Blog 318 September 12, 2016
Obama met Putin in a face-to-face confrontation to discuss a cease-fire in Syria as well as provide mercy and relief for the last citizens bottled up in Aleppo. Putin said no and went home. This morning the rumor is that a cease-fire is pending. Really?
If so, Putin’s delay was to appear superior to Obama which seems to be a major preoccupation with him. As a matter of fact, the Russians and to some extent the Iranians and Syrians appeared these past several weeks to be testing how far they can push the USA in near military confrontations before there is a response.
This activity is a result of Obama’s failure several years ago to keep his pledge to act if Syria used chemical weapons. They’ve been doing it ever since and Obama has done nothing. He is now perceived as weak and unreliable. The Russians are testing just how far he can be pushed around. Some commentators speculate that Russia is testing the waters to see what might happen in an attempt to militarily conquer the Ukraine later in the year.
Maybe – hopefully – this behavior on Obama’s part is coming to an end.
Lt. General Stephen Townsend is the new U.S. commander of American troops in Iraq and Syria, taking command this past week. He is now vowing to defend American special operations in northern Syria and cautioned the opposition that Americans warplanes and artillery will attack to defend these operations. General Townsend has told the Russians and sent the messages on to Syria that that they will defend themselves against the threat of any attack. The general is the first senior military commander to speak on the record that US forces will confront Syrian Air craft if encounters happen again.
Has the military acted whether the Obama administration is awake or not? Possibly, Obama has realized that his attempts to work with Putin are null and he has awakened to the consequences of being passive. Hard to say.
General Townsend also stated that his personal goal is the defeat of ISIS in the coming year. He recognizes that this is an ambitious goal, but the possibility remains his objective. The top leader of ISIS. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, is being hunted and will be attacked when found. It appears that the ISIS leaders are in or around the Syrian city of Raqqa. Townsend defined the defeat of ISIS to be when the so-called caliphate no longer exists or controls population centers. He recognized that ISIS would continue to exist, but in a highly diminished form. Kurdish fighters trained by the US will start moving on Raqqa in the coming weeks.
Has the situation truly changed? If General Townsend’s strong statements are backed up with force, it will. Putin may want to test the US, but he doesn’t actually want to start a war as that would be disastrous for Russia.