Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Other Foot Drops - Putin Defies Obama On Syria, Rearms Assad

Russia's Vladimir Putin if nothing else stands by his allies, a lesson America could profitably learn. In spite of threats from the Obama Administration, Putin is continuing to take his own sweet time to collect Assad's chemical weapons (no more than 5% have been collected thus far)and has been steadily shipping Assad arms that have enabled him to push back the insurgents in much of Syria, an effort that has been aided by the insurgent factions fighting among themselves. No one is even bothering to talk about Geneva III or IV since the Geneva II talks broke down in acrimony.

This one's going to be settled in traditional fashion, by boots on the ground.

In mid-March, Assad's forces, aided by Hezbollah seized the strategic border town of Yabroud, a huge blow to the rebels since it was a major smuggling hub and arms depot. A week after that, the Syrians recaptured Krak des Chevaliers, another rebel strong point near the Lebanese border that the rebels had held for almost two years.

Assad's forces are using longer range Russian Smerch and Uragan rockets to good effect now, as well as MiG 29 jets and Mi-24 attack helicopters, and Putin has continued to supply a steady stream of ammo, weaponry and spare parts to keep Assad's military on the move.

U.S. response to this has been along the lines of Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson's during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington on March 26.

“The stability that Russia seeks in Syria will not be achieved by providing planes, tanks, bombs and guns for use against the Syrian people,” Patterson said.

Except, you see, Basher Assad isn't seeking stability so much as victory, which is where stability really comes from anyway. That's something State Department fixtures like Ms.Patterson don't understand.

In any event,the entire Syrian insurgent movement is so scrambled that it's difficult to tell who's who and what side they're on. From that standpoint, President Obama's decision to stay disengaged is probably a wise one now, although things might have beenmvery different if the president hadn't insisted on getting the Muslim Brotherhood so entrenched within the Syrian resistance.. As for Vladimir Putin,he obviously no longer cares what President Obama thinks, and doesn't even seem to be making a pretense of taking him seriously any more.

At this point,Assad has pretty much maintained control of the capitol in Damascus and its outlying areas, the Mediterranean coastal areas, most of the Lebanese frontier area, and something like 80% of Aleppo, with the rest surrounded and under siege. The Mi-24s are using 'barrel bombs', oil drums filled with explosives and shrapnel on the remaining rebel areas, The rest of Aleppo will probably fall in the spring.

Assad's next focus after finishing off Aleppo will probably be re-establishing control over the border area that adjoins Turkey, a prime rebel area. Given the headbutting and tension between Assad and Turkey's Tayyip Erdoğan (the Turks shot down a Syrian MiG just last week that they accused of violating their air space)there a distinct possibility that things could escalate further if Assad mounts an offensive in this area, but the fact that neither country can really afford a war at this time might curb any potential hostilities.

Something like 150,000 people have been killed in this 3 year civil war, and perhaps as many as 9 million displaced, a horrible statistic. But this is the Middle East, and to someone like Basher Assad and probably Vladimir Putin, that's just the cost of doing business.

It's the end result that counts.

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