Who Should We Send to Sing to Our Rebels in Syria?

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 08.06.44Well, goodness. Think anyone’s going to notice that? I hope not. It might make future allies a little uneasy about allying with us.

Russia has targeted Syrian rebel groups backed by the Central Intelligence Agency in a string of airstrikes running for days, leading the U.S. to conclude that it is an intentional effort by Moscow, American officials said.

The assessment, which is shared by commanders on the ground, has deepened U.S. anger at Moscow and sparked a debate within the administration over how the U.S. can come to the aid of its proxy forces without getting sucked deeper into a proxy war that President Barack Obama says he doesn’t want. The White House has so far been noncommittal about coming to the aid of CIA-backed rebels, wary of taking steps that could trigger a broader conflict.

U.S. officials said Russia’s targeting of its allies on the ground was a direct challenge to Mr. Obama’s Syria policy. Underlining the distrust, the Pentagon decided against sharing any information with Moscow about the areas where U.S. allies were located because it suspected Russia would use that information to target them more directly or provide the information to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“On day one, you can say it was a one-time mistake,” a senior U.S. official said of Russia’s strike on one of the allied rebel group’s headquarters. “But on day three and day four, there’s no question it’s intentional. They know what they’re hitting.”

U.S. officials say they now believe the Russians have been directly targeting CIA-backed rebel groups that pose the most direct threat to Mr. Assad since the campaign began on Wednesday, both to firm up regime positions and to send a message to Mr. Obama’s administration. …

One of Russia’s first targets was a CIA-backed group known as Tajamu al-Ezzeh or the Ezzeh Gathering in Hama province in central Syria, U.S. and rebel officials said.

The first strike on the group came at 9 a.m. on Sept. 30, catching its fighters off guard. Seventeen more strikes were launched against the group over the first three days of the Russian campaign, injuring 25 of Ezzeh’s fighters. Some of the injured had received CIA training, according to their commander, Maj. Jameel al-Salih. Four strikes on the first day targeted Ezzeh’s headquarters.

American officials and the allied commanders said several other rebel groups covertly backed by the U.S. and its coalition allies have also been targeted by the Russians. They include the First Coastal Division, whose base in northern Latakia province near the Turkish border was struck twice on Oct. 2 starting at 9:45 p.m., according to the group’s commander, Capt. Muhammad Haj Ali.

Members of the brigades said in interviews they believed they were being targeted by the Russians to weaken the moderates, without whom the West would have to accept Mr. Assad’s continued rule. The other rebel groups on the battlefield are too radical for the West to work with, they said.

U.S. officials and rebel leaders said the White House thus far has taken no tangible steps to offer the groups support.

Twitter rumor has it that both Russia and ISIS were targeting FSA Suqour al-Jabal at the same time in Aleppo last night, by air and ground.

Meanwhile, remember how just a while back we were all having earnest debates about the Iranian nuclear deal, and those of us who remained concerned about it were told we were off our rockers? (Remember how The New York Times launched the Congress Jew Tracker?) So, precisely as our own government and newspaper of record were brightly intimating that anyone who wasn’t fully on board with Obama’s plan must be a Zionist stooge, this is what Moscow and Iran were up to:

“Soleimani put the map of Syria on the table. The Russians were very alarmed, and felt matters were in steep decline and that there were real dangers to the regime. The Iranians assured them there is still the possibility to reclaim the initiative,” a senior regional official said. “At that time, Soleimani played a role in assuring them that we haven’t lost all the cards.”

Three senior officials in the region say Soleimani’s July trip was preceded by high-level Russian-Iranian contacts that produced political agreement on the need to pump in new support for Assad as his losses accelerated.

Their accounts suggest planning for the intervention began to germinate several months earlier. It means Tehran and Moscow had been discussing ways to prop up Assad by force even as Western officials were describing what they believed was new flexibility in Moscow’s stance on his future.

Before the latest moves, Iran had aided Assad militarily by mobilizing Shi’ite militias to fight alongside the Syrian army, and dispatching Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps officers as advisors. A number of them have been killed.

The decision for a joint Iranian-Russian military effort in Syria was taken at a meeting between Russia’s foreign minister and Khamenei a few months ago, said a senior official of a country in the region, involved in security matters.

“Soleimani, assigned by Khamenei to run the Iranian side of the operation, traveled to Moscow to discuss details. And he also traveled to Syria several times since then,” the official said. …

Khamenei also sent a senior envoy to Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin, another senior regional official said. “Putin told him ‘Okay we will intervene. Send Qassem Soleimani’. He went to explain the map of the theater.”

Russian warplanes, deployed at an airfield in Latakia, began mounting air strikes against rebels in Syria last week.

Moscow says it is targeting Islamic State, but many of Russia’s air strikes have hit other insurgents, including groups backed by Assad’s foreign enemies, notably in the northwest where rebels seized strategically important towns including Jisr al-Shughour earlier this year.

In the biggest deployment of Iranian forces yet, sources told Reuters last week that hundreds of troops have arrived since late September to take part in a major ground offensive planned in the west and northwest.

Around 3,000 fighters from the Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah have also mobilized for the battle, along with Syrian army troops, said one of the senior regional sources.

The military intervention in Syria is set out in an agreement between Moscow and Tehran that says Russian air strikes will support ground operations by Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, said one of the senior regional sources.

The agreement also included the provision of more sophisticated Russian weapons to the Syrian army, and the establishment of joint operations rooms that would bring those allies together, along with the government of Iraq, which is allied both to Iran and the United States.

One of the operations rooms is in Damascus and another is in Baghdad.

“Soleimani is almost resident in Damascus, or let’s say he goes there a lot and you can find him between meetings with President Assad and visits to the theater of operations like any other soldier,” said one of the senior regional officials.

Syria’s foreign minister said on Monday that the Russian air strikes had been planned for months.

Now right about then, if I recall rightly, the president said, “We must be willing to test whether this region is willing to move in a different direction.” He said the deal offered Iran an opportunity “to move in a new direction” away from a “policy based on threats to attack your neighbors and annihilate Israel.”

So he’s saying this even as Soleimani is “almost resident” in Damascus and running up frequent-flyer miles to Moscow, where he’s signing plans for Russian air strikes to support ground operations by Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces. Well, folks, if this is how you pass that test, I’m not sure how you can lose, really.

As for the the theory that welcoming Iran back in from the cold would bolster regional stability? High five, guys, you nailed that one:

Dozens of conservative Saudi Arabian clerics have called for Arab and Muslim countries to “give all moral, material, political and military” support to what they term a jihad, or holy war, against Syria’s government and its Iranian and Russian backers.

Although the clerics who signed the online statement are not affiliated with the government, their strong sectarian and anti-Christian language reflects a growing anger among many Saudis over Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria’s civil war.

And what do you think it might mean when Sultan bin Khalid Al-Faisal says ‘”With the United States and other Western powers disengaging from Middle Eastern conflicts, “We are going to have to take care of ourselves?”

Speaking fluent English, Sultan said with emphasis, “We are moving the armed forces to a level needed today to lead — lead — the Middle East.”’

I find that insinuation so … ambiguous.

But back to my original point. Hapless, strategically-blundering, and misguided thoughout our strategy may have been, we certainly backed quite a lot of rebel groups in Syria who are now being shot like fish in a barrel by Russians. They’re begging for help, but we’re “noncommittal.” When I ask myself, “How likely is anyone in the world, ever, to forget that the Americans seem to be the last people you want on your side when things go pear-shaped,” my answer, realistically, is three generations. It will take that long.

Meanwhile, I hope we’re at least airdropping those poor guys some moral support. Like maybe a nice James Taylor mix tape.

 

 

Published in Foreign Policy, General
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  1. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    The Obama Ad has, it seems, left us with very few options. Direct confrontation with Russia would be an act of war, and from a quick look at the map we are not in much of a position to prosecute a war in the region. It looks to me that we have pretty much left it up to ME governments to fight it out. I don’t know if O saw Putin coming, but if he didn’t he can’t read a map. If he did then I can only assume this is the outcome he wants. The whys and wherefores are a mystery.

    • #1
  2. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Right from the beginning of the war, the Russian media, in which I include Breitbart* has made a concerted effort to deny the strength and importance of the FSA, insisting that there was only ever a choice between ISIS (or, before that, AQ) and Assad.

    Right from the beginning, Assad has focused on fighting the FSA. He’s been wise to do so; once he’s stepped in this far, going back isn’t possible. Assad’s program of systematically murdering his citizens can only succeed if he destroys the possibility of international support for any alternative.

    I’d like to think that the Russian focus on the guys that Russia claims to be trivial and/ or non-existent would be embarrassing for those who parrot the Russian media, but sadly this seems unlikely to be the case.

    *Perhaps there’s an issue on which they haven’t written breathlessly admiring articles on Putin side, but I haven’t seen it; perhaps their pro-Putin positions from trade to Syria to Putin’s physique to Republican in-fighting to Putin’s talking to Elton John are coincidence, but Putin puts enormous funds into influencing fringe media.

    • #2
  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    James Of England: *Perhaps there’s an issue on which they haven’t written breathlessly admiring articles on Putin side, but I haven’t seen it; perhaps their pro-Putin positions from trade to Syria to Putin’s physique to Republican in-fighting to Putin’s talking to Elton John are coincidence, but Putin puts enormous funds into influencing fringe media.

    You wouldn’t have to work so hard to persuade me. I’m in Europe, where he’s putting enormous funds not only into funding fringe media, but fringe political parties. And guess which parties are apt to gain strength if the refugee crisis gets worse? (And guess what’s about to get worse?)

    It may be verging on the conspiratorial to ascribe that level of forethought and strategic planning to him, but anyone who fails to ascribe to him a great deal of forethought and strategic planning is just a fool.

    He’s not especially subtle.

    • #3
  4. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    Clearly, the only answer is to elect ¡Jeb! and offer all of them amnesty. As for who we can send to sing, there’s always Neil Diamond.

    • #4
  5. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Mike Rapkoch:The Obama Ad has, it seems, left us with very few options. Direct confrontation with Russia would be an act of war, and from a quick look at the map we are not in much of a position to prosecute a war in the region. It looks to me that we have pretty much left it up to ME governments to fight it out. I don’t know if O saw Putin coming, but if he didn’t he can’t read a map. If he did then I can only assume this is the outcome he wants. The whys and wherefores are a mystery.

    The Syrian conflict has had the highest degree of open contention within the Obama administration; it’s the only issue on which substantial numbers of senior officials openly disagreed. Just about everyone suggests that it’s political, but I think that it’s also true that Obama really believes that having absurd rules of engagement and an awful prissiness, such that background checks take years to sort out rather than have the scandal of a couple of guys get trained and defect, have the air sorties having a zero collateral rule, have the actions against Boko Haram suspended over civil rights issues in Goodluck’s lame duck government, and such, really doesn’t get in the way of victory. I’ve certainly talked to Amnesty International and similar types who share Obama’s belief in false choices.

    Some of the blame also goes to the fringe media that portrays every Arab as a member of ISIS, and to the Republicans who have either defended Assad directly (Paul) or who object to opposition to Assad (Cruz). They meant that Obama would pay a political price for effective opposition to ISIS, ie., for opposition to ISIS and to Assad. Once that was clear, there were a lot of lives that were just never going to be saved.

    • #5
  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    James Of England: Right from the beginning, Assad has focused on fighting the FSA. He’s been wise to do so; once he’s stepped in this far, going back isn’t possible. Assad’s program of systematically murdering his citizens can only succeed if he destroys the possibility of international support for any alternative.

    And yes, that’s exactly right. A good point about this was raised the other day in al-Monitor. It’s not just the Putin media but the whole of the international media that seems determined to report that all you’ve got there are Assad and ISIS:

    It is as though these groups control all Syrian territories, and the Syrian army is battling against them day and night.

    However, the reality is much different. Anyone who follows what is actually happening on the ground knows that there are no battles between the Syrian army and IS. The areas IS controls were won through short battles for wide spaces and large warehouses. This was the case in Palmyra, where IS confiscated the second-largest ammunition warehouse in Syria.

    Meanwhile, the FSA is completely dismissed when it comes to media coverage. It was formed early in the revolution and developed into an army defending civilians in regions outside the regime’s control. From a defense group, it grew to become an attack force and took over areas previously controlled by the regime.

    The FSA recently managed to expel IS forces completely from Idlib and its countryside, and did the same in Aleppo in late February. The battles are ongoing in Aleppo’s northern countryside, in Mare city and its suburbs, where more than 30 FSA fighters died to keep the regime from taking over Aug. 10.

    The 101st Division is one of the FSA groupings battling IS, and many of its members have died on the front lines while fighting the regime and IS.

    • #6
  7. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    Putin and Iran will almost certainly consolidated their gains by the end of 2016. Regardless of who wins, Putin and Co. will be so locked in that nothing short of all out war will change the situation. I’m looking at a map and see no place from which American forces could wage war. I don’t know the current locale of the 5th Fleet, but the Marine Expeditionary Unit in the fleet do not have the firepower to maintain a battle while the Army gears up. We’d also be fighting on two fronts (or more): Iran and Russia.

    As for NATO, it looks to me that the immigration crisis in Europe promises to exact a huge financial burden. It also creates significant threat from potential terrorists who sneak in.

    I’m pessimistic.

    • #7
  8. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    It’s ok, in the movie, the CIA will look omnipotent & more than a little creepy, but what are you gonna do, you know?

    I think this is becoming a staple of American foreign policy memories. Consider Argo, which was Oscar material: Lose Iran? Not a big deal. Save those six guys or what have you–never mind the Canadian help–& you’re making history!

    It little matters, therefore, who sings now, what matters is who will sing later-

    • #8
  9. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Gee, nobody saw Iran coming. Nope. Different brand of underwear from ISIS. Therefore Iran cannot use that instability to dominate Iraq.
    Our punishment is just beginning.

    • #9
  10. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Mike Rapkoch: I’m looking at a map and see no place from which American forces could wage war.

    Claire can correct me, but the obvious answer is “Turkey”. The Turks have been keen to support America if America would take a position of opposition to Assad for years now. If the US would decide to concentrate on the biggest killer as well as the second biggest, Turkey’s military would be able to work a lot more closely with us.

    Mike Rapkoch: Putin and Iran will almost certainly consolidated their gains by the end of 2016.

    Putin/ Assad has a minority stake in Syria right now. On the assumption that Putin’s plan sees ISIS expanding somewhat and Assad expanding somewhat, I see no reason to be confident that the next year will be that dramatic. It depends in part on the scale of Putin’s military commitment, in part on the response of the allies, and in part on luck.

    Claire would know better than I would, since much of the question depends on how Europe responds. If Hollande stops talking about lifting sanctions and Europe in general works to deepen them, for instance, that might reduce Putin’s thirst for war crimes, as perhaps happened in Ukraine (maybe they’d have shot down more airliners if the EU had been gentler).

    • #10
  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    James Of England: Claire would know better than I would, since much of the question depends on how Europe responds. If Hollande stops talking about lifting sanctions and Europe in general works to deepen them, for instance, that might reduce Putin’s thirst for war crimes, as perhaps happened in Ukraine (maybe they’d have shot down more airliners if the EU had been gentler).

    The French are enraged, but Europe doesn’t really have a foreign policy, for practical purposes. Still no phone number to call for that (unless you think your time would be well-spent speaking to Federica Mogherini.)

    • #11
  12. Manny Coolidge
    Manny
    @Manny

    Maybe it’s time we seriously considered impeaching Obama. What has happened and is still happening in the middle east is gross incompetence.

    • #12
  13. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    James Of England: Claire would know better than I would, since much of the question depends on how Europe responds. If Hollande stops talking about lifting sanctions and Europe in general works to deepen them, for instance, that might reduce Putin’s thirst for war crimes, as perhaps happened in Ukraine (maybe they’d have shot down more airliners if the EU had been gentler).

    The French are enraged, but Europe doesn’t really have a foreign policy, for practical purposes. Still no phone number to call for that (unless you think your time would be well-spent speaking to Federica Mogherini.)

    I was referring to EU sanctions against Russia. Although there isn’t a single “face of Europe” (a joke less funny now that Baroness Ashton has been replaced by a prettier woman), I think that that was one of the stronger examples of an EU foreign policy that actually exists. Shockingly. I’m constantly surprised that Putin didn’t spend enough to buy a Greek or Cypriot veto.

    • #13
  14. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Be serious. Incompetence is not grounds for impeachment.

    • #14
  15. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Who Should We Send to Sing to Our Rebels in Syria?

    Miley Cyrus. Well, it’s worth a shot.

    • #15
  16. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Titus Techera:Be serious. Incompetence is not grounds for impeachment.

    Just ask Presidents Curtis (Hoover’s VP), Breckinridge (Buchanan’s Confederate VP), and Mondale (Carter’s).

    • #16
  17. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: But back to my original point. Hapless, strategically-blundering, and misguided thoughout our strategy may have been, we certainly backed quite a lot of rebel groups in Syria who are now being shot like fish in a barrel by Russians. They’re begging for help, but we’re “noncommittal.” When I ask myself, “How likely is anyone in the world, ever, to forget that the Americans seem to be the last people you want on your side when things go pear-shaped,” my answer, realistically, is three generations. It will take that long. Meanwhile, I hope we’re at least airdropping those poor guys some moral support. Like maybe a nice James Taylor mix tape.

    Don’t know who should sing it but there’s really only one song that they should hear….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1b26BD5KjH0

    Herr Kissinger is proven right once again.

    “To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal”

    Henry Kissinger

    • #17
  18. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Robert Fisk, unsurprisingly, writes:

    The Russian air force in Syria has flown straight into the West’s fantasy air space. The Russians, we are now informed, are bombing the “moderates” in Syria – “moderates” whom even the Americans admitted two months ago, no longer existed. 

    Is that a fair, if acerbic, take?  Who are these moderates, and how are they moderate – especially wrt women and minorities?

    From this article:

    High on the list of places Russia appears to have targeted are positions held by the Al-Nusra Front — an al-Qaeda associate with a high concentration of fighters from Chechnya, Dagestan and Muslim ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia…

    Now there are “at least 2,000 fighters” from Chechnya, Dagestan and other Caucasus regions who operate in Jund al-Sham al-Shishan, alongside Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra front, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Raman told AFP.

    “They are concentrated in Idlib, Aleppo, and Latakia provinces,” he said.

    And I don’t know how accurate this map is, but it shows  a fair swathe of North West Syria held by the Nusrah Front.  I’m not suggesting that the Russians are there because of the Chechen connection rather than for a warm water port and perhaps a sovereign base who knows, but are they counting an Al Qaida affiliate as part of the moderate opposition?

    • #18
  19. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    James Of England: *Perhaps there’s an issue on which they haven’t written breathlessly admiring articles on Putin side, but I haven’t seen it; perhaps their pro-Putin positions from trade to Syria to Putin’s physique to Republican in-fighting to Putin’s talking to Elton John are coincidence, but Putin puts enormous funds into influencing fringe media.

    Links?

    • #19
  20. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Austin Murrey:

    James Of England: *Perhaps there’s an issue on which they haven’t written breathlessly admiring articles on Putin side, but I haven’t seen it; perhaps their pro-Putin positions from trade to Syria to Putin’s physique to Republican in-fighting to Putin’s talking to Elton John are coincidence, but Putin puts enormous funds into influencing fringe media.

    Links?

    breitbart.com

    Since I’m asserting that this is true for most of their coverage of most issues, I’m not sure what you’d want; it’s not that they have written one or two lickspittle articles. It’s like trying to find the right link to support the claim that Commentary is interested in Israel. If you want something specifically on their trade coverage (they join Putin in opposing America’s trade policy) or any of the other topics, I can google stories for you.

    • #20
  21. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Zafar: Robert Fisk, unsurprisingly, writes:

    Is that a fair, if acerbic, take?  Who are these moderates, and how are they moderate – especially wrt women and minorities?

    I don’t understand. Are you  suggesting that the Putin line that there are no moderates is plausible? Have we not had this discussion many times, with links and such?

    Of course Fisk supports the Soviet line, just as he always has done. He is literally a byword for hackery of this sort; I believe he is unique in his prominence as such.

    The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces are multi-confessional and multi-ethnic and have been happy to have women in senior roles. Heck, they’re happy to have a secular feminist as vice president. They’ve been declared the sole legitimate government of Syria by most civilized countries.

    Zafar: High on the list of places Russia appears to have targeted are positions held by the Al-Nusra Front — an al-Qaeda associate with a high concentration of fighters from Chechnya, Dagestan and Muslim ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia…

    Right. The Russians have launched some attacks on AQ. That’s not what Claire’s talking about. Heck, the Russians have launched some attacks on ISIS.

    • #21
  22. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    James, I’d be particularly interested in any Breitbart articles praising Putin’s physique – although I’m not sure you would find one without it being extremely tongue-in-cheek.

    That sort of swipe is the sort of thing I’d expect to see in the comment section of the Nation – or Breitbart itself for that matter.

    You’re accusing a news/opinion site, whose articles and editorial slant you apparently dislike, of being paid Russian shills.

    I get that there are plenty of people who dislike Breitbart on Ricochet, including the editors and contributors, which is fine – but that’s a serious allegation you’re making and when you don’t provide links to support your accusations that they are “breathlessly admiring” of Putin and simply say “go to breitbart.com” without even linking the URL you are doing your statement a disservice.

    • #22
  23. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    Claire

    the government of Iraq, which is allied both to Iran and the United States.

    Now that Russian generals find Baghdad a pleasant location to swing by a U.S. consulate to advise Mr. Obama that it’s not prudent to fly U.S. fighters over Syria, how long before it’s announced Iraq is allied with Iran and Russia?

    Since there is no Status of Forces agreement between Iraq and the U.S., how long before Iraq asks the U.S. to completely withdraw from Iraq and stop flying in Iraqi airspace?

    • #23
  24. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    James Of England:

    The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces are multi-confessional and multi-ethnic and have been happy to have women in senior roles. Heck, they’re happy to have a secular feminist as vice president. They’ve been declared the sole legitimate government of Syria by most civilized countries.

    How many of the forces that make up this Coalition are moderate?

    And how much land in Syria do their fighters control?  Are they a viable force on the ground?

    • #24
  25. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Austin Murrey:James, I’d be particularly interested in any Breitbart articles praising Putin’s physique – although I’m not sure you would find one without it being extremely tongue-in-cheek.

    Here’s one, but it does seem sort of tongue in cheek:

    Russian President Vladimir Putin once lectured America about exceptionalism, but he cannot stop himself from showing off his exceptional athletic abilities. This time, Putin managed to score eight goals in a hockey game.

    • #25
  26. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Zafar: How many of the forces that make up this Coalition are moderate?

    Five at last count, right?

    • #26
  27. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    @ManfredArcane

    Zafar:Robert Fisk, unsurprisingly, writes:

    Is that a fair, if acerbic, take? Who are these moderates, and how are they moderate – especially wrt women and minorities?

    From this article:

    High on the list of places Russia appears to have targeted are positions held by the Al-Nusra Front — an al-Qaeda associate with a high concentration of fighters from Chechnya, Dagestan and Muslim ex-Soviet nations in Central Asia…

    Now there are “at least 2,000 fighters” from Chechnya, Dagestan and other Caucasus regions who operate in Jund al-Sham al-Shishan, alongside Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra front, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Raman told AFP.

    “They are concentrated in Idlib, Aleppo, and Latakia provinces,” he said.

    And I don’t know how accurate this map is, but it shows a fair swathe of North West Syria held by the Nusrah Front. I’m not suggesting that the Russians are there because of the Chechen connection rather than for a warm water port and perhaps a sovereign base who knows, but are they counting an Al Qaida affiliate as part of the moderate opposition?

    Finally some sanity on this thread.  Ricochet is turning into a den of crazies.  We, the US, have no vital interests in Syria.  None.  We have little reason to believe that we could make Syria whole.  Putin might do as much good as we could hope to have done.  Let Iran and Russia take on ISIS. A brilliant plan!!!!!

    • #27
  28. jetstream Inactive
    jetstream
    @jetstream

    Manfred Arcane:

    Zafar:Robert Fisk, unsurprisingly, writes:

    Is that a fair, if acerbic, take? Who are these moderates, and how are they moderate – especially wrt women and minorities?

    From this article:

    Finally some sanity on this thread. Ricochet is turning into a den of crazies. We, the US, have no vital interests in Syria. None. We have little reason to believe that we could make Syria whole. Putin might do as much good as we could hope to have done. Let Iran and Russia take on ISIS. A brilliant plan!!!!!

    It’s a good plan, except you left out it will be Iran, Russia and Iraq taking on ISIS inside Iraq. Russian generals in Iraq are already advising the U.S. which air space the U.S. is permitted to operate. The dynamics seem obvious, Russia is on track to dominate Syria and Iraq.

    The U.S. won’t be a player in Iraq or the Middle East in general. Which counties in the Middle East think it’s safe to rely on the U.S. for any kind of military support.

    • #28
  29. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    James Of England:

    Mike Rapkoch: I’m looking at a map and see no place from which American forces could wage war.

    Claire can correct me, but the obvious answer is “Turkey”. The Turks have been keen to support America if America would take a position of opposition to Assad for years now. If the US would decide to concentrate on the biggest killer as well as the second biggest, Turkey’s military would be able to work a lot more closely with us.[…..]

    I just wish more people would have taken a closer look at the map before we decided to prematurely pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Nation building, to me, was always a tertiary project with only some chance for successfully planting a friendly and relatively liberal government in the middle of a region that is nothing but trouble for us and the world. The main benefit was acting as a stopper against bad actors acting badly and also was the ability to project power as needed in a region where there’s a good probability it would eventually be needed.

    Not only does pulling out deprive us of those benefits, the vacuum created by our retreat is sucking the badness into the space we left. Now, instead of having Iran surrounded with a possibility of some containment, Iran appears to be expanding.

    • #29
  30. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Russia is a participant in a Sunni-Shia war and the US is not. Are we upset that we are not participants? Should we up the ante just to show those Russians? Or to make good on promises we made to two dozen rebels? No, best to stay out.

    • #30
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