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07 June 2016

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jld
I am far too optimistic,

No, no, no, this has nothing to do with "optimism", you are completely delusional!
This because you seem to think Syria problems are a matter of "means" rather than "ends".
Beside the Russians (may be, even may be...) who wants to achieve what you dream about?
Nobody...

Charles Michael

You are making a good point there: EU is the sick man of globalistan.
- on dependance on Russia for energy: UK has doubled its import of Russian gaz, Germany is doubling the North Stream gazoduc, Italy, Austria and Greece are looking for a revival of South Stream.
- EU economy is paying for the sanctions specially but not only in agriculture.

EU Central Bureau, has buried the Deuch negative referendum but they have to face Brexit in 2 weeks, then Spain new elections one week after, Polish new gov. march to authoritarianism, countries in the Balkans fencing against refugees, 10 % unemployment average, and so on. It is one crisis after another, and none is solved.
Then you have the NATO saber rattling, and answer in kind of Putin.

But it doesnot stop there, to explain Russia strategy of negociation: it is reaching also to an other neighbour: Japan.
Also voting in July, and Abe needs 2/3 majority to be able to change the very war-antogonistic Constitution.
Japan has still not signed the Trans Pacific Treaty.

And in July the SOC will meet and most probably Iran will join, maybe with India and Pakistan.

So peacenik Putin is well positionned to talk peace and mutual respect.

LeaNder

Campaigner or true believer that the reality can be changed to fit the Trumpian type of "change now" by "making America great again"?

His foreign policy speech seemed to contain serial traps to your idealist vision.

Poul

Interesting claim from the Turkish foreign minister about US guarantees. I would bet on it been hot air.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-guarantees-no-pyd-presence-west-of-euphrates-after-ops-on-isil-turkish-fm.aspx?pageID=238&nid=100176

Quote:
“If the YPG [People’s Protection Unit, the military wing of the PYD] wants to give logistical support on the east of the Euphrates then that is different. But we do not want even a single YPG militant to the west [of Euphrates] especially after the operations. The U.S. has given a guarantee about this,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said June 7 during a televised interview with state-owned broadcaster TRTHaber.

bth

Then how would you explain Finland's attempt to join NATO after all these years?

David Habakkuk

With reference to the comments by ‘Exordium_Antipodean’ and ‘apol’ and ‘Earthrise’ about the role of public opinion in all this.

In a post on his ‘Russia Observer’ site, the former long-serving Canadian government analyst of Soviet and Russian policy, Dr Patrick Armstrong, who has also posted here, focuses on a piece which appeared on the ‘MailOnline’ site two days ago.

It was headlined ‘NATO shows Putin who’s boss: 31,000 troops, tanks and jets from 24 countries begin the largest war game exercise in eastern Europe since the Cold War in response to Russian aggression.’

(See https://patrickarmstrong.ca/ ; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3628307/NATO-shows-Putin-s-boss-31-000-troops-tanks-jets-24-countries-begin-largest-war-game-exercise-eastern-Europe-Cold-War-response-Russian-aggression.html#comments .)

As Dr Armstrong noted, the response of commenters was complete contempt.

Aptly, in my view, he quoted the three ‘Best Rated’ comments in full. One gets an interesting result, I think, if one strings these together:

‘(1.) So we organize a huge premeditated military show of Force with thousands of troops on Russias doorstep because of what??? (2.) These fools are barking up the wrong tree! They should worry about ISIS and migrants crisis NOT Vlad. (3.) So this is what NATO is doing when they are not too busy training ISIS troops in Turkey?’

What emerges is a coherent narrative – and it is teetering on the brink of being a narrative about treason.

bth

US and Russian military are reportedly now communicating twice daily on Syria. I interpreted Lavrov's comments on trust as having to do with how information was shared since the US is allied with Turkey.

Turkey has certainly been making a point that peace cannot be achieved without their agreement. I believe this would explain the USS Harry Truman's combat flights into Syria and Iraq. Also there is a question about what happens in Libya this summer that might involve air support.

The US has been consistent for at least a year that it will attack IS in Syria and Iraq and that its targets are Raqqa and Mosul. The US has not agreed to support the regime of Assad and in fact has been clear that Assad is not acceptable in any negotiated permanent peace the US endorses. That Russia has chained itself to the fate of the regime, same as it ever was, is a mistake it has made and frankly wasn't the position they had even this winter which was much more flexible.

The US betrayal meme has largely been generated by Russia for its internal consumption. Lavrov's recent extensive and impressive interview was to domestic reporters. I read it as a partial attempt to contain via the Foreign Ministry the growing general narrative in Russia that it had the rebels on the ropes as proof of the concert in Palmyra and Putin's insight into the world while normally infallible was tricked into ceasefire by cunning Americans and by his desire for moderation to his enemies, which behold, is now shown to be a miscalculation, hence Russians should prepare for renewed struggle and economic sacrifice for the national cause. This will be soon manifest with increased defense expenditures for Syria and fiscal budget tightening in a midyear adjustment that will be felt domestically. Meanwhile Russia's ever useful bloggers link to sites expounding on imminent nuclear war caused by aggressive Americans which Lavrov discussed as not going to happen. I view this narrative as largely for Russian domestic consumption.

One can only imagine how strange and confusing the Trump/Hillary debate can be viewed from untrusting Russian perspective.

Lavrov/Putin and Obama/Kerry probably had no doubt that a ceasefire would fail this time around. Alternately viewed as a middle step in what will be a long process, it makes more sense. Those that are with JAN are more clearly identified and hopefully will commit to an Aleppo pocket where SAA/Russia can now pound the heck out of certain neighborhoods with artillery or dumb bombs and no one will think twice about it since the ceasefire can be dispensed with politically.

Also the ceasefire tested whether the regime and the Iranians could actually take ground. They can't it seems. Also one might guess the Russians that have put their prestige on the line in Syria might feel the Iranians misled them about their military commitment, their economic support and trade prospects that are needed in Russia to keep a battered manufacturing sector going through a rough period of economic sanctions. Iran welched on Putin. Russia might rightfully ask what the Iranians are actually bringing to the table besides an endless sectarianism that will prevent meaningful peace negotiations.

There is emerging a general division of labor emerging where SAA and Russia deal with the al-Qaeda in the northwest of Syria. For the US this is nearly impossible to do politically with Turkey. And on the other hand the US/Kurds focus on IS in the east on both sides of the Iraq/Syrian border which is something the Russian/Assad regime can't do though they want a seat at the table in the event IS collapses in the west. The Kurds might have more interest in taking farmland, fungible grain supplies and oil fields in the east over urban siege warfare the US wants them to undertake against Raqqa.

Meanwhile in eastern Europe US and Russian backroom diplomatic efforts do appear to be creating some calm in the Ukraine and one might see a means toward partial relief of economic sanctions if this can hold into late summer. This is occurring quietly though the fellow travelers shrill about nuclear war in the blogosphere. Note Lavrov addressed nuclear war this head on as nonsense in his lengthy discourse about a week ago.

LondonBob

The last elections the anti NATO party won, with NATO membership very much an issue. Of course national leaders can be influenced by other means, however Finland have just reaffirmed their policy of neutrality.

Hopefully Sweden will continue to remain neutral as well, although of course NATO etc. have been very active for years attempting to influence Sweden into joining.

turcopolier

TTG

The withdrawal of IS forces from around Marea and AZAZ in the west would seem to me to indicate that IS going to make a major fight in the Manbij area to resist further SDF advances to the west. Turkish reaction to all this is unpredictable given the level of Erdogan's delusions. I agree that the SDF will not make a serious effort to capture Raqqa. The price would simply be too high. IMO the main emphasis should be on cutting the IS supply line to Turkey on both sides of Lake Assad. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Stupid.

Babak Makkinejad

Do you want Peace or do you want war?

At any rate, what is your recommendation?

bth

The US is quite happy for the Russians and SAA to defeat JAN. Reduction of JAN is necessary. Maybe Obama can't say that out loud, but the US has no interest in an al-Qaeda emirate emerging in NW Syria. Turkey may have a different opinion which would restrict US direct involvement regarding JAN.

Babak Makkinejad

I am not sure what you mean by "Europe is the prize for Russia". In my view, the dream of common European home from Cabo da Roca to Vladivostok is now dead and buried - not to be resurrected for Heaven knows how long.

Analogously, the dream of the Muslim Commonwealth is finished - it was always an impossibility in any case - to be replaced by the Shia Sphere (are you paying attention BraveNewWorld) and the rest of Islamdom; in search of Pure Islamic Government or Pure Secular Democratic Government, whichever the case may be.

Babak Makkinejad

"What is Iran willing to do?"

Iran will stand by Assad even if SAR's area of control is reduced to a coastal enclave.

For Iran, in my opinion, the war in Syria will not end until all the enemies of SAR have been destroyed or, alternatively, like Lebanon, Iran's equities are respected.

But as the war has progressed, it has taken more and more a nature of an overt religious war in defense of the Shia, their Sacred Sites, and their religion.

turcopolier

bth

So, basically you think that the Obama view of how to conduct affairs in Syria and Iraq is both wise and effective. as for the SAA's ability to take ground you don't seem to have noticed that the SAA is now way east of Tadmur and within 20 kilometers of Tabqa air base. pl

bth

Russia probably needs pricing in the $85-$95 range per bbl. to meet fiscal budget needs. US probably needs $67-85 range to prevent dismemberment of the fracking miracle. Saudis probably need about $37ish.

bth

Given the domestic political constraints of minimizing US involvement (congress did not approve a full year contingency going forward, congress also unwilling to declare war and administration unwillingness to ask for anything that looks like a declaration or to admit in public the extent of its involvement in Syria), plus the friend-enemy relationship we have with the Shia government in Iraq and Erdogan in Turkey, I'd say he is working within the constraints of reality.

In Iraq I think the US military has done a petty good job with limited resources of shaping the battlefield by denying artillery support to Shia sectarian groups trying to cross the Tigris south of Mosul, containing IS on all fronts, and it is doing a pretty good job with managing the Kurds though I'd like to see us step up the funding and support as I think they are long-term allies. Also I think Obama has decided to accept the Iranian role in Iraq as inevitable and consigned them to their predisposition of carving a land route roughly from Iran to Baghdad and nearly due west toward Syria. Short of political reform in Iraq which doesn't seem likely, I would imagine Iraq will fracture in reality with the US eventually supporting a Sunni Arab force that occupies territory formerly controlled by IS. This force may already be organizing near Irbil. And I think the Iraqi Kurds have made their deal with the Turks to trade O&G with the Erdogans in exchange for being left alone in Iraq.

As to Syria, I don't think Obama wants the Assad regime to collapse with the massacre that entails, but he must acknowledge the Turk and Saudi condition that Assad himself go. Plus US cannot bring JAN or IS to the negotiating table under any circumstances. I do not believe the US can go after JAN in the north without Turkish support which it does not have. US does not have enough men on the ground and is dependent on air from Turkey at this time so dealing with al-Qaeda in the NW is something US can do. So Russia must deal with JAN. Once done then US ceasefire effort might have more success.

As to Raqqa. I do not believe US can get Kurds to take the city. The fungible countryside maybe different. That is why I like to keep track of trucking routes. Also I'd suggest we keep an eye on who controls the grain silos after the current wheat harvest. US efforts in Syria against IS are understated by the US for domestic reasons and certainly Russia-Syria do not want to acknowledge any success by US/Kurds, so it is generally ignored in the media.

As to SAA advance eastward, I do not find it impressive. The evidence we have is a puff piece article, some video footage by a drone of two tanks and some pickups behind a berm reportedly 20 miles out. Now if SAA cut off IS supply lines WSW of Lake Assad which I think is doable, then I would be impressed. One might ask why SAA lets the IS supply line around the western side of Lake Assad remain open. One might also wonder if SAA wants IS to raid the other rebels in order to weaken them. I view the SAA 'on the Raqqa' article as a statement that they want a seat at the table in the event US/Kurds make a sudden breakthrough to the south. I would keep an eye on the natural gas fields that feed the Syrian utility grid, the dam and electrical generators at the SE corner of Lake Assad and the location of the old Russian oil field concessions as more likely targets than Raqqa itself.

Delta Echo

It would only make sense that the Russian military is gaming out a Hillary Presidency and taking a posture of being proactive and aggressive. I think that they have learned that the neo-con left (esp. Hillary) is orders of magnitude more threatening than Trump. Hillary has been vocal about calling Putin "Hitler" and promising to shoot down Russian jets and confront Russia militarily on Ukraine. Trump has expressed the desire to be allies with Russia and be friendly with Russia. I say this in all seriousness, a Hillary Presidency could leave this country a giant smoldering glass field.

OT (sort of): I used to have contact with S/As working Hillary's protective detail-- USSS and DSS (Hillary wanted both, as former First Lady and SECTATE). I never heard a good word about her and would hear many stories of what a miserable human being she is. I was talking with a special agent for a federal agency earlier this year. The agent said none of the agents in the office wanted to work a protective detail when the Secretary of their agency meets with Hillary because Hillary makes it and them miserable. NB: this same S/A is a Democrat and thinks Trump is crazy. (Btw, I also met Trump once and he was the most gracious and down-to-earth celebrities I ever met).

bth

Lavrov was just in Finland last week trying to convince them that the hungry Bear only eats Ukrainians

bth

You have become rude and increasingly petty.

SmoothieX12

Russia is always preparing for the attack and, for the most part, rightly so. With the exception of 1990s short stint as West's "partner", Russia's geopolitical imperatives do not change--strong defense and deterrence are one of them. While the situation is worrisome somewhat, I don't think anyone is really planning to fight conventional war in Russia's vicinity. Not out of goodness of the heart, of course, but because it will be suicidal and I do not mean escalation towards nuclear threshold. Certainly, not on Russian side.

turcopolier

bth

"the Assad regime" Ah, you mean the Syrian Government (the one with the seat in the UN). pl

bth

NATO is short men and armor. Also NATO aggregate defense funding has not jumped. Putin and Lavrav know this as do the NATO countries. We should not let hyperbole drive the discussion.

turcopolier

bth

Your comments seem different than they were. pl

bth

Yes I think the diplomatic course is going to find a deal to be had with the Syria Government but Assad will have to exit stage right for the Turks and Saudis to end their support of the rebels.

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