Wednesday, August 17, 2016

In For The Long Game

"We're not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia."
"This is not some superpower chessboard contest."
U.S. President Barack Obama

"Basing out of Iran saves Russians hassle and fuel."
"But it is more important politically in showing Russia on the side of the Iranians in the overall regional fight in Syria."
Andrew Tabler, Martin J. Gross fellow, Program on Arab Politics, The Washington Institute

"Russia was already free to use Iranian airspace."
"Having bombers actually based in Iran now cuts down their flight time, giving the Russians ability to react faster to situations on the ground. The overall bombing campaign might increase a bit, but the bottom line is that Russia's new logistical foothold in Iran will certainly make their campaign deadlier."
Boris Zilberman, Russia expert, Foundation for Defense of Democracies 

"Deployment of the Tu-22M3 [warplanes] to Hamedan allows for shorter turn around times for Tu-22M3 missions, less wear and tear on the aircrew, less fuel costs, and increased weapons loads."
"Increased activity on the Russians' part could lead to more issues deconflicting their air operations over Syria with the US', but that is probably manageable."
"More interesting to me is that this shows the extent of Russia-Iran cooperation in the Syria war. Whatever the alleged policy differences between the two countries, they are engaged in effective military cooperation in Syria. Hamedan appears in effect to be a Russian base ... I think that is a pretty big deal."
Jeff White, military analyst and defense fellow, The Washington Institute

A still image, taken from video footage and released by Russia's Defence Ministry on August 16, 2016, shows a Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 long-range bomber based in Iran dropping off bombs at an unknown location in Syria. Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via Reuters

Seems no one bothered or saw fit to inform Russian President Vladimir Putin that American President Barack Obama was disinterested in playing chess. And with that failure in communication, Mr. Putin is designing his chess game to advantage Syria and befriend Iran, snubbing American complacency and check-mating Mr. Obama who is blissfully oblivious to the strategy of useful opportunism.

Leaving Mr. Obama serene in the belief he clings to that Mr. Putin is a man he can do business with, reach agreement with, achieve results with, see a coordinated solution to the problem of Islamic State threats that have harmed Europe and North America, but made not one dent in the armour of the Russian Federation. Oh well, aside from a warning shot across the bow of a Russian passenger jet taking off from Sinai.

The Obama administration is still in la-la land in its collaboration with Moscow. Which is what talks with the Kremlin relating to the plan to share intelligence and coordinate Islamic State airstrikes is all about, without a doubt. And though Mr. Putin appears to have met his initial goals, rescuing Assad's Alawite regime from total collapse under the allied rebel advances, hauling the regime back from the dark night of despair, the rebels managed miraculously to set Assad back on his heels.

Despite the fighting assistance in Shiite militias out of Iran, and the strategic guidance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps foreign (al Quds) brigades and their proxy Hezbollah militias -- plus Russian air strikes -- the allied rebels managed to free rebel-held Aleppo from the siege stranglehold of the regime which undoubtedly was what led a furious Assad to resort once again to barrel-bombing with chlorine gas.

From its initial 600 marines in Syria with the mission to protect the Russian air base in Latakia, the ground force of Russian troops has grown to four thousand deployed throughout Syria. Quite the investment by Moscow at a time when there's also an uptake in activities at the border with Ukraine. It seems that Russian ambitions haven't abandoned Ukrainian territory even while it consolidates
its position in the Middle East.

As the United States retreated from conventional support of its traditional allies causing a Russian advance, history is playing itself backwards. The Russians have succeeded in installing an intelligence network in Syria, allowing themselves precision airstrikes. Russia has boasted of its success in bombing and eliminating rebel weapons caches, rebel bases and killing large numbers of rebels in the process.

Now it plans to expand even further its bombing effectiveness from naval ships off the Eastern Mediterranean and Caspian Sea, to conduct expanded military exercises and fire off cruise missiles at targets in Syria once again. All the United States has to worry about is to keep its own warplanes and its advisers on the ground out of the way as Russia mops up resistance.

Russia has found the perfect testing ground for all its new war toys with no protests or interference from any irritating interventionist sources whatever.

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