is providing for the Russians now.
The last option for a more vigorous U.S. engagement there was still available about a year ago when Obama announced the limited U.S. air campaign against ISIS. It was possible a year ago to drastically escalate the air campaign to a strategic level and carpet bomb the ISIS capital of Raqqa in northern Syria, and massively hit other targets, thereby destroying ISIS, maybe, but at the cost of horrendous numbers of civilian casualties with all the attendant negative repercussions…condemnation of the U.S. by the international Islamic community, increased refugee flows starting already back then, etc.,….and Obama was just not willing to do it. So that’s why we’re where we’re at now folks.
Which brings me back to Russia. Because of Russia’s serious domestic economic problems, which will continue to intensify as the global oil price stagnates at around $30 per barrel (according to Goldman-Sachs projections), Russia cannot afford to get involved in a Syrian quagmire that would be an analogue to the Iraqi quagmire the U.S. was mired in last decade. Russia doesn’t have the luxury of time and the tremendous economic resources of the U.S. that have permitted the U.S. to dither in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade and then retreat back home and continue domestic economic growth, albeit at an anemic level. Russia’s present military adventure in Syria is soon going to be drastically constrained by its deteriorating economy back home…and so the present situation is extremely dangerous because it is only when Great Powers are weakening that they take desperate chances and lash out at their perceived enemies.
This week Putin will address the UN General Assembly and try to make a big splash by projecting the image of a resurgent Russia coming to the rescue of a floundering Middle East by taking on the fight against ISIS in a much more robust way than the U.S. has been willing to do. And the following week the fireworks will begin.
It will be Russia that will soon be strategically bombing Raqqa, maybe Mosul, and all other points of concentration by ISIS in the region. (By strategic bombing I mean using its long-range heavy lift Bear and Backfire strategic bombers, flying from Russia through Iran and Iraq to get over their targets. The Flanker and Sukhoi fighter-bombers now forward deployed in Syria will be used as close air support for the Russian/Iranian ground forces taking ISIS strongpoints after they have been obliterated from the air. That’s orthodox Russian military doctrine). And, oops, at the same time conveniently hitting any remains/remnants of the already depleted moderate Syrian opposition, double oops, and a sarcastic sorry to the lachrymose SecState John Kerry who thought he was being magnanimous when he recently conceded that “the U.S. doesn’t insist that Assad must go immediately” ha ha ha ha ha…Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov must find it awfully hard to keep from bursting into belly laughs when talking with the sanctimonious and dim-witted Kerry on the phone all the time. However, remember that Russia’s military is thin and stretched and there is no economic muscle to back it up in a prolonged fight against the Islamist insurgency as the U.S. was able to afford doing in the long period of the surge in Iraq. Russia has nothing to ‘surge’ with, and anyway Putin’s popularity back home with an increasingly disenchanted Russian public cannot be sustained through a prolonged anti-insurgency conflict. Ergo, Russia must win quickly…and that means fighting dirty, with no regard for collateral damage.
This is a do or die situation for Putin and Russia. To get stuck in an Afghanistan or Vietnam-like situation, requiring prolonged serial escalations, is out of the question. If Russia doesn’t get results quickly it will soon begin to panic as it contemplates an ignominious withdrawal from Syria with the attendant collapse of the Assad regime, as its already low morale is shattered, and Russia finally loses its all important Syrian naval bases. Such an outcome could conceivably result in Putin being ousted by a right wing military coup in Moscow, and Putin, as a KGB trained executive, is deadly aware of this and will not allow such a scenario to unfold. Once again, ergo that a massive Russian strategic bombing campaign is in the works to be followed up by Iranian Quds ground forces, with Russian combat support, mopping up areas of ISIS resistance. And it will be brutal…and there will be NO objective embedded media reporting on any of this.
All this has the added advantage of ramping up an already critical refugee exodus from Syria. Putin will be using the refugee flow into Europe as a STRATEGIC WEAPON against NATO Europe, as a means to economically and politically degrade European readiness to engage Russia in the near future in Ukraine and the Baltic states, etc. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, has played beautifully into Putin’s hands by opening up Germany to the refugees. Russia’s actions in Syria will only increase the refugee burden on Europe and Putin will be able to accomplish Russia’s long sought degradation of European strength and unity and willingness to oppose future Russian expansionist plans.
Finally, all of this means nothing if the market oil price remains low for the foreseeable future. The most insidious aspect of the Russian grand strategic plan is that it is aiming, covertly, at a larger destabilization of the entire Middle East while, on the surface, Putin will sell it to the UN as the complete opposite, as a noble Russian effort to rid the Middle East of the scourge of ISIS. Any analyst looking at this entire picture dispassionately, however, must conclude that the envisioned dramatic escalation of violence that Russia is about to unleash there will only inflame and exacerbate the pre-existing tensions and animosities and the chances are good that there will be all kinds of unforeseen spillover effects and a widening of the theater of violence. Which the Russians hope will embrace Saudi Arabia and help precipitate a Shia uprising there too (another beautiful part of this covert subversion of Saudi Arabia lies in the fact that Russia recently concluded a multi-billion dollar arms contract with Saudi Arabia…so it’s a double win for Putin, making money off his victims as he secretly engineers their downfall, ha ha ha)…which will also, and most critically for the Russians, result in a skyrocketing of the market oil price. Which is what a lot of this is all about.
You have to hand it to Putin and the Russians. They are playing their weak poker hand brilliantly, they are ‘in it to WIN it’…while America under Obama and the bombastic-Trump obsessed public is going to wither on the vine…