Small Wars Journal

Obama Claims His Critics Forced Him to Make a Mess of Syria

Mon, 09/21/2015 - 8:51am

Obama Claims His Critics Forced Him to Make a Mess of Syria by Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

The administration let it be known it is scrapping what it never seriously pursued, namely training of anti-regime, nonjihadist rebels. In what surely is the most cringe-worthy excuse offered by a commander-in-chief, President Obama last week complained that his critics — whom he routinely ignored and scorned — forced him to make a mess of Syria. To say it is unbecoming of a president to whine that he was only following what critics told him to do, understates just how dishonest the president is and how morally repugnant is his approach to a war that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, created millions of refugees and provided the Islamic State with a base of operations.

The New York Times reported, “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.” (Indeed editorial pages consistently criticized the president for belatedly, ineffectually, and halfheartedly acting or for shedding crocodile tears but taking no meaningful action to protect civilians, aid nonjihadi rebels and enforce the red line…

Read on.

Finger-Pointing, but Few Answers, After a Syria Solution Fails by Peter Baker, New York Times

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 pointed 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.

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…

Read on.


Outlaw 09

Mon, 10/05/2015 - 7:48am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Dayuhan--do you read the comments I have posted here--we have been funding as well as has the UAE and KSA the FSA from day one and in Jordan there has been a central training center and a military operations center for going on over two years especially since the TOW hunter killer teams were vetted, trained and deployed--and the TOWS continue to flow.

Do you not fully understand it--we are already in the game.

So if we are in the game then influence as best as one can --do not run from what you have been already doing--this is exactly what Obama is doing--forgetting he is in the game via the CIA whether he likes it or not.

By allowing the FSA to work with other anti Assad groups via their funding sources and weapons flows ensures in the end a place for a US voice in settling who takes over from Assad.

You seemingly forget that it has been largely the FSA and sometimes working with the JN that has pushed the Assad Army literally back to the gates of Damascus--not IS and certainly not the Kurds.

Actually not a bad game plan---flow money, trainers, weapons and let those in the country fight to determine their future--with NOT a single US boot on the ground. Remember I said it is all about "perception".

In the end Syrians must decide their future whether secular and or Islamist--it is their choice not ours--but if we help at least we have a voice.

THIS should have been the eastern Ukrainian solution BUT there Obama became totally frightened of Putin's nuclear threats and retreated.

The Ukrainians have all along stated just give us the TOW, night vision glasses, counter battery radars, and some kind of secure comms and we will do the it is our country to defend.


Mon, 10/05/2015 - 4:03am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

The "logic", to the extent that there is any, seems to be that if Putin wants to jump into the sh!thole, we have to do it too. Only place that goes is one where everybody is neck deep in sh!t.

Seriously, what realistic end state goal do you hope to achieve by funding and arming FSA?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 10/05/2015 - 2:02am

Interesting if true--is this a CIA move and or is it being supported by Obama and his NSC-----

Huge if true: U.S Led MOC in Jordan agree to fund rebels w/o pre conditions that #FSA must not co-op w/ Nusra/Ahrar

This is the move that I indicated should happen--ALL via the FSA.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 10/05/2015 - 1:49am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

The Coming Defeat of NATO

by Matthew Continetti
October 3, 2015 12:00 AM

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, established in 1949, has 28 members devoted to the idea of collective security. Prediction: By the time President Obama leaves office in 2017, the NATO pledge of mutual defense in response to aggression will have been exposed as worthless. Objectively the alliance will have ceased to exist. The culprits? Vladimir Putin — and Barack Obama. Right now the world is focused on the Middle East: Russian jets and bombers, operating from an expanding air base in Syria, strike opponents of dictator and war criminal Bashar al-Assad. The Russians say they are going after Islamic State — but there’s no evidence they are doing so. Nor do they have reason to, considering the aim of Putin’s war is to preserve Assad’s rule and to expand, for the first time in decades, Russia’s sphere of influence into the Middle East. Key to Putin’s strategy, write analysts Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, is the doctrine of “reflexive control”: establishing facts on the ground “in such a way that the enemy chooses Russia’s preferred course of action voluntarily, because it is easiest and all the others appear much more difficult and risky, if not impossible.”

Doesn’t have to be this way. Moscow’s propaganda notwithstanding, Russia is a weak state with a deteriorating military capability, whose claim to great power status is based on its nuclear arsenal. But, by acting decisively and provocatively, Putin has found the means by which to reassert Russian sovereignty and preeminence and ward off challenges to his authoritarian regime.

Revisit Putin’s 2007 speech to the Munich security conference, where he said “the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world.” The expansion of NATO, he went on, “represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust.” Then came the threat: “Russia is a country with a history that spans more than 1,000 years and has practically always used the privilege to carry out an independent foreign policy. We are not going to change this tradition today.”

The next year the governments of Germany and France, frightened by Putin’s rhetoric and reliant on Russian energy and arms deals, scuttled the U.S. attempt to offer NATO membership to the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine. Deprived of NATO’s security guarantee, both of these small and poor and new democracies became open prey. Putin invaded Georgia in 2008. He continues to exert influence there. The techniques of reflexive control found their ultimate patsy in Barack Obama. When it became clear in 2013 that the president had no interest in enforcing his red line against chemical weapons use in Syria, Putin and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov pounced. Lavrov suggested in public that Russia would assist the United States in “destroying” Assad’s WMD stockpile.

Obama, whose greatest fear is a major deployment of U.S. ground forces in the Middle East, couldn’t help saying yes. Suddenly America was partnering with the governments of Russia and Syria (and by extension Iran) to inspect and remove the munitions. This decision not only averted U.S. intervention and guaranteed Assad’s survival. It allowed Assad to gas his population in the future. In 2014, when protests forced Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to flee to his backers in Moscow, Putin saw an opportunity to reclaim Ukraine from the West. His military buildup on Ukraine’s eastern border deterred NATO from harsh reprisals when the Russian parliament annexed Crimea.

The techniques of maskirovka — disinformation and deceit — provided cover for Russia’s arming and training and staffing of anti-Kiev “rebels” in the east. Sanctions and nasty words have not exacted enough of a cost to stop Putin from instigating and perpetuating a civil war whose death toll is in the thousands. President Obama has overruled his advisers and refuses to provide lethal defensive arms for pro-Western Ukrainians, believing, amazingly, that helping Kiev defend itself would “escalate” the situation. The Ukraine conflict is now frozen — Putin can switch it on and off at will. His goals remain: to efface Western pretentions to ideological and military supremacy, and to replace President Petro Poroshenko with a Kremlin stooge. The techniques of reflexive control found their ultimate patsy in Barack Obama.

Two weeks ago, in a phone call with its prime minister, Vice President Biden signaled America will support Montenegro’s application for NATO membership. Good for him. But we should recognize nonetheless that this move is a fig-leaf. It obscures the fact that Obama would otherwise be the first president in a generation not to preside over an expansion of NATO. So the White House supports a strategically insignificant nation surrounded by member states. Woo-wee. It’s a metaphor for this administration’s lackadaisical commitment to the alliance — and for Europe’s.

The Kremlin has noticed this ambivalence. Russian intervention in Syria is about more than propping up Assad. Russian leadership of a pro-Assad coalition that includes Iran and Iraq effectively displaces America as the most influential external power in the region. Russian provocations have forced Washington to plead for “de-confliction,” handing Moscow freedom of action over Syrian, and possibly Iraqi, airspace. And the location of the Russian base opens an additional front in Putin’s war against NATO.

Less than 50 miles from the border of Turkey — a NATO member — the Bassel al-Assad airbase gives Putin’s air force the ability to buzz and overfly not only Turkey but also U.S. allies Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. “It also would allow,” write the Kagans, “his aircraft to shadow the U.S. Sixth Fleet around the Eastern Mediterranean. He could force Turkey and its NATO allies to establish standing combat air patrols along the southern Turkish border.” The chances of a deadly incident increase every day. Putin is boxing in NATO.

His next target is the Baltic States. Last Sunday on 60 Minutes, he explained that the reason he has called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the worst thing to happen in the last century” is that, “in an instant, 25 million people found themselves beyond the borders of the Russian state.” His goal is to reclaim them — to unify Russians living abroad in the Baltics, in Ukraine, and beyond.

Putin’s Air Strikes in Syria Are Merely the Latest Example of the Obama Doctrine’s Failure Raimonds Vejonis, president of Latvia, tells the Wall Street Journal that Russian sorties over the Baltic nations are on the rise.

In his full interview with Charlie Rose, Putin singled out Lithuania: “More than half of the citizens have left the country,” he lied. “Can you imagine a situation where more than half of the Americans left the territory of the United States? It would be a catastrophe!” Try this scenario: Sometime in the next 16 months, civil unrest breaks out in one or more of the Baltic States. It’s the Russian population, calling for “independence” from the central government and closer ties to Moscow. Fighting erupts as Russian tanks mass along the border and jets fly over Riga or Vilnius or Tallinn. They are all targets. Take Vilnius: While there are few ethnic Russians in Lithuania, it is the land bridge between Mother Russia and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Supplying Kaliningrad would be Putin’s casus belli.

The Baltic authorities call on NATO to respond — invoking Article Four of the charter, which requires consultations, and possibly Article Five, requiring force. But the West is distracted. Europe is overwhelmed by crises in Greece and Ukraine, by the U.K. referendum to leave the E.U., by ongoing Muslim migration to the north. The United States is occupied by its presidential election, by Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan, by economic shocks. The cries for assistance go unheard. The Obama administration has refused even to try to secure permanent forward bases in the Baltics — which would provide a credible deterrent — apparently due to the belief that providing for a real defense is “provocative.”

We are too busy, too self-absorbed, too confused to worry about promises made years ago. Obama won’t arm the Ukrainians. What makes us think he’d defend the Lithuanians or Latvians or Estonians? Before the White House recovers from its “surprise” at events in the Baltics, Putin will have achieved his strategic goals and established reflexive control over the situation. President Obama and Chancellor Merkel and Secretary of State Kerry are sure to proclaim that the arc of history will defeat Russia, even as they accommodate themselves to Putin’s reality. NATO will be exposed as a covenant without the sword. And millions of East Europeans will come under Vladimir Putin’s thumb. Victims of the Kremlin’s avarice. Victims of Obama’s weakness.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 10/05/2015 - 1:36am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

The drumbeat of the Obama failures just keep on beating--AND has anyone seen a full court press conference by this President on Syria and or the Assad war crimes against his own civil society--NOT a single peep, tone, word or statement.

Putin winning despite RU weakness, setting precedents for defying, breaking US primacy

Obama is assisting in a massive way Putin to achieve his three core geo political goals---truly not sure why he is adamant on assisting Putin other than he must agree with the three geo political goals.

1. discredit and damaging NATO
2. discredit and damaging the EU
3. totally disconnecting the US from Europe and the ME

Putin is well underway in achieving all of these points with Obama's assistance--why is that??

Outlaw 09

Mon, 10/05/2015 - 1:22am

When a President and his Press spokesperson "literally" tell the JCoS and the SACEUR to shut up AND the President and his NSC produce absolutely not a single strategy for the DoD to oriente on--THEN this happens---it is a given.

Remember when the incoming JCoS, the outgoing JCoS/ACoS, SACEUR and USAEUR Cmdr all stated for the public Russia is an "existential threat to the US".

THEN the Obama spokesperson stated --hey we have far more problems than Russia--basically stating the military side better shut up--AND they did.

This silence even extended to the UNSC Ambassador who has been extremely quiet for months now.

Caution Hampered Pentagon’s Syria Plans"…


Mon, 10/05/2015 - 3:56am

In reply to by RantCorp

The US is not responsible for Syrians. We sat back and did nothing when several million Congolese died and many more suffered horribly during a civil war... because like it or not, the only way for the US to resolve such a situation is to take over and run the place as a colony, which is not politically acceptable or sane. How is Syria any different, beyond getting more media coverage?

Like most of those advocating intervention or engagement, you're not addressing the most basic questions:

What is the end state goal? Is it realistically achievable?

What practical strategy exists for achieving that goal?

How do you propose to extricate if your strategy succeeds? If it fails?


Sun, 10/04/2015 - 11:47pm

In reply to by Dayuhan


How much of the ME do you want IS to be in charge of?

When you say "If our enemies choose to kill each other, we should stop them?" do you include all the women and children they enslave, rape and murder or just the men? I mean you mention Russia as well - does that mean Turkish women and children are just the 'other' as well?



Sun, 10/04/2015 - 6:23pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Ok, so Russia is going to be fighting against the entire Sunni world, and Sunni radicals are going to be focusing their efforts on Russia, both in Syria and probably soon enough in Russia.

So what? How does that hurt us? If our enemies choose to kill each other, we should stop them?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 10/04/2015 - 2:06pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Only getting worse----

Tens of #Saudi Islamic Scholars: Every Muslim is obliged to counter #Russia|n Crusaders in #Syria & fund Jihadists..

After #Russia’s intervention, #Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood has declared jihad obligatory on every able-bodied Muslim:

Russian ROC declared a "Holy War"--looks like they will get one----and I t will not stop at the Russian borders.

Russia is now motivating the anti Assad forces---not so sure they fully understand this----

Multiple operation rooms and closer coordination have been announced over the past couple of days in Syria, including Homs and Damascus.

People overstate the potential impact of Russia's intervention & underestimate what the rebels could still do, in areas like Homs & Damascus

Rebels' western/regional backers aren't hapless. In fact we all know rebels in the south are often restrained & pressured not to go too far.

So the rebels & their backers still have more leverage than utilised, in contrast to Russian & Hiz+Iran that already did almost their worst.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 10/04/2015 - 12:28pm

NOW what is the Obama response----we conduct 7000 strikes supporting Iraq and attack into Syria ALL against IS and the Russians manage to conduct a grand total of virtually nothing against IS.

YET Iraq wants Russian air attacks???

No wonder Obama is in the blame game.

BREAKING: Iraqi PM Abadi sends an official request to Putin to launch air strikes against ISIS in Iraq.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 10/04/2015 - 8:13am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Here are those rag tag TOW guys again in action--the FSA has a number of hunter killer teams that roam for targets and are especially active during offenses.

Syria #Quneitra Rebels target tank during Tall al Ahmar-battle with TOW

For a rag tag group Russia is lending them creditability in their fighting skills----NOTICE not a single Western leader ie Obama, Hollande and or Merkel has called Putin out on this???? Especially since Putin declared himself in a Russian TV announcement IS was and is the Russian target???

Russian TV poses the FSA area as the ISIS positions.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 10/04/2015 - 4:08am

This map depicts exactly why militarily Russian is air striking everyone other than IS---FSA and JN are seriously threatening Assad.

Check the actual distances----they are truly threatening Damascus proper--one step away from the end state of throwing out Assad.

The situation in North-West #Syria (#Latakia) on Oct 3, 2015…

Reference FSA that supposedly rag tag non performing group supported by the CIA/Jordan and KSA that no one in the US seems to have thought about lately until they were bombed instead of IS.

They were the leading attack group in yesterdays main battle at Tall al Ahmar ----

Syria #Daraa New #FSA special forces

Syria #Quneitra Rebels seized 2 tanks in Tall al Ahmar battle … … …

Outlaw 09

Sun, 10/04/2015 - 3:06am

Excellent breakout of who is located where and who controls what in Syria.

Eliot Higgins @EliotHiggins (aka bellingcat)

Seems legit

Remember--there is an element of something not talked about in the West--where the Assad military has been thrown out there is often "local governance appearing that is actually functioning" even in the face of war.

A number of these "local governances" have their own local defense groups not tied to any Syrian particular group--BTW--a number of these towns are being directly bombed by Assad and there is fear that the Russians will follow suit.

Why is this important and why is Assad attacking them?

If these "local governances" are actually working that shows that the Syrian civil society can actually governor itself.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 10/04/2015 - 3:16am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Saudi foreign minister: Putin's rationale in Syria "inconceivable" - CBS News…

It always behooves us to look back at history to understand the present...

2011: A UN Security Council resolution threatening action against Syria's deadly crackdown on protests has been vetoed by Russia and China.

Remember Putin vetoed in 2011 BUT in 2013 he blames Assad---

This from 2013 - Vladimir Putin admits Bashar al-Assad responsible for Syrian uprising - via @Telegraph…

So for the lack of follow through we are at where we are now in Syria--AND Obama should have seen this coming.....especially when the NSC numbers over 700 individuals--someone should have seen it coming??

ACTION then would have saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of refugees----- International Relations 101--it really is sometimes that simple--the use of power.

BUT this President blames others for his sheer lack of action.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 10/04/2015 - 2:43am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

When there is an utter lack of US leadership------remember the concept of "perception"--the Sunni Gulf states and I am assuming quietly in the back--Turkey NO longer believe the US is doing or going to do anything and that includes protecting their own proxy--- thus their pending decision to move.

Talk about the lack of Putin to "see unintended consequences"--this is one he did not envision.

Gulf states plan military response as Putin raises the stakes in Syria

I had some serious concerns about Putin triggering a WW3 in the Ukraine BUT are we not seeing the potential of now a global Sunni Shia war--that is why Obama is so wrong with his theories of international relations--sometimes there has to be an adult in the room that all will at least listen to.

AND that "adult" must be able to project hard power if needed to get everyone's attention in that room. IR 101 taught in every college class on the subject of "power" and the use of "power".

BUT remember Obama was trained as a lawyer NOT in IR or PS.

This article should be read----says almost the same thing I just posted--NO adult to be seen for miles. When reading it keep in the back of your mind--the "perception thing".

Russian fighter jets launched from a new airbase in Syria have persuaded western critics to mute their demands for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, but another group of his opponents sees Moscow’s intervention as more provocative than decisive.

Regional powers have quietly, but effectively, channelled funds, weapons and other support to rebel groups making the biggest inroads against the forces from Damascus. In doing so, they are investing heavily in a conflict which they see as part of a wider regional struggle for influence with bitter rival Iran.

In a week when Russia made dozens of bombing raids, those countries have made it clear that they remain at least as committed to removing Assad as Moscow is to preserving him.

“There is no future for Assad in Syria,” Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir warned, a few hours before the first Russian bombing sorties began. If that was not blunt enough, he spelled out that if the president did not step down as part of a political transition, his country would embrace a military option, “which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power”. With at least 39 civilians reported dead in the first bombing raids, the prospect of an escalation between backers of Assad and his opponents is likely to spell more misery for ordinary Syrians.

“The Russian intervention is a massive setback for those states backing the opposition, particularly within the region – Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – and is likely to elicit a strong response in terms of a counter-escalation,” said Julien Barnes-Dacey, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

As the Syrian civil war has unfolded, Saudi Arabia has been clear about its position, say analysts. “Since the beginning of the uprising in Syria, the view in Riyadh has been that Bashar al-Assad must go. There is no indication what-soever that Riyadh will change this position,” said Mohammed Alyahya, associate fellow at the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh.

“What is clear to Riyadh and its regional allies is that the recent Russian and Iranian escalation will only create a more unstable region and spill more blood,” he said.

Riyadh has focused support on rebels in the south, say analysts, while allies Turkey and Qatar have reportedly backed northern rebels, including conservative Islamist militias such as Ahrar al Sham.

That group, in alliance with the al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, recently reached a local ceasefire deal with Assad in the north. Its success in taking on government forces is thought to have been one trigger for the Russian bombing campaign and put them among the jets’ first targets.

“Most probably, the coming efforts will focus on boosting the effectiveness of major coalitions, co-ordination and co-operation between the most influential and effective groups in Syria,” said regional analyst Ali Bakeer.

Concerns that Assad’s government could collapse, leaving a dangerous power vacuum, had persuaded the allies to support a push for a political transition as well as backing fighters, but the Russian bombing campaign changed that calculation, he said.

“There is a high-level, very close co-operation and co-ordination between Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. They are almost on the same page in Syria.”

Turkish support has been hampered by domestic turmoil, as it prepares, in effect, to rerun a controversial election after a ceasefire with Kurdish groups collapsed. Qatar and Saudi Arabia, however, clearly have the funds, connections and political will to respond to Moscow’s escalation.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are already embroiled in an expensive and bloody war in Yemen that may limit both their military and financial resources. They have also so far deferred to western bans on transferring hi-tech weapons – including missiles that could take down aircraft – over fears that they might change hands in the chaos of the war and be used against their makers.

“The uncertain question today is the degree of power combined with efficiency that regional powers will be willing to bring to the table,” said Barnes-Dacey. “Do the Saudis now try to take matters decisively into their hands, including by providing rebels with sophisticated weaponry long denied them?

“The new [Saudi] king [Salman] has shown a willingness to be much more assertive and take measures into the kingdom’s own hands. If the Saudis see the situation slipping out of their hands, and there is a real sense that the Iranians are consolidating their position in Syria, you could see much stronger response.”

That is unlikely to go as far as troops on the ground, however, and not only because so many assets are already tied up in Yemen.

“A Saudi military role would be too much of an escalation,” said analyst Hassan Hassan, author of Isis: Inside the Army of Terror. “It’s seen as far from Syria, not seen as a direct security threat. With Yemen, people have accepted [Saudi] hegemony for years, unlike Syria, where Iran is seen as dominant.

“The best way to respond to the Russian intervention is to engage the rebels more and step up support so they can face down the escalation and create a balance on the ground,” he said. “The Russians will [then] realise there are limits to what they can achieve in Syria, and modify their approach.” But the wider regional struggle for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran makes it almost impossible for Riyadh to walk away, whatever the cost.

Saudi officials are particularly worried that the Americans might retreat from their strategy of containing Iran, following the landmark deal struck in July to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for lifting international sanctions.

“Tensions really are escalating in the wake of the nuclear deal,” said Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow at international think tank Chatham House. “Saudis feel that the US and the rest of the international community are doing nothing about this, and they are trying to be at the forefront of efforts to contain Iran.”

In this context, there may be a small amount of relief in Riyadh over the Russian role, as stepped-up importance for Moscow could edge out some of the Iranian influence.

“Is there a trade-off here? The more one has Russia, the less one has Iran. I imagine that’s one of the ways Russians are selling the idea to Saudis not to look at this negatively,” said Daniel Levy, Middle East and North Africa programme director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

But, overall, the risks from escalation go beyond Syria, he said. “The degree to which Tehran and Riyadh are now in a confrontation mode across a number of regional hotspots is worrisome,” said Levy. “Who can act now as the de-escalating mediator?

“Americans are not in a position to do that, nor Russians, and Iran and Saudi Arabia are not sufficiently talking to each other … you’re now left with almost no one at senior levels on the respective sides who can engage with each other. This is going to be a dangerous place.”

Outlaw 09

Sun, 10/04/2015 - 2:01am

A large part of Obama's failures in dealing with Putin are directly tied to his total lack of understanding the Russian non linear warfare UW strategy.

I have raised this a number of times recently here--is in fact the Syria refugee creation and the refugee crisis in fact part and parcel of Russian non linear warfare as brutal as that sounds. Granted it hangs a lot with an internal ethnic cleansing which has been a given BUT at what time did it flip and become a clear non linear strategy??

Along side weaponization of information and money as a weapons system we have now "weaponization of refugees".

Appears the EU President a Pole seems to now "get it".

If you noticed the Russian air strikes over the last four days are designed to attack civilians creating uncertainty and causing them to move. Remember Putin's accusations against the EU that they could not handle the refugee flows and that Russia had far more experience and the EU should turn to Russia for assistance--THAT was days before his invasion of Syria and an invasion is what it is.

Tusk warns #migrants are turning into an element of #Putin's "#hybridwar ".,+H…

Bill M.

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 10:11pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

You're basically saying continue to do what we have been doing, but we now need to give the Islamists MANPADS. I don't know how much we have supported the KSA, but taking out a few tanks with TOEs isn't a game changer. Assad and ISIL are still in the fight, though both have been weakened. Russia is still a wild card, we will see what their impact is over the weeks to come. I recall our first air attacks on ISIL, they were made for our T.V. audience, and here we are three years later. I don't think Russia will make much of a difference unless they bring a lot more to the fight than they have now.


Sat, 10/03/2015 - 5:39pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Since when was the FSA "formed by the CIA"?

The possibility of support for the FSA was widely analyzed and discussed several years back, and the general consensus was far from positive. I suspect you may be overrating them to some extent, and possibly relying too heavily on social media as an information source.

If the US has learned anything over the last few decades, it is that people promising results in exchange for aid need to be approached with a whole lot of skepticism.

You seem to approach this with the premise that the US needs to have a proxy in this fight... why?

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 5:20pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Issam Al Reis @south_front_sy

Map of expansion of #FSA #Southern_Front control in #Quneitra after a series of victories during the last week

BTW--this southern front expansion by the FSA directly threatens Assad--and that is the exact reason the RuAF is directly bombing FSA not IS.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 5:07pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Hey --have we heard this same sentence in the 70/80s in the US??--we must fight Communism overseas otherwise we fight it at home--was this not the "domino theory" against the "wars of liberation"???

Dmitry Medvedev ✔ @MedvedevRussiaE
The operation in Syria is resistance against terrorism. It's better to fight it abroad than domestically

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 4:58pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Simple ---support the Arab Sunni army FSA that was formed via the CIA and others based out of Jordan.

They have been highly successful with professionally trained, vetted and battlefield proven TOW hunter killer teams that have rocked the Assad army and has led to a number of battle loses bringing in the Russians.

Provide the MANPADs under the same mechanism and let the Russians know it--the perception on the battlefield that they are there is enough to cause the RuAF to change tactics---BUT we hear out of DC--who say we cannot do that because what if it causes the Russians to escalate--heck we do nothing and still they escalate so we might as well give them at least a true reason to escalate. We saw the same Russian drill in eastern Ukraine with threats if we do something--we held back and yet Russia still escalated.

We have been supporting FSA for over two years now and they are actually moderate for Islamists.

Obama is fearful of supplying now MANPADs as they do need them to counter the RuAF attacks--due to the fear they will fall into the wrong hands--my comment--eastern Ukraine is already awash with Russian MANPADs and it is only a matter of time before they hit the black markets as have the Russian RGOs--the thermobaric rocket launcher which has been seen on the market for the right price.

Simple knowledge that MANPADS are in a high number in the environment creates the perception of air space denial--even if never used.

My fear if the news this evening is accurate and it is--the more moderate groups are trending towards JN simply to survive the Russian air attacks.

If anything Putin has achieved something along the lines of unintended consequences--driving the over 70 anti Assad groups towards a centralized political and military command.

AND if we fail to honestly support the moderate groups they will become more radicalized and we will never regain their trust.

If you have worked with say Iraqi's ---trust was a big issue with them--I do not know how many times I heard--"we do not trust you since you invaded us".

The FSA overrun Assads forces in Quneitra capturing weapons & ammo

Even in the face of heavy Russian air strikes they still beat the SAA.

BTW the info war around the FSA is probably one of the best kept secrets in the last two years--US media constantly called them ineffective and small--small and ineffective they are not.


Dayuhan has a fair question, what do you recommend that the U.S. do at this point? We made a lot of bad decisions starting in the 90s to get to this point, but here we are.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 2:48pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

That so called proxy FSA won a major battle today and drove Assad forces back towards Damascus -------even in the face of heavy Russian air strikes trying to turn the tide of the fighting ------

Incredible TOW hit by FSA Suqour al-Ghab on a group of Assad forces and Russian officers reportedly.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 1:53pm

In reply to by Dayuhan

This is why the Russians are bombing the FSA----

Syrian Revolutionaries liberate TalAhmar area in Qunaitra's northern suburb and inch closer towards Damascus suburbs

BUT ------Yes the US has proxies as I have been saying a number of times--NOW since we are admitting we cannot protect them--WHY should they continue fighting for the US and simply shift to IS who has MANPADs.

As strange as it sounds, the U.S. actually has two separate proxies in Syria. While American spies cooperate with their regional counterparts to covertly provide training, weapons, and ammunition to vetted factions of Free Syrian Army still battling the Syrian Army or pro-Assad militias, the Department of Defense has attempted to train up a counterterrorism strike force to hunt and kill ISIS, known as the New Syrian Forces. The two don’t necessarily work at cross-purposes; in fact, they’re meant to complement each other.

The Obama administration has emphasized that its main fight is against ISIS, but since 2011 it has been calling for Assad’s negotiated “transition” from power. The administration realizes that it’s in a much stronger position to facilitate that transition if it underwrites the application of mild to moderate military pressure on Damascus—not enough to topple the regime but enough to keep it on the defensive. Russia, unsurprisingly, has decided to rob the U.S. of that leverage by attacking the anti-regime rebels. And Putin has calculated, with good reason, that the U.S. will do little to nothing to defend these proxies from Russian bombs.

SO is in fact Obama's lack of actions in fact driving Syrian anti assad forces straight into IS/AQ????

Actually yes----

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 10:37am

In reply to by Dayuhan

THEN you obviously do not fully understand the intertwined workings of the 70 to 100 major Syrian players on the ground---it is far more intricate than you seem to think..

If and this is the interesting in your wiping the FSA off as a proxy---they are being supported directly by the KSA and the CIA--OR why would they have been able to fire over 296 TOWs just in the last four months virtually pushing back the Assad Army to the positions they now hold--AND just why did the Russians choose them to attack first--because they are sitting roughly between 30-50kms from the Russian bases.

There are right now three major Sunni armies facing Assad and now Russia--IS, the Turkey/Qatar supported groups and the KSA/CIA supported groups around FSA.

BTW--read the comments by the BU professor--there is truly a world war afoot now and it is the Sunni Shia divide and it is being fought in Syria--or did you not notice who is on the so called Russian side---let's me see now...

Russia, Hezbollah, IRGC, Iran, and Iraq--basically the Shia Front and on the Sunni Front States side---KSA, Qatar, UAE, Turkey with Jordan supporting the FSA. Kurds while Sunni are basically only interested in their own areas and not in pushing southwards.

Seems to me we are seeing now the true clash between Sunni and Shia play out with Russia clearly signaling their support for the Shia side.

NOW if we are to have any form of influence in the coming years anywhere in the ME---are we to simply stand on the sidelines and what wait for the dust to settle??

So yes my friend it is all about "perception"--yes it is a warm and fuzzy term--but "perception" drives the ME if you have spent anytime there which I am assuming by your comments you have not.

BTW--in the 21st century international relations and or a foreign policy by any nation state will revolve always around "perception"--as it will have to match the "perceptions driven by their civil societies".

Will be more than happy to go back and dig out of the Syrian thread a composite video that was posted of all the FSA TOW videos depicting battlefield loss after loss by the Assad forces--then make up your mind if the FSA is a "loser as a proxy".

Remember in the MSM FSA has been depicted as not much of a fighting force--that was a deliberate info war move for the last year---but ask the Assad Army who is the "loser" after having faced the TOW for the last six months.

Russian intelligence knows exactly where the true threat lies--it is the FSA not IS.

Remember FSA is the face of the "moderates" and if Russia can hurt the moderates it is a not so subtle warning--we will destroy you so find a way to negotiate with Assad. Same exact technique seen in eastern Ukraine with the various Russian mercenary groups there where the Russian GRU never hesitated in using blunt force to rein in the mercenary warlords.

Predictions of a Russian "quagmire" in Syria assume Putin operates like US/NATO. Muddled goals, tight ROE, laws.

Ask Chechens about that.

AND this is not "perception"--Russia "perceives" the US to be under Obama as weak and afraid to use force---so Putin just keeps on pushing.

ALERT Russian army calls on US to stop Syria flights in areas where Russian air force is operating, according ...


Sat, 10/03/2015 - 5:13pm

In reply to by Bill M.

The potential for chaos is certainly real, and is in fact more than potential, as it has already happened. While the US has hardy looked impressive throughout the process, though, it's hard for me to see how the US can be hed responsible for the start, the progress, or the outcome to date. Would it be any better if the US had done nothing at all? If the US had taken some action (such as what)?

For me the single most destabilizing misstep the US has made in the ME in recent years was the decision to remove Saddam without having a viable strategy to replace him or fill the vacuum left by his departure. That of course has had catastrophic results for Iraq and was a great and gratuitous gift to Iran... but it didn't cause the Syrian civil war, though it did make it easier for the Syrian civil war to spill over and destabilize the region.

Aside from that, though, what are the US missteps in Syria? The "red line" and "Assad must go" comments were stupid and embarrassing, but did they really change the course of events? Under the circumstances it is hard to see the decision not to intervene directly or adopt a proxy as a misstep, and while of course one can speculate that such steps might have made matters better, they could also easily have made matters worse.

Of course some people will buy into Putin's little stand-up routine and believe that the entire Arab Spring was an American concoction from the stater, because after all we a know that nobody would ever rebel against a fading dictator without foreign manipulation, but anyone who buys into that notion is well off the beam to start.

The claims that Obama messed up Syria make as little sense to me as the bouts of Putin-worship we see popping up here and there, and it is a bit telling that for all the ranting, nobody seems to have a clear idea of what they want the US to do, or what they think the US should have done.


Sat, 10/03/2015 - 11:00am

In reply to by Bill M.

IMO we need to recognize the West (not just Obama, Kerry, the WH, the US, the Vatican, the family who run my local drug store, the NRA etc.etc.) we are actively supporting the folks that are fighting against the proxy Army that is defending the interest's of the KSA and her allies.

If for clarity's sake it helps to describe it as Sunni against Shia then so be it. I personally believe digging up God is misleading and unhelpful but the West is currently like a startled deer trapped in headlights and as Bill M suggests things could get very nasty for billions of people far from the ME.

Just for argument's sake let's accept we are supporting Shia forces attacking the KSA proxies (Wahhabi's, IS, ALQ and assorted Fruitcake etc.) then our long standing political alliance with the Sunni KSA and the Gulf States is in total conflict with what our military are being asked to carry out in the TO.

In another thread MF crunched down some truly remarkable numbers on Jet A 1 consumption, sorties flown and weapons dropped in AF in a single year. It panned out each strike cost $32 Million in fuel alone. If you consider the typical lethality of a single air-strike ( my experience with dumb bombs against dug-in infantry was less than 1 in 10 airstrikes resulted in casualties) but let's say 50/50 as a lethality marker on enemy combatants.

That's $60 million per Fruitcake - and that's just the fuel bill for the Air Farce. If you add everything else into the effort to kill an enemy (MSF don't count), a enemy combatant who's deployment costs would not exceed a few thousand dollars, you begin to realize the mission the Saudi dissents set out to accomplish on 9/11 is proving remarkably successful.

Without digging up my RMA/MICkey Mouse ---tail- wagging -the -taxpaying -dog rant what this absurd equation may be reflecting is the unsustainable dichotomy you get when your long-term political policies (that has stood the West in good stead since 1945) are being undermined by the West's own military forces.

The KSA et al are facing the possibility of a hostile Shia army threatening their northern border border, a hostile Shia Army on border to the south and a the main threat of a Shia army on their KSA/Iraq border. All three armies bolstered by manpower from millions of Shia fighting-age males from Iran and Russian hardware.

The potential exists for a double pincer movements in the manner of the dual-pronged cauldron envelopments executed by the Germans in Operation Barbarossa. It may appear a long way off if you live in the Beltway but things have a way of changing very rapidly in the sparsely populated flat deserts of the region. Just ask the relatives of the Shah of Iran, Col. Gaddafi, Field-Marshal Hedi etc.

So what?

The KSA must carry out the political reform promised after the West expelled Saddam from Kuwait. Political reform will extract much of the poison the Wahhabi are injecting into the bod politic of the KSA and the Sunni and Shia wider world in general. The autocratic rulers of the Gulf States are thoroughly despised throughout the Muslim world for many good reasons as well as bad.

The West's apparent tolerance of their obscene opulence has tarred us with the same brush. Western society is not issue (this IMO reaffirms it is not a religious issue) as testified to the millions of people risking their lives to reach the west so as to enjoy - for at least a generation - a third-class status in Western society.

Why get involved?

Pakistan will never tolerate Shia in the KSA. The average Pakistani citizen ( who loathe Arabs - especially Gulf Arabs) will never allow their military to stand back and watch a Shia army threaten Medina and Mecca (I say threaten - they will never be allowed to reach either). If you have any doubt about the strength of feeling that drives that sentiment then you are an idiot. The fact that the loathsome Saudi's have contributed to the possible desecration of the Twin Towers adds a political energy to a potential war-madness that dropping a nuclear weapon on Tehran won't even make the front page of any newspaper in Pakistan.

Like Outlaw said - UBL is laughing so hard he might propel himself to the surface to get a better view of the spectacle.

Happy Days,


Bill M.

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 5:07am

In reply to by Dayuhan

I agree there are no viable proxies, and our interests aren't strong enough to commit the force's needed to force a change in the status quo. While I don't agree with the endless rant, there is the very real potential the chaos will destabilize the surrounding countries and beyond. Our half hearted efforts are simply contributing to prolonging the crisis. This creates more opportunities for external actors to exploit in ways that threaten our interests. I don't know what the answer is now, but we misteped all the to where we are now.


Sat, 10/03/2015 - 3:07am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Why do you keep complaining about a "do nothing" President when you obviously haven't a clue what you want to see done? Wailing and rending of garments is really pretty pointless if it's all you have to offer.

The FSA is simply not a viable proxy. Isn't now, never was.

I don't think you "get it". The US has no need to be involved in Syria. No pressing national interest is at stake. There is no friend or ally of the US in the picture. There is no viable proxy in the picture. There is no coherent, practical, and achievable strategic goal. There is no exit strategy. So what in that picture demands that the US wade in and sink into a mess? Perception? What good has intervention ever done for perceptions of the US in the ME?

You should really either explain clearly and concisely what you think should be done or stop ranting about what isn't being done.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 8:46am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Putin has that three distinct geo political goals in Europe and to a large degree virtually the same goals for the ME AND Obama, Kerry and the entire 700 NSC either are refusing to see them thus endangering the US OR they simply do not care as it is the legacy of Obama they are interested in not the long term goals of the US.

1. discredit and damage NATO in Europe to the point of being useless
2. discredit and damage the EU in order to restrict it's political and economic power allowing Russia to become the single hegemon for all of Europe or as he has stated a political and economic union from Portugal to the Russian Far East under Russian hegemony
3. DISCONNECT the US totally from Europe and the ME.

These three goals are tied into a Putin defined anti Americanism and anti western "world view" tied up in the term "anti neo liberalism" which he blames for all the then Soviet and now Russian problems.

SO the interesting question--has the total lack of actions on the part of Obama actually contributed to Putin having now achieved these three geo political goals????

Definitely explains the "blame game"..............

SO if Obama is basically now abandoning the ME---what does ne now do with this----????

The main targets of the Russian jets in Syria are groups backed by Turkey & Qatar followed by those backed by Saudi Arabia & the US.

The Russian MoD released an air strike video they claimed was on IS in Ragga AND yet it was the same video from four days ago on the strike against the FSA. THEN when they did hit the IS it was a bakery with civilians being killed or wounded that were waiting for bread distribution.

He has set the ME loose on a path that many can no longer quite fully understand where it is headed--AND this is US leadership--not really.

Will his lack of leadership actually cause the merging of KSA and Turkish Sunni ambitions in the ME against Iran----remember turkey has the largest standing army in all of NATO and the KSA the most modern Sunni Army.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 1:30am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

The Boston University--- my old stomping grounds--quoted Professor is someone who I have respect for his opinions in the area of IR as that was my specialty field--is totally correct.

Go back and reread the link and article I posted here on the utter lack of true US IR analysts and linguists---

After reading both articles---ask yourself--is Obama in a "retrenchment" or is he moving the US into an isolationist period--I pick isolationism.…

The End of Pax Americana

Obama’s ‘accomplishment.’

Oct 12, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 05 • By LEE SMITH

The United States, President Obama said at the U.N. General Assembly last week, “worked with many nations in this assembly to prevent a third world war—by forging alliances with old adversaries.” Presumably, the president was not referring to his deeply flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the recent agreement that the White House has marketed as the only alternative to war with a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran. Rather, it seems he was referring to the post-World War II period, when the United States created and presided over an international order that prevented an even larger, potentially nuclear, conflict with the Soviet Union. Now, that Pax Americana may be ending.

Indeed, Russia’s airstrikes against CIA-vetted Syrian rebels last week looked like a punctuation mark. When the secretary of state holds a joint press conference with Moscow’s foreign minister after Russia has decimated American proxies bearing American arms, we are not witnessing anything like a return to the Cold War. Rather, we’re witnessing a new order being born. It is an order that is being designed by others, without any concern for American interests.

Its cradle is not the conference rooms of the U.N., but the killing fields of Syria. After four and a half years, the Syrian civil war and the refugee crisis it has spawned threaten to disrupt two zones of American vital interest, the Persian Gulf and Europe.

America’s Cold War prosperity depended on our ability to trade with the rest of the world across both oceans. The United States built a powerful blue-water navy and far-flung bases as tokens of our willingness to protect our allies and stand up to their, and our, adversaries. What facilitates both trade and the movement of a military as large as America’s is access to affordable sources of energy, which is why the security of the Persian Gulf has been a vital American interest for 70 years.

The nuclear agreement with Iran signals that Obama doesn’t see things this way. From his perspective, no core American interest would be threatened by either the domination of the Gulf by revolutionary Iran or the likelihood that other regional powers will go nuclear. The JCPOA told American partners in the Middle East that the old alliance system was finished. Israel and Saudi Arabia would get stiff-armed, and Iran would get to call plays in the huddle. What Obama sought, as he said in a New Yorker interview, was a “new geopolitical equilibrium.”

Vladimir Putin understood Obama’s rhetoric and actions as confirmation of what he’d already surmised. Putin showed NATO to be a paper tiger when he moved against Georgia, then ordered a Russian crew based in Syria to shoot down a jet flown by NATO member Turkey, then annexed Crimea, to little response. In July, the JCPOA opened the way for Russian and Iranian cooperation in Syria. The Americans, Putin understood, had no stomach for a fight. But the White House may have helped create the conditions for a conflict much larger than the war already underway in Syria, a conflict that could someday force the United States to defend its vital interests.

“There already is a third world war underway,” says Angelo Codevilla, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University. “It’s the war between Sunnis and Shiites. It’s a world war because it engages people all around the world who happen to be Muslims.”

Codevilla thinks it unlikely that the war will expand past the Middle East but notes that Pakistan, a nuclear Sunni power, could present problems. In any event, the Obama administration has little ability to shape outcomes. “Once you seize a position by force, as the Russians have,” says Codevilla, “you are in the diplomatic driver’s seat. Putin is schooling the U.S. foreign policy establishment in foreign affairs. He has put his armed forces not at the service of Bashar al-Assad, but at the service of Russian interests.”

And Obama? The White House believes in a balance of power without winners and losers, an abstract international system with room for every nation to pursue its rational interests. But this is fantasy: Whatever order exists belongs to the power that imposes it. The Syrian war threatens two of the pillars of the order we formerly led.

“At what point does the Syrian conflict create political instability in places like Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing states in the Persian Gulf?” asks Walter Russell Mead, professor of foreign policy and humanities at Bard College. “As long as nothing is happening to block the oil flow, it’s the refugee flow that makes Syria an international issue.”

But even before the refugees, European security services were overwhelmed trying to keep tabs on potential jihadist recruits traveling from Europe to the Middle East and back. The influx of hundreds of thousands more migrants from the region is likely to generate political instability and could carry the war between Sunnis and Shiites into Europe.

To stem the refugee crisis, the White House is broadly hinting it is willing to go along with Tehran and Moscow and let Assad stay in power, at least for now. But it is Assad and his allies—not, as the administration seems to suggest, the Islamic State—who are responsible for the vast majority of the refugees. If the Obama administration accommodates Russia and Iran on Assad, it will be acquiescing in a plot to extort and destabilize Europe.

In the Gulf, Mead says, “if the Sunnis continue to feel that they’re losing an existential conflict with Iran, they may move toward a closer relationship between governments and radical groups. Keeping oil money out of the hands of truly radical jihadists has been a core U.S. interest since September 11, but if the Gulf states don’t feel we are keeping our part of the bargain by providing security, they could take matters into their own hands.”

Of course, another option for the Gulf states would be to enlist Russia, which, unlike the Obama administration, has shown its willingness to act on behalf of its own interests. Now that Obama has forsaken America’s post-World War II patrimony, life is more dangerous for America and its allies. This won’t be easy to reverse, no matter who succeeds Barack Obama.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 10/03/2015 - 1:05am

AND we the US are fully out of the ME now--the perception that the US will not attempt to keep the moderate and here the word moderate secular Islamist group FSA that has been carrying the fight to Assad via the TOW is further proof in the eyes of the Sunni civil society in Syria that the US is nothing but words and cannot be trusted.

Andrew A. Michta @andrewmichta
In Putin's power play, you either respond or forfeit: U.S. will not directly confront Russia in Syria, Obama says

The perception now for the KSA and the other Sunni Front States is--defend yourself and if your ideas go counter to whatever the US thinks ME policy should be--counter it for your own best interests---the ME is now reduced to multiple games with multiple players and no real direction.

Watch the oil price now sink to 20 USD or less as a full answer to the Russian invasion of Syria a Sunni country.

NOTICE the Wapo article never mentions the concept of "perception"--an important key factor in the entire ME.

For 70 years it has been all about perception and yet this President does not "get it".

THIS "do nothing" President has not fully understood the Putin ame and not fully understood the three distinct geo political goals he is driving on.

BUT this "conservative" respected German newspaper fully understands--Obama has also now "lost the perception game in Europe" where the real game was originally focused-----via Ukraine.

Good read although in German----

DIE WELT ✔ @welt
Luftangriffe: Putin führt Obama in Syrien demütigend vor

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 12:18pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

An the Russian altered state of reality just keeps on marching along----

Russian info war is going all in----this is far far different to the info war practiced in the Ukraine----

Obama's Weakness Forces Middle East to Turn to Russia

While the US is getting cold feet on their future actions in the region Russia is taking decisive steps despite sanctions and a downturn in its economy. The US policy in the Middle East failed, the author wrote.

"The Syrian opposition trained by Washington gave up to the al-Nusra Front. The Iraqi army failed to defeat ISIL despite the support from the US," the article read.

The US spent $90 billion for the war on terrorism but it was all in vain. After Washington withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2011 President Barack Obama refused to start another war in the Middle East.

"Putin is realizing the weakness of the US, and he is taking on America's worldwide hegemony. This is why Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have turned to Moscow for help," Eytan Gilboa, Director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

"This resulted in Putin taking the lead," he said.

The weakness of Washington also provoked violence and instability in other regions. For example, recently the Taliban seized Kunduz province. Despite the fact that the Taliban has not been active recently, the group is still undefeated and would try to regain the areas they had to leave before.

In Iraq, the army supported by the US is taking losses and cannot defeat ISIL. It pushed Iraq to cooperate with Syria, Iran and Russia to create a coordination information center to collect data on terrorists.

What is more, despite the fact that the US supported Kurdish fighters — the most effective against ISIL — now Washington is helping Turkey to fight against Kurds, the author wrote.

The US hoped that after the Iranian nuclear deal Tehran would stabilize the situation in the region.

"However, after the sanctions had been lifted Iran turned to cooperation with Russia. Other countries in region are also asking Putin for help," Gilboa said.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 7:39am

Seems to me --we in the West are not truly understanding the Russian mindset right now--and we have nothing to match their "altered state of reality".

Maybe that is why Obama and Kerry are struggling??

Russian lawmakers lash out at the U.S. for "not letting Putin be the [paramount] world leader defining events."

In Russian--well worth reading-----let's see what a little whining will do for foreign affairs???

THEN at the same time this----

Putin preparing for war -signs a decree drafting 150,000 conscripts into #Russia(n) military… …

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 7:07am

Hope both Obama and Kerry "get it"?????/

The Real Reason Russia Is ‘Helping’ Syria

Timothy Snyder

Sept. 30, 2015

Eighteen months ago, when Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, confusion prevailed in the West. Today, as Russia sends troops, armor, and aircraft to Syria, we are once again perplexed. On Monday President Vladimir Putin provided the explanation: Russia’s intervention is aimed to defeat ISIS and reduce the flow of refugees to Europe. A review of the last major Russian intervention, in Ukraine, might help us to evaluate this claim.

The superficial links between the two conflicts are obvious. For the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine, a ceasefire is holding. This has allowed Moscow to send special forces from Ukraine to Syria. The naval base in Crimea is now used to project Russian power southwards.

The deeper connectionis Russian doctrine. Authoritarian leaders are legitimate, while popular resistance is not. President Putin’s claim to oppose Islamic terrorism is true enough. But he also opposes, with equal fervor and greater determination, secular democrats in his own country and in Europe. Russia invaded Ukraine not to halt a “military coup,” as President Putin rather oddly claimed on Monday, but to hinder a democratic movement by military action. In Syria, Russia has helped and presumably will continue to help Assad repress all resistance, not just the Islamicist variety.

From Moscow’s perspective, there is not much difference between university students protesting in Kyiv for closer ties with the European Union and Islamicist terrorists gaining ground in Syria. In both cases, Russian leaders can, quite understandably, see a coming domestic problem. If people can gather peacefully in Kyiv, why not in Moscow? If Islamic terrorism can work in Syria, why not in southern Russia?

But the more important factor is domestic public opinion. Russia is a television culture, and Russian television news is devoted almost entirely to the world beyond Russia. In the last few days, Russian television has completely changed the subject: from Ukraine to Syria. What must not be mentioned is that Russia has not achieved its goals in Ukraine. The Ukrainian war shows that Russia can fail even when the European Union pays only a very small amount of attention to the conflict. What Russian leaders seem to want in Syria is a war without EU sanctions, which they can win for the viewers at home.

Russian leaders seem to fear the European example more than they fear Islamic terrorism. The post-communist and post-Soviet countries that have joined the European Union are not only freer but richer than Russia. President Putin presented this in his speech Monday as heedless expansionism, setting aside the basic fact that the EU enlarged at the initiative of the new member states. Russia invaded Ukraine to prevent one more post-Soviet country from succeeding in ways that Russia has not.

The war in Ukraine was thus never about Ukraine alone. It was always about the destruction of the European project as such. If the European Union fails, then there is no danger that Russians will see Europe as an alternative. If Europe fragments into nation-states, Russia becomes a much stronger player. Thus Russia seeks to destroy the European Union by supporting radicals and populists who oppose European integration and seek a return to the nation-state. Although President Putin spoke of a revived “anti-Nazi coalition,” his friends in Europe include fascists.

So Ukrainian experience gives reason for skepticism about Putin’s claim that Russia is intervening in Syria to help Europe with its refugee problem. The politics might well be exactly the opposite. Having found a powerful ally in its quest to end European integration, the European far right has followed Moscow’s lead on the Ukrainian conflict. But the natural subject of Putin’s allies in Europe is immigration. By supporting the Assad regime, Russia helps to produce the refugees that drive European politics rightward.

Syrian refugees who arrive in Europe must be treated humanely and according to law. At the same time, European leaders might consider the possibility that Russian policy in Syria is aimed toward the transformation of the country into a refugee factory. In Ukraine, Russian intervention generated two million refugees among precisely the people Moscow claimed it was protecting. In Syria, it has been the Assad regime, which Russia has now supported, that has been responsible for the vast majority of the refugees.

Whether opposing European Union or Islamicist terrorism, the domestic sources of Russian policy are the same. The problems that Russia faces are inside Russia, and insoluble from beyond Russia. There is no principle of political succession in Russia today, and so Kremlin is telling its people stories about the infallibility and immortality of a leader. In a televisual culture, domestic news is all but absent, and Russia’s presence on the world stage becomes the only story. But the power to change the subject from Ukraine to Syria, as President Putin was trying to do in New York, is not the power to make the story go on forever.

But did President Putin even manage to change the subject? He made some good points about American policy in Iraq. But when he sought the words to define just what he opposed, he gave an eerily accurate description of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. He denounced “zones of anarchy,” which is what Russia created in the Donbas. He decried “belief in one’s exceptionality,” thought it was precisely the idea that Russia as big brother can decide whether Ukraine exists was given as the reason for war. He spoke of the “tragic consequences” of exporting one’s own social model and the dangers of creating “protectorates.” That is indeed the lesson of the Ukrainians killed and displaced by policies known as the “Russian spring” and “New Russia.”

President Putin spoke of the “universality” of international law regarding “sovereignty.” And here he was quite right. If Russia were serious about law and sovereignty, President Putin might have announced at the UN that Russia is withdrawing its support from its separatist clients in Ukraine and withdrawing its troops and armor from sovereign Ukrainian territory. If he had said these things, then the world would have had very good reason to listen.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 3:12pm

This is the second major mistake by the DoS concerning Syria-----

John Kerry just made a significant and consequential gaffe on Russia and Syria

Max Fisher on September 30, 2015, 7:44 p.m. ET

Early Wednesday evening in New York, a few hours after Russia's intervention force in Syria began bombing targets on the ground, Secretary of State John Kerry did something odd: He gave a joint statement with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The two men, standing shoulder to shoulder somewhere in the United Nations building, said they were working to, as Lavrov put it, Kerry nodding along at his side, "establish channels of communications to avoid any unintended incidents" between their militaries in Syria, as well as work on the "political process" for resolving Syria's war.

They didn't say much. But the event spoke volumes, and probably not in ways that the United States wants, intended, or will find helpful.

This press conference was a bad idea

The statement was brief, vague, and unnecessary. Kerry, though he is known as spectacularly talented in behind-the-scenes negotiations, can be clumsy when it comes to managing on-camera stagecraft. But this was more than just bad stagecraft — it was a real mistake, one that could be have consequences that, while not world-changing, go beyond mere optics.

The image of Kerry nodding alongside Lavrov, the two of them discussing their efforts to "deconflict" in Syria, lent, however unintentionally, the appearance of an American stamp of legitimacy on Russia's Syria intervention. It will be difficult for the Obama administration to shake the appearance that it's decided to accept Russia's intervention and to deem it as legitimate.

That's more than just a gaffe when the entire world is watching to see how the United States handles Russia's Syria strikes and is waiting to take — or not take — America's cue.

Giving even a slight impression that the US is okay with Russian actions has policy consequences for how other countries will respond, for how it is perceived by the populations in the region, for how people in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere come to view American intentions and behavior in the region.

That would be one thing if America's official position were in fact to acknowledge Russia's strikes as a legitimate intervention and to treat it as a legitimate partner. But the Obama administration has seemed awfully careful to avoid exactly that impression. It's part of why senior administration officials, speaking on and off the record to reporters, have made a point to disparage Russia's role as counterproductive and damaging. It's why President Obama, in his Monday UN speech, said he would consider working with Russia in Syria, but made sure to surround his one-line offer with a dozen or so paragraphs ####ting on Putin and everything he's ever done in Syria (not to mention in Ukraine and in Russia itself).

It was a balance the administration was working carefully to maintain: We'll hear the Russians out, but we're wary and skeptical, we believe they're a big part of the problem, and we think they're a long way from responsible actors in Syria. Kerry has just upset that balance by giving the appearance of treating Lavrov and thus Russia as an acknowledged partner, the two of them working together on a hard problem.

As Foreign Policy's David Kenner quipped, "[The] US has really done a remarkable job convincing Russia/Iran it supports Syria's opposition, and the opposition that it supports Russia/Iran."

What they actually said: not very much

"We all want Syria democratic, united, secular," Lavrov said, Kerry nodding, "but we have some differences as to the details of how to get there. But we agreed on some steps we would undertake very soon."

Kerry followed up with his own statement, beginning, "Sergei has described a meeting that we had which we would both concur was a constructive meeting." He reiterated American "concerns" about "the nature of the targets" (Russia says it is bombing ISIS, but appears to in fact be bombing Syrian opposition groups that fight ISIS).

Kerry added they would seek a "military-to-military deconfliction discussion, meeting, conference, whichever can be done as soon as possible" as well as "options" to "address the conflict itself." It would all be "further discussed," and "we will follow up on that for certain."

It sounded like they were mostly promising more hazy (and almost certainly doomed) talks on finding a political settlement to end Syria's war, as well as coming information on how the US and Russia would avoid accidental conflict as their respective air forces bombed Syria. And fair enough; whatever you think of Russia's intervention in Syria, a midair collision or mistaken exchange of fire between two nuclear powers is always worth avoiding. And as doomed as political talks likely are, it's worthwhile to at least keep the door open.

But none of that information needed to be conveyed in a joint Kerry-Lavrov statement. And it was the image of them standing side by side, nodding along as they discussed their agreements and their shared agenda, that spoke by far the loudest.

This is John Kerry at his worst

Kerry's talents and contributions as secretary of state should not be forgotten. Only he could have secured the Iran nuclear deal, hammered out over countless all-night sessions that went so long many observers considered the deal dead in the water before the negotiators emerged not just with a deal, but with a deal that is remarkably favorable to the US.

That was Kerry at his best. This is Kerry at his worst: clumsy with stagecraft, sending mixed messages, too willing to look chummy with negotiating partners who nonetheless represent hostile adversaries, and, I feel reasonably safe presuming, disconnected from the rest of the administration and its messaging.

We last saw this Kerry, most infamously, also in the context of Russia and Syria. It was almost exactly two years ago when he made an offhand remark saying the US wouldn't launch its threatened airstrikes against Syria, meant to punish Bashar al-Assad for gassing his own people, if Assad gave up his chemical weapons. Russia shrewdly seized on the comment to push for an agreement doing exactly that.

But it hadn't just been that one comment. For weeks, in trying to publicly sell Congress and Americans on the Syria strikes, Kerry had strayed off message, exaggerated the administration's case, made some unconvincing historical analogies, and even entertained strange hypotheticals. He called it a "Munich moment" one day and, the next, promised any US action would be "unbelievably small."

He wasn't just off-message, he was seemingly unlinked from the administration itself. A year later, as the White House came under growing pressure to shake up its foreign policy team, this embarrassing detail appeared in the New York Times:

Mr. Kerry is vocal and forceful in internal debates, officials said, and gets credit for putting together the coalition of Arab states that conducted military strikes in Syria. But he often seems out of sync with the White House in his public statements. White House officials joke that he is like the astronaut played by Sandra Bullock in the movie "Gravity," somersaulting through space, untethered from the White House.

It seems plausible that with Kerry's unnecessary and unhelpful joint statement with Lavrov today, there are going to be some administration officials, perhaps in the White House itself, who once again look at their secretary of state and see a man somersaulting helplessly through the abyss.


Fri, 10/02/2015 - 5:29pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<i>Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS are now in a race to recruit foreign fighters that want a piece of Russia.</i>

So how is that a problem for us?

They both hate us. They want to kill each other. And you want us to stop them?


Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 2:37pm

And this is not all about an Orthodox jihad-----remember the term "clash of civilizations"

On Rossiya, the neo-Stalinist writer Alexander Prokhanov, whose appearances on state TV are a reliable barometer of the Kremlin’s desire to fan ultranationalism, told Russians to stop listening to music or watching game shows and start “personal mobilization” for a greater civilizational battle. The Syrian campaign, Prokhanov said, would teach Russia how to deal with “color revolutions” waged online in the same way ISIS recruits militants. “It’s symptomatic that the Ministry of Defense is procuring supplies to combat [color] revolutions,” he said. “We need to study ISIS as a structure,” he added, “because it’s a wave of ideology, a wave of emotions, it’s a movement of young people going insane.”

Holy war vs Holy War

Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS are now in a race to recruit foreign fighters that want a piece of Russia. Recruiting bonanza.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 9:37am

US official: Putin "bypassed process" agreed with #POTUS in New York to "deconflict." "This is not how responsible nations do business."

When will Obama, Kerry and the NSC realize Putin is not a "responsible nation" as he dances to his own waltz and they have not a clue as to what the music is.

In a country with a civil society made up of 70% Sunni---exactly what will be the KSA response to this announcement??

Exclusive: Assad allies, including Iranians, prepare ground attack in Syria - sources :

Qasem #Solemani had told they would send 9000 troops--includes Hezbollah troops as well----


Thu, 10/01/2015 - 6:08am

IMHO what this essentially means is Russia is fighting the armed forces of the KSA.

The reason why we now appear clueless is we have been doing the same thing since we toppled Saddam.

Unfortunately for the last ten years we have stuck our head in the sand and refused to face up to the strategic ramifications of ignoring this reality.

I would have thought that was a big deal for just about everyone.

I imagine the price of crude will soon start heading in the direction Putin wants – especially if mysterious explosions start occurring in Saudi oil refineries.

Our refusal to accept the nature of war in general, and this war in particular, is going to continue to hurt us until we wake up and smell the CvC coffee.

The KSA at war with Russia in the ME – you couldn’t make a worst case scenario up.

When the Fruitcake brought down the WTC I imagine they envisaged a number of different outcomes that might succeed in bringing down the House of Saud but I doubt if a single Fruitcake believed the Russian Army would play an active role..

So yes I am agreement with Outlaw – UBL will be laughing his head off.


Move Forward

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 10:09am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Dayuhan, Outlaw is just as frustrated but more vocal than many of the rest of us (although I see COL (ret) Jack Jacobs sounded off!). But since you asked:

<blockquote>Be clear: the question on the table is very simple. What do you want the US to do?</blockquote>

We had plenty of earlier options to include air attacks on Syria’s air defenses, helicopters, ground and air forces which now are impossible with Russian aircraft protecting them. The Turks wanted some kind of buffer zone early on that we could have helped facilitate.

<blockquote>You can't "abandon" a fight if you weren't in it in the first place, and there is <strong>no faction in Syria that is in any way entitled to US support.</strong></blockquote>

What about the Kurds? What of the 250,000 everyday Syrian Sunnis who were killed by Assad’s forces and millions more turned into drowning/fleeing refugees? What about Israel and our GCC friends threatened by ISIL and Iran? What about NATO friends and Jordan/Lebanon being economically hurt and threatened by terror from both refugees and Hezbollah? You worry about exit strategies, but why exit? As Senator McCain points out we have had troops in Germany and Korea for decades. We have had troops in the Balkans, Kuwait, and Sinai for well over a decade with relatively few casualties.

To duplicate those low casualties, there are places NATO and GCC/Kurd allies could base and conduct raids in relative safety. The Kurd buffer zone in northern Iraq and Syria is one. We could get other NATO nations to join us in claiming Article 5 (refugee and ISIL infiltration/expansion threat) if the Turks object. If the Turks and the Iraqis block airspace access we could enter through Jordan and Saudi Arabia flying over eastern Syria to resupply our Northern Kurd area FOBs. If we solely fly point A to B to raid in Syria rather than drive/walk and get blown up or captured, the casualties will be minimal.

Daniel Goure wrote a recent article about Souda Bay in Crete, Greece where we could base and fly to northern Syria if the Turks still allowed use of their airspace while simultaneously helping the Greek economy and Mediterranean refugees. We could lease a cruise ship and fill it with refugees brought to Guantanamo Bay and/or Virgin Island refugee camps.

Agree that the Russians will overextend themselves with current conflicts and low oil prices plus sanctions. That is not a reason to ignore our potential role earlier, now, and into the future. I speculate that Putin is more concerned about having a sea port in Syria and that by protecting the Alawites he could probably retain that port indefinitely even if Assad and the rest of Syria falls.

That is the first step to a Sunni remainder of “Syria” with a small Kurd sector in the north. With continued NATO air attacks and air assaults with attack helicopter raids on ISIL, that more moderate Sunni and Kurd “Syria” with an Alawite mountainous coast could be a relatively peaceful friend at some point while thwarting Iranian expansion and reassuring Sunni GCC friends. No build. No attempt to win hearts and minds. Iraq Shiites will have to fix their own problems as long as we at least protect their Kurds and offer a safer Syrian space for Iraq Sunni refugees and relocators.

The new “Gray Zone” white paper mistakenly attributes high recent OIF/OEF costs to lower costs of a continuous U.S. presence throughout the world to deter conflict. The Russians and Chinese have few friends abroad so they essentially make their own bases as we see in the South China Seas (IIRC someone ;) wrote in SWJ about that opportunity for us) or now build bases adjacent to or in East Ukraine, in Crimea, areas of Georgia, and now in Syria. Our NATO and Pacific allies, likewise, should be more willing to play that game rather than weakly protesting, avoiding 12nm of their “islands,” and relying solely on covert and SF/SOF action.

Subic Bay seems on the table once again and plenty of other Philippine Islands could support Army and Marine Pacific Pathways forward presence. Poland and Baltic states could support rotating NATO ground forces. There are times to be more overt in the name of deterrence and a balanced Joint approach to “Gray Zones” and areas of active conflict.


Fri, 10/02/2015 - 5:36pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

A "quasi proxy" is a liability, but it's better than a full proxy. Do you propose that the US adopt the FSA as a full proxy simply because people on social media have described them as US-supported? What kind of power determines its policies by social media reaction, rather than by its own interests?

I do realize that there's a vocal minority who believe that full support for the FSA from the start would have produced a better outcome, but that premise is highly speculative at best and can no longer be tested, so it really doesn't mean much.

The question is what do you want to see done now... a question to which you seem to have no coherent answer.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 10/02/2015 - 7:00am

In reply to by Dayuhan

You do not seem to fully understand that FSA is a quasi US proxy already?

Trained in Jordan and funded by the Sunni Front States, has a moderate secular approach and the TOWs are coming from where???? AND who in the US is backing them.

Even the Russian FM who was tied into knots about the bombing of FSA first saying they were terrorists THEN stated they are a group that needs to participate in all dialogues.

After the social media splashed all over Europe that they were supported by the US.


Thu, 10/01/2015 - 8:22pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

So you want the US to adopt the FSA as its proxy?

Be clear: the question on the table is very simple. What do you want the US to do?

If people get the perception that the US has no critical national interest at stake and is unwilling to step into other people's fights without a clear goal or exit strategy, what's wrong with that? When the US tries to play global policeman, the US gets nothing but hate for it. When the US minds its own business, some people complain about that too. No matter what we do people will be pissed off at us, so why not just pursue our own interests and let the perceptions fall where they will?

You can't "abandon" a fight if you weren't in it in the first place, and there is no faction in Syria that is in any way entitled to US support.

I see no reason at all to panic at the idea of Russian involvement. All Russia is going to do there is make enemies and waste resources. If Putin wants to punch the tar baby and turn Syria into his personal Afghanistan, let him. We can't stop him anyway, and how is it hurting us?

Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 11:54am

In reply to by Dayuhan

There are currently three Sunni armies with the emphasis on armies---one being around the FSA, one is IS and then a loose group around JN.

The US has been dealing with FSA via Jordan and yes while Islamist--they are not fundamentalists--a major point in the eyes of the US--this is the term "moderates" the US is currently using.

The FSA has been with the TOW the lead attack army and is making solid advances against Assad-AND they have been gaining on IS in areas IS controls---NOW Russia is bombing them instead of the declared goal of IS--SO what does the US say and or do---not a swinging thing.

So if are in the FSA and inclined towards the US even as an Islamist and watch the US basically abandon you THEN what is your "perception of the US"?????

The Syrian issue will be settled by Syrian themselves and any outsiders should do well in positioning themselves as much as possible with those that want to talk to it--abandon them now in the face of Russian attacks and you will miss again a chance to influence the outcome--influence not control.

NOW this development----

Agence France-Presse ✔ @AFP

#BREAKING Russia ready to consider air strikes in Iraq if Baghdad asks: senior diplomat


Thu, 10/01/2015 - 8:27pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

So you want the US to food the theater with TOW and MANPADS, never mind that some of them, likely a lot of them, won't stay there?

Come on, be clear. What do you want done? How is it the job of ther US to counter Russian and Syrian air strikes?

You keep talking about "action" as something desirable, but you don't seem willing to clarify what action you want to see taken, what the end state goal is, and what the exit strategy is, let alone what compelling national interest requires the US to take action in the first place. It makes the rants something less than compelling.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 9:21am

In reply to by Dayuhan

If you have listened to the Lundis audio interview you would have heard exactly how the groups in Syria have slowly radicalized to this point because we the US could not jump over our 9/11 shadow and realize that moderates can in be Islamists but moderates do not necessarily translate into enemies of the US.

We had a red line that should have been carried out after the chemical attack that killed 1400--that alone would have lent creditability to the US as a "perception" to those on the ground that at least we had a humanitarian view of protecting Syrians regardless of political slants.

Secondly the Syrians have been massively and are still being heavily bombed with barrel bombs which are also mixed with chlorine gas that has been verified.

A NFZ would have ended the Syrian bombings of their civilians cutting back on the refugee flows and dead children seen in videos around the world--again a "perception" that the US at least cared about Syrian civilians.

Now a NFZ is out of the question and that is exactly what Putin had in mind as he understood the west was heading in that direction.

The TOW is on the ground in Syria and it has been extremely effective and actually has led to the recent collapses of the Assad army--more need to get into Syria AND now MANPADs to counter the Russia air strikes as well as the Syrian AF bombings.

BUT both will never happen with this President as he is a great one for talk but not action.

BTW the supplier of the TOWs and the training for the TOW hunter killer teams has never been named.

BTW --the above could have been done without picking a proxy --just dealing correctly with all the groups by trying to find a common ground to at least talk to them---humanitarian aid--should have been flown in months ago--was blocked by the Russian UNSC veto three times--not a murmur from the US.

Outlaw, why don't you chill the rant level and explain to us - concisely, please - what you think the US should do?

All this talk of Putin the master strategist seems a bit silly to me. All I see Putin doing is watching his economy collapse while dragging himself into another quagmire, supporting another proxy who can't win, but who he can't allow to lose. The US knows all too well where that leads, and it's not anywhere good.


Thu, 10/01/2015 - 8:33pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<i>Syria's war now is a civil war wrapped in a proxy war entangled with a holy war and enmeshed with yet another holy war.</i>

That sounds like a most excellent reason to stay out of it.

Sometimes there's no clear idea on how to handle a problem because it's not our problem to handle. If we have no clear and compelling national interest at stake and no practical, achievable end state goal... that may be a sign that we're best off sitting this one out. Is it somewhere graven in bronze that the US must slam its swinging schlong into every rat trap on the planet?