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BLOG 298 April 11, 2016

The political wrangling in America has absorbed the headlines and pushed the civil war in Syria to the back page. Don’t let the insults and nonsense distract you. Events in the Middle East remain paramount.

In a brazen assault near Damascus, ISIS abducted 300 workers from a cement plant. At the same time, the ISIS supply line from Turkey was cut off, endangering their strongholds in the Aleppo area. With key military leaders being killed by airstrikes, ISIS is not doing well!

The next round of peace talks is set for April 13 and hopes remain positive for substantial progress.

One of the ongoing problems is that the United States remains hesitant and timid with no coherent strategy to change circumstances in Syria. While the USA has not conceded the Middle East to Putin, they are not far from doing so.  The kicker is the sudden withdrawal of Russian airplanes and troops from Syria.

The unexpected Russian retreat remains somewhat of a mystery. Even the White House had to “spit ‘n spatter” in trying to explain what happened. They didn’t know either. Always problematic, questionable, and unpredictable, Putin’s true and bottom line motives are seldom clear.

However, several possibilities are clear. First, Putin’s attempt to prevent the immanent fall of Assad has been achieved. Assad’s government is no longer in retreat. Second, the Russians are now keenly aware of the problem of getting bogged down in the Syrian quagmire. (They learned a painful lesson from their defeat in a ten-year war lost in Afghanistan in 1970.) Putin has pulled off from their first international military achievement since the collapse of Communism.

At this point, Russia has maneuvered itself back to being on an equal superpower playing field with the United States while the US continues to lose credibility and friends in the region. It would appear that Russian dominance in Syria has pushed Iran into an insecure position. They can no longer claim to be in charge.

As of this day, no one is certain what Russia is up to with this withdrawal. Whatever, the winner is Putin. While clearly corrupt and a new Stalin, Vladimir Putin is running an oligarchy that has made him one of the richest men in the world. You can bet the withdrawal from Syria is not a fluke. While Russia’s economy is shaky and the country is filled with dissidents that hate him, Putin has used his entry into the Syrian conflict purely to his advantage.

Anyone in Washington, D.C., paying attention?

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