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

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 8:30am

In reply to by Dayuhan

This hurts the US simply because we have virtually no ideas left in this WH to handle this specific ME problem......

They had two occasions when they could have gotten in front of it and guided it from a perception point of view but blew it as they did not have the courage to make a bold move.

So to recap, 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.

Neither so called super powers have any ideas left---except for bombing and creating even more refugees and dead civilians as both are not clearly and concisely addressing IS and the ongoing ethnic cleansing on all sides that is creating new boundaries inside old countries.


Thu, 10/01/2015 - 8:49pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<i>"Yes when dealing with civil societies in the ME perception gets you half way home."</i>

Where is "home"?

The Israelis and the Saudis perceive Iran through the lens of their own interests, as does the US. Different interests, different perceptions.

No matter what the US does, a large percentage of the population of the ME will spin it into a negative perception. It is what they are conditioned to do. Trying to design policy according to an anticipated impact on perception is a fool's errand.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 8:57am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Interesting rant--suggest you listen to the audio link I posted in this thread from Lundis that talks about the ethnic cleansing going on in the entire ME right now and about ethnic cleansing seen in an historical light both in the ME and in Eastern Europe.

Yes when dealing with civil societies in the ME perception gets you half way home.

BTW hopefully you have been following the internal Iranian discussion on that deal and then their public statements--gives a different "perception" and actually the Israeli understanding of Iran is probably far greater than that of the US as they have been dealing directly with Hamas and Hezbollah for a lot longer than the US has.

The current "perception" coming out of Syria today is-----

From the ground in #Syria: ...

This is EXACTLY how Western silence is understood and what will strengthen #ISIS!


Thu, 10/01/2015 - 7:29am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

A better question might be what is the perception of Russia in the eyes of the Sunni population of the ME right about now, but... Are you seriously suggesting that US policy and action should be based on what the Sunni population will think of us, rather than on US interests? That is not exactly superpower thinking. Superpowers pursue their own interests and let others worry about their perceptions. The US Government is accountable to the population of the US, not the Sunni population of the ME.

Just for example... the Saudis and the Israelis both have their panties in a twist over the US deal with Iran. They are used to a docile, submissive America that follows their instructions, and they don't like it when they don't get their way. It affects their perceptions. But really... so what? Isn't it well past time for them to realize that they do not dictate US policy, and that the US is not their attack dog? If that bothers them or creates a negative perception, that's just something they have to learn to deal with. An ally is not a servant.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 10/01/2015 - 2:23am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Then you truly do not understand the concept of "war of perceptions".

This is a critical element in the ME that we the US have never been able to understand and still do not.

It is as simple as that.

AND the perception of the US in the eyes of the Sunni populations of the ME is exactly what........?

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 4:04pm

Main point to takeaway from today:

The ENTIRE Syrian opposition now sees itself in full-scale war with Russia. A hugely significant shift.

Putin has successfully united the entire anti Assad movements uniting them actually now with IS NOT against IS AGAINST Russia and Iran.

UBL must be smiling tonight--------

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 3:52pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

More social media humor on Obama----

What is weaker: water, or Obama's foreign policy?

AND the humor gets blacker---

Wake me if US concern levels exceed 'grave'.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 12:57pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Black humor-----

New definition of ISIS: Anyone bombed by the Russian air force

Remember Merkel and Steinmeier wanted Assad to remain in power and not removed immediately-------

Sad if true------

#Steinmeier on Russian attacks in #Syria with dozens of deaths:

>>I haven't got a clue.<<

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 12:41pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

This is the tenor of European social media this evening after the killing of women and children by Putin's AF which now is no different than Assad's AF.

Yet all western leaders do is talk--but wait is that not what they have done in the Ukraine?

Really sad commentary--------

Putin "has tanks in Ukraine, jet fighters in Syria, and Barack Obama in the White House"

AND out of Homs tonight via social media-----

You "doctor and farmer rebels" that Obama couldn't arm- That bomb on your head was 'made in Russia' but the knife in your back 'made in USA'

People I spoke to saying: "The USA said there are no more "moderate rebels" in Syria. This gave Russia free hand everywhere in Syria".

BTW--as a side note this was stated out of unnamed administration circles--"loose lips sink ships"

Come on DoD---really?

So far, defense officials said they only believe Homs had been hit." I think defense officials should read @Interpreter_Mag

So now the Obama blame game will get far more interesting------

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 11:59am

How much more sand will Putin kick in the face of Obama--KNOWING full well he will not respond???? we fully understand the true target of the Russian air strike---

Russian air strikes kill US-backed Free Syrian Army commander in Syria

Notice this info did not come from US mainstream media

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 11:43am

So after tens of comments stating that this President and his NSC are the weakest in 50 plus years do I find any takers to defend them??

Social media was all over this within minutes after the news starting coming out of Syria complete with combat videos and Russian pilot intercepted conversations.

We the US taxpayer spent literally billions on the US intelligence community and yet they did not see this coming????

It has been the blogger community that identified the number and composition of the Russian fighters coming into Syria even before Kerry and or Obama could say a single word--just how can that be?

It has been before the meeting between Obama and Putin that bloggers stated his targets would be the anti Assad forces not IS--now very true.

Putin Bombs in Syria, Orders U.S. Out

A Russian general asked the U.S. to remove its planes from Syrian airspace Wednesday, just hours before Russian airstrikes began. In Moscow, lawmakers had earlier approved Vladimir Putin’s request to use armed forces abroad.

American officials said they would not alter their activities in the region.

The Russian three-star general, who was part of the newly formed intelligence cell, arrived in Baghdad at 9 a.m. local time and informed U.S. officials that Russian strikes would be starting imminently -- and that the U.S. should refrain from conducting strikes and move any personnel out.

The only notice the U.S. received about his visit was a phone call one hour earlier.

So far, defense officials said they only believe Homs had been hit, but could not say what kind of strikes, the targets or the platform used. They also could not confirm reports of large civilian casualties.

There are limited tactical assets around Homs, making is harder for U.S. officials to sort out the details, a defense official explained.

"We will know but it is going to take some time," he said.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, opposition-linked on-the-ground monitors of the conflict, estimate that 36 people were killed in Homs alone, one of three ISIS-free provinces Russia bombed today. The airstrikes targeted five northern suburbs of Homs: Talbiseh, Al Ghantoo, Al Rastan, Al Zafrana and Al Mukarramiyah.

As American officials scrambled to onfirm the impact of the strikes, they conceded the operation was a rebuke of talks between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin about deconfliction.

'This bypasses legitimate discussion," a senior defense official told The Daily Beast.

Indeed, just yesterday, the Pentagon said it had ordered staff and senior officials to begin such talks. U.S. officials believe there are under 1,000 Russians joined ISIS.

So now let the Obama blame games begin again........

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 11:34am

She must have inherently known this was coming after attempting to get the Obama administration to "see" the true Russian threat for what it was-- an "existential threat to the US".

Farkhas picked a good week to resign.

AND the rest of DoD after the news of Russian air strike on civilians---

US officials who yesterday said "knock yourselves out" are today very pissed how Russia shat on deconflict protocols.

Are there any adults left in this administration?????

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 11:03am

Has Obama and his entire NSC and especially Kerry realized that they have signed up for a "Holy War"--- a "Crusade" of Christians against Muslims when they decided that by talking to Putin they would get somehow to a resolution--has not worked in the Ukraine and it will never work now in Syria--by killing civilians Putin has in fact sided now with Assad.

What the flying heck were they thinking in DC---????

Has Obama sold out his own values of "humanity" in the name of a legacy and the thoughts he can simply talk to resolve core issues with an individual named Putin??

Has Putin now taken the entire world into a "Holy War" between Christians and Muslims?????????

Russia's Orthodox Church says Putin is fighting a "holy war" against terrorism.

From today on #Russia will be held responsible for every civilian death in #Syria no matter what caused it. Pandora box is wide open.

As if murdering children in broad daylight wasn't enough crusaders declared a war on Islam.

Looks like we can expect lots of attempts by Russian propagandists and Putin fanboys to debunk the Talbiseh videos of kids killed by Russia

Russian propagandists now trying to use dodgy claims to make out the Talbiseh videos are from 2011

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 8:16am

Putin just depicted Obama as a simplistic fool ------

DID NOT the US via DoD and Kerry and yes even comments from Obama's inner circle STATE--engage IS BUT do not engage the moderate anti Assad forces.

THERE were in those comments a not so subtle threat.

HERE is the Putin response-----

Russia today attacks in Syria targeted one of the few moderated rebel groups

AND the Obama response is..................s i l e n c e nothing but
s i l e n c e.....

That my friends is some really great leadership--even a third year law student at the University of Houston gets it and a Harvard law grad does not???

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 8:09am

Back to the critique of a NSC and President--they did not see this coming...we are then in some serious way if so.

More cities in #Homs province come under intense bombardment.
Absolute calm in #ISIS land. …

BREAKING: Senior #US official tells @JenGriffinFNC #Russia|n officials demand US warplanes exit #Syria immediately

Russians tell US to remove warplanes from Syria, senior official says … ."Marks a major escalation in ongoing tensions"

Again do not tell me Obama and his entire 700 person NSC DID NOT see this coming.......

Appears that Russian air strikes are against anti Assad forces that use the TOW as it has been the great equalizer.


VIDEO: Alleged Russian air-strikes hit #US backed “Tajamu Ala’azza’” HQ. TOW vetted operators -

Putin/Assad today bombed ISIS militants 18+!

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 7:37am

Deleted --double

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 7:43am

The comparisons are as follows--all assumed with a very large A that neither city would fall AND fall as fast if attacked, all with a big A assumed that the security forces would hold as all with a big A assumed they had been well trained, and the vey big A all assumed both the IS and Taliban incapable of pulling off a large scale raid on a major town and hold it once captured as well.

The assumptions can keep on coming.........the assumption with a very very big A that a 400K security force is success in both Iraq and AFG.

Move Forward

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 1:53pm

In reply to by RantCorp


You have made strong past arguments that the Taliban and criminal elements are big into drug trafficking to the west. The SWJ Blog currently has CSIS slides that show drug routes straight through Iran to West Europe but also through Kunduz to the north bound for Russia and even China (slide 115). Add to that the recent inroads of ISIL Khorasan in that area and Nangarhar province along with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and perhaps the arms supply route from Pakistan is no longer as critical? Isn’t the 3400 meter altitude Salang tunnel open year round? Couldn't the Taliban hide arms and ammo in jingle trucks instead of back-packing it?

The CSIS slides also revealed where some of the recent increased costs of fighting in Afghanistan may lie. A slide titled Combined Forces Air Component 2010-2015 Airpower Statistics had interesting figures for 2011. It showed that over one billion pounds of JP8 were burned that year by airpower which is 163,342,836 gallons that had to make it to Afghanistan by contractors and to tanker aircraft. If as been alleged the true cost per gallon is as much as $400 per gallon due to the contractor expenses and aerial refueling costs, that would mean that as much as $65.4 billion was spent that year on fuel alone supporting 19,469 tanker sorties and lots of fuel going to Bagram and Kandahar. That casts a lot of light on the theory that ground forces are expensive.

Obviously, lots of airlift, airdrop, and CAS is included in those fuel costs facilitating support for ground forces. However, I noted that of the 34,514 CAS sorties flown in 2011, only 2,678 of those sorties actually involved release of at least one weapon. Contrast that with 2015 where CAS sorties declined to 2927 and weapons were dropped only 282 times. This raises the question that if most U.S. forces are gone, and most of our airpower is no longer flying, why is Afghanistan’s annual cost still so high which was some $77 billion in 2014 and $58 billion in 2015 according to the “Lessons Observed” study?

The current Kunduz situation illustrates several problems with both the A-10 argument and prop mud-fighter solution. In a situation where the USAF will have fewer resources available to support Afghanistan, it will mean fewer bases supporting greater distances to support Afghan security forces with CAS. The time required to reach Kunduz from Bagram (300 kms) may not be all that long but what about Kandahar from Bagram (580 kms) or even farther to Helmund province? That 300+ miles to Kandahar would take an hour for an A-10 and only half an hour for 4th generation higher speed fighters. A prop mud-fighter like the Super Tucano might take well over an hour. What about the Pacific where carriers and distant airfields require longer fighter aircraft flights? Even in Europe, the ground-to-ground missile threat will push our fighters back farther west and onto smaller airfields with fewer aircraft.

Note from the CSIS slides that we paid $11.5 billion of a $17.4 billion total in Afghanistan’s budget in 2011, which is a dramatic increase from the $3.55 billion we contributed in 2006 (slide 46). Other donor countries supplied nearly $4 billion while Afghanistan itself contributed just $2 billion or under 10% of its own budget. The increasing attacks in the country mean the hope of a smaller ANSF is probably unlikely which will mean the U.S. and others will continue to pay $5-6 billion and more to fund Afghan security forces (slide 52).

Slides 8-9 depict an increasing youth bulge in Afghanistan with 64% of the population age 24 or younger which matches the Middle East in general. Given their basket case economy, we should expect further trouble from this region particularly if ISIL and the Taliban make up and recruit unemployed youth to create trouble. The population of Afghanistan is forecast to grow from the current 32 million to around 60 million by 2050. Similarly, if Pakistan continues its current population growth it will grow from its current 200 million to surpass Indonesia as the fourth largest population in the world just behind the U.S. AfPak will remain a challenge and it’s scary to think of ISIL getting influence inside a nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Agree that Kunduz probably will not fall permanently. For one thing, the primarily Tajik-led ANSF with lots of Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara troops will be more motivated than the Shiite Iraqi forces were when Mosul fell. Is Dostum still running something at age 61? That area has only a smallish Pashtun presence, as well. Secretary Kerry made a good point that the Russians are playing with fire in taking the Iranian and Shiite side in the current conflict in Syria. Somewhere down the line, those aforementioned Afghan drugs and motivated Sunni South Asia and Middle East fighters will make trouble for the Russians in ways far more serious than any gains in keeping Assad around. We know they want to keep that warm water port in Syria, but given sanctions and low oil prices, at some point Russia is going to become overextended between Eastern Ukraine, Crimea, and Syria.

In contrast here in the West, they just released the Forbes 400 list for 2015. The top 400 of 492 U.S. billionaires had a total worth of $2.34 trillion averaging $5.8 billion. If those 400 billionaires each paid an average additional amount of $50 million annually in taxes it would add another $20 billion to our tax coffers roughly equaling what was paid by the <strong>entire bottom half of U.S. taxpayers totaling some 70 million filers</strong>.


Wed, 09/30/2015 - 6:16am

Sorry Outlaw must disagree with the comparison.

There are huge Operational differences between capturing and holding Mosul and doing the same in Kunduz. The logistical tail for IS from Mosul back to their support in the KSA is either down a major highway or across flat desert. The logistical tail supporting the Talibs capturing and holding Kunduz City goes over the toughest mountain passes in AF.

They will all close in October to pack animals (if they’re not already) and man-pack by the beginning of November. The passes are near enough to 5000 m ASL so the loads are minimal and the danger posed by severe blizzards from now on until they close is very high. They will remain closed until late April early May, wherein only minimal load (10 kg) man-packing will be possible at night over ice-covered deep snow.

A thousand Talib fighters assaulting a city the size of Kunduz will burn thru a year’s worth of small-arms ammo (7.62, 12.7 & RPGs) provided by a fully function supply route in days. The supply of 107mm rockets and 83mm mortar rounds will last hours.

By comparison the supply by the KSA is literally bottomless and includes everything up to and including hundreds of TOW missile systems as well as supply and maintenance for artillery and heavy armor.
IMHO the only way the assault on Kunduz avoids being a disaster for the Talibs is if we pull the plug on the ANSF.

Having said that it could be a feint (ala Khe Sanh & Tet) for a major Pak attack on a major centre nearer the AF/PAK border before winter.

Dostrum (whom I seriously dislike) will take the fighting in Kunduz as a personal insult and feel honor-bound to expel the Talibs – unless of course they are his men who are attacking the city.


Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 6:11pm

Under the rubric--"this cannot be true"?????

Pentagon officials tell me they're watching Obama's #UNGA speech in search of clarity on U.S. strategy towards #ISIS. That can't be good.

Pentagon's top Russia official stepping down day after Obama's handshake photo with Putin is a clear sign of protest

[url]…] …

Following Pres Obama-Putin talks, Defense Sec Carter has directed his staff to open lines of communication with Russia on "deconfliction"

AND there is no confusion in the DoD being caused by this WH???????

AND he backs away from his own very words and yet blames others?????

One 2013 quote from US President Barack Obama shows how much the administration has backed away from its "red lines" in Syria.

During a September 2013 speech, in response to a devastating Syrian-regime chemical-weapons attack that killed 1,400 people in four hours, Obama asked:

"What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?"

Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, noted on Twitter that it's "incredible to think that Obama actually said this two years ago."

As The Daily Beast pointed out, we now "live in the world that the president described," in which "people in powerful positions chose to look the other way."

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 2:28am

Deleted--was a repeat of previous comment.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 6:52am

In reply to by Bill M.

The core lesson we did not want to learn is that we did not somehow fully understand the UW environment to begin with either in Iraq and or AFG.

If the reporting out of London is in fact correct and I do not doubt that it is not correct--- the Governor of Kunduz fled shortly before the actual attack and is stating now in London after fleeing AFG that he was paid a large sum of money to allow the Taliban to enter Kunduz --that money was paid to him via the ISI.

How many commenters here have pointed directly at the ISI as the major funders of the Taliban and that our fight should have been against the ISI.

Someone who I respect in SF who served a number of times in the exact area of the Taliban attacks mentioned to me yesterday--we never knew who were members of the Taliban--that is coming from a SF MAJ a telling comment.

In VN my SF intel guys knew exactly who was and was not a VC member and or supporter down to the hut they lived in--how many per village and how many villages comprised a VC company---all from their HUMINT sources---granted many sources worked for multiple paying players but it was up to the SF intel guys to sort it out and pass me the latest and greatest plus I ran my own agents out of my camp as a last confirm or deny check.

There was no HUMINT or SIGINT indicating this attack......????

If not then that alone is a major major failure.

So again the statement we learned that --we learned not a single lesson.


Wed, 09/30/2015 - 4:05am

In reply to by Bill M.

One obvious lesson is that external force cannot build nations or install democracy, and that trying to build nations and install democracy amounts to tossing lives and resources down a black hole.

I don't suppose that's what he meant, though.

Bill M.

Wed, 09/30/2015 - 1:22am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

What was the lesson? We can't build security forces effectively? Afghans don't think their government is worth fighting for? We have to stay there and fight for them because if we don't Pakistan will provide enough support to the Taliban to challenge the Afghanistan government while we continue to provide support to Pakistan? What lesson are you talking about?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 3:30pm

Kunduz collapsed faster than Mosul . The lesson we have learned today is that we never learn lessons.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 12:02pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Host of Russian TV studio discussion: "Obama's tragedy is that he doesn't understand that the whole world isn't made up of Americans"

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 8:09am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Betting a Starbucks of choice here in Berlin if Putin's speech does not have at it's core this speech from him in 2008.

Will be interesting if it does and what Obama's response will be in the face of it----

Remember Putin is driving on three core geo political goals and Obama has to yet to have defined a single top geo political goal in years.

Anders Aslund @anders_aslund

Remarkable, Charlie Rose's 1/2 hour interview w Putin contained no news. Why play Putin's game? Reading Putin's speeches is more informative

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 3:27am

Obama's own words are coming back to haunt him and yet he blames others for his own failures.

"We will judge Putin by his actions not his words"

"We have no strategy yet for ISIS but we are formulating one"

Charlie Rose: Do you respect sovereignty of Ukraine? Putin: "Of course."…

Putin: "Our view of respect of sovereignty of other countries is to not allow unconstitutional change of government in them"

Putin: "I consider totally unacceptable to have regime change color revolutions in former Soviet states

What does Obama, Kerry and the entire NSC not fully understand with these Putin statements?

Putin is flatly stating I can do whatever I want to in the former Soviet Republics--and he flatly ignores historical developments.

BTW--he can in fact extend these comments to the Baltics, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldavia, and Georgia any time he chooses. Simply going to a democratic government in these above countries could be viewed as "unconstitutional changes" because they had not asked permission from the Russian government the "declared inheritor of the Soviet Union".

So what is there to talk about with Putin that Obama does not already know based on Putin's own actions?? Putin will not change so what does Obama think he can in fact accomplish via talking?

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 6:51am

In reply to by Dayuhan

BTW--since the Russians are getting into Syria in now a massive way --it might be good to understand their current state of mind on just about anything.

NASA Mars water news timed to interrupt #Putin's @UN speech–#Russia MP, #Molotov's grandson …

AND Russia is suppose to have a coherent plan for Syria???


Tue, 09/29/2015 - 8:57pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

<i>there were two distinct times the US/Obama could have intervened BUT did not--the core question is why not???</i>

First and foremost, because they didn't want to. An opportunity for intervention is not something to be seized with delight, it's something to be warily assessed. What's the desired end state goal? What's the exit strategy? Is the desired end state goal realistic, practical, and achievable? If you don't have good answers to those questions, all you're doing is walking into a quagmire that you have little chance of resolving and every chance of making worse. Before you go stepping into a vacuum you need a clear idea of what you want to fill it with and how you intend to fill it, or all you're going to do there is choke. That's what's consistently missing from the demands for intervention. Sure, there are any number of opportunities to get in. That's not the issue. The issue is how to get out.

"Crush Isis" is not in itself a viable or sufficient goal. It's not enough to know what you're against, you have to know what you're for.

I think what's generally overlooked is that Obama's actions in Syria are not about Syria, they're about image management. He's trying to do enough to avoid accusations of ignoring ISIS without getting sucked into outright intervention. That's not about achieving any particular end result in Syria, it's about achieving an end result in the domestic political arena. The success or failure of any effort has to be measured by weighing results against actual objectives, not nominal objectives.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 09/29/2015 - 3:07am

In reply to by Dayuhan

Dayuhan--here is the issue--since 9/11 the US has a hang up on the word Islamist.

There has been two distinct events over the last four years that the US could have intervened to set the stage back to zero and allow the various anti Assad groups to figure it out on their own--- which what must happen.

I posted here a link to a 30 minute video done by Joshua Lundis where he talks about "ethnic cleansing both historically and what is ongoing in the entire ME"--and messy is the right word.

Interestingly he points out that the initial demands by the Syrian protestors were of a moderate nature and as they were attacked,killed and Assad went total oppressive on Sunni's ONLY then did these groups revert to their religion as an anchor and they went radical and have become more radicalized with each year of fighting--actually a natural progression if you think about it.

He even points to two occasions that US should have acted and did not --and they were both humanitarian in nature and would have been viewed as not a superpower getting involved.

If then you take another podcast link that I posted conducted by the RFE on Syria you will hear something that one does not hear often in the MSM--there are now three with a large T THREE distinct Sunni armies now vying for power and they are relatively speaking strong--that is exactly why Assad is on the verge of losing and exactly why the Commander of the IRGC flew to Moscow and exactly why the Russians got engaged suddenly--he is in fact losing--something the West failed to see coming as well.

Why??---the TOW has become the "Stinger" of the 2015 timeframe on the Syrian battlefield.

The key event for both Obama and Assad was when the US did not act on the red line over the use of chemical weapons on civilians killing over 1400 men, women and children--had Obama acted and used force then he would have had some creditability with the radical sides--he did not act and Assad assumed he was home free to continue the brutal barrel bombing/bombing campaign against the Sunni population.

The second was the non conducting of a NFZ in order to allow humanitarian aid to flow to all sides--ALL sides. BTW this was vetoed twice by Russia who I honestly believe wanted a humanitarian crisis.

This NFZ could and would have stopped the barrel bombing and the indiscriminate bombing campaign against the Sunni civilian population and reduced the overall killing of civilians and refugee flows.

Remember statistically speaking Assad has killed an average of seven times more civilians than has IS.

In non linear warfare we see the weaponization of information and money--IS there now a new element--the weaponization of refugees??

This denial of humanitarian aid is also now being played out in eastern Ukraine when the Russian mercenary proxies have demanded the UN pull out of eastern Ukraine on the edge of winter which is always a tough time for the Ukraine overall and the resulting humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine.

So I totally disagree--there were two distinct times the US/Obama could have intervened BUT did not--the core question is why not???

Answer--you heard it repeated by Obama again in the UNGA yesterday--"the US cannot solve the worlds problems and others must step up".

HERE is the flaw in his thinking--great idea but there must be a mechanism and or mechanisms in place for regional actors to in fact step up and cover areas and events the US will or will not handle.

Right now he has basically created a number of vacuums by this thinking because of the lack of a coherent set of mechanisms.

As is natural in the law of physics--things flow into that vacuums naturally and it might not always be the best of things.

So in the vacuum of the ME you have radical Muslims flowing, you have the great Sunni Shia divide flowing, you have Iranian hegemony flowing, you have the Sunni Front States flowing and now an aspiring superpower Russia who is both anti west and anti democratic flowing in to compete with the US over a key regional geo political area. Heck even China is now flowing in if the latest rumors are correct.

While we the US steal away in the middle of the night.

This will not end well for all involved.


Mon, 09/28/2015 - 11:22pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Anyone who demands that the US "take action" without stating specifically what action they want taking is talking out the wrong orifice.

Obama didn't "mess up Syria". Syria messed up Syria, with Assad as the messer in chief. Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US, and others have contributed to the mess in their own ways and degrees, but at root it's still a Syrian mess. Over recent years I've heard an infinitude of voices demanding that the US save Syria, fix Syria, stop the war, help everybody, etc... and in that time I have not seen one coherent, sensible, plan for achieving that.

Civil wars are messy. The more outsiders mess in them the messier they get.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 3:12am

So Obama will meet with Putin who has ordered the Russian military into the Crimea where the UN and OSCE has condemned the curtailment of Tartar human rights and Tartars are "disappearing" in their homeland defined even by the Soviet Union AND in full violation of intentional law, agreements and treaties, Putin has ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine where over 9K civilians and 2K Ukrainian troops have been killed AGAIN in full violation of international law, agreements, treaties, Putin has supported Assad where over 250K have been killed and over 5M refugees have been created by Assad NOT ISIS AND THEN this yesterday from the Russian UN delegation.

TASS: Russian delegation walked out of UN during Poroshenko's speech

So exactly just what is it that Obama "thinks he can talk about"???

Remember it was Obama in 2014 who stated to the US public and the global public via mass media "that we must judge Putin on his actions not his words".

Appears that after 1.5 years the world has seen more than enough of Putin's "actions" in order to form an opinion of what he wants.

SO in effect is Obama "selling himself out" to just talk--appears so based on his own words--BUT when called out over it--it is someone else's fault.

Obama seems incapable of holding to his own very words as a US President.

Does that engender trust among US allies in regions of the world that have always looked to the US for leadership???…

Refugee Policy

09.09.151:00 AM ET

Drowning Syria to Keep an Iran Deal Afloat

Obama cinched his foreign policy legacy the day Aylan al-Kurdi washed up on Turkey’s shores, underscoring his biggest foreign policy failure as president.

On September 10, 2013, President Obama gave a stirring speech from the White House in response to the chemical weapon attack on the Damascus suburbs of Ghouta which left over 1,400 Syrians dead—suffocating from sarin gas launched in the middle of the night on a civilian population by the Assad regime. Many of the victims were children. Their images—doll-like and waxy-skinned—haunted the world. Obama asked members of Congress and the American people to watch the videos of Syrian children dying on hospital floors. He then asked, “What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?”

It’s been almost two years since that speech. Today, we live in the world that the president described. A world in which people in powerful positions chose to look the other way. And so the daily carnage in Syria, by barrel bomb, by beheading, and yes, by chemical weapons, continued.

Today, almost half of the Syrian population has been displaced as a result of the relentless brutality of the Assad regime and the shocking violence of ISIS and Al Qaida. Eleven million people no longer live in their homes. Four million of them are refugees in neighboring countries. Over the past year, thousands of refugees have decided to risk their lives for a better future in Europe, embarking on harrowing “death routes” across sea and land.

On Wednesday, yet another horrific image from the Syrian tragedy went viral. This time it was a toddler boy, 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who looked like a sleeping baby, facedown on a sandy beach in Bodrum, Turkey, with the waves lapping around him. His mother had dressed him in a bright red T-shirt, navy shorts, and sturdy shoes—he was dressed for a journey to a better future in Canada. But like thousands of other Syrian refugees fleeing the war, little Aylan, his 5-year-old brother Galip and his mother, Rehan, along with nine other people on the same boat were not granted safe passage.

A Syrian woman posted on Facebook recently, “Under the Mediterranean, on the bottom of the sea, another Syria exists, one that’s full of life: children kicking soccer balls, teens doing their homework, women cooking, men working, and the elderly sipping coffee. If you visit the bottom of the sea, you will discover another Syria.” It truly does seem as if Syrians no longer belong on this Earth.

Over the past months, the world’s attention has been focused on the growing “migrant” crisis that confronts Europe. Reporters follow Syrian refugees across land and water, telling tale after harrowing tale, sometimes of survival, other times of heroism, and many times of death. The narratives often omit an honest answer to the question: “Why are there so many Syrian refugees?” Muddled words like “civil war,” “fleeing the violence,” and worse blaming the entire crisis on ISIS do not explain what has been happening in Syria for over four years.

Syrian refugees are not the result of a natural disaster. You cannot abstract them into a purely humanitarian package. Every Syrian refugee is a refugee because of the international political and military decisions and failures that empowered and chose the Assad regime over the Syrian people.

Last week, the story of the 71 Syrians who suffocated to death in a Hungarian truck caused an uproar in Europe that surprised most Syrians.

For over four years now, millions of Syrians have been asking, “Where is the world?” Now, finally, we watched people across the world rise up in action: from Germany, Austria, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, and more. Thousands opening their homes and welcoming refugees to their country. Thousands protesting in demand of better treatment of the refugees. Thousands displaying an outpour of generosity and compassion for Syrians that we have not witnessed yet.

All over the world, people are proving that humanity still exists, but most world leaders have not been so brave or kind.

Last Wednesday, we also learned that President Obama has cinched his Iran Deal—touted as a “major victory for diplomacy” and “a choice of peace over war.” How lovely. And how fitting that the passing of this “historic” deal was celebrated on the same day that a Syrian baby was washed up on a beach?

One of the biggest complaints of supporters of the Iran deal about its critics is that they oppose the deal for no real reason but the sake of opposing. Perhaps for some politicians, that’s true. Syrians, though, can’t afford the luxury of contrariness. There is one very important reason to oppose any sort of concessions with Iran: Syria. Any deal that supports the regime that fuels the Assad regime’s military is simply a deal that rewards genocide, destruction, and mass displacement of innocent people.

For every impassioned hashtag and viral image shared about the Syrian tragedy, one fact must be repeated over and over: The crisis is a global humanitarian one; but the source of terror, violence, and the never-ending waves of refugees lives in Damascus. As this brilliant young Syrian teen explained: “You just stop the war and we don’t want to go to Europe.”

“Under the Mediterranean, on the bottom of the sea, another Syria exists, one that’s full of life: children kicking soccer balls, teens doing their homework, women cooking, men working, and the elderly sipping coffee. If you visit the bottom of the sea, you will discover another Syria.”

Despite these simple facts, the deal is now done and the red lines have been crossed too many times to count and course-correction seems to be impossible. Syrian Americans are now pleading the Syrian case to the slew of presidential candidates on both parties—an act that underscores the complete loss of faith in the Obama administration. The administration of hope and change. The administration that supposedly knows how to stop a problem from hell.

Even if the next president will change the current non-strategy on Syria (which is highly unlikely), that will be 17 long months from now. Seventeen more months of watching our people die. Seventeen more months of barrel bombs. Seventeen more months of ISIS terror. Seventeen more months of babies washing up on beaches.

AND still Obama wants to talk---this Presidency will be marked by an abject lack of the will to take action, any action even WHEN it states it will take action.

That is what again --so called "US leadership"????

Outlaw 09

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 12:50am

We never discuss it here but as weaponization of information is a key cornerstone for the successful non linear warfare regardless from whom or by whom--THEN why does the western MSM seem to reject being a MSM that asks questions, or challenges anything that any leader of a nation says and or does.

If one really goes back 1.5 years starting with Crimea and 4 years back with Syria--it would appear that someone has been controlling the US media as there has been little to no accurate, decisive, clear and concise reporting on those two events--so it begs the question is now corporate MSM under the control of a single individual or corporation??

We know from say FB with the Russian oligarch 700M USD investment that it to a degree has become an instrument of weaponization of information but the other media???

Shame on @60minutes. This platform carries w/it responsibility to ask impt Qs w/follow up. All we got is propaganda.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/27/2015 - 2:12pm

This is a counter argument to a major former Obama advisor on Syria--who has basically now suggested full support to the Russian views on Assad.

September 27, 2015

Syria: The Assad Conundrum

By Frederic C. Hof

Distinguished intellectual and former Obama administration official Philip Gordon has called for a fundamental Syria policy recalculation centering on the status of Bashar al-Assad. Gordon's basic thesis is that if Washington and its partners drop their demand for preemptive victory—Bashar's immediate departure—Iran and Russia may see their way clear to shuffling their noisome client off stage within a period of time broadly acceptable to all concerned. In truth, this approach has always been on the table. It is fully operative now. Neither the regime, nor Tehran, nor Moscow have demonstrated any interest in it.

Gordon was present at Geneva on June 30, 2012 when the Final Communique of the Action Group on Syria, convened by United Nations Special Envoy Kofi Annan, was signed. The permanent five (P5) members of the UN Security Council agreed on a strikingly direct approach to Syrian political transition from kleptocratic, violent despotism to the pluralistic, democratic system called for by two UN Security Council resolutions. Syrians representing the regime and the opposition would negotiate, based on mutual consent, a transitional governing body that would exercise full executive power. The name "Assad" was not mentioned in the document. This was no accident.

During the talks leading to the communique, representatives of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States argued that Assad—recognized even then as the author of serial war crimes and crimes against humanity—should be explicitly barred from partaking in Syria's political transition. Russia objected. It did so as a matter of principle: Syrians should decide. The three allies offered a counter-proposal: anyone with blood on his or her hands should be excluded. The Russian objection was straightforward: "blood on his hands" would be seen as a synonym for Bashar al-Assad. No one at the table could disagree. In the end, it was agreed that the composition of the transitional governing body would be a Syrian decision, arrived at based on mutual consent.

According to the Geneva guidelines therefore—agreed to unanimously by the P5—it would be permissible for Assad to serve on the transitional governing body. Indeed, he could preside over it. All that was required was the consent of the opposition delegation. Similarly, delegates representing the Syrian Arab Republic—the regime and the government—could withhold consent to persons nominated by the opposition.

Is this, therefore, a wheel that requires reinvention? Gordon suggests that for "Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the other Sunni states supporting the Syrian opposition, his [Assad's] immediate departure has been a sine qua non for even talking about ending the conflict . . ." This is actually not so. Whatever skepticism they have expressed about the readiness of the Assad regime to negotiate in good faith, they did not block the participation of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) in the Lausanne and Geneva conferences of late 2013 and early 2014. The SNC arrived at those talks fully prepared to proceed based on the 2012 Geneva Final Communique. It behaved professionally and creatively. The regime delegation make a mockery of the proceedings. Were the regime to show up now at Geneva prepared to do business in accordance with the P5 formula it would find the opposition—with the full endorsement and support of the London 11—prepared to negotiate the creation of a transitional governing body.

Gordon posits, "It might be necessary to put off agreement on Assad's fate until the end of the process, rather than insisting on it being resolved at the beginning." He is quite right, and this is exactly what the Geneva process envisions. Once all-Syrian negotiations create a transitional governing body, Assad will be either in or out. During the course of those talks, he would most likely retain the title and powers of President of the Syrian Arab Republic. Nothing in the Geneva formula requires him to step down in advance of the talks or before their conclusion. Indeed, nothing requires him to step down at any point provided the opposition consents to an ongoing role in the transitional governing body.

Still, Gordon wishes to drop the Geneva formula in favor of a "US-led contact group" that could "explore measures" such as local ceasefires, getting the regime out of "agreed parts of the country," an end to regime air attacks "in exchange for an end to opposition offensives," constitutional reforms, regime-opposition "entities" that could initiate dialogue, eventual elections "in which Assad might or might not be allowed to run," and perhaps safe areas negotiated by the regime and the opposition. Yet what would prevent any of these things being pursued with the Geneva formula still fully in place and intact?

All of these "measures" go to the very heart of the Assad regime's existence and its strategy for staying in power, at least in a part of Syria. It does not barrel bomb to blunt opposition "offensives." It is not interested in handing over agreed parts of Syria. Its attitude toward "constitutional reform" has been well established for decades. It jails people seeking "dialogue." Yet Mr. Gordon counsels trading-in Geneva for a "process" in which he thinks Iran and Russia might join the United States and others in forcing a "compromise" on the Assad regime. Geneva, per se, stands in the way of nothing Mr. Gordon would like to explore.

With Geneva defunct, why would Tehran and Moscow facilitate such a process? According to Gordon, because we would no longer be asking for the immediate departure of Assad. Yet immediate departure is not now and never has been a precondition for political transition negotiations. Gordon also asserts that Iran and Russia have no particular attachment to Assad personally, and that maintaining him in power "is a costly burden to both countries." Yet Iran sees Assad as essential to maintaining its Syria-based link to its Lebanese militia, Hezbollah. Shall we work with Tehran to produce a substitute willing and able to help Hezbollah imprison Lebanon and keep its rockets and missiles trained on Israel? Russia's Vladimir Putin sees Assad as a neon-lighted rebuke to Washington and is now investing heavily in trying to rehabilitate his client—the man who has made Syria safe for the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL)—as an anti-terror bulwark. Should we persist in counting on Putin to be agent for political transition in Syria?

No doubt, President Barack Obama will tell his Russian counterpart—just as Secretary of State John Kerry will tell his Iranian counterpart—that Assad is an asset of incalculable value for ISIL: the gift that keeps on giving. Russia and Iran already know this. They are fine with this. They have been fully witting and supportive of Assad's survival strategy from the beginning: the mass releases of Islamist radicals from prison; the vacuum-creating collective punishment and mass homicide campaigns; the web of economic interactions between the regime and ISIL; the respective military focus of ISIL and Assad on common enemies rather than one another. The President and the Secretary will likely double down on Gordon's point that continued Russian and Iranian backing of Assad "will only perpetuate their costly quagmire and lead to the growing extremism that threatens us all." A similar talking point about making a big mistake was applied to Russia's rape of Ukraine.

There is nothing in the Geneva Final Communique that forbids the external supporters of the various parties to the conflict from pressuring their clients to cease and desist in war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is nothing in that document that prevents external parties from working together to apply pressures on all aimed at general deescalation. There is nothing the P5 agreed to in June 2012 that blocks them from discussing among themselves various creative formulas they might press upon their clients to facilitate the rapid, mutually agreed creation of a transitional governing body. Doing so would unite Syrians under one flag to fight ISIL and other violent extremists while beginning the long march to reform, reconstruction, and reconciliation.

The danger in Philip Gordon's approach is that Iran, Russia, and Assad may see it as an administration trial balloon, one signaling that instead of action soon forthcoming to protect defenseless Syrian civilians from barrel bombs, there is anxious readiness on the part of Washington to ditch the Geneva framework in the hope of currying Russian and Iranian goodwill.

The Geneva framework need not be dropped for Moscow and Tehran to block the ongoing mass murder of Syrian civilians: relentless and remorseless slaughter that voids any prospect of political progress while boosting the prospects of ISIL. On the contrary: US officials should be telling their Russian and Iranian counterparts that if they do not take steps to get Assad out of this ISIL-facilitating mass murder business, the United States will. Doing something beyond talking is essential for any of Philip Gordon's laudable objectives to be achieved.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/27/2015 - 11:24am

Why is it that almost all foreign policy commenters see the inherent Obama weaknesses and a lack of a coherent foreign policy but he does not see that???? Notice the comment that the Sunni States are sensing a serious betrayal on the part of the US towards them.

The Endgame in Syria

The Strategy That Dares Not Speak Its Name

Outlines of a Russian-mediated grand bargain on Syria are slowly emerging, with the deal allowing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to remain in power during a transitional period while a coalition to combat ISIS is put together. Some kind of bargain, whether it looks like Russia’s or not, may get international support.

As we noted in yesterday’s morning email, murkily sourced reports suggest that both Saudi Arabia and Iran are guardedly open to some kind of compromise solution. Then yesterday afternoon, Germany’s Angela Merkel broke with the standing European consensus and stated that some kind of negotiated solution to Syria would include Assad, while Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara was open to Assad remaining in power during a transition phase, as long as the opposition was also included, and Assad stepped down at the end of the process. Now France, too, may be hopping on the bandwagon.

But the biggest question will be what happens when President Obama sits down with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday. There, the Administration seems to be pursuing an odd strategy: It is insulting Putin even as it agrees to meet with him. As this NYT story illustrates, the White House is going to great lengths to make it look as if Putin is desperate to meet with Obama. This is probably one more triumph of short-term PR thinking over any kind of strategic approach—an attempt at trying to make President Obama “look” strong.

Meanwhile, the West Wing’s core strategy in Syria is looking more and more like an attempt to keep the U.S. out no matter what happens—while making it look as if we care. What that strategy boils down to is letting Iran and Russia do pretty much what they want in the Middle East in the belief that the fight is too dirty for the U.S. to gain anything by participating in it. But because this strategy telegraphs weakness globally and threatens to destabilize the Middle East even more than we’ve already seen, it would go over very poorly in the U.S. if it dared to speak its own name.

Perhaps Obama is hoping that Syria will become a quagmire for Iran and Russia that ultimately does to them what Afghanistan did to the Soviet Union. Perhaps he doesn’t think anything the U.S. can do will lead to a better result at an acceptable price, and so he is resigned to letting whatever hellish horrors erupt in Syria take their course. “Let the black flower blossom as it may”, as Hawthorne wrote in The Scarlet Letter.

However, it really is Obama who needs the meeting more than Putin. At earlier stages in the crisis, mostly for PR reasons (and to quiet the anguished wails of people like Samantha Power who presumably objected to becoming a bystander in the worst case of mass murder since Rwanda), President Obama and his cabinet, believing that Assad’s regime would soon collapse on its own, unwisely publicly demanded that “Assad must go.” As it turned out, Assad didn’t really have to go. He just kept murdering people by the truckload, and Obama sat passively by. Now the president needs a fig leaf, and it would help Obama a great deal if Putin and the Iranians would do him the favor of getting rid of their Syrian ally.

The other half of the president’s Syria dilemma is ISIS. Here again he needs to appear to be doing something, given the effect ISIS has had on American opinion. But his goal appears to be to look busy while doing as little as possible. A few random bombs here, some drone strikes there, a flashy-sounding train-and-equip program (that nevertheless peskily throws some truly embarrassing stories every so often into the daily news flow)—basically a PR effort that keeps the political heat off but doesn’t amount to more than the absolute minimum response.

But one can tread water like this for only so long. The Sunni Arabs, who smell a betrayal of historic proportions, want him to concentrate on kicking the Shi’a power out of Syria. If he isn’t doing that, anything he does against ISIS without also taking on Assad underlines the degree to which he seems to be shifting U.S. support from the Sunnis to the Shi’a, enflaming the region in unpredictable ways. If the Russians and Iranians will do Obama the favor of getting rid of Assad—even if it is just setting him up in a lovely dacha outside Moscow for permanent retirement—then Obama has something to show to the Sunnis. He can then continue his desultory campaign against ISIS while hoping that, for reasons of their own, the Russians and Iranians will also help him turn the tide in that fight.

So in practical terms, however it looks to the schedulers, yes, Obama needs the meeting more than Putin. The question won’t be what price will Putin pay Obama for help. It is exactly the other way around: How much will Putin charge Obama to help him out of the hole that an incoherent Syria and regional Middle East policies have left him in? One thing we can be fairly sure of, with respect to that question, is that Putin isn’t interested in helping Obama in any serious way.

Dividing America’s alliances, undermining its prestige, and weakening its global position remains the pole star of Putin’s foreign policy. Lucy hasn’t asked to see Charlie Brown, that is, to apologize for pulling the football away.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/27/2015 - 10:06am

Is in fact Obama and Kerry both supporting the Khomeini "Green Crescent" of revolutionary Islam????

I don't remember anything in Obama's 2009 Cairo speech about a joint Iran-Russia Shia crescent stretching from the Gulf to the Med.

Do Obama and Kerry really realize that they have placed the US now fully in support of the Sunni global community while Russia has placed itself fully in support of the Shia global community????

OR is it in the process of "selling out" what remaining US Sunni allies there are in the ME BY fully supporting Russian efforts in Syria which are totally Shia focused thus making the US a de facto Shia supporter?

Maybe that is why they blame others for their failures in the ME?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/27/2015 - 9:59am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Finally a author using the term "hybrid political warfare" in an article-because that is exactly what Putin is conducting in Syria.

Russia in Syria: Hybrid Political Warfare

NOTE: we should when using the term hybrid really recall it is non linear warfare which is a UW strategic strategy employed by Russia, China, Iran and IS. Nice to finally in all the Syrian/Ukrainian chatter see the term "political warfare".

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Sep 23, 2015


According to reliable press reports, President Vladimir Putin has already made major changes in the Russian military role in Syria. No one can yet estimate how many more forces and weapons Russia will provide, but so far Putin’s major actions include:

• Expanding Russian port facilities in the naval base at Tartus and expanding an airfield south of Latakia into an air base.

• Deploying 3-4 Su-27 fighters, 12 Su-24 strike fighters, 12 Su-10 close support fighters, and Pchela-1T UAVs.

• Providing R-166-0.5 (ultra) high-frequency signal (HF/VHF) vehicles with jam-resistant voice and data communications, which have been seen driving through Syria.

• Providing an unknown number of new artillery weapons, reportedly 152 millimeter (mm) systems.

• Deploying six or more T-90 main battle tanks, 35 or more new BTR-82A/B wheeled armored-fighting vehicles (AFVs) with 30 mm cannon turrets, and an unknown number of Russian Humvee equivalents.

• Deploying prefabricated housing for up to 2,000.

• Deploying an unknown number of SA-22 land-based air defense systems.

• Possibly deploying 200 marines and housing for as many as 1,500 personnel at the airfield near President Bashar al-Assad’s ancestral family home.

These actions need to be kept in context. Russia first acquired a small naval base or facility in Syria back in 1971, in the days of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. At one point, it based elements of the 5th Operational Squadron of its Mediterranean Fleet there. Since 1991, however, Russia has not deployed a meaningful fleet in the Mediterranean, and the port facilities have never been expand to berth or support Russia’s largest ships. In any case, Russia’s naval forces cannot not play a meaningful role in Syria’s civil war.

There also is nothing new about Russian arms transfers to Syria. Almost all of the weapons in Syrian government forces are Russian, and Russia has backed Assad with weapons and military support ever since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. While Russian arms transfers to Syria helped keep the Assad regime alive, they had limited impact. Syrian forces were already far better equipped than the rebel forces, but this scarcely kept them from steadily losing ground during most of 2014.

What has grabbed the world’s attention is that Russia seems to be building up an active Russian air base and is deploying strike and close support aircraft it can use against any mix of rebel forces. This gives it the capability to intervene actively in the Syrian civil war at a time Assad has been badly losing ground and the potential capability to challenge U.S. and other Coalition aircraft flying missions against ISIS and other extremist rebel forces from Turkey and the Gulf. It also creates a major potential barrier to U.S. or allied no fly or security zones in Syria and forces every rebel faction to consider the risk of engaging Russia.

Putin and Russia have played this game before. In 2008, Russia talked about a major expansion of its naval forces and naval base in Syria as part of the hard line it took with the United States and West over the deployment of missile defenses in Poland and in defense of its invasion of Georgia. In 2011 and 2012, it deployed ships to Syria to show its support of Assad, and there again was talk of turning its decaying naval facility into a real base. The difference is that this time the Russian presence could really matter. It could have a major impact in keeping the Assad regime alive, limiting further rebel gains, and forcing the United States and its allies to be much more cautious about their use of air power.

What it already has shown, however, is that Putin can and will exploit the use of military forces as political weapons in hybrid or asymmetric political warfare. Like the Chinese construction of air facilities on reefs and small islands in the South China Sea, Putin did not have to fire a shot to assert Russian power, focus the world’s attention, and counter U.S. influence.

In fact, Putin will be much better off if Russia does not use its forces in Syria, carefully limits them to the direct support of Assad, or uses them as a political weapon to assert Russia’s role in the Middle East, pressure the United States to limit its military actions, or push for negotiations that favor Assad and again highlight Russia’s role in the region.

Putin can also use his forces to show that Russia will back a local strong man and is countering what he had called U.S. support of “color revolutions.” This is part of a far broader Russian effort to say that the United States has deliberately used its power to destabilize regimes in the developing world, and its military actions in Iraq and Libya were part of a U.S. effort to control such countries–not one to create new liberal and democratic regimes. He can also quietly exploit the situation to show Iran that Russia is again a potential counterweight to the United States.

There is, of course, the risk that Putin will miscalculate, or will go further and some military incident will occur with U.S., allied, Israeli, or U.S.-backed rebel forces. Putin could also continue his present buildup to make Tartus into a real Russian naval base and create a major Russian military air and land-based air defense presence. This history of limited political warfare often escalates into more serious tensions or conflict.

At the same time, the United States needs to rethink some of its perceptions of both Russian and Chinese power. It is obvious that both states not only have the ability to conduct complex political warfare, but they are willing to do so. The United States needs to be ready to react accordingly, make its own political moves, and do so with sufficient innovation and decisiveness to both deter such moves by Russia and other states and minimize the risk of any serious military incident or escalation. So far, the White House has tended to error on the side of inaction—rather than caution—and the U.S. military has focused on the actual use of forces. Not every hybrid “war” has to involve little green men or even fire a single shot.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 09/27/2015 - 3:56am

Another reason for the failed Obama policies is simply--he has no strategic level UW strategy.

What the UW strategies of say Russia, China, Iran and IS should have taught us is the brilliant flexibility that a UW strategy allows for foreign policy--it allows for dialing up and dialing down depending on the opponents own moves.

This is the example of say the evolving Russian UW strategy just in the last 1.5 years----

From Little Green Men in Crimea to Volunteers in Donbas to Visitors in Syria

We are visitors, that's all," says a group of "muscular, tattooed Russians" sitting in a Lattakia hotel.…

AND never changing the strategy and matching every single situation---ah... the perfection of UW.

Sun Tzu would be proud.

This President just does not get it----

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/26/2015 - 6:15pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Actually if one thinks hard about it--Obama's strategy for Syria is working and we should be happy about that.........

I mean, this was the WH "strategy". US steps away from the ME, others step up to fill the void. In that respect, it's a marked success.

Russia and Iran used hard power to force the West to drop the pretense of opposing Assad. They won:…

Guess it is all about how one defines "strategy success".......

The only thing is--are ALL US interests and allies collapsing in the entire ME because of this "success"?????

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/26/2015 - 1:36pm

A Failed Approach

Reversing Course with Putin

Kenneth R. Weinstein & Peter Rough

President Obama got elected promising to always engage with implacable foes of the United States. Putin, for one, has taken advantage of Obama’s outreach every single time.

On Thursday, the White House announced that President Obama would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. For the past year, President Obama shunned the Russian strongman in an attempt to isolate him over the Russian occupation of Ukraine. What caused the president to reverse course and agree to a tête-à-tête? Obama’s decision was taken in the shadow of a significant Russian military buildup in support of the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria. By deploying Russian troops, Putin appears to have gotten what he coveted—an opening out of isolation.

Six years into the Obama presidency, the American concession in granting the Obama-Putin meeting is the latest in a long list of Kremlin victories. But the lopsided scorecard of U.S.-Russian relations during the Obama years is no coincidence. It can be explained by a fundamental flaw in President Obama’s worldview, one which Putin has repeatedly exploited: the idea that engaging rather than confronting hostile regimes incentivizes them to improve their behavior.

This mindset predates Obama’s presidency. During his first presidential campaign, Obama proposed presidential meetings with even America’s most implacable enemies, as if American foot-dragging was a principal source of global problems. It would be “ridiculous” and “a disgrace,” then-Senator Obama argued, for the United States to refuse to meet our enemies on their terms. With a few carefully placed concessions, so his thinking went, an Obama administration would catalyze international cooperation and transform relationships by reassuring adversaries of our benevolence.

The hard realities of power politics, including the temptation to use force in places like Syria, would fade as the mesmerizing attraction of engagement took hold. An era of American paranoia would be replaced by a new period of global cooperation.

Tests of this theory with Russia have repeatedly produced less than encouraging results, however. Just a few months into his first term, in April 2009 during a visit to Prague, President Obama argued that the U.S. has “a moral responsibility to act” for the elimination of nuclear weapons because it is “the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon.” Shortly thereafter, the administration negotiated an arms control agreement with Russia that required only American reductions in nuclear warheads and strategic launchers. Today, Russia issues nuclear threats and continues to violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Similarly, in September 2009, the Obama administration canceled missile defense installations in Eastern Europe as part of its much heralded reset with the Kremlin. Less than a year later, in May 2010, the president certified that the Russian invasion of Georgia “need no longer be considered an obstacle” to nuclear cooperation with Moscow. Four years after that? Russian troops invaded Ukraine and Moscow annexed Crimea. (Russian troops remain deployed across large parts of Georgia, creeping forward by the day.)
In each instance, Obama has wagered the prestige, resources, and moral authority of the U.S. government on the hope that he can personally bend the arc of history.

Time after time, Putin has preyed on Obama’s goodwill, and cleaned his clock. Indeed, beneath all the resets and rhetoric is a fundamental truth: what matter is not just the intentions of the president; the calculations of our competitors and enemies matter, too—and must be taken seriously.

The implications are especially bleak for the Middle East. Obama’s commitment to ending the Iraq war helped propel him—perhaps more than any other issue—to the presidency. And his recoil from the assertion of American power and influence has only persisted. Last year, the president dismissed the need for a residual force in Iraq as “bogus” and “wrong” and declared himself undisturbed by the situation in Iraq’s neighbor to the west: “I am not haunted by my decision not to engage in another Middle Eastern war [in Syria].”

Instead, he has channeled his energies toward negotiating the Iran nuclear accord, which facilitates Iran’s breakout from international sanctions in the hopes of moderating Iranian behavior.

Today, U.S. influence in the Muslim world is at its nadir, not least because the American commitment to the moderate opposition in Syria is the laughingstock of the region, having produced only a handful of fighters. In London last week, Secretary of State John Kerry continued the charade, assuring the world that “we’re not being doctrinaire” on the timing of Assad’s departure—just the opposite, he promised, “we’re open” to “whatever.” By contrast, in conjunction with his Iranian partners, Putin has moved with alacrity and speed to deploy his forces, fill the vacuum, and shore up Assad—in Latakia, the ancestral homeland of the Assad regime, the latest reports are of up to 2,000 Russian troops on the scene, equipped with advanced fighter jets and anti-aircraft systems.

This sets up a major showdown in New York on Monday. In Syria, Putin is altering the facts on the ground. Meanwhile, President Obama envisions a grand diplomatic settlement that results in Assad’s departure.

If history is any guide, Obama is about to have his clock cleaned, yet again.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/26/2015 - 1:25pm

Bill C--retrenchment or blatant isolationism???

"The growth of Russian influence is directly proportional to the decline of American influence..."

Russia’s game plan in Syria maybe be as simple as filling the vacuum America’s left behind, writes @juliaioffe

As long as policymakers mistakenly see Syrian rebel groups as proxies, they will fail to devise realistic diplomatic approaches.

Note how in all the discussions about diplomacy over Syria, one set of actors is absent: the various rebel groups. They won't stop fighting.

Bill--so is the "blame game" of this administration just a net result of the article below???

Maybe this administration needs to recall the past in Syria---and remember it was themselves that did not follow up after the red line in the sand.

While there's talk of easing up on Assad just a reminder of what he did to children on August 21st 2013 -

This sums up Obama's thinking ----in reality isolationism

It can be explained by a fundamental flaw in President Obama’s worldview, one which Putin has repeatedly exploited: the idea that engaging rather than confronting hostile regimes incentivizes them to improve their behavior.

This mindset predates Obama’s presidency. During his first presidential campaign, Obama proposed presidential meetings with even America’s most implacable enemies, as if American foot-dragging was a principal source of global problems.

It would be “ridiculous” and “a disgrace,” then-Senator Obama argued, for the United States to refuse to meet our enemies on their terms. With a few carefully placed concessions, so his thinking went, an Obama administration would catalyze international cooperation and transform relationships by reassuring adversaries of our benevolence.

The hard realities of power politics, including the temptation to use force in places like Syria, would fade as the mesmerizing attraction of engagement took hold. An era of American paranoia would be replaced by a new period of global cooperation.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/26/2015 - 10:00am

This might explain the total disconnect of the Obama WH and his NSC---

“Nobody Knows Anything”

March 16, 2014

In his memorable 1983 book Adventures in the Screen Trade, novelist and screenwriter William Goldman repeatedly cites a line, Nobody Knows Anything, meaning that, despite vast hours and sums spent by Hollywood on testing films with audiences, nobody in Tinsel Town really has a clue how a movie will do at the box office until it’s actually released. It’s all guesswork, and always has been.

Unfortunately, the recent Ukraine crisis has revealed that American foreign policy similarly has little idea what outcomes will be – here the recent and utterly unprecedented intelligence debacle engendered by Edward Snowden & Friends is surely a factor – and generally appears clueless when confronted by Putin and his merry band of Chekists in the Kremlin. That the stakes are higher here than in the entertainment world should be obvious to all. I have repeatedly explained just how weak I think the Obama foreign policy team is, filled with impressive-sounding people who clearly cannot handle a real struggle with Moscow, so there’s no need to belabor that point again. Recent weeks have made abundantly clear that the White House simply does not know what to do when confronted with hard problems being pushed by hard men who are more than willing to use cunning violence and naked intimidation as a matter of routine.

However, the rot goes far deeper than this White House, and is not confined to any party; indeed, the remarkable decline in American foreign policy over the last generation is one of our few truly bi-partisan national efforts, so there’s no point in fantasizing that an election or two will change this. This sad truth I explained in a recent post which got quite a bit of attention, particularly this part:

A related factor here surely is that the United States has groomed a whole generation of foreign policy wonks-in-training who lack any real understanding of how the world actually works. These impressive-on-paper people – let it be noted they are legion in both parties – the under-45′s who are always graduates of the right schools and first-rate players of The Game in Washington, DC (which really comes down to cultivating the right mentors who will guide you to the proper think-tank until your party returns to power), are no match for the stone-cold killers of the Kremlin, led by the Chekist-in-Chief Putin. They have grown up in a world where unipolar American power has never been challenged, and while they can utter pleasant, Davos-ready platitudes about the whole range of bien pensant issues – global warming, emerging trends in micro-finance, gender matters on the Subcontinent, et al – they have quite literally nothing to say when old-school conventional threats emerge and enemies – yes, enemies: not rivals or merely misunderstood would-be partners – emerge from the darkness with conquest and killing on their minds.

I stick by all that and I’ll add that the defect in this younger generation of wannabe foreign policy mavens – which, full disclosure, I’m part of, barely – is two-fold. The first part is a lack of courage that’s enabled by a culture of conformism in the corridors of DC power, where one false move with the wrong staffer or donor can derail a whole career before it really begins. “Speaking truth to power” features frequently in novels and films about the nation’s capital, but is seldom encountered in reality for this reason. Savvy young people on the make quickly learn to mouth platitudes and make connections with equally bland and conformist mentors: if any of these people have genuinely novel, much less daring, foreign policy ideas, they learn to suppress them awfully fast.

Second, most of these smart young people really don’t know anything. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they had great SATs and went to top schools and have mastered the art of sounding smart, attaining admirable fluency in that unnatural dialect known as Beltway-speak, but as for any deep knowledge about any particular subject relating to how the world really works, that’s about as rare in this crowd as unicorns and Bigfoot. There should be no surprise that Chekists are winning handily these days.

That said, it’s important to note that the ignorance of reality found among our Bright Young Things in DC is hardly their own fault. It can be attributed to their deformed education, especially among those who have studied International Relations, memorizing Game Theory and related unreality when what they needed to be doing was studying languages and history and getting out of the Beltway more. I won’t beat up on IR more than this, since everybody who has encountered IR lately, between zombies and related silliness, already knows how ridiculous it is.

There is no substitute for actually knowing something about a country and a region and how its people think and what they say; this cannot be learned entirely in books – though you will have to read a lot of books to build a foundation of understanding – and it cannot be done entirely in English. If you want to understand Putin’s Russia, you will need to seriously look at the history and culture of that place, and Ukraine too, and learn their languages to boot. If this is too hard for you, then don’t try. If you want to predict what Russians and Ukrainians will likely do next with any degree of accuracy, learn about Russians and Ukrainians. For Putin and his system, you will need to learn about Chekists too, since their worldview is unique and powerful to the initiated.

This diatribe against IR, and more broadly against Political Science, ought not to be taken as a defense of History, my own discipline, since it, too, has become mired in post-modern silliness. Just when its services are needed to help explain the world to decision-makers, History has self-marginalized to an alarming degree. While I would trust the guesses of random people off the street – cabbies, waitresses, bookies – over your average tenured IR guru, I’m under no illusion that your run-of-the-mill History professor is much better.

So turning to the Academy to help explain what we ought to do next is sadly a non-starter. Capturing the wisdom of the professoriate, which was more helpful than not during the Cold War, is not much of a plan these days, I’m sad to report. Everybody wants George Kennan to magically reappear, but the reality is that poor, brilliant George, were he to magically reappear among us, would immediately be run out of the room on grounds of racism, sexism, xenophobia, generic crankiness, and all-around obsolescence. He would still be brilliant, mind you, we just have lost the ability to listen to OldThink. Until we get over our own biases, hardened practitioners of OldThink, who are far more atavistic and unpleasant than anything Kennan ever pondered at Princeton, will keep winning.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 5:09pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Rouhani spin: "Russia in Syria nothing to do with us" while IRGC creates coordination cell, allows overflights for Ru transport planes.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 3:08pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Only a few weeks ago, the al-Assad regime seemed in danger of losing the swath of land from Latakia to Damascus to the assaults of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Jabat al-Nusra and others. Today, Russia has taken over and brought in heavy weapons. Not only can Bashar al-Assad breathe a sigh of relief, but the entire Syrian scene should now be revisited from three different angles.

First, this is about rescuing al-Assad from the edge of a cliff. The hypothesis of the entire country falling to ISIL and the al-Assads fleeing to Sochi is now implausible. Al-Assad is in safe hands. If ever rebel groups still want to conquer Syria’s west, their unlimited violence will be met by the Russian army, not the teetering regime forces.

But this is not just about rescuing one man. By establishing a strategic presence in Syria, President Vladimir Putin is securing the future of a vital ally in the Middle East, one that has long had its military trained and equipped by Russia, and making western Syria into Russia’s strategic base in the Middle East.

This new situation raises a number of questions.

One is the anti-terrorist branding of the operation. Officially, Moscow presents its support to al-Assad, past and present, as its contribution to fighting terrorism, especially from ISIL. This is a faint excuse as al-Assad not only created the jihadist group by freeing dozens of prisoners from the Sednaya Prison near Damascus but also failed to take on ISIL seriously. Deep down, is Russia really intent on eliminating ISIL, or does it want to use it as the scarecrow that makes al-Assad look tolerable?

Another question is the de facto alliance this situation creates between the U.S.-led coalition, Iran, and Russia against ISIL. Will these “allies” now coordinate strikes against ISIL targets? Or will they only try avoiding accidental mishaps? How will Iran’s Pasdaran and Hezbollah fighters present on Syrian soil interact with Russian forces? How will the U.S.-trained and equipped rebels, or what’s left of this embarrassing venture, fit into this new equation? Will this alter the (limited) French and British plans for striking ISIL in Syria? How will Israel tolerate more sophisticated weaponry so close to home?

As a side effect, Russia’s move neutralizes Ankara’s adamant ambitions to remove al-Assad from power. Ironically, it also provides a sigh of relief for President François Hollande, who narrowly avoided the embarrassment of seeing the French-built Mistral ships participating in the buildup, had the sale not been canceled.

The second angle is Russia’s strategic military presence in the Middle East. So far, Russia has had only a limited footprint in Syria, mainly the naval maintenance facility in Tartus. This is now being expanded into a more strategic foothold. Predictably, the runway at Latakia airport will be doubled in length to make it usable by the heaviest Antonov cargo planes and the fastest fighter-bomber aircraft; air defenses will be beefed up; heavy armor will be deployed; air control capacity will be enhanced; and new air-to-ground missiles will be provided to the Syrian air force.

In this way, Putin, who had accurately analyzed President Barack Obama’s “reluctant warrior” attitude in August 2013, can safely consider that the scenario of a full-scale Western intervention in Syria, if it ever seriously existed, is now shelved. In U.S. Senator John McCain’s words, Russia is “capitalizing on American inaction.” To put it differently, Putin has eliminated his nightmare scenario of a Western intervention like that in Libya in 2011, and the risk of seeing his ally murdered by unruly rebels in unspeakable conditions, as Moammar Gadhafi was. Gone also is the option for the Turkish Air Force to make forays into al-Assad’s airspace, as in June 2012.

The third angle is the worldwide diplomatic dimension of the Russian takeover of sorts in Syria. Even before the military buildup is fully documented, the Russian “protectorate” of western Syria gives a tangible reality to Moscow’s concept of a new international order. Or, expressed in a Russian perspective, it puts an end to the Western propensity to unilaterally impose its own world order.

To its snap annexation of Crimea and dominance of eastern Ukraine, Russia is now adding “Assadland.” In doing so, it is showing the rest of the world that it has the capacity to redefine the international order, or at least the guts to act as spoiler in chief.

Whether ISIL is quickly defeated along the way has little importance for Russia. Moscow’s presence in western Syria will simply be used internationally, first and foremost at the forthcoming U.N. General Assembly, to prove that Russia can propose its own solutions, in this case, a “new peace plan” for Syria with none other than al-Assad at the helm.

On Sept. 28, Putin’s U.N. speech on “the joint struggle against terrorism” (as branded by TASS agency) will no doubt be seen as utterly cynical by many Western politicians. But for Putin, it will be a glorious moment.

Brace for impact.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 09/25/2015 - 2:46pm

Current Russian KIA count for Syria---10 KIA --GRU/Marines one of which was beheaded--reported prior to the general announcement of Russian deploying into Syria.

1 GRU KIA reported 9/22

Next one---
Undercover Ansari warrior Beheads a Russian soldier in Hama city in a mall.( a Prelude to what is coming)

13 and counting---Syria is not the eastern Ukraine.

Russian, Syrian and Iranian non linear warfare is now merging in a perfect storm and Obama and Kerry seem to not see it coming straight at them.

Russia, Syria and Iran are working together in Baghdad to co-ordinate Shia militias fighting ISIS...

Russians have been busy. See Russian Air Force flights to Baghdad-Tehran-Latakia to form coordination cell in Baghdad…