Small Wars Journal

Kerry Expresses U.S. Concerns About Russian Moves in Syria

Sun, 09/06/2015 - 11:42am

Kerry Expresses U.S. Concerns About Russian Moves in Syria

Voice of America

Secretary of State John Kerry expressed U.S. concern about reports of Russia's enhanced military buildup in Syria in a telephone call Saturday with his Russian counterpart, the State Department said.

"The secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL coalition operating in Syria," the department said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed that discussions on the Syrian conflict would continue in New York later this month, the department said.

The New York Times reported that Russia has sent a military advance team to Syria and was taking other steps that Washington fears may signal plans to vastly expand its military support for President Bashar al-Assad.

The Times reported the moves included the recent movement of prefabricated housing units for hundreds of people to a Syrian airfield and the delivery of a portable air traffic control station there.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that his country was providing "serious" training and logistical support to the Syrian army, the first public confirmation of the extent of Russia's involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Western governments and human rights groups have accused both Syrian government forces and those of the jihadist Islamic State group of large-scale human rights violations.

Putin said it was "premature" to discuss possible direct Russian involvement in military operations against IS in Syria, but that Russia was providing Damascus with "very serious support and equipment, and training of military personnel, weapons."

On Thursday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Washington was "closely monitoring" reports that Moscow had deployed military personnel and aircraft to Syria.

"Any military support to the Assad regime for any purpose, whether it's in the form of military personnel, aircraft supplies, weapons or funding, is both destabilizing and counterproductive," Earnest said.


Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 5:34pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Obama’s Pathetic Cave-in to Putin’s Power Play in Syria

Elliott Abrams

September 18, 2015 4:26 PM

There is a complaint against Obama foreign policy that goes “all our allies have been alienated, and are scared by the lack of American leadership and our indifference to their security, and all Obama does is cozy up to our enemies.” Jeb Bush has asked audiences, “Name a country where we have a better relationship now than we did seven years ago,” and audiences answer back “Iran!” In pursing this policy of cooperating with our enemies rather than our friends, Obama is now going to include the horrific issue of Syria. A central pillar of American foreign policy for over 50 years has been to keep the Russians out of the Middle East. Now we appear to be welcoming their return as a military power there. The Obama reaction has been first to have Secretary of State John Kerry telephone Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to express concern, then to have Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter call his own Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, and next to have military-to-military talks with Russia.

This is amazing. It undermines a half-century of policy and broadcasts weakness and irresolution to both enemies (Iran, China) and friends (Israel, Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf states). But it certainly isn’t surprising: Weakness and irresolution have in fact been the heart of U.S. policy in Syria in the Obama years. When the (mostly Sunni) people of Syria rose up peacefully against the Alawite, Iran-and-Hezbollah backed Assad regime in 2011 and Assad began to kill his own population, Obama did nothing. As the deaths mounted and his own advisers — Clinton, Panetta, Petraeus, Dempsey — advised action to build a non-jihadi rebel force, he did nothing. When Assad did not react to Obama’s chemical-weapons red line, Obama backed down, not Assad. And so the deaths and the refugees have mounted into a humanitarian catastrophe that was avoidable. Now Putin has made his move, and he is not showing weakness and irresolution. Moreover, the growth of ISIS is impossible to imagine absent this Obama policy. It is only because the Shiite-backed Assad regime is killing Sunnis by the tens and hundreds of thousands while we and the rest of the world watch impassively that ISIS has been able to rally so many Sunnis to its banner. Any pretended “way forward” or “diplomatic solution” to Syria that addresses ISIS but not the Assad regime will fail, because the regime’s murderous brutality — including its continuing use of chemical weapons — guarantees more recruits for ISIS.


Scathing. Knowing real things not popular anymore- How the Decline of International Studies Hurts American Security…

Real reason Netanyahu's going to Moscow tomorrow is he can't trust US to do anything in Syria, so he's got no choice but to turn to Putin.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 5:02pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Russian tanker refueling jets over #Homs, #Syria @Spy_Stations
Russian AIr force over Syria. You can hear their radio coms in background.

Any previous images/data of SyAAF escorting Russian transports in/out of #Syria?

Similar video from yesterday: …

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 4:31pm

Obama and Kerry should reread this comment from below---that is the Russian strategy clear and as concise as one wants it---

There are two aspects for the Russian intervention in Syria: In the first, the front line should be reinforced, maintained and is expected later to recover more lands and lost cities. The second is to hunt and bomb the Islamic State (ISIS) group leaders as well as other extremist groups in Syria, without exception. There are no red lines for the Russian operational tactics against terrorism that may extend to Iraq if necessary. The Kremlin has decided to face and fight terrorism by all means and is determine to eliminate, not to contain, ISIS. The Russians are aware of the necessity of cooperation with the U.S. led coalition over the sky of Syria to prevent unnecessarily accidents “, the source said.

SO now is the US providing air cover and tactical ground support to Russian special forces??????

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 4:29pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

AND now the DoS Kerry, and Obama's response to Putin is going to be-what again------"talking"????

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 4:27pm

Events in Syria are racing faster than even social media can keep up.

1. ISIS terror group related accounts now sharing pic of "head of 1st russian soldier". Fairy-tales of Russian propaganda are real in Syria

2. Russian tanker refueling jets over #Homs, #Syria

3. Russian cargo plane Ilyushın II 76 - T on #Damascus sky, now. #Syria

Looks like a Russian Spetsnaz was killed and beheaded if the reporting here is correct.

THERE had been early last week a report of 10 Russian bodies being returned to Crimea but the report was largely ignored.

Russia(n) Special Forces in #Syria in #Zabadani,#Homs,#Hama & #Aleppo… …
Damascus – Elijah J. Magnier:

“Al-Rai” learned that “Special Elite Russian combat forces arrived to Hama, Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, as well as Zabadani to monitor, participate and study the military map on the field and suggest future workflow Combat plans. These Special Forces submit to the operating room suggestions to determine the full plan to start the flow of further Russian special combat forces and troops on the battlefield all over the Syrian map where it is necessary”.

This development will be the largest Russian external military intervention since Afghanistan in 1979.

A very senior field commander around Zabadani city said that “there are small Russian combat units, mostly sniper unit that we call the “Ivan unit”, another reconnaissance unit, a unit of urban warfare, and advanced missiles unit in the area of ​operations run by the Syrian Army. ”

Ivan and Yulia belong to a Russian sniper unit that came recently to Zabadani. At the end of the day, the team left after shooting 4 deadly bullets. “I return to Aleppo where there is more action than Zabadani. Here there isn’t much left”, said Yulia before leaving Zabadani, according to the source.

“Russia is beginning with what we define as a” quiet support ” supplying advanced technology and preparing a spearhead force before reaching a further level we call the” stormy Support “. We expect a large presence of troops that will be supported by Russian Air Force. There are around 2500 Russian fighters, military expert and consultant in Syria. The number is expected to go much higher in the near future “, confirm the source that is in contact with the Russian units on the Syrian ground.

“There are two aspects for the Russian intervention in Syria: In the first, the front line should be reinforced, maintained and is expected later to recover more lands and lost cities. The second is to hunt and bomb the Islamic State (ISIS) group leaders as well as other extremist groups in Syria, without exception. There are no red lines for the Russian operational tactics against terrorism that may extend to Iraq if necessary. The Kremlin has decided to face and fight terrorism by all means and is determine to eliminate, not to contain, ISIS. The Russians are aware of the necessity of cooperation with the U.S. led coalition over the sky of Syria to prevent unnecessarily accidents “, the source said.

The senior commander explained, “Israel and the United States are also concerned about the possibility that Hezbollah could benefit from the advanced Russian military equipment pouring into Syria. As far as it concerns us, Damascus and Hezbollah are strategically linked and share the same destiny. Any sophisticated weapon owned by Syria and Iran that an organized but irregular force, like Hezbollah, can use in case of war against Israel is already in our possession. Israel is raising the alarm by saying that its “national security” could be in jeopardy if Hezbollah has this or that technology or could benefit from Russia’s presence to transport more weapons into Lebanon. Russia’s answer is that its own national security is already in jeopardy due to terrorism expansion. Russia is not fighting a battle but a war on terror on Syrian soil and elsewhere and is present in a hostile environment. Russia will pursue and won’t give up upon in this war, in Syria, regardless any possible international pressure to persuade it otherwise”.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 3:16pm

And the use of hard power gets no solutions on the ground in Syria---AND the US could not have found a single group to support in four years????

And the need now for Russian troops and aircraft to be in Syria?????

In the north, ceasefire reached for: Foua; kafraya; Binnish; Taftanaz; Taoum; Maarat Misrin; the city of Idlib; Ram Hamdan; Zardana; Shelikh

A 25-point ceasefire+agreement between Jaish al-Fateh (Nusra included) & Iran has been announced. Agreement is to be overseen by the UN.

More remarkably, the agreement stipulates that the regime will not fly helicopters or planes in those areas including to drop aid. NFZ!!

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/20/2015 - 8:36am

Did the CENTCOM commander appear to "forget something" in his recent Congressional remarks???????????????

From today's social media side of the open source intel world----

New batch of 75 #US-trained fighters (Division 30) entered northern #Syria with 12 technical

So who trained them------because the four star never mentioned them?

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/19/2015 - 3:36pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Here we go and exactly what did Obama and Kerry honestly think???????

RUS troops in SYR not for "defensive" purposes; reportedly en route to engage ISIS near Hama

Question is there are other anti Assad forces there so will he attack all anti Assad forces??????

Russian Su-30 multipurpose fighters now in Syria. One purpose is to win dogfights with enemy aircraft. ISIS has none.

So exactly what flying carpet is the Russian AF to shot down?????

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/19/2015 - 2:29pm

Come on--this is getting ridiculous--social media carried the first reporting of this Russian AD system and first photo several days ago AND now US MSM and the DoS Kerry "wake up out of their sleep walking".

I even posted this on the Syrian war thread ----just how much are we really paying the entire US IC?????

Russia has deployed surface-to-air missiles, planes with air-to-air missiles in #Syria, U.S. says. SA-22 at Latakia.…

THIS is actually embarrassing now...............

Putin positions himself as a pseudo-savior on a white horse, claiming "Obama NEEDS #Russia" …

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/19/2015 - 1:19pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Can anyone explain to me what Kerry really is smoking---how can it be that social media is so well informed and the US DoS evidently has absolutely not a clue of what Russia ie Putin is doing in Syria.

HECK even social media had the first photo and report on the advanced Russian AD system that had been shipped to Syria--and NOW it strikes Kerry as a problem????? I even pointed out here the seriousness of this system in denying air space days ago

It was social media that triggered the first reporting and it was the US that denied their reports at first, then it was social media that released tens of Russian military selfies taken physically in Syria, then it was social media that tracked Russia air and sea lift movements in real time before the US could say anything and it was social media that pointed a very direct finger at the exact strategy Putin is driving.

SO exactly why do we have over 700 people working inside the NSC? WHY do we even have a DoS???

Just hire social media as they are definitely better informed, quicker and not tied to any political doctrine--definitely a heck of a lot cheaper.

London. (Evan Vucci, Pool/Associated Press)

By Ken Dilanian | AP September 19 at 11:20 AM

LONDON — The United States is disturbed by Russia’s movement of tactical aircraft to Syria, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday, acknowledging that the jets could pose a threat to American and allied military forces.

U.S. officials say Russia moved a small number of fighter jets to a base in Syria on Friday, hours after U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter talked with Russia Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in the first military contacts between the two countries in some time.

“Clearly, the presence of aircraft with air-to-air combat capacity ... and surface-to-air missiles raise serious questions,” Kerry said, responding to a question after meeting with British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond. The Russians have deployed at least one such system, according to an American official, who was not authorized to discuss military matters and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Russia says its recent military buildup in Syria is designed to fight the Islamic State group. While IS lacks an air force, the Russian aircraft are capable of striking ground targets and providing close air support for ground forces, a U.S. intelligence official said. The official was not authorized to discuss military matters and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Russia’s military moves in Syria are its first major expeditionary force deployment outside the former Soviet Union since the war in Afghanistan, the official said.

Kerry said the military-to-military talks with the Russians are designed to make sure there are no incidents between Russian and American forces. The discussions also amount to a tacit acceptance of the Russian buildup, after weeks of warnings from Washington against any Russian escalation in Syria.

In another apparent concession, Kerry stated explicitly that the U.S. could accept a resolution to the Syrian war that allowed President Bashar Assad to remain in place for a time before departing, as the U.S. long has wanted.

“We’re not being doctrinaire about the specific date or time — we’re open,” Kerry said, adding that Assad doesn’t have to leave “on day one, or month one, or whatever.”

He later added that the U.S. considered Assad a magnet for the foreign fighters who are filling the Islamic State group’s ranks.

“So there’s a lack of logic,” Kerry said, for the Russians to say “they are bringing in more equipment to shore up Assad at the same time they say they are going after” the militants.

Meantime, a Syrian rebel group claims it fired rockets at a coastal air base said to be used by Russian troops. In a video posted Friday, members of the Islam Army warn the Russians that they will not enjoy peace in Syria. The fighters are then are seen loading and launching multiple rockets from a mountainous area.

Kerry and Hammond said they also discussed the situations in Yemen, Libya and Ukraine. Kerry also urged restraint in response to days of clashes around the Jerusalem holy site known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

“All of us join together in urging everybody to keep the calm,” Kerry said.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/19/2015 - 12:52pm

I keep repeating over and over when commenting on here that the current WH, and DoS foreign policy is basically nothing---their strategy is hope and that is about it and believe me hope has never been a very solid strategic strategy.

Mr. Kerry, hope is not a FP strategy. It's wish for things to be other than they actually are…

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/19/2015 - 11:18am

Can anyone explain to me just what the entire US government from Obama downwards has actually been smoking the last two days??

The US is to negotiate with Putin over Syria when Putin and his entire government still adamantly states "there ain't a single Russian soldier in and or fighting in Syria"--and they are still maintaining that lie as of today--AND that in the face of countless Russian military selfies and sat imagery.

So when they reach agreement--what does Russia then ship home imaginary soldiers using paper cutouts???…

Russia Repeats Denials Of Troops In Syria Despite Soldiers' Testimony And Reports From Hama

15:20 (GMT)

The state-owned TASS news agency reports that the Russian Defence Ministry has denied that Russian contract soldiers are being deployed to Syria, following the publication of a interview with four soldiers who are refusing to go.

"The Eastern military district is surprised by attempts of correspondents of the online media outlet to link the routine activity of the forces to the events in the Middle East," the ministry’s press service said.

The relocation of military units as part of combat training events comes only within the Eastern military district and in line with the schedule, it said.

Last night, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed Syrian military source, that government forces are now using new weaponry received from Russia.

"The weapons are highly effective and very accurate, and hit targets precisely," the source said in response to a question about Russian support. "We can say they are all types of weapons, be it air or ground."

The source said the army had been trained in the use of the weapons in recent months and was now deploying them, declining to give further details other than saying they were "new types."

Today, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that around 2,400 Russian citizens were fighting with ISIS in Syria.

The state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reported that Sergei Smirnov, deputy director of the FSB, said (translated by The Interpreter):

"Two thousand, four hundred citizens of the Russian Federation are participating in 'Islamic State' criminal gangs, Around three thousand citizens of Central Asian countries, including those in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, are also amongst these ranks."

While the Kremlin may be using the threat of ISIS to provide cover for their military intervention in Syria, there is evidence that the FSB itself has, in fact, aided Russian citizens in travelling to Syria to wage jihad, as The Interpreter's editor-in-chief, Michael Weiss, wrote in The Daily Beast last month.

Furthermore, there are recent reports from inside Syria that Russian forces are being applied not against ISIS, but towards areas held by Jaysh al-Fateh, a coalition of rebel factions, near Hama.

NOW Lebanon reported on September 15 that Russian troops were reported entering the regime-held city. The article cites an All4Syria report claiming that the Equestrian Club in the south-east of Hama has become "a barracks for Russian nationals."

Al-Souria Net reported that a large convoy had arrived in Hama on September 14. One activist, Suhaib al-Rahmoun told the news site that he had received information on the arrival of a delegation of Russian officers and advisers, along with the Syrian defence minister, Fahd Jassem al-Frejj, at the Al-Nawair Hotel.

Government troops closed roads to the city centre as as "more than ten buses, accompanied by several trucks loaded with equipment" arrived.

As NOW Lebanon notes, the pro-regime Al-Watan newspaper described the convoy as a consignment of Russian humanitarian aid.

However the Al-Souria Net article describes reports from opposition observers that indicate a much more serious military operation was taking place in the area.

Ronak Housaine translates for The Interpreter:

Observatory 80 which belongs to the Syrian opposition confirmed in a special report for Al-Souria Net that a large military convoy was spotted going out of Hama military airport at 9 pm on Sunday evening [September 13], which is the fourth convoy to have come out of the airport within 48 hours toward Sahil Alghab.

The observatory pinpointed the arrival of the convoy in the town of Salhab in the western Hama countryside and said that it contained 10 tanks, 20 BMPs, 2 "Ash" rocket launchers , five Grad rocket launchers and 70 vehicles of various types transferring army and foreign militias.

The observatory noted leaked information from regime's side that a huge (Russian-Iranian) military action is being prepared for, combined with the 4th Armoured Division along with the 11th and 18th (of the Syrian army) with very large numbers of National Defence Force elements, to retrieve some areas of Sahil Al Ghab that the regime lost recently to Jaysh al-Fateh.

It is noteworthy that CNN announced yesterday that American satellites had spotted two amphibious Russian vessels docked on the Syrian coast to land more than 100 Russian Marines along with dozens of other vehicles.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/19/2015 - 2:56am

Can anyone here at SWJ explain why people outside of DC and the US have a far far clearer understanding of the world around them ?????

REMEMBER Putin stated before Obama "caved" that Assad was willing to negotiate with "reasonable forces" BUT he never defined the word "reasonable" just as he stated Assad would remain for a "transitional period" AGAIN undefined.

BUT when using the word "terrorist" Putin definitely between the lines is openly and publicly defining ANYONE who is anti Assad is a "terrorist"--so who is left that is "reasonable"??????

Heck if we take Putin at his word--then even Obama, his entire NSC, Kerry and the DNI were actually up to the point of "caving" yesterday actually "terrorists" in Putin's eyes--SO why are they then "caving" and negotiating????

Does anyone in Washington ever fully listen to each and every word Putin and his inner circle utters??

Why Putin Wants To Tar IS And All Assad's Enemies With The Same Brush

By Joanna Paraszczuk

September 18, 2015

Earlier this week, we noted how a pro-Kremlin website claimed the extremist group Islamic State (IS) had sent Chechen militants to Latakia province in Syria.

The report was incorrect -- the Chechen group is not part of IS.

But it was almost certainly an intentional obfuscation.

Russia's conflation of all armed opposition groups with extremist Islamist militants is an integral part of a narrative that has evolved during the Syrian conflict.

Its goals are to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power, counter the United States, and maintain influence in the Middle East.

The "IS threat" narrative contains several arguments that Moscow puts forward in support of these aims.

1. ‘There Are No 'Moderate' Rebels’

According to Moscow, the vast majority of groups fighting Assad are foreign-backed terrorists, not "moderate rebels."

"The Free Syrian Army does not exist," Russia's ambassador to international organizations in Geneva, Aleksei Borodavkin, told the United Nations a year ago, referring to the Western-backed umbrella of moderate rebel forces.

This narrative is partly true. In the north and increasingly the center of Syria, rebel factions are mostly Islamist or Islamist-influenced. Some, like the Al-Nusra Front and the foreign fighter groups, are Salafist-jihadist.

U.S. attempts to bolster moderate rebels have gone awry. The first group to receive U.S. weapons collapsed in March and the United States said this week that there are only "four or five" U.S.-trained rebels fighting IS.

But moderate rebels are still influential in some parts of Syria's far south, where Jordan's intelligence services are active.

2. 'IS Wants To Destroy Syria'

Moscow has warned that IS and other Islamist groups are threatening to turn Syria into a "terror state."

Therefore, eradicating these groups is more important than ousting Assad, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

3. 'Assad Has To Be Part Of Fight Against IS'

Russia has insisted that Assad must be part of the fight against IS, claiming that Syrian armed forces are "the most effective military force on the ground."

Meanwhile, Russia has frequently slammed the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition, saying that it is both illegal (because it has not asked Assad's permission to operate) and ineffective.

4. 'Rebels Should Unite With Assad Against IS'

Both Russia and Assad argue that the threat posed by Islamic State is so great, rebels should unite with government forces to counter the militants.

On September 16, Assad used an interview with Russian news outlets to call on rebels to stop fighting him and help him defeat IS.

Only then can Syrians work on a political solution to the conflict, Assad explained.

Assad's call may seem unrealistic. But it is not a new tactic.

Moscow first put forward the idea nearly two years ago.

"Everything must be done to create a battle-worthy alliance of the government and the patriotic opposition against the terrorist interlopers who flock to Syria from around the world," Lavrov told Russian TV in December 2013.

4. 'The West Is Responsible For IS'

Both Moscow and Damascus have blamed the West for the rise of IS (and other Islamist groups in Syria), saying that while Washington is quick to say Islamic State is a terror group, it has backed other armed groups against Assad.

In February, Putin said the rise of IS was the result of Western "interference" in Syria as well as "double standards" over who it deemed terrorists.

Assad repeated this narrative in an interview with Russian media this week.

"What are IS and the other groups? A Western extremist project," the Syrian leader said.

5. 'Russia's Military Build Up In Latakia Is To Fight IS'

The claim that Assad is essential to countering the IS threat has provided Russia with an argument for its military buildup in Syria -- which is causing increasing alarm from the United States.

"We support the government of Syria in its effort to counter terrorist aggression," is how Putin explained the Russian military expansion in Latakia at a September 15 security summit in Tajikistan.

The Real Threat To Assad

As Russia continues its military build-up in Syria, it has also stepped up its use of the "IS threat" narrative.

But these moves are only partly about IS.

While Islamic State is a threat, a bigger problem for Assad is the advance of other radical Islamist battalions, particularly Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate -- the Al-Nusra Front -- and Ahrar al-Sham, one of the most powerful rebel groups in Syria.

Part of the Jaish al-Fatah military operations coalition, Nusra and Ahrar have driven out government forces from almost all of Idlib province.

And they now threaten Latakia, Assad's coastal stronghold.

But the war is not being fought on the battlefield alone.

Russia's best chance to save its ally in Damascus could be an agreement with the West that while Assad should go or at least be demoted, most of his regime remains in place.

And the only way to achieve that is by persuading Washington and its allies that this would be the best way to fight IS.

Can this current Administration, NSC, DoS and the DNI be that intellectually weak that they cannot also "see" the world around them??????

Maybe moving them all to Kyiv or say Jordan or say Moldavia might wake them up???

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/19/2015 - 2:28am

Maybe readers/commenters here at SWJ should open a "Suggestion Box" for Obama, his entire NSC, his DNI and his DoS as it appears they simply have lost the thread on world affairs as they built a "legacy".

Just a short sample of one day's worth of events they had no answers for other than tap dancing, blaming others and this list does not include the 500M USD disaster that it cost to actually deploy into Syria 4 trained anti Assad fighters all the while telling the US society they were doing something against IS.

This list depicts just what soft power "talking" has gotten the US to.

Wait, you mean eroding NATO forces has consequences? “The conclusion was that we are unable to defend the Baltics.”…

BTW--the Obama administration is still pulling troops out of Europe while DoD is trying to talk up restationing.

As usual, the #Kremlin is not aware of anything. More vacationers, tourists and volunteers.…

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s senior military advisor says Russia is in sync with Iran regarding Syria

Syria: #Russia|n selfie soldiers' locations @ProtestSPb

Russia's soldiers aren't only in Latakia & Tartus. Their selfies geolocated to Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Damascus. #Syria

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 7:00pm

Prior to Putin's move into Syria there was a stream of social media comments and articles that the US had thrown the Ukraine under the bus in order to get an Iran deal and resolution of the Syrian conflict.

Appears to have been true---US double standard ------

US suspended mil 2 mil talks w Russia over Crimea. Now US lifts suspension after Russia moves into Syria.…

Could not talk because of the Crimea and the Russian invasion into eastern Ukraine AND suddenly Obama talks to Putin--AND his legacy is not at the center of this sudden shift in US foreign policy?????

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 6:20pm

What is interesting is that this General was retired in 2012 in a way that did not make sense in 2012 ==== he had been reluctant to hold the Atlas Vision Russian US peacekeeping exercise in 2012 for the reasons below---seems he was right in 2012.

Ret. Gen. Hertling: “We were beating the drum of #Russia in 2010 & we were told ‘You are still in the Cold War’"

Obama and Kerry simply do not get it-----

[Unverified] Video of Russian soldiers alongside Syrian Army in Latakia, firing their tank

Waiting for the geo tagging verification--but the AK is definitely Russian army issue not used by the Syrian army----

BTW--the "we" mentioned here was DoD and the WH-----

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 10:39am

Now Obama and Kerry completely retreat from their foreign policy decision that Assad must go--come on that flies in the face of KSA, UAE, Qatar, and Turkey demands.

It now appears that Obama is fully supporting the Iranian IRGC and Iranian hegemony in Syria.

U.S. to Begin Military Talks With Russia on Syria

SEPT. 18, 2015

LONDON — Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that the United States was prepared to engage in military-to-military talks with Russia concerning Syria.

“The president believes that a military-to-military conversation is an important next step,” Mr. Kerry said, “and I think, hopefully, it will take place very shortly.”

The initial purpose of the talks with Russia, Mr. Kerry said, will be to help “define some of the different options that are available to us as we consider next steps in Syria.”

Mr. Kerry said that the Obama administration would not change its basic goals in Syria: The defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and a political solution for the conflict there.

But though the administration has long said that President Bashar al-Assad must go for there to be a durable solution to the Syria crisis, Mr. Kerry seemed on Friday to allow for the possibility that Mr. Assad might remain in power in the short term. Mr. Assad has had Russia’s backing throughout the conflict.

THIS is exactly the Putin agenda--nothing less nothing more--this is not US foreign policy at work but Putin's own FP dictated to the US via a weak President.

“Our focus remains on destroying ISIL and also on a political settlement with respect to Syria, which we believe cannot be achieved with a long-term presence of Assad,” Mr. Kerry said. “But we’re looking for ways in which to try to find a common ground. Clearly, if you’re going to have a political settlement, which we have always argued is the best and only way to resolve Syria, you need to have conversations with people, and you need to find a common ground.”

Mr. Kerry made his remarks in London at the start of a meeting with Abdullah bin Zayed, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Kerry also plans to meet on Saturday with the British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, and then will travel to Germany on Sunday for discussions focused mainly on the Syria crisis and the refugee situation in Europe.

Russia has been stepping up its support for Mr. Assad in recent weeks, including deployment of weapons and personnel to an airfield near Latakia, Syria. With Mr. Kerry’s comments on Friday, the Obama administration’s position on the Russian steps has shifted, from objecting vociferously to trying to manage events.

On Sept. 5, Mr. Kerry warned Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, that the Kremlin should not expand its military support for the Syrian government. The Russian buildup, Mr. Kerry said in a telephone conversation with Mr. Lavrov, “could further escalate the conflict” and might even “risk confrontation” with the American-led coalition that is conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, according to a State Department account of the call.

The United States also sought to impede the Russian buildup. Bulgaria closed its airspace to Russian transport planes at the request of the United States. Iraq, however, did not take any action, which has allowed the Russians to keep delivering weapons and equipment to Syria.

Russia made the next diplomatic move. Seeking to rebut Mr. Kerry’s assertion that the Russian deployment could fuel the Syrian conflict, Mr. Lavrov said last week that the Russian military was prepared to coordinate with the Pentagon to avoid “unintended incidents.” He repeated the offer for military-to-military talks in a telephone conversation with Mr. Kerry on Tuesday.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 10:22am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

European social media who has been far more active against the Russian non linear warfare in eastern Ukraine AND were the first to call it correctly with Russian troops in Syria WHEN the WH first response was "we are not sure the information is correct as we have not seen anything such thing"---this response kind of sums up what they think of the Obama decision.

Putin just had an orgasm.......Obama caved..........not good for Europe and the Ukrainians.

Remember it was social media especially European social media that flooded the net with Russian military selfies, Russian Facebook entries and Russian military sea and air lift information that confirmed Russian military presence in Syria when the US had virtually provided nothing.

CAN any commenter, and or reader here at SWJ explain to me why this European comment is not valid???

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 10:05am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

This US response will be viewed by those fighting in Syria and or supporting the anti Assad forces as a US "sell out"---meaning Obama is now responding to a Putin driven agenda not a US stated foreign policy agenda.

LONDON — Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that the United States is prepared to engage in military-to-military talks with Russia concerning Syria.

“The president believes that a military-to-military conversation is an important next step,” Mr. Kerry said, “and I think, hopefully, it will take place very shortly

Tap dancing, bobbing, weaving, ducking and talking are great excuses to avoid defining a foreign policy and all of that is at work with this announcement.

Putin has three geo political goals for Europe and four for the ME.

For Europe;
1. discredit and damage the EU
2. discredit and damage NATO
3. fully disconnect the US from Europe with Russia having the entire European area as his sphere of influence not just the bordering nations.

For the ME;
1. fully disconnect the US from the ME
2. reestablish Russian hegemony in the ME via the Iranian regional hegemony power--non linear linkage
3. establish a strong Russian military presence in the ME which gives them an "influence over the oil pricing"
4. there has been some talk of disconnecting the USD from the ME via the BRIC Central Bank

Obama has now placed the US on the glide path out of the entire ME and if he does not watch it the entire EU.

Interesting question now arises--has Russian non linear warfare coupled with Iranian non linear warfare "won" in the ME???????

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 9:40am

OK I finally give up--never thought I would see a US President adopt the same denial process as Putin--meaning "it ain't me it is the others" approach to anything--in this case there is no foreign policy whatsoever so blaming someone, something, anything is down right disingenuous.

BTW he did this same drill for the Iran Deal--"if you do not sign it --we are going to war"--again totally disingenuous for a sitting President with a Harvard degree.

OR even better from 2013---"we will judge Putin on his actions not his words" AND look what it got the Ukraine for civilian and military loses over the last year.

As the President of the US stand up for something and openly admit the buck stops with me instead of blaming everyone else for your own failures and mistakes--THAT is the problem when one is far more worried about one' own legacy than the world's civil societies--that is what the Nobel Peace Prize stands for --concern for others--in this case it is the concern of the President's own legacy and no one else.

Obama---- and I have mentioned it a dozen or more times here in SWJ is the weakest President with the weakest NSC--all 700 of them-with the weakest DNI we have had in over now going on 60 plus years--no strategy for anything, no foreign policy anyone can recognize AND at the same time a Nobel Peace Prize winner--for what I am not sure??

His indecision, blaming others and absolutely non responses to virtually anything has caused major damage to any US creditability remaining in this world-BUT I do not think he even sees that.…

Finger-Pointing, but Few Answers, After a Syria Solution Fails


SEPT. 17, 2015

President Obama in Washington on Wednesday. White House aides said Mr. Obama had always been skeptical about training Syrian rebels. Credit Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — By any measure, President Obama’s effort to train a Syrian opposition army to fight the Islamic State on the ground has been an abysmal failure. The military acknowledged this week that just four or five American-trained fighters are actually fighting.

But the White House says it is not to blame. The finger, it says, should be not at Mr. Obama but at those who pressed him to attempt training Syrian rebels in the first place — a group that, in addition to congressional Republicans, happened to include former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

President Obama spoke with President Vladimir V. Putin at a summit meeting in Beijing in November. The two leaders have had a few such glancing encounters, but no formal sit-down sessions over the past year or so.

At briefings this week after the disclosure of the paltry results, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, repeatedly noted that Mr. Obama always had been a skeptic of training Syrian rebels. The military was correct in concluding that “this was a more difficult endeavor than we assumed and that we need to make some changes to that program,” Mr. Earnest said. “But I think it’s also time for our critics to ‘fess up in this regard as well. They were wrong.”

In effect, Mr. Obama is arguing that he reluctantly went along with those who said it was the way to combat the Islamic State, but that he never wanted to do it and has now has been vindicated in his original judgment. The I-told-you-so argument, of course, assumes that the idea of training rebels itself was flawed and not that it was started too late and executed ineffectively, as critics maintain.

Either way, it underscored White House sensitivities about the widening Syrian catastrophe. With more than 200,000 killed in the civil war, a wave of refugees flooding into Europe, and Russia now flying in arms and troops, the president finds himself with a geopolitical and humanitarian mess that will most likely not be settled before he leaves office in 16 months.

Mr. Obama has long considered Syria a quagmire that defies American solutions, and aides are hoping to keep him from being held responsible for something that, they argue, he never really had the power to fix. But with images of drowned children and Russian tanks, the president has come under increasing fire from multiple directions.

The Russians accuse him of making the crisis worse by opposing the autocratic government of President Bashar al-Assad in its fight against terrorists like the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL. Republicans accuse him of passivity and fecklessness, of sitting back while the conflict spread across the region.

But there is no consensus among critics about what should be done. During back-to-back presidential debates on Wednesday night, Republican candidates were divided between those advocating more American involvement and those suggesting stepping back and letting the Syrians fight it out themselves.

“I openly and repeatedly warned that if we did not find moderate elements on the ground that we could equip and arm, that void would be filled by radical jihadists,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said. “Well, the president didn’t listen, the administration didn’t follow through and that’s exactly what happened. That is why ISIS grew.”

Donald J. Trump, the businessman, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky went the other direction, embracing disengagement. “Syria’s a mess,” Mr. Trump said. “Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants.”

Mr. Paul added, “Sometimes both sides of the civil war are evil, and sometimes intervention makes us less safe.”

The idea of bolstering Syrian rebels was debated from the early days of the civil war, which started in 2011. Mrs. Clinton, along with David H. Petraeus, then the C.I.A. director, and Leon E. Panetta, then the defense secretary, supported arming opposition forces, but the president worried about deep entanglement in someone else’s war after the bloody experience in Iraq.

In 2014, however, after the Islamic State had swept through parts of Syria and Iraq, Mr. Obama reversed course and initiated a $500 million program to train and arm rebels who had been vetted and were told to fight the Islamic State, not Mr. Assad’s government.

The program was financed last December and started in May with the goal of training 5,400 in the first year, but military officials said only 100 to 120 had actually been trained. The first 54 graduates suffered a devastating attack by a Qaeda affiliate in July, forcing the Pentagon to draw up plans to revamp the program by dropping larger numbers of fighters into safer parts of Syria.

Appearing at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, head of the United States Central Command, conceded that only four or five trained rebels were actually fighting now.

“We have to acknowledge that this is a total failure,” Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said in response. “It’s just a failure. I wish it weren’t so, but that’s the fact. It’s time to — way past time to react to that failure.”

Military officials said the few trained rebels might still prove useful in specific roles, like calling in American airstrikes. But the military has had better results from working with Kurdish forces who have stepped up to fill the place of American-trained Syrians on the ground, first at Sinjar, then at Kobani and most recently in the stretch of Syria south of the Turkish border from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border.

The White House all but washed its hands of the training program after General Austin’s testimony.

“It is true that we have found this to be a difficult challenge,” Mr. Earnest said. “But it is also true that many of our critics had proposed this specific option as essentially the cure-all for all of the policy challenges that we’re facing in Syria right now. That is not something that this administration ever believed, but it is something that our critics will have to answer for.”

Some of those critics said the program failed because it was delayed and limited. “The White House plan is two-plus years late and fundamentally flawed because it restricts volunteers from fighting against Assad, which is their priority objective,” said Gen. Jack Keane, a retired Army vice chief of staff.

Some Syrian rebels who asked for American arms in 2011 and 2012 eventually gave up and allied themselves with more radical groups, analysts said, leaving fewer fighters who were friendly to the United States. “The reason it failed is because we got the politics wrong,” said Andrew J. Tabler, a Syria specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Ryan C. Crocker, a retired career diplomat who was an ambassador to Afghanistan under Mr. Obama, said the president was right to think a train-and-arm program would not work. But the president, Mr. Crocker added, should have either continued to resist it or at least taken ownership of it rather than blame others for its failure.

“How un-presidential that sounds — ‘We didn’t want to do it, we thought it was unsound but you made us do it,’ ” said Mr. Crocker, now dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. “It’s just indicative of their whole approach to Syria, which is not to have a policy. This is the worst thing they could say.”

BLUF--I think I could find third year polisci students who could make sound decisions and that do not need a 700 person NSC to help them or a DNI for that matter who is more interested in twisting intelligence to fit his and or the President's needs.

No policy for Syria---come on Mr. President you are literally embarrassing me in front of my German friends.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 7:36am

Another abject failure by the US intel community if in fact it is true---

Russian troops have been already in Syria for over four months SO in fact the video released of them fighting in Homs is in fact accurate.

Russian soldiers reportedly refuse secret Syria deployment

13:22, 18 September 2015

A group of Russian soldiers who are serving in the army on military contracts (as opposed to draftees) have reportedly refused to be deployed in Latakia, Syria.

Officials from Russia's Eastern Command have denied this report, saying its training exercises are limited to Russian soil. Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said earlier today that the Kremlin has no knowledge of the situation.

A lieutenant who identified himself as Alexei N. told the Russian news website that commanders selected 20 of the best-trained soldiers and told them that they would be deployed to a hot region. They were warned that the climate would be very different from what they were used to and that there would be poisonous animals at the new place, but the specific region was not named. The group was first sent to the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. At first, the soldiers assumed they were being sent to the east of Ukraine, but later they found out they would be deployed in Syria.

On September 16, a General Staff representative dressed in civilian clothing told the group that a secret decree stipulates that they would be sent to Latakia and that they may have to participate in fighting.

The group was due to be shipped off on September 17, but instead they appealed to the Military Prosecutor’s Office, and the deployment was delayed. Several of the soldiers have already submitted their letters of resignation from the army.

“Registrations were being taken off the technical equipment. We were told about the consolidation of an air base in Syria,” said another contractor. “One of the people at the loading station at the port told us that our men have been there for four months already.”

Russia is currently training Syrian soldiers in accordance with a weapons trade deal between the two countries. Officials have confirmed that Russian trainers have been sent to Syria. Russia also operates a military base in Tartus, and in the past Russian troops have been stationed at Latakia.

Earlier, Stratfor revealed satellite images showing construction work in Latakia. According to some sources, Russian tanks and weapons are stationed there.

On September 16, the Russian military high command admitted that Moscow might construct an air force base in Syria.

On September 18, Syria’s Foreign Ministry announced on television that Syria might appeal to Russia to bring in troops. He said that Russian troops are not actively partaking in the armed conflict in Syria at the moment.

The American taxpayer has funded the intel community to the tune of literally billions since 9/11 and yet social media has to tell the world what is going on in Syria----come on......tell me this is not happening..

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/18/2015 - 6:23am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Well so much for expressing the concern of the US--that is about all this administration is currently capable of doing.

Did not Obama, Kerry, the entire ME desks of the DoS, the 700 person strong NSC, CIA, DIA and the DNI NOT think for a moment while having a Starbucks moment THIS was not going to happen???????

BUT hey go ahead and have those mil to ml conversations and the Putin Obama meeting and what comes out--Obama is weak and Putin destroys with his non linear warfare in the Ukraine and now in Syria all US creditability.

1000 #Iran(ian) Marines Join #Russia(n) Troops in Jablah Base to Fight #Syria(n) Rebels …

Russia will consider #Syria’s request to send troops if Damascus asks … via @Conflicts

Outlaw 09

Thu, 09/17/2015 - 3:48pm

US talking does not seem to achieve much these days......

Syrian foreign Ministry has said it is ready to ask the Russian Federation to send troops … via @GazetaRu


Thomas Houlahan

Wed, 09/16/2015 - 5:24pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

If Obama thinks a handful of advisors is sending any kind of message, he's insane. Look, I'm guessing that you once wore the uniform and take a certain amount of pride in our military, but no one is afraid of the U.S. army anymore. As an ex para, and someone who after the first Gulf War wrote a book that was largely a love letter to the Army, believe me, I don't enjoy saying this, but our army is a rotted-out remnant living on past glories. No one outside of our shores gives it a second thought.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/16/2015 - 5:18pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Appears CENTCOM knows nothing about nothing even at the General level.

Austin suggested that the U.S. had special operators on the ground in Syria. His subordinates later had to take that back. In a statement afterward, CENTCOM said: “There are no U.S. military forces on the ground in Syria, nor have we conducted any U.S. military training of indigenous Syrian forces in Syria.” Any training effort of fighters in Syria is happening outside the country, CENTCOM said.

Is anyone in this administration knowledgeable about anything????

Today AP reported tat Kerry had been contacted by the Russian FM suggesting a mil to mil contact be established in Syria

THEN this comes in from the Russian Ambassador to NATO.

Grushko @NATOmission_ru: NATO must unsuspend NATO-Russia cooperation before RU agrees to stable mil-to-mil contacts

Seems Russia is also having communication problems as well.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/16/2015 - 12:43pm

In reply to by Bill C.

NBC announces in Breaking News--US Special Operational Forces are on the ground in Syria assisting the Kurds in their fight against IS.

Looks like someone is sending a not so subtle signal to Putin.

On the southern front the FSA is actually doing well BUT needs MANPADs to deflect the heavy barrel bombing attacks on them which have along with a heavy artillery battering stopped their advances.

Remember it is the FSA and other moderate Muslim groups that have been extensively trained as TOW hunter killer teams and have effectively tipped the battlefield BUT they still urgently need either a NFZ and or MANPADs.

Putin is actually attempting with his advanced AD systems he has shipped in to deny the West the ability to create and support a NFZ.

Protection of Syrian civilians is both a humanitarian imperative and a strategic necessity." - @FredericHof #ACSyria

UK debating 'no fly zone' over #Syria. Looking at #Libya, this = heavy bombardment; as Russia steps up #Assad support. V volatile situation

Move Forward

Wed, 09/16/2015 - 10:37am

In reply to by Bill C.

<blockquote>This does not mean, I suggest, that American guys and gals -- of similar military age -- are, therefore, responsible for (a) fighting these wars for these folks, and/or, otherwise, (b) providing these folks their desired freedoms and benefits.

For example: We watch hundreds of thousands of refugees/migrants flow to and through Europe and other places where the "native sons" of these such locales -- over decades and centuries -- HAVE fought and died for their own freedom and their own benefits.

Yet these new populations -- fleeing oppression instead of standing and fighting -- do not seem to be able to field even 10% of such a refugee/migrant population; this, for the purpose of fighting and dying so as to have the honor of providing for their own freedoms and benefits.</blockquote>

Bill, the point you are missing is that your average Joe cannot fight against tanks/APCs, artillery, aircraft, barrel bombs, and chemical weapons with just an AK-47 which itself may not be working right or has lousy ammo. Witness the guy on the French train whose AK jammed or had bad ammo. If the U.S., Europe, or fellow Sunnis in the GCC are unwilling or unable to provide military equipment and training, how are these guys supposed to fight the Syrian Army?

Beyond that we spent half a billion dollars to train 64 “vetted” fighters who promptly were kidnapped/targeted or changed side. We don’t know publically, but do know that $500 million could go a long way to building a FOB in Kurd territory inside Syria where the U.S. and other coalition armies could launch heliborne raids and long range indirect fire.

<blockquote>Herein, I suggest that is not the place for American and European boys and girls to:

a. Stand in the place of these clearly physically and mentally able, but apparently totally unwilling, indigenous "freedom wanting" folks and

b. Provide for them the freedoms and benefits which people, elsewhere and generally, have always been willing to -- in large part -- provide for themselves.

Outlaw: How do we square this circle? And get these "civil society" folks (a) off their collective posteriors and (b) into the fight?</blockquote>

Aside from the poor results attempting to train and arm indigenous forces, the other issue you appear to be driving toward is why should we care? The answer lies in the refugees and those with less money who stay behind and become more radicalized because they see nobody helping them. We read that as many as 2% of current refugees may be ISIL infiltrators and many more are military-aged males. Given the millions involved, that is a force nearly the size of ISIL making its way into Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Europe. Terror will follow to include big-headline and large-casualty terror that drove mistakes of OIF. If instead, we had taken larger (but not OIF-level) measures earlier back in 2011 and had fought to retain residual forces in Iraq back in 2011 (even if it meant defying al-Maliki and putting them in Kurd territory) we would not be facing current problems that are far more difficult.

The second reason we should care is purely selfish. Do you like Samsung TVs and cell phones? Hyundai? Toyota/Lexus and Nissan/Infiniti, Honda/Acura? BMWs and Mercedes? The Germans are embracing immigrants because like the Chinese, they are running out of young workers to build their products. You may prefer American cars but aren't they better due to foreign competition? If we had not retained forward presence ground and air troops in Korea and Germany after those wars, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision a far different world with a communist Korea, Japan, and Europe.

Forward presence in the Middle East is nearly as crucial because that is where the oil is and where the disgruntled and state-sponsors are most motivated to commit terror. In a world where WMD get smaller all the time and air and sea travel is so prevalent, it only is a matter of time before chemical, biological, dirty bomb, small nukes, or conventional large explosives are used in Europe and the U.S. in a place of massed gatherings.

So your options are pay now, or pay far, far more later. Don’t forget that if we don’t help, as Outlaw points out, the Russians and Iranians are more than willing to fill the vacuum. When that occurs, risk of WMD-use beyond terror levels increases. As state-sponsors gain WMD access, so too do rogue elements. What if the nuke goes off outside a stadium and nobody claims credit? Who do we retaliate against?

Plus, we did not even address the humanitarian aspect that retired Admiral Stavridis wrote about in Foreign Policy. Lack of compassion can lead to right-wing extremism when refugees flood Europe or elsewhere because nobody is solving the problem driving them from their homeland. I used to be puzzled that the Germans could fall for Hitler which in turn led to Jewish genocide and World War II. Today, even in the U.S., we see charisma “Trumping” common sense and maturity, yet people are so frustrated with current weak leadership and the "PC-fatigue" that Dr. Drew just mentioned on CNN, that they appear to buying Trump's crap.

Bill C.

Wed, 09/16/2015 - 9:38am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


Here is an important question/thought that I am sure is on everyone's mind:

Whereas, and as you say, "global civil societies are starting to demand -- based on the rule of law, good governance and transparency -- a share of the economic pie and economic development for their children and a voice in government,"

Very, very few of these folks (all whom appear to be mostly individuals of "military age") seem to be willing to fight and die so as to provide these benefits -- for either themselves or for their posterity.

This does not mean, I suggest, that American guys and gals -- of similar military age -- are, therefore, responsibile for (a) fighting these wars for these folks, and/or, otherwise, (b) providing these folks their desired freedoms and benefits.

For example: We watch hundreds of thousands of refugees/migrants flow to and through Europe and other places where the "native sons" of these such locales -- over decades and centuries -- HAVE fought and died for their own freedom and their own benefits.

Yet these new populations -- now fleeing oppression instead of standing and fighting -- these populations do not seem to be able to field even 10% of such a refugee/migrant group; this, for the purpose of fighting and dieing so as to have the honor of providing for their own freedoms and benefits.

Herein, I suggest that is not the place for American and European boys and girls to:

a. Stand in the place of these clearly physically and mentally able, but apparently totally unwilling, indigenous "freedom wanting" folks and

b. Provide for them the freedoms and benefits which people, elsewhere and generally, have always been willing to -- in large part -- provide for themselves.

Outlaw: How do we square this circle? How do we get these present-day "civil society" folks (a) off their collective posteriors and (b) into the fight?

(Note: ISIS, et. al does not seem to have this problem -- of people not being willing to come to fight and to die for their cause.)

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/16/2015 - 6:00am

Bill C--let me see if I can wrap up this conversation in the following way--when the Wall came down there was a general strategic ease among the major players--Russia, US and China--then starting in 1991 all three slid into what I would call a "strategic unease'--meaning the "the way international norms and laws had been balanced was based on the perceived ability by any of the three to actually enforce those norms".

Now after the Wall with Russia imploding due to the abject failure of their version of Communism and China going on a major "capitalistic binge" believing constant economic expansion would led them to being a "superpower" equal to the US--AND with Russia kicking in their military rebuild built on 5T USDs that they had received from oil/gas revenue and both failed to fully understand that in order to be a superpower one has to be an economic power as well and both have to fully function at the same time.

Towards the end of 2013-2014 both Russia and China started to hit the economic wall and their economies while growing were unable to sustain a growing military at the same time they were trying to grow their internal economies--ie the bread, butter AND guns at the same time are now their main issues. We faced this and decided bread and butter are better than guns and have been reducing our military ever since that decision.

Really China and Russia even though strong in a military sense can no longer sustain that large of a military--the PLA has recently announced a "lay off of hundreds of thousands" and the Russian army cannot complete their full transition to a fully funded volunteer army anywhere near the estimated 2020 timeline if ever at all.

Now enter the US--which hit their own economic wall with the real estate bubble and two wars and which has been suffering economically since then.

So enters the dance of the "strategic unease" where all three no longer are constrained by an effective threat from any of the three in violating any international norm or law.

This dance will continue into economically things come back into balance in about another 10 years or so--- if it even comes back into balance which is a serious question.

Until then when one of the three pulls back then the other two attempt to fill the void and tensions climb as they now no longer have a mechanism to regulate their own behavior and the behaviors between themselves.

IE China building island built aircraft carriers and claiming the name South China Sea means it belongs to China forgetting about 60 or so different countries that sit on the SCS with all their territorial claims and Russia annexing Crimea,invading eastern Ukraine and now establishing their largest military footprint ever in the ME WHILE eliminating one of the critical balancing mechanisms of the entire Cold War--MAD (which Russia has openly declared DOA via Putin).

NOW enters a new complexity for all three---global civil societies are starting to demand based on the rule of law, good governance and transparency "a share of the economic pie" and economic development for their children and a voice in government.

We see that occurring regardless of what China and Russia say in their own countries and we see the lack of any concept by the current US administration in handling the Arab Springs and the color revolts.

So until the three redevelop a sort of 21st century version of being able to restrict each others actions (similar to what existed in the Cold War) am afraid we are going to be in for a very long turbulent 21st century.

One can now fully understand the concept of "non linear warfare"--it allows the players to act in this vacuum with no restrictions one step below open warfare--AND we the US are not even in the game.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/15/2015 - 8:38am

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

It also shows just how screwed America’s Syria policy is

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.

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.

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.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/15/2015 - 8:34am

Bill C---this is why anything done currently by the US is nothing but lip service as they have absolutely no strategy nor can they even understand Russian moves in Syria.

What is interesting about this particular weaponized information “leak” is that at first glance it looks like Putin was pushing a valid offer and it was the mean West that was far sighted and did not engage—BUT then the second comment reflects social media who had done battle with Russian propaganda for over a year now and can fully read between the Russian lines as opposed to say Obama and the entire NSC.

West 'ignored Russian offer to have Syria's Assad step aside' says Ahtisaari to @julianborger … fascinating if true

Just to be clear: Russians offer was 4 Assad 2 "lead transition" (God knows 4how long) & leave honorably on his term.

So in reality it really never was a true offer-was just designed as Russian CYA so Russia could stand back and say --"we are the adults here not the West"........BUT WAIT was not this offer actually all about regime change as even defined in Russian propaganda.

THEN today from the Russian UK Ambassador--one of their leading info warriors---he flips the 2012 article--typical Russian Orwellian doublespeak.

Alexander Yakovenko Verified account 
‏@Amb_Yakovenko Rumours of Rus-US-Saudi “secret talks on ousting Assad” groundless. Moscow is not in regime change business.

BUT with a extra large B ----why do regime change when one can "share"--so Assad is in the view of Russia going to be there for a long time---but as the KSA has stated he must go as he is the problem.

Putin says Assad is ready to share power with Syria’s opposition … Why change regimes when you can "share" them?

BUT only share with "reasonable forces"--what the heck is "reasonable forces" among the current anti Assad forces fighting in Syria to actually toss out Assad?????

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 1:16pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C- before I start with my comment--am assuming you have heard the RFL podcast posted yesterday---there was an interesting comment by both the Russian commenter and Andrew from Kings College.

The question was raised is this a proxy fight and the answer was yes--mainly though a fight between Sunni and Shia with Iran/IRGC on one side supporting Assad with Russian being a super long term supporter from his father's Baathist days.

With that question came the next one--was Iran then a proxy for the Russians.

Surprisingly the Russian commenter and then Andrew mention the distinct possibility that actually Russia was the proxy for Iran--meaning Russia is supplying the massively modern weapons now into Syria and the Iranians have actually been flying in hundreds of their active duty Quds/IRGC troops to use them in support of the Assad military.

I am sick and tire of the Russia informational warfare argument that it is always the fault of the West and though I do agree our constant mistakes cause us problems but that is Obama and his NSC's fault---Russia talks a great game BUT never once have I seen a successful Russian engagement anywhere in the world--even during the Cold War "wars of liberation" in Africa or South America--any country that dealt with the then Soviet Union and now Russia never did fare well and is still recovering from the 70s.

Take the refugee argument that Russia now throws at the West over Syria--WHILE totally ignoring their weapon deliveries having prolong this war by about two years and blocking just about any UNSC Syrian resolution. While criticizing the EU about their refugee problems---- HAS Russia taken in any number of Syrian refugees?--not a single one.

During the Ukrainian invasion Russia keep harping about their taking in over 300K ethnic Russians from the Donbass--today factually only a few hundred are still in Russia--they all went back to western Ukraine and Kyiv areas.

AND their top Duma official recently complained the 60M USDs they spent on the Ukrainian refugees hurt their own national budget badly---that is how much they care about their own Russian refugees.

Let's see--their argument about now helping Assad to fight the IS--wait a minute was it not Russia that has allowed over 1000 Islamists to leave Russia to fight with IS and now Russia is highly concerned they are coming back home after IS declared war on them---now they want the US to join in the fight against IS--notice the Orwellian doublespeak at work???

Putin is trying to force the US into working with Assad nothing more nothing less and he is trying to show the world that the US creditability counts for nothing especially in the ME where Russia has always roamed.

That you spend a lot of time dissecting their weaponization of information is interesting.

Learn to ignore the words and focus on the actions and how those actions interact with the actions of other players in this case Iran in Syria.

That is how one analyzes Russia----

Russia has shown in the Ukraine a complete mastery of the weaponization of information that we the US can never complete with--has been simply amazing to watch and monitor.

Rebels in Mare', #Aleppo discovered an ISIS VBIED that tried to enter the city, the driver was also apprehended.

Hebrew text on #Hezbollah's machine guns in #Qalamoun by @RanyaRadwan

The great #Putin Ever vigilant. Keeping us safe from the evil west!

Russia shipping tanks into Syria, in ‘first clear sign of offensive weapons’

Bill C.

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 12:05pm

(Very hard questions follow here:)

Consider these four quotes from a recent New York Times article provided by Outlaw.

"Russia may try to use American criticism of any military aid as proof that the Obama administration is soft on the Islamic State and only wants to topple President Bashar al-Assad, he said, so “it can be presented as an American unwillingness to fight evil.”

"Ms. Zakharova said military aid was consistent with a proposal by Mr. Putin that all the forces battling the Islamic State combine efforts. The specific details of the aid were a matter for the Defense Ministry, she said, not the Foreign Ministry. The Defense Ministry has said it was fulfilling existing contracts."

"Russian diplomats said they suspected that the real, unstated goal behind the American criticism was that the United States and some other opponents of Mr. Assad want to use the fight against the Islamic State to pursue their original goal of deposing him. Russia opposes that both as a goal and a principle."

“The problem is that the West cannot show one example of how they would manage the Syria story right after,” Ms. Zakharova said. “What is the West planning to do right after? Do they have a magic wand that will transform Syria from civil war to economic prosperity?”…

What the Russians seem to be saying here is that the United States/the West has shown itself to be irrational; this by:

a. Attempting to do regime change/regime decapitation in Syria --

b. Much as the U.S./the West did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.,

c. Without a reasonable, intelligent and viable plan for how to manage "right after."

This suggesting that the Russians feel they must, for their part now, step in to:

a. Prevent the U.S./the West from making another such terrible/irrational mistake,

b. A mistake for which the citizens of the countries involved, and indeed the citizens of region and much of the world as a whole (via such things as terrorism, refugee flows, etc.), must -- because of the West's poorly thought out such actions -- indefinitely pay.

Do we think that, via these such arguments by the Russians (that they must rescue the West from its irrational self, and that they must, also, rescue the citizens of the region and indeed the rest of the world from such irrational Western actions) -- that via these such arguments the Russians (and the Chinese who think similarly?) gain, for their such prudence(???):

a. Significant political capital.

b. And respect and gratitude rather than enmity.

c. On much of the world stage?

(As I stated at the beginning: Very hard questions here.)

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 11:16am

Don’t Trust Putin on Syria


SEPT. 14, 2015

LONDON — 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.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 10:07am

Deleted-- was a second copy for the previous comment.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 11:22am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Appears Kerry needs to come up with a new plan-----other that calling on the phone and complaining.

Russia is going all in on their deployment into Syria—this is not just any old train and equip—the T-90 is the most modern Russian tank and even in the Ukraine only one and or two were spotted and reported via social media—not the seven at one time mentioned here.

Appears that actually Russia will in fact be bringing in three Russian brigades (one marine, one airborne and one Spetsnaz) which is far more than what is needed for a train and equip mission—besides the most the Syrians have been driving are the T-72s with a number of them being captured by the anti Assad forces.…

Russia positioning tanks at Syria airfield: U.S. officials


Russia has positioned about a half dozen tanks at a Syrian airfield where it has been steadily building up defenses, two U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

One of the U.S. officials said seven Russian T-90 tanks were seen at the airfield near Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The two U.S. officials said Russia had also positioned artillery there.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 10:06am

Well so much for the Kerry expressions of "concern"--Russia just keeps flying in troops and equipment.

“This is the most important Russian power projection in the region in decades,” said Stephen J. Blank, an expert on the Russian military at the American Foreign Policy Council, “and it will enhance Russia’s influence throughout the Levant.”

And it is not a direct challenge to Obama??

Putin knows he will not react other than via words and words have not stopped Putin since Crimea--actually not since Georgia.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/14/2015 - 6:17am

Bill C--pay very close attention to the podcast from RFL--RFE/RL Podcast: Putin's Road To Damascus

There are a serious number of items mentioned by the participants that never seem to make it into the US mainstream media thus never make it to the WH and the NSC for their attention. I have said a number of times in SWJ comments that the Sunni militant groups are fighting now as a professional army as someone has effectively trained them and provided an unusual number of TOWs--their comments confirm this.

Notice the mentioning of the following;

1. that it is a proxy war between Iran and the Sunni states of UAE, Qatar and the KSA

2. in fact it might and could be said Russia is being pulled into the proxy fight by supplying highly modern weapons to the Iranians and the Iranians flying in units of the IRGC to do the ground fighting

3.AND this is the most important piece---yes IS is fighting there and Al Nursa is actually acting much like a free agent--sometimes here sometimes there depending on who pays them and provides more weapons

BLUF is that there are in fact "three distinct Sunni Armies" with the emphasis on the word "Sunni Armies" now on the battlefield fighting to defend the honor of Syria against Assad and IS AND they are battle hardened and combat efficient and are well supplied with ATMs and more modern artillery.

While the IS is fighting to create a Caliphate--the Sunni Armies are fighting to preserve Syria as a Sunni state and where there have been head to head fighting IS usually loses.

Iran on the other hand is as I have indicated here a number of times fighting to have the Green Crescent connections to Hezbollah in Lebanon not cut.

While the bulk of the podcast concerned Russia and the US it did go into Russian relations with Iran.

The podcast should be replayed and replayed in the WH and the NSC.

We the US had in fact a number of different opportunities since 2011 to shape the outcome of the fighting in Syria which would not have cost us much at all in the grand scheme of things-----BUT we did absolutely nothing.

Bill M.

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 11:59pm

In reply to by Move Forward


It seems to me that you assume the U.S. military is the appropriate tool to deal with the multiple security problems in Iraq and Syria? There is no doubt we could send in the Army, heck we do with the Marines, and remove Assad. Then what? We could clear towns held by ISIL in Iraq. Then what? Advocates of such an approach have a unicorns and rainbows view of the world, and just assume everything will work out afterwards. We tied ourselves down with a large military force in CENTCOM for over a decade and accomplished little, while our greater strategic interests are under threat in Asia and Europe.

Regarding Iran, my comments were not limited to Syria, clearly Iran has strong interests in Syria (much stronger than Russia or the U.S.), and probably doesn't want us to remove Assad, because it would potentially (depending on who follows) their ability to support Lebanese Hezbollah. Despite this, Iran has been waging a low level war against the U.S. since 1979. Al-Qaeda and like groups have been doing the same since the mid 1990s. They're using a strategy of erosion, so yes they want us to over extend ourselves.

Rebalancing to East Asia is appropriate based on our very strong economic interests there. China only operates below the red line out of fear we could respond conventionally. We need to maintain a credible deterrent to ensure they stay below the red line. I got your point, the Middle East is a basket case, but it always has been, and we're not going to solve the problems there by parking the U.S. Army in the region for the next two decades. In my view, we could have created a no fly zone and safe areas on the ground in Northern Syria to mitigate the human suffering. We failed to do that, and now Europe is paying the price. However, don't forget that neither the EU or NATO was eager to burden share. Maybe they'll wake up that local to the fact that local problems have global dimensions and start spending more on defense?

I'm with you on the argument that we're spending billions on the ability to penetrate Russian and PRC A2AD, yet both countries have the ability to escalate with nuclear weapons. China has a policy of no first use, but that policy could falter under duress, and Russia has stated it reserves a first strike option. It does make you wonder if we're betting on the right capabilities. However, we still need viable nuclear and conventional deterrence capabilities to take those options off the table for both Russia and China. Those are the most dangerous options they could pursue. Their non-linear strategies are creating facts on the ground, but they're doing so slowly and that gives us time to counter using our full range of tools. I don't buy the argument Russia has achieved anything in Ukraine, except get itself into a quagmire of its own making.

China so far is building islands at great expense that we could destroy easily with relatively little money. Deterrence isn't working as well as it used to, and the trend is negative, BUT deterrence to attacks on the homeland are still credible. Furthermore, our extended deterrence has so far prevented attacks on our allies in Asia and on our NATO allies. Ukraine is a wake up call, and NATO and the U.S. woke up. Russia's non-linear strategy will be unlikely to succeed against a NATO member. That doesn't mean other strategies won't succeed. We need to look forward, not backwards.

Move Forward

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 9:39pm

In reply to by Bill M.

<blockquote>a. We fall into their trap, and we have a lot of advocates on SWJ who want us to fall further into their trap.</blockquote>

The trap is to continue doing not enough to stop ISIL, their recruitment of fighters and lone wolves, their spread of infiltrators amongst refugees, and the increasing presence of Russia and Iran in Syria and Iraq.

On Fox News Sunday, a Congressman mentioned that after Vietnam, we took in 190,000 refugees and allowed 170,000 during the Balkans conflicts. Obviously, this is different because we don’t know if ISIL infiltrators or other Islamic extremists are embedded amongst current refugees which was never a past problem related to Vietnam and the Balkans. However, the skeptic in me might point out that we probably did not adequately vet hundreds of thousands of Russians, Chinese, and Iranians who ended up in the U.S. (and still come as students) either. For instance, Wikipedia says this about Russian political refugees.

<blockquote>50,716 citizens of ex-USSR were granted political refugee status by the United States in 1990, 38,661 in 1991, 61,298 in 1992, 48,627 in 1993, 43,470 in 1994, 35,716 in 1995[21] with the trend steadily dropping to as low as 1,394 refugees accepted in 2003. </blockquote>

So the dilemma if we don’t intend greater military involvement now is this: a) take in Syrian and “claimed” Syrian refugees with only limited vetting, b) deny most refugees from coming to the U.S. and incur their wrath increasing radicalization and intent to hurt the U.S. via terror, or c) See how many refugees we can fit and fund at Guantanamo Bay (not the prison), Molokai, Hawaii (population 7,000), and Alaska, if we can convince them to go there. At these locations, we can isolate, safeguard, and vet them without easy access to the rest of the U.S.

To deny that these are the options is to ignore that Saudi Arabia and other GCC Sunni states seem unwilling to take these refugees even though as wealthy Arabic speakers with like Sunni beliefs, you would think they would better be able to vet and afford these refugees much like them. Why aren’t they accepting them?

<blockquote>The opponents who want us to do this are the weaker states (like Iran) and non-state actors like Al-Qaeda who are waging a strategy of erosion.</blockquote>

If Iran <strong>wants us</strong> to reduce their growing influence in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon that certainly would be news. One also would suspect they are not inclined to see greater Kurd autonomy occur given their own Kurdish population.

<blockquote>Stronger actors like Russia and China don't want to engage, which is why they focus on conventional deterrence and operating below the perceived red line that will trigger a response.</blockquote>

In addition, if we correctly believe China is content to operate below the perceived redline and are the least likely to jeopardize trade with the West by invading Taiwan or other meaningful islands, then why are we conducting a Pacific Pivot when such troops instead could deter <strong>expanding</strong> conflict in the Middle East and East Europe? Why send additional forces to Europe and the Middle East? Russia is bringing ground troops, aircraft, and <strong>air defenses</strong> to NATO borders and Syria and using veiled threats about wanting to avoid unintended incidences.

We don’t need another OIF-type war to achieve better than current results in Iraq, Syria, or East Europe. Ground and air presence, limited air assault, attack helicopter, and artillery raiding (GPS MLRS and ATACMS), anti-armor weapons transfers, and more extensive training of motivated partners from a place of sanctuary (“Kurdistan” and the Baltics) would demonstrate resolve and deter Iranian, extremist Sunni, and Russian expansion. No responses would be triggered other than greater respect by our adversaries, NATO and the GCC friends, potential terrorists, and demonstrated invaders.

No “trap” would exist involving great loss of blood and treasure since forces and money would be going to locations of relative sanctuary in actual Middle East and European conflicts. In contrast, pursuing Pacific or offset strategies to use on Russia or China largely would waste resources since we would be foolish to tempt MAD by penetrating deep into a heavily nuclear armed nation.

That last point is particularly interesting since we are told repeatedly that our sole options with Iran are to either accept this proposed nuclear agreement or go to war bombing a nation with only a 14-17.7 billion defense budget, no nukes, and few defenses against our stealth aircraft. Meanwhile, we simultaneously propose deep air penetration of China and Russia (that already possess MAD WMD) and we want to expand defense spending toward that objective???

Similarly, some tell us the problem with large standing forward presence armies is that we might actually use them. Meanwhile, others might respond that we should not spend more money on nuclear and deep-penetrating offset-strategy weapons that never should <strong>but could</strong> be used resulting in nuclear escalation if that is the primary strategy of our OPLANs!

Bill M.

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 5:54pm

In reply to by Bill C.

a. We fall into their trap, and we have a lot of advocates on SWJ who want us to fall further into their trap. The opponents who want us to do this are the weaker states (like Iran) and non-state actors like Al-Qaeda who are waging a strategy of erosion. Stronger actors like Russia and China don't want to engage, which is why they focus on conventional deterrence and operating below the perceived red line that will trigger a response.

Outlaw, Move Forward, et. al:

From the conclusion of Joesph S. Nye, Jr.'s recent (2015) book entitled "Is the American Century Over?":

"Some commentators immediately pronounced the return of isolationism in American foreign policy, but the word has become more of a political cudgel than a term of analysis."

"The true isolationism of the 1930s was enshrined in various laws designed to prevent another intervention in Europe."

" Retrenchment is not isolationism, but an adjustment of strategic goals and means. Presidents who followed policies of retrenchment since the beginning of the American century include Eisenhower, Ford, Carter, the first Bush and Obama ... All of them were strong internationalists when compared to true isolationists of the 1930s, but this did not protect them from critics."

Via this analysis -- and especially via these details provided by Joseph Nye above -- I believe that we can now (a) put the erroneous/distracting terms "isolationist" and "isolationism" to bed and (b) move on to the more important questions at hand; these being:

a. Whether our "forward-leaning" efforts on the periphery (Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc., etc., etc., today)

b. Efforts designed to transform outlying states and societies (such as those outlined above) more along modern western political, economic and social lines,

c. Whether these such expansionist efforts must, for the time being, take a logical and literal "back seat" to other, more pressing matters/requirements?

d. This entailing, as is common/characteristic to such "retrenchment" approaches/grand strategies, the clear potential for "losses" on "freedom's frontier."

Bottom Line:

Our opponents today DESPERATELY want the U.S./the West to become even more involved/ even more overextended than we currently are.

Thus, our opponents "provocative actions," which are, quite clearly and quite literally, designed to draw us further into the over-involvement/over-extension trap.


a. Do we (1) do exactly what our opponents want us to do, (2) take the obvious "bait" and, quite literally, (3) fall (further) into their trap? Or

b. Are we smarter than this?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 2:34pm

This is a telling comment about the lack of any US strategic thinking at any level when it comes to Russia and especially Putin either in the Ukraine and or Syria—even now.

Earnest said that the U.S. remains unsure about Russia’s intentions in Syria. (Critics say this inability to understand President Vladimir Putin prevented the Obama administration from anticipating the invasion of Ukraine, or responding effectively to the conflict that followed.)

“At this point, it’s hard to tell exactly what they’re planning to do,” he said. “We’ve, I think. tried to make clear what we would like to see them do, but ultimately they’ll have to decide.”

AND the narrative of this Iranian message is what again and who is it targeted against????
‏@khamenei_ir If any war happens...

Yoram Ettinger, a former Israeli consul-general in Houston, said the issues here have little to do with personalities or alleged hostilities on the part of Obama. "It's an issue of a gap between two very different world views," he said.

He said that in Israeli eyes, Obama is unrealistic, sending a message of weakness through his handling of the so-called Arab Spring over the past five years and by trusting an Iranian government with such a long record of defying the international community and supporting violent groups across the region.

"Are you rooted in reality or are you rooted in wishful thinking," he said.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 9:09am

In reply to by RantCorp

RC-AND notice the US had absolutely no statement about the Russian missile sub parked off shore--THAT next to the newest Russian AD systems that have flowed in indicate a clear and present threat to both the US/Allies as they fly over Iraq and Syria and the IDF.

BTW--social media open source analysts were the first to point out the Russian sub being there and had pointed out the arrival of the newest Russian AD system----not the US IC.

We have since 9/11 spent billions on the IC and yet social media out classes them over the last year when it comes to both the Ukraine and Syria.

This missile sub alone should have gotten a rise out of DC BUT total silence.

With two weapons systems on the ground/in the water Putin has negated both the US and Israeli military strength in the ME--and yet Obama, Kerry and the entire NSC are AWOL better yet are totally MIA.

This has nothing to due with retrenchment and everything to do with a straight forward form of isolationism--meaning just look the other way and hope for the best. Some might in fact call it incompetence.

With hope in this case being the strategic strategy.


Sun, 09/13/2015 - 8:31am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


If IS hit Israel with gas, the IDF AF will go completely ape-shit.

The ballistic missile sub supposedly stationed off the Syrian coast will take an Israeli WMD response off the table; if there are thousands rather than hundreds of casualties.

However, in my experience death by gas is probably the only threat that is capable of making IDF officers behave both irrationally, and dare I say it, hysterically.


Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 7:14am

Bill--if social media open source analysis of available imagery is seeing this THEN why not Obama, Kerry and the entire 700 person NSC????

That is a serious question and if not answered goes to the heart of isolationism.

This social media individual is providing some of the most telling imagery on Russian activities in both the Ukraine and Syria—and how much has the US spent on ISR—billions---literally billions of taxpayers money.

AND he is getting it either free and or paying for it himself.

I am trying to collect as much imagery as I can from the last 24-72 hours so I'll be off-line for a while but I'll post something now

Syria : I am now convinced #Putin is making a major push in Syria. If I see it every western gov sees it. But will they call Putin out?

Syria : #Russia military forces assembling directly on multiple airfields equipped for heavy transports...

Russian AA-systems in Syria, for what? ISIS doesn't have an airforce.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 6:51am

Bill—this is a sample of this isolationist mentality of the Obama Administration—they were actually part and parcel of the so called Normandy Five when we were in Normandy for the first meeting—THEN Obama pulled out leaving it for the Europeans to handle with it now being the Normandy Four.

After the Kerry Sochi Putin meeting where Kerry actually criticized the Ukrainian President in front of Putin the US attempted to setup a back channel between Nuland and Russia in order to get back into the Normandy format---Russia has effectively sidelined the US and frozen them out of the following meetings and basically the meetings are going in circles as Putin wants the political points inside Minsk 2 to be fulfilled and is basically refusing to implement the military points-ie total and complete POW exchanges, total withdrawal of Russian troops and her mercenaries, restoration of the Ukrainian border, total and complete withdrawal of all heavy weapons verified by OSCE and a total and complete monitoring by OSCE—none of that has been achieved.

Nuland and her counterpart had several meetings but lately not a single one as they were not going anywhere and after she was accused of pressuring the Ukraine into a unilateral appeasement move with no reciprocal demands on Russia she has not been to the Ukraine until yesterday.

Russia has gone into a ceasefire right now because of Syria, Putins UN visit, the coming potential EU sanctions rollovers in December etc.

Below is from yesterday’s meetings---NOTICE Germany is harping that progress is being made and the Ukrainian response was nothing was achieved—all the Russians wanted to do was talk about elections and yet they are still occupying eastern Ukraine and per Minsk 2 they should have been pulling out by now-along with their mercenaries and should have exchanged the remaining 189 POWs.

It is really worth reading the Minsk 2 agreement in order to see what Russia has never implemented all the while demanding the Ukraine fulfill every point.

Notice just how Germany wants progress so they can get back to business as usual.

AND just where is the US in all of this????? AWOL across the board—that is isolationism not retrenchment.

Klimkin: Normandy talks as confrontational as they were before.

Russia refused to pass to Ukraine the control over Ukraine's border – Klimkin nothing achieved.

Germany says 'significant progress' made at #Ukraine meeting…

Time for sustained cease-fire, meaningful progress in implementation of Minsk Agreements, says OSCE SG on Ukraine

ATO press center: 3 militant attacks recorded yesterday. No casualties among UA forces…

@waterloo_2014 Rumours are spread, RUS troops and hardware being withdrew. I didn't note that. Drills in progress, ready 'to Kyiv'...

@hingar66 Affirm. Many of them in #Starobesheve-#Dokuchaevsk, not going away but intrenching...

Move Forward

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 9:23am

In reply to by Bill C.

Could the following paragraph from Wikipedia about another Stephen Walt article (your quote from him denying isolationism and retrenchment are synonymous) describe this administration’s foreign policy, and Walt’s particular brand of isolationism?:

<blockquote>In a comprehensive 2005 article, "Taming American Power," Walt argued that the US should "make its dominant position acceptable to others – by using military force sparingly, by fostering greater cooperation with key allies, and, most important of all, by rebuilding its crumbling international image." Noting that America's image "is especially bleak in the Arab world," he proposed that the US "resume its traditional role as an 'offshore balancer,'" intervening "only when absolutely necessary" and keeping "its military presence as small as possible."</blockquote>

• Decades of America’s strong presence in Korea and Europe resulting in enduring peace….no check
• 2007-2008 Surge in Iraq that combined with “greater cooperation with key allies” worked…no check
• November 2008 election of President promising to withdraw entirely from Iraq…check
• 2009 “apology tour” in Muslim countries where America’s image “is especially bleak”…check
• Russian reset button in attempt to make our “dominant position acceptable to others”…check
• Total withdrawal from Iraq in 2011…check
• Pacific pivot when no clear threat from our largest trading partner and biggest bond holder exists…check
• Throw Mubarak under the bus leaving Egypt in chaos…check
• Support the replacement Muslim Brotherhood autocrat and freeze weapons shipment after his removal…check
• Lead from behind in Libya and leave chaos afterwards…check
• Benghazi was due to an obscure individual’s video…check
• Refusal to call it Islamic extremism…check
• Failed bombing and SF in Yemen…check
• Unenforced 2011 “time for Assad to resign” and chemical weapon redline…check
• Keeping “military presence as small as possible” in addressing ISIL…check
• Keeping “military presence as small as possible” in stopping Assad from killing hundreds of thousands and sending millions of refugees fleeing to adjacent countries and Europe…check
• Keeping “military presence as small as possible” in the vicinity of threatened east NATO countries and Ukraine…check
• Allowing Iran and Russia to not keep their “military presence as small as possible”…check, oh wait

It’s interesting that the term “offshore balancing” came from the 1930’s where it appears to have worked so well…cough, cough not. Yet compare Walt’s claim of resuming that traditional role of a light footprint to the actual successful role of a much larger forward presence in Europe and Korea where peace has remained since 1953. Which foreign policy technique appears to have had more success based on the bullets above? How “bleak is America’s image in the Arab world” now, particularly in the GCC which increasingly appears to be turning to Russia? How is a light U.S. and allied footprint going to offset the larger Iranian and Russian presence in both the Middle East and East Europe?

Then there is this article that describes Walt transitioning from what worked, i.e. strong forward presence for deterrence, to offshore balancing in this article:

In the above linked article note his shift in views from success through strength to policies of weak responses via offshore balancing:

<blockquote>Interestingly, Walt was a relative late comer to offshore balancing as far as prominent realist scholars go. In the waning days of the Cold War, he proposed a strategy that he called “finite containment,” which emerged in slightly revised form as selective engagement in the post-Cold War years. Under selective engagement, as Walt defines it, “the United States keeps large military forces deployed in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East (including the Persian Gulf) in the context of bilateral or multilateral alliances and for the purpose of dampening security competition in these regions. Selective engagement, like global hegemony, emphasizes the need to control the spread of WMDs, but it does not prescribe a policy of preventive war or call for idealistic crusades to spread democracy or other American values.”

In general, Walt seemed to favor this type of strategy. For one thing, he noted that it most closely corresponded to the foreign policies of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, which Walt praised. Furthermore, in 2000 he wrote: “the ideal U.S. posture would be the forward deployment of defensively oriented military forces. U.S. ground troops and tactical aircraft could be deployed overseas to defend key allies, as they currently do in Japan, Germany, and South Korea. By eschewing large offensive capabilities (including long-range bombing), the United States would appear less threatening to others and would be less likely to provoke defensive reactions.” At the same time he warned that “the United States should avoid relying on large, highly offensive forces based primarily in the continental United States.”

It was only during the George W. Bush years that Walt appears to have come around to offshore balancing after seeming to have concluded that U.S. policymakers were not capable of being selective enough when they had large forces forward deployed.</blockquote>

He may have a point in that last sentence, but the opposite extreme of too light of a response does not appear to be working, either. The “hope as a plan” strategy of failing to consolidate gains after Desert Storm and Libya did not work. The compromise would be a forward presence with ground and air raiding from Kurd territory. This would come closest to the proven practice of deterrence and stabilizing presence with limited cost in blood and treasure characterized by decades of Korea and NATO.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/13/2015 - 6:13am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill--here is where you are getting retrenchment and isolationism completely intertwined.

Retrenchment actually demands a well thought long term strategic strategy in the event that the so called retrenchment literally falls in a ditch after the wheels come off---meaning in order to carry out the concept of regional powers working for the benefit of and for the US in the event of a crisis requires the ability of those selected regional powers to carry out the strategy on their own.

That is exactly how he views Germany/France in handling what he has determined to be a European regional issue--the Ukraine--BUT when the opposition player has far more power than the so called regional players THEN the US must step up again and reengage--HAS that actually happened--no.

THIS requires a seriously well thought through strategic strategy AND Obama while having thoughts/ideas HAS no such strategy in place---that is why the US keeps getting drawn back into the Ukraine, Syria, Libya and Africa.

NOW for the ME---Obama's regional concept hinged in bringing Iran back into the fold as a regional player on the global stage---PROBLEM is Iran views itself already as a global player in the Islamic revolutionary movement and as the defender of Shiites globally it feels it can challenge the KSA which represents the defender of the global Sunni communities.

There has been much written on UW strategies here in SWJ and if we accept that there is in fact a unilateral UW strategy being driven by Russia, China, Iran and yes even IS--THEN what exactly pray tell how is the Obama retrenchment plan to maintain a resemblance of sanity in the ME with the competition between the two regional powers of Iran and KSA wanting hegemonic control over the ME???

THIS does not even consider Russia's drive for a new hegemonic control via a "new Yalta" for Europe.

THERE is effectively no Obama plan--other than go with the wind, do something that looks like I am doing something and then pray I get out of office before it collapses and all blame me.

REMEMBER during the heated sequestration debates in Congress of 2013 and in the US MSM Obama stated repeatedly he was going to do everything possible to end it and restore the needed funding back to DoD.

Now what does he state and fight for--absolutely nothing.

In the meantime DoD has troops and equipment scattered all over the world and the funding is being driven continuously into the ground AND the troop draw down is massively underway and will not be stopped.

I personally thought that the major complaints of the outgoing and incoming JCoS and the outgoing ACoS was rhetoric in their fears being voiced by the funding cuts--BUT the more one goes through their statements--they are seriously concerned about the coming existential threats to the US and is the US prepared for them as DoD attempts to reposition itself from COIN to CAM to counter UW. Especially in the face of much lower than expected recruitment and little interest by many in joining now that the so called AQ wars are over.

So is this a drive towards retrenchment when the military is being driven into the ground, the DoD funding is being capped at a low level, worldwide events and crisis's are increasing and a large number of civil societies are looking for a single adult to lead the kids into various settlements that are badly needed.

That "adult" is taking his toys and is going home---after him the "wave" is the mantra.

That my friend is isolationism not retrenchment--all for the want of a clear, concise forward thinking strategic strategy for the 21st century that truly considers the desires of the multiple civil societies that are currently in turmoil--we get nothing intellectually out of the WH, Kerry and the 700 person NSC.

Which I am still awaiting to read from this administration now into almost the seventh year.

To be more to the point as proof---after the Kerry call to the Russia FM stating the seriousness of their military moves into Syria--have you seen/heard anything else recently--nothing absolutely nothing--that my friend is isolationist lip service not retrenchment.