Perhaps the most amusing thing about Russia’s intervention in Syria is the degree to which it made the world wake up and question the West’s “anti-ISIS” strategy.
While everyone has been quick to characterize Moscow’s actions as the latest and perhaps greatest example of Vladimir Putin calling Washington’s bluff, it’s important to understand exactly why that’s an accurate characterization here. That is, this is more than just Moscow betting it could support Assad and Washington would simply move out of the way.
This was Russia and Iran realizing that the only reason the US and its regional allies have been able to keep up appearances in the eyes of the public with regard to the “campaign” against ISIS, is because the public has never seen what happens when someone powerful makes a serious effort to eradicate the group. Once Russia moved in, gave the superpower greenlight for Iran to abandon all pretense that it isn’t also directly involved, and began racking up gains in a matter of days, the Western public was left to wonder why the US couldn’t accomplish in 13 months what Russia appeared to have accomplished in a matter of (literally) 72 hours.
Then, just in case anyone was tempted to write off the discrepancy as a lack of US resolve or (gasp) diminishing American military capability, Moscow very publicly asked the US to join Russia in striking terrorist targets. Putin effectively said this: “You’re obviously no good at this, but that’s ok because we’re all in this together, so come help us.”
Of course that’s not what The Kremlin really meant - that was just the line fed to the public. What Moscow was really saying was this: “Checkmate, Washington. Either i) admit to the public you’re more concerned about ousting Assad than you are about eliminating the group who you’ve held up to the media as the scourge of humanity that must be eliminated at all costs, or ii) tell us you’re sorry and help us bomb the very same groups you helped create on the way to restoring the very same regime you created those groups to oust, or iii) pack up, turn tail, and get the hell out of the way.”
This put Washington into panic mode.
There was no explaining it to the public without somehow trying to convince everyone that Putin and Assad are worse than the white basketball shoe-wearing, black flag-waving, sword-wielding desert bandits that until recently were cutting people’s heads off and burning people alive on the nightly news in slickly-produced videos complete with eerie-sounding (at least to a Western viewer) music in the background.
And so, the US is now hoping to muddle through with this excuse: “Russia’s actions will only make things worse.”
Needless to say, even the clueless Western public is beginning to smell a rat here.
Meanwhile, Putin continues to rub it in by making near daily speeches asking (rhetorically of course) why no one wants to help Russia kill terrorists, why it seems like the US has no strategy, and, hilariously, why everyone but Russia and Iran seem to have “oatmeal” for brains.
The point here is that Putin knows damn well what the “strategy” is for the West and its Mid-East allies, but he knows that the public isn’t yet fully aware that standard operating procedure is to use Sunni extremists to destabilize governments. He has now gone all-in on waking the entire world up.
The latest episode of the Putin show finds the President speaking to reporters in Astana, Kazakhstan. Here’s Bloomberg:
Russian President Vladimir Putin continued a war of words with the U.S. over Syria, calling its policy weak and lacking in objectives as his air force carried out fresh bombing raids in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
“I don’t really understand how the U.S. can criticize Russia’s actions in Syria if they refuse to have direct dialogue,” Putin told reporters Thursday during a visit to Astana, Kazakhstan. “The basic weakness of the American position is that they don’t have an agenda, though we’re keeping the door open” for high-level discussions with Washington, he said.
Amid growing friction over the Russian intervention in Syria that began Sept. 30, the U.S. rejected Putin’s offer to send a delegation led by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Washington to explain the campaign against Islamic State and other militants, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday. Putin accused some states of having “oatmeal in their heads” on Tuesday for failing to understand that Russia’s airstrikes seek to defeat terrorism. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed “regret” on Wednesday over the American rejection of high-level talks.
“We’ve said that we’re not interested in doing that as long as Russia is not willing to make a constructive contribution to our counter-ISIL effort,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday, using an acronym for Islamic State. “Russia has their own agenda and it’s an agenda right now that they’re pursuing on their own.”
Yes, they sure are “pursuing it on their own” - well, with Iran - and the reason that’s the case is because that agenda involves restoring Assad and the US agenda involves ousting Assad. The “terrorists” are simply caught in the middle.
If it’s up to the US, the rebel groups get to fight on to overthrow Assad even if the Pentagon and CIA know that those groups are largely comprised of fighters with, how should we say, “questionable” intentions (e.g. establishing a medieval caliphate).
If it’s up to Russia, those same rebels die now.
The problem for Washington and its various proxy armies: it looks like it’s up to Russia.
Back to Bloomberg:
Russian airstrikes and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia are aiding government offensives against rebel groups near the western cities of Homs and Aleppo, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Assad’s troops have also made major advances in Hama and Latakia, Rami Abdurrahman, the group’s head, said by phone on Thursday.
“It looks like they are seeking to regain control of the road linking Damascus to Homs and then Aleppo,” said Abdurrahman, whose organization tracks the war through a network of activists. Islamic State has taken territory near Aleppo in recent days and repelled government attacks in areas it already holds, he said.
And because we know what you really came to see are Russian bombers and strike fighters laying waste to something, we'll leave you with the latest from RT who says ISIS is "in retreat":
Russian warplanes have destroyed a surface-to-air missile launcher that the Islamic State terrorist group previously captured from the Syrian Army, the Russian Defense Ministry reports. The bombing campaign in Syria is forcing the jihadists to flee.
The 9K33 Osa short-range air defense launcher was destroyed by a Sukhoi Su-34 bomber in Eastern Douma near Damascus, ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov told the media in his Thursday daily briefing.
The launcher was destroyed during one of 33 combat missions that Russia conducted in Syria over the day. A total of 32 targets in the provinces Idlib, Hama, Damascus, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor were hit, Konashenkov said.
The general added that terrorist forces appear to be abandoning their positions and are pulling back.