Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Identifying The Enemy

"The militants in Syria pose a particularly high threat for Russia [as] many of them are citizens of Russia. We know what aggression of international terrorism is. [Islamic jihadists] took thousands of lives ... This evil is still out there."
"[Russian and former Soviet republic fighters with Islamic State is] an estimated five to seven thousand. We certainly cannot allow them to use the experience they are getting in Syria on home soil."
"[Those ISIL-joining Russian nationals are] international terrorists [whom Russian military is required to be] working in this quadrant to prevent the possible return of the people to Russia's territory to commit crimes."
"This is why it has been decided to launch a military operation there based on an official request from the legitimate Syrian authorities. Our military personnel are fighting in Syria for Russia, for the security of Russian citizens."
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, October 21, 2015.
Kremlin Press Office | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, October 21, 2015
"Despite Putin's repeated statements of alarm at the problem posed by returning jihadist fighters, the Kremlin's campaign to prop up the Assad regime is, over the long term, likely to make the terrorist threat to the Russian homeland even greater."
Donald Jensen, senior fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations
"Despite his government's defense doctrines stating that the U.S. and NATO is Russia's greatest threat, I have always felt that Putin regards Islamic extremism to be the most immediate threat."
"Putin cut his teeth destroying the Chechens. He regarded their rebellion as a manifestation of Islamic extremism. He also bolstered his own personal popularity in Russia by demonizing the Chechens as Islamic terrorists and by brutally crushing them."
Ian Brzezinski, senior fellow, Atlantic Council
Mr. Putin's address to the Russian National Assembly stated nothing he hasn't declared previously. His emphasis on Russia's security from further Islamist attacks, and the need for Russia to proactively look to its prevention by sustaining the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are two separate issues that he conflates; one issue that he has engaged Russian troops with, having little to do with the other issue in support of the totalitarian Syrian regime ravaging its citizens.

Moscow has been helpful to the Syrian regime, alongside the Islamic Republic of Iran, in primarily focusing on the Syrian Sunni rebel militias, barely giving any attention to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This, despite that ISIL has declared war on Russia, warning it that its intervention in Syria will cost it dearly. It already has, in the waste of 224 Russian lives of men, women and children aboard a passenger jet from the Sinai Peninsula.

Russia has always faced internal threats from within its Muslim population which represents between ten to fifteen percent of the 140 million population of the Federation. But it seems that even as Vladimir Putin has stressed the need to cope with Islamist terror at its source rather than await its full arrival at home, the very presence of the Russian military at a strategic air base and deepsea port in Syria, along with troops on the ground, is responsible for a new influx of fighters to Syria from Russia.

According to an analysis and report from the Soufan Group (TSG), based in New York City a whopping increase in ISIL recruits has moved from Russian territory to Syria. In June of 2014 there was an estimated 800, and by September of 2015 that number had inflated to 2,400. That increase represents a proportionately higher number than the foreign fighters flowing from Western Europe in the same period. With Russian involvement in Syria that number is certain to accelerate.

"The majority of fighters come from the North Caucasus — Chechnya and Dagestan — with a smaller but still significant number from Azerbaijan and Georgia", read the report compiled from official government estimates, along with reports from the United Nations, academic sources, and other studies by researchers.

When Mr. Putin ordered missile attacks in Syria sending in additional Russian aircraft and protective ground troops, the FSB announced $50-million as a reward to aid in finding the perpetrators of the November 17 Islamic State-credited airliner attack. "We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them", vowed President Putin at the time. Which hasn't fazed Islamic State one bit from continuing its anti-Russian campaign.

A day preceding Vladimir Putin's state of the nation address, Islamic State released a video of the beheading of a Chechan Russian claiming to have spied on Russia's behalf in Syria. Magomed Khasiev, 23, from Grozny, stated he had been assigned to work as an undercover agent in Syria and Iraq for the FSB; his duty was to collect data on Russians joining to fight for the Islamic State.

Iran's Fars News Agency reported over 60 Russian Marines' arrival in Homs Province, Syria in an advisory and assistance capacity to Syrian Army units fighting near Palmyra. As though in concert, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had earlier announced a "specialized expeditionary targeting force" to be assigned to Islamic State leaders in both Iraq and Syria. Some coordination; Russians fighting Syrian rebels, Americans fighting ISIL.

"There is no meaningful official reporting on the progress in creating effective Iraqi government forces, the strengths and weaknesses of the Iraqi Army to date, the success or failure of efforts to create Arab Sunni forces, and the strengths and weaknesses of Iraqi Kurdish forces. [There also was no] credible plan or mix of U.S., Arab, and Turkish efforts or ... a meaningful rebel force in Syria to deal with ISIS -- or the Assad forces", according to Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"The strategy that we are using now -- airstrikes, Special Forces and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country -- that is how we'll achieve a more sustainable victory."
"[Islamic State leaders] know they can't defeat us on the battlefield ... But they also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops, draining our resources and using our presence to draw new recruits."
U.S. President Barack Obama
In for a penny, in for a pound? Not bloody likely...
What strategy, other than flying by the seats of their collective pants, actually?

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