10/4/15

I’ve written about Syria so many times that it feels futile, but the developments there cannot be ignored.

The uprising in Syria started 4.5 years ago. For the first two years the US had the opportunity to intervene and achieve a HUGE—simply HUGE—strategic, geopolitical win that could have changed the landscape in the Middle East on many fronts. For the next two years after that the US had the ability to intervene to prevent a huge strategic defeat—again, huge. Now it is essentially too late to get anything more than a tenuous standoff.

The remaining options are bad, dangerous, and have little up-side but they are still better than nothing. But even trying to think them up is a waste of brain power. This president has NO intention whatsoever of doing anything. He just declared openly that he is not going to do anything. “To have a proxy war with Russia on Syria is a mistake,” he said openly, utilizing his great oratory skills, i.e. Mr. Putin, if you had even a sliver of concern that you may have crossed the line, nothing to worry about, you have the free run of the board. Go forth and strengthen!

By the way, to be clear, few people—very few but including me, have called for intervention for years now. But this president’s feckless, naïve, and by now stupid foreign policy resulted in no intervention whatsoever. Esteemed commentators like Fareed Zakaria and others prognosticated for years that Assad would not survive, that he was about to fall in the next … week or very shortly, just hold your breath. The president made Assad’s fall and removal a clear declaration and aim of US policy about four years ago and…?

Well, here is where we are today:

  • 300,000 or so lives were lost in this disaster.
  • Ten million people have lost their homes, their livelihoods, their futures.
  • Five million people are refugees destabilizing countries in the region.
  • One million refugees and counting are flooding Europe.
  • ISIS was formed out of the ashes and the chaos of the Syrian uprising, filling the void.
  • Iran has clearly established its dominance on the Shia Crescent in the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon), the first stage in its long-term regional domination and world hegemony pursuit.
  • Russia has allied itself with Iran, giving Iran the support of a world power, and has become the kingmaker in the Middle East and thus a very powerful player in the world.

To sum it up, I will use the term recently coined by General Petraeus, Syria is a “geopolitical Chernobyl” because of the unavoidable contamination/problems/negative effect that it will create in the West, at home, in Europe already, and in the US for sure in the near future.

The president declares with his snarky attitude that Putin’s only allies are Iran and Syria. Isn’t Iran the exact same people that the president spent his entire term in office over the last the six plus years pleading with, begging of, giving everything they ask for to, only so that they will be HIS—the US’s—allies in the Middle East? Was that not the grand design, the ONLY possible justification to the stupid, infamous nuclear agreement with them? So Putin strips Obama naked for the entire world to see by having a meeting with him and 36 hours later bombing the hell out of the groups in Syria that the US was ostensibly backing and, to add insult to injury, the Iranians ditch Obama in favor of Putin. Whose alliance has boots on the ground? Whose alliance is likely making serious military progress toward their aim, Putin’s or Obama’s? Whose alliance is more effective and strong?

The president is also telling us that Putin went into Syria out of weakness. Really? What weakness? But even if so, this just makes this an even bigger master stroke, as for sure Putin is now the strong man of the world. Countries in the Middle East know that if they want something done they need to get Putin’s approval. Countries in Europe will soon be negotiating with him to attack ISIS and bring order to Syria so as to stop the refugee crisis. In return, he will get sanctions lifted and additional territorial concessions/gains in Ukraine: And all for a few thousand soldiers and airmen, and an aggressive posture and attack. Wow, give me that kind of weakness out of Washington any day.

It is interesting to view the chronology of what happened here:

  • In early July the US signed the infamous Iran nuclear deal (I should write a separate blog on this stupidity, too, but I do not have the mental energy to do it; it is simply too depressing).
  • Within days—in a speed which is nearly ignominious—the UN Security Council approved the agreement and authorized the future removal of all sanctions on Iran, subject to some preconditions that should be finalized before the end of this year; these are mechanical issues only.
  • Within days after that Iran broke the international sanction, as did Russia, by sending General Qasem Soleimani, head of its Quds forces (their international intervention arm) to Moscow for talks that, in retrospect, were clearly about coordination in Syria.
  • As soon as the US Congress, in a show of weakness resulting from an unexplained Democratic Party fealty over national security concerns (and naiveté beyond belief), failed to block the agreement, Russia started the buildup of its forces in Syria.
  • Putin and Obama meet in NY on the sidelines of the UN to discuss Syria.
  • Within less than 48 hours after such meeting, Russia starts its military campaign in Syria and days later Iran is sending ground troops—Quds forces—to fight on the side of Assad in Syria.

Now, please tell me that this whole chain of events was not planned in advance and executed to strip the US naked and expose its weakness and fecklessness to the glaring eye of the world?

The president is projecting that the Russian involvement will lead them into a quagmire. This president’s lack of understanding of foreign affairs is legendary; his willingness to lie to defend his ideological beliefs is well known, so his telling of the future is akin to a fortune teller with all the veracity of such projections. Let me give you some prognostications of my own about the short-term and long-term consequences of these developments.

First, what will happen in the next 18 months or so:

  • Russian air power superiority and Iran/Hezbollah ground forces will fairly quickly subdue any uprising by the Western Allied Forces in Syria. It will be done very efficiently, cruelly, and indiscriminately with enormous costs in human lives and a lot of collateral damage (the Russians/Iranians clearly are not bound by the Western sensitivities to these matters).
  • More refugees will be created as a result.
  • Next, the same alliance will then, and only then, tackle the ISIS problem, in Syria first and Iraq second. It will largely defeat ISIS again by using tactics and force level that the West would not do, and will relegate ISIS to a typical terror group as oppose to a state.
  • More than likely, Putin will extract some concessions from the West in this process relating to recognition by default of Assad and in relation to Ukraine too (Sanctions? What sanctions?).
  • The West, frozen by lack of leadership, moral sclerosis, refugees, and other problems will probably cooperate in this Faustian pact.
  • Once that is done the next target for the Iranian/Russian domination team will be the Kurds. They are doomed. It is quite possible that Russia will recruit Turkey to join this effort and maybe even cause Turkey to leave NATO. That will be a huge coup de force. All, of course, out of weakness, we are told…
  • Oil prices will rise significantly, possibly back to around $100 a barrel level, due to a significant reduction in the production level of the Sunni Gulf states and, of course, Saudi Arabia. Those will not be able to reject demands from the new dominant power in the Middle East, supported by Russia, to cut production significantly.

Long-term?

I do not know. Israel is clearly in Iran’s cross-hairs. It is possible, though, that Russia will try to control its new ally and that it may succeed for good few years.

Jordan? Not sure that they are important enough.

The short-term plan described above will be enough for Russia to establish itself as the kingmaker in the Middle East, to seize control of the price of oil, and to give them good access to warm water ports both in the Mediterranean and, through alliance with Iran, to the Persian Gulf, so they would probably not want to do much more for now.

All that would be achieved with very little effort, leveraging Iran/Hezbollah ground forces and utilizing Russia air power to support the ground efforts.

The way the US could have—and should have—done things, if it did them 3 years ago, 2 years ago, and even 1 year ago.

Quagmire indeed.

The stupidity of this president will cost the Free World—and the US in particular—so much, and will leave it in such bad shape that it is not clear to me what the next US president can do to improve the situation short of declaring WWIII.

Why is Putin doing all that?

That is very easy to surmise:

  • To poke the US in the eyes.
  • To raise Russia’s stature in the world back to superpower level, or very close to it, so people know who they can trust if they need an ally.
  • To gain leverage in negotiations with Europe, and maybe even US, on Ukraine, sanctions, etc. in return for his ability to pacify Syria.
  • To become the kin maker in the Middle East.
  • And, above all, to dictate oil level productions to Middle East gulf nations and, thus, oil prices.

Again, all that for very little input.

Putin is a master of strategy and manipulation and is using to the maximum the weakness of this feckless US president.

The problem is that the malevolent players around the world are chasing each other to see who can make more gains while the US is led by a child in diapers. What will China’s next move be?