BLOG 290 February 13, 2016
A plan to bring food and desperately needed aid to the starving in Syrian towns was agreed on this week by Secretary John Kerry and Russian Secretary Sergev Lavrov. The hope was to bring a cessation of hostilities as the beginning of a pathway to a formal cease-fire. Great idea. Not great possibilities.
The problem is Russia.
President Assad was being pushed out the backdoor when President Vladimir Putin started bombing the countryside. Russian airpower turned the table and now Assad is claiming he will regain the entire country. Hope dies with such words.
The Saudis have already announced they would take a military option if Assad did not step down. Turkey also announced Ankara’s opposition to any political transaction in Syria that included Assad staying in power. Russia is faced with these responses.
However, Russia has its own set of goals for the entire region. When President Obama withdrew American military pressure, the door was thrown wide open for opportunists like Putin to come surging in. He didn’t wait.
After an absence of three decades, Russia is seeking to re-establish itself as a power and influence in the entire Middle East. Inside Syria, Russia continues to attack the moderate pro-Western Rebels while talking out of the other side of its mouth at the conference table. Iran’s significant military build-up couldn’t stop the Syrian opposition and probably called for Russia’s increased involvement. The agreement that brought Russia jets into Syria came with an unpublicized agreement that Russian could maintain permanent military bases inside that country.
Do you hear any squawks from Washington about such a possibility? I didn’t.
The problem? Israel’s air force is no match up against Russia. The S-400 anti-aircraft system Russia has in Syria also covers half of Israel’s territory. The bottom line is that Israel has now lost its regional air superiority.
Every American president from Roosevelt on sought to curb Russian power in the Middle East. President Obama stepped away from this position and has allowed what his predecessors opposed. This shift has produced winners and losers. Winners? Iran and those aligned with the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood. Losers? Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Israel is now placed in an extremely difficult position. Current American policy has left the Israelis pushed into a corner. While serious criticism can be leveled at Prime Minister’s Netanyahu’s rhetoric, political actions (or lack of action), as well as flip-flop gyrations, Israel increasingly must consider how it can best defend itself. Whoever is elected in the current political Campaign, will be faced with a critical decision about whether Russia will be allowed to continue this presence and military pressure left behind during the Obama years.
Americans may not like world leadership – but look what happens when they back off!