Joe Scarborough this morning on MSNBC was inveighing against the “ransom” the U.S. supposedly paid to Tehran in return for the release of U.S. prisoners (“hostages”) in Iran. Two other talking heads also used that term “ransom” matter-of-factly to describe what happened while acknowledging that the money had been owed to Iran by the U.S. since the days of the Shah. Just more knee-jerk anti-Iran, anti-nuclear agreement rhetoric.
Then Joe turned to Syria, bemoaning the U.S. “silence” and lack of action to end the carnage, absolutely ignoring the fact that the U.S. has repeatedly tried and failed to recruit and train Syrian allies to fight the regime, is bankrolling rebel groups, and has provided them with arms that have wound up in the hands of al-Nusra and ISIL. He acts as though further U.S. action in Syria (which he imagines the world cries out for, from this last best hope of mankind) would produce better results than it did in Iraq or Libya. It is frightening to see the mainstream media line up with the 51 State Department “dissidents” and Hillary on Syria, while it continues to promote crude anti-Russian and anti-Iranian propaganda.
The representation of Russia as an “existential threat” to the U.S. is preposterous fantasy. Just like the depiction of Iran as a nuclear threat is preposterous, and the notion that Bashar al-Assad’s secular government in Syria is the cause for the emergence of ISIL is sheer delusion.
Russia with 12% the U.S. military budget has military bases in precisely 8 foreign countries: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan (all nations bordering Russia, and former soviet socialist republics) plus Syria and Vietnam. Its only foreign naval facilities are in the latter two countries. The Sevastopol base in Crimea used to be on Ukrainian territory, but Russia has of course annexed the Crimean Peninisula to ensure continued control of the headquarters of its Black Sea fleet.
The U.S. in contrast has over 650 military bases abroad, and five naval bases on the Mediterranean coast alone, in Spain, Italy and Greece. There are 10,000 sailors stationed at NSA Naples. In that same region the Russians have only their resupply station in Tartus, Syria operative by treaty since 1971, typically with a tiny garrison.
The Russian air force base in Latakia, Syria is a modest operation, incapable of supporting those Tupolev-22M3 long-range bombers and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers used to bomb ISIL and al-Nusra targets a few days ago in Aleppo and elsewhere. Those took off instead from Sahid Nojeh air base near Hamadan, Iran, causing some Pentagon concern and (false) accusations that the mission somehow violated a UNSC resolution about arming Iran. Moscow is boasting of mission success. (Morning Joe’s upset about that true.)
Russian forces have already done more damage to ISIL, dismissed in January 2014 by President Obama as a minor problem, than the U.S. The U.S. started its bombing of ISIL months before the Russians but Russian strikes have turned the tide of battle in Syria.
One is struck simultaneously with Russia’s relative weakness vis-a-vis the hyperpower, and its creativity in reacting belatedly (just since September 2015) to the U.S.-orchestrated destruction of the Middle East.
Moscow is well aware that pro-Hillary forces in the State Department are rallying in favor of short-term, Libya-like regime change in Syria. But everybody knows there will be no UN fig leaf this time, as there was in 2011. Russia, (and as looks likely, China also) active in the Syrian skies will not accept a “no-fly zone” unilaterally proclaimed by the Exceptional Nation, restricting a sovereign government’s right to deploy aircraft in its own air space.
Moscow has basically carved out a coalition against regime change in Syria, united in abhorrence of ISIL and al-Nusra (now Fateh al-Sham) but pledged to the defense of the existing secular Syrian state and specifically to support for its professional, mostly Sunni and Sunni-led army. The pro-Assad forces now include the Syrian Arab Army and assorted militia, Lebanese Hizbollah fighters, Iraqi Shiite militia fighters, Russia, and Iran. India has repeatedly offered support for the government, and China has just vowed to provide aid and military training.
The Kill Assad Now Coalition on the other hand consists of the Hillary wing of the U.S. State Department, absolute monarchs of Gulf nations where Sharia is the law, and some NATO allies including Turkey. They want to prioritize the destruction of the Assad regime over the destruction of terror groups in Syria. But Turkey’s president Erdogan is reconsidering his foreign relations generally. After the recent coup attempt in which he believes the U.S. was complicit he has has met with Putin in Moscow and mended relations strained by the Turkish shooting down of a Russian fighter plane over Syria last November.
Turkey’s foreign minister has intimated that a normalization of relations with Syria is also in the cards. Especially if Turkey shifts (perhaps in return for Russian help in preventing the establishment of a Syrian Kurdistan), it might become well nigh impossible for Hillary to bomb Assad out of power.
Unless of course she wanted to show how strong she is and start World War III. That could be even worse than a Trump presidency, arguably, don’t you think?