BLOG 274 October 12, 2015
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow for a face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Netanyahu’s mission was to warn that Israel was ready to resist any actions by Syria on their northern border in the Golan Heights region. His fear was that Iran was trying to build a terrorist front using Syria as a cover.
Putin’s response was simple. The Syrian army is in no position to open a new front. That was putting it mildly!
Syria is in shambles.
In a civil war with an estimated 250,000 deaths with half of the 23 million citizens displaced, questions are now raised as to whether the country will ever recover. At the least, speculation suggests that the country could be divided up among the warring groups. Rebels continue to knock on the gates of the major Syrian cities and Assad’s control is shakier than ever.
Enter Russia big time.
Syria is the only ally Russia has in the region and Putin recognizes Assad is about to go under. Consequently, the world is now witnessing the Russians moving in aircraft and making questionable strikes against any one in sight. From the Russian point-of-view, anyone fighting Assad is a target (even if allies of the USA).
The indecision and retreat of the Obama Administration over the past years has signaled weakness to Putin. While the America public earlier indicated they did not want any more wars, Obama’s flip-flops and retreats have helped create the Syrian mess today. Whether standing back and letting the Sunnis and Shiites shoot it out was wisdom is highly questionable. The truth is that Washington has done too little, too late and too slow.
So, here come the Russians.
Putin believes in the primacy of the state authority above all else. The collapse of the Soviet Union soured his view of free-wheeling democracy and of the character of his own constituents. He believes in the strong-hand of the state.
Today, no one in the region is sure of what the USA believes.
The result will probably not end in a collision between America and Russia as neither side wants an ultimate confrontation. However, USA policy has left the door open for the Russians and they are walking through.
Americans are only now realizing how massive their failure in the Middle East has been. Setbacks in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan have cost the US billions of dollars. The program to train Syrian rebels has been a miserable failure. A $500 million Defense Department program to train rebels has produced virtually nothing. The Defense Department finally canceled it. While America stumbles, ISIS gains thousands of recruits on a weekly basis.
Syria is in the soup, but America is in hot water.
Time has come for a re-assessment and a change of direction.