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How Putin Will Win in Syria
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The reason Putin will succeed where the US failed in its war on ISIS, is because the Russian air-strikes are going to be accompanied by a formidable mop-up operation that will overpower the jihadi groups on the ground. This is already happening as we speak. The Russian Air Force has been pounding terrorist targets across the Idlib Governorate for the last few days as well as ISIS strongholds in the East at Raffa. On Sunday, according to a report filed by South Front, roughly 700 militants surrendered to members of the 147th Syrian tank brigade shortly after bombers had attacked nearly cities of Mardeij, Ma’arat Al-Nu’man, Jisr Al-Shughour, Saraqib and Sarmeen. This is the pattern we expect to see in the weeks ahead. Russian bombers will soften targets on the frontlines, ground troops will move into position, and untold numbers of jihadis will either flee, surrender or get cut down where they stand. Bottom line: Syria is not going to be a quagmire as the media has predicted. To the contrary, Putin is going to cut through these guys like crap through a goose.

According to South Front: “Lieutenant General Andrey Kartapolov, head of the Main Operation Directorate of the General Staff of Russia’s armed forces, said the strikes have significantly reduced the terrorists’ combat capabilities.” In other words, the Russian offensive is already producing positive results. This is no small matter. By most accounts, the conflict had deteriorated into a stalemate. Now, with Russia in the picture, that’s changed. Now the table is clearly tilted in Syria’s favor.

Also, according to an earlier report: “The positioning of Russian aircraft in Syria gives the Kremlin the ability to shape and control the battle-space in both Syria and Iraq out of all proportion to the size of the Russian force.” (“International Military Review – Syria, Oct 5, 2015“, South Front)

The Russian air-base at Latakia is perfectly situated for providing air cover or bombing terrorist targets across the country. The Russian airforce will also make every effort to cut off supply lines and escape routes so that as many jihadis as possible are liquidated within Syria’s borders. This is why ISIS positions along the main highway to Iraq were destroyed on Sunday. The jihadi thugs will be given every chance to die in battle as they wish, but getting out alive is not going to be so easy.

There was an article in the Guardian on Sunday that caused quiet a stir among people who are following events in Syria. Here’s a clip:

“Regional powers have quietly, but effectively, channeled funds, weapons and other support to rebel groups making the biggest inroads against the forces from Damascus…..In a week when Russia made dozens of bombing raids, those countries have made it clear that they remain at least as committed to removing Assad as Moscow is to preserving him.

“There is no future for Assad in Syria,” Saudi foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir warned, a few hours before the first Russian bombing sorties began. If that was not blunt enough, he spelled out that if the president did not step down as part of a political transition, his country would embrace a military option, “which also would end with the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power”. With at least 39 civilians reported dead in the first bombing raids, the prospect of an escalation between backers of Assad and his opponents is likely to spell more misery for ordinary Syrians.

“The Russian intervention is a massive setback for those states backing the opposition, particularly within the region – Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – and is likely to elicit a strong response in terms of a counter-escalation,” said Julien Barnes-Dacey, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.” (“Gulf states plan military response as Putin raises the stakes in Syria“, Guardian)

Saudi Arabia poses no real threat to Putin’s operation in Syria. The Saudis may talk tough, but they already have their hands full with a crashing economy (due to plunging oil prices) and a war in Yemen they have no chance of winning. They’re certainly not going to get more deeply involved in Syria.

It is possible, however, that the Obama administration is planning to use the Saudis as cover for shoring up their support for opposition groups within Syria. There is a high probability that that will happen. Even so, there’s not an endless pool of crackpot mercenaries who want to face a modern airforce with precision-guided munitions for a couple hundred bucks a week. That’s not what you’d call “a job with a future”. Keep in mind, the various Intel agencies have already called in their chits and attracted as many of these dead-enders as they possibly could from far-flung places like Chechnya, Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan etc. And while I’m sure Langley keeps a lengthy file of potential candidates for future assignments, I’m also sure that there are a limited number of people who are willing to meet their Maker just so they can belong to some renegade organization and die with a machine gun in their hands. In fact, we may have already reached “peak terrorist” after which there could be a steady falloff following the downward trajectory of US power in the Middle East and around the world. As we shall undoubtedly see in the months ahead, Syria could very well be the straw that broke the Empire’s back. Here’s more from the Guardian:

“The best way to respond to the Russian intervention is to engage the rebels more and step up support so they can face down the escalation and create a balance on the ground,” he said. “The Russians will [then] realise there are limits to what they can achieve in Syria, and modify their approach.” But the wider regional struggle for influence between Saudi Arabia and Iran makes it almost impossible for Riyadh to walk away, whatever the cost.” (Guardian)

Is it just me or does the author of this piece sound positively elated at the prospect of a bloodier war?

Also, it would have helpful if he had mentioned that arming, funding and training disparate jihadi organizations to effect regime change in a sovereign nation is a violation of international law and the UN Charter. Of course, maybe the author thought that would have made his article too stuffy or pedantic? In any event, the idea that the enfeebled Saudis are going to derail the Russia-Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance in their drive to annihilate ISIS and al-Qaida-linked groups is a pipe-dream. The only country that could make a difference in the outcome, is the United States. And, the fact is, Washington’s neocons don’t have the cojones to take on Moscow mano-a-mano, so Putin’s clean-up operation is going to continue on schedule.

By the way, the pundits were wrong about the way the Russian people would react to Moscow’s involvement in Syria, too. As it happens, they’re quite proud of the way their forces have been conducting themselves. Of course, who wouldn’t be? They’ve been kicking ass and taking names since Day 1. Check out this report from CBS News:

“Whatever effect Russia’s airstrikes are having on the ground in Syria, their impact at home is clear: They prove to Russians that their country is showing up the United States and reclaiming its rightful place as a global power….

Channel One’s evening news program on Saturday opened with dramatic cockpit videos of Russian jets making what were described as direct hits on terrorist training camps and weapons stores. The bombs were never off by more than five meters, a military spokesman said, because of the jets’ advanced targeting capabilities.

This was followed by a report of the disastrous airstrike in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz that destroyed a hospital and killed at least 19 people, including international medical staff. U.S. responsibility for the airstrike had not been proven, but Russian viewers were left with little doubt of who was to blame or of whose military capabilities were superior.” (“Russia’s airstrikes in Syria are playing well at home”, CBS News)

So the Russian people are proud of the way Putin is fighting the war on terror. Is there something wrong with that? Many Americans are old enough to remember a time when they were proud of their own country too, when it actually stood up for the principles it espouses in its founding documents. That was quite a while ago though, sometime back in the “pre-Gitmo” era”.

One last thing: There’s an extraordinary article by author Aron Lund of the Carnegie Endowment titled “Putin’s Plan: What Will Russia Bomb in Syria?” What’s so interesting about the piece is that it was published on September 23, a full week before Russia entered the war, and yet, Lund seems to have anticipated Putin’s actual battle plan. Military geeks are going to love this piece which is well worth reading in full. Here’s a short blurb from the text:

“If at some point Putin decides to target other groups than the Islamic State, he’s not likely to stop at the Nusra Front. Whether right off the bat or after a while, he could easily widen the circle of attacks from al-Qaeda and start blasting away at every rebel group in Idlib, Hama, and Latakia under the pretext that they are either “terrorists” or “terrorist allies.” … the Kremlin has every reason to continue blurring the already indistinct dividing line between “extremist” and “moderate” rebels upon which Western states insist. Even though this neatly black and white categorization of Syria’s murky insurgency is at least partly fiction, it remains a politically indispensable formula for Western states that wish to arm anti-Assad forces. Which is precisely why erasing this distinction by extending airstrikes against all manners of rebels as part of an ostensibly anti-jihadi intervention, may turn out to be Putin’s long-term plan.

Blanket attacks on Syrian rebels on the pretext that they are all “al-Qaeda” would lead to much outraged commentary in the Western and Arab press. But to the Russian president it doesn’t matter if you think he’s Mad Vlad or Prudent Putin. He isn’t trying to win hearts and minds, least of all those of the Syrian rebels or their backers. Rather, he is trying to change the balance of power on the ground while firing missile after missile into the West’s political narrative. Whatever one thinks of that, it is a big and bold idea of the sort that sometimes end up working.” (“Putin’s Plan: What Will Russia Bomb in Syria”, Aron Lund, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace“)

We couldn’t agree more. Putin is not going to stop for anything or anyone. He’s going to nail these guys while he has them in his gun-sights, then he’s going to wrap it up and go home. By the time the Obama crew gets its act together and realizes that they have to stop the bombing pronto or their whole regime change operation is going to go up in smoke, Putin’s going to be blowing kisses from atop a float ambling through Red Square in Moscow’s first tickertape parade since the end of WW2.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: ISIS, Russia, Syria 
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  1. Renoman says:

    Sounds like the truth to me.

  2. Priss Factor [AKA "The Priss Factory"] says: • Website

    “To the contrary, Putin is going to cut through these guys like crap through a goose.”

    That is if US doesn’t intervene.

    Yes, if Russian and Syrian army get to do as they please, they will win.

    But expect US, Saudis, Turks, and Israelis to throw a monkey wrench into the Russian operation.
    They have a lot of cards up their sleeves.

    Putin needs to be very worried.

    • Replies: @attonn
  3. Junior [AKA "Jr."] says:

    Saudi Arabia poses no real threat to Putin’s operation in Syria. The Saudis may talk tough, but they already have their hands full with a crashing economy (due to plunging oil prices)

    Great article! But IS the Saudis economy truly collapsing? And if it is, isn’t it a self-inflicted loss that they are willing to take and are able to sustain through? Because from what I understand of it, they can decrease production if they wanted to raise oil prices. Saudi Arabia may not pose a threat to Putin’s operation in Syria, but Saudi Arabia DOES pose a real threat to Putin’s economy at home by keeping oil prices low.

    I think that they are trying to crash the Russian economy. I also believe that this is all about protecting the Petro-dollar from BRICS while also trying to undermine the Iran-Russia alliance by taking out Russia’s economy. Does anyone have any opinions on this connection?

  4. Priss Factor [AKA "The Priss Factory"] says: • Website

    “The Saudis may talk tough, but they already have their hands full with a crashing economy (due to plunging oil prices) and a war in Yemen they have no chance of winning. They’re certainly not going to get more deeply involved in Syria.”

    Saudis can weather low oil prices better cuz they can suck up quality oil at cheap price.

    It is Russia that should worry cuz of low oil price and sanctions.

    Russian economy is in the tanks, so Putin needs to think hard about how long he’s gonna carry on with this.

    War is expensive, and Russian economy cannot afford it at this time.

    • Replies: @Drapetomaniac
  5. @Priss Factor

    You missed a few things. SA really doesn’t have an economy outside of oil, they have a large free shit army, nobody outside of SA knows the condition of their wells, and they have a considerable number of foreign workers. They are vulnerable in many ways.

    Russia has taken an economic hit and has done fairly well. They know how to survive hardship and their economy is very diverse. And they sell gas to Europe – winter is coming.

  6. “the he (Putin” is going to wrap it up and go home. I doubt this. I think Vlad has taken the measure of Obama/neo-conz and has correctly perceived gross weakness and great stupidity. So here is his Plan:

    1) liquidate ISIS and all other Western-backed Sunni terror gangs in Syria and Iraq

    2) re-cement Moscow-centered Shi’a Crescent along the line Hezbollah-in-Lebanon/Syria/Iraq/Iran

    3) overthrow Saud dynasty in Arabia, replace with Moscow-friendly regime

    4) this, plus Russia’s own exports, gives Moscow proximate control of most of the world’s oil production

    5) Putin then says the Magic Words: “no more dollars accepted for oil”. Dollar collapses, US debt-drowned, dollar-monetized Ponziconomy also crumbles. US goes to hot civil war, Russia/China left as dominant powers

    • Replies: @Sean c
  7. Sean c says:
    @Haxo Angmark

    I also think Putin stays in Syria. Keep the airbase and naval base. Establish a Kurd client state along turkeys border. At anytime needed declare the Saudi’s a state sponsor of terror as there is plenty of evidence.

  8. I think the big risk is a Turkey-Russia war. Left to themselves that would play out the same as Turkey-Greece – with Turkey playing the Greeks. But Turkey, a NATO member, could also drag in the USA and the unfortunate possibility of WW3.

    • Agree: Junior
    • Replies: @Haxo Angmark
  9. @Simon in London

    NATO is a paper tiger. The real danger is direct US-Russia confrontation in the eastern Mediterranean or over Syria. Putin needs to deter this by substantially upping Russian air, ground, and naval strength in-theatre and in Syria itself. Before the Russophobe Brzezinski talks Obama into doing something really stupid. And deadly to human life on Earth

  10. Bo Sears says: • Website

    As far as the USA is concerned, the best thing we could do is to tend to our own domestic problems and our near abroad…the Western Hemisphere as defined by the Monroe Doctrine. The events in Syria are actually a good opportunity for a US pivot to itself and the nations of North, Central, and South America.

  11. attonn says:
    @Priss Factor

    No, Putin shouldn’t be worried. US is busy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pacific and elsewhere. Saudis are bleeding in Yemen. Israelis are in panic over new intifada. And Turks have a massive Kurdish problem. The last thing these clowns need is to make an avowed enemy out of Putin.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  12. Priss Factor [AKA "The Priss Factory"] says: • Website

    “US is busy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pacific and elsewhere.”

    US pretty much gave up on Afghanistan and Iraq.

    US is just moving some ships in the Pacific. Nothing major.

    Besides, US military budget is 10x that of Russia, and US is technology far ahead.

    So, Putin needs to be worried.

    • Replies: @Realist
  13. Realist says:
    @Priss Factor

    “Besides, US military budget is 10x that of Russia, and US is (sec)technology far ahead.”

    Russia’s military budget is 1/7 that of the US. How do you know where Russia is technologically in relation to the US?

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  14. Priss Factor [AKA "The Priss Factory"] says: • Website

    “How do you know where Russia is technologically in relation to the US?”

    US is a leader in software.

    Russia still thinks hardware.

    • Replies: @Realist
  15. Realist says:
    @Priss Factor

    “US is a leader in software.”

    Really? In games and social media.

    If Russia is so far behind the US in software, how come ten times a day I see/hear whining about how Russia and China are hacking into our most secure data bases?

    The MSM, all the Russophobes and the Sinophobes are just beside themselves because we are in danger from Russian and Chinese software.

  16. Priss Factor [AKA "The Priss Factory"] says: • Website

    “If Russia is so far behind the US in software, how come ten times a day I see/hear whining about how Russia and China are hacking into our most secure data bases?”

    Look, even Cuba, Iran, and North Korea have hackers.

    Even losers living in the basement have hacked into stuff.

    Hacking is easy. More difficult is building entire systems of intelligence.

    I mean the US military has access to technology in the top US colleges like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Cal Tech, and etc.

    US is way way ahead of everyone in software. No doubt about it.

    If you build something great and if I burglarize and steal from you, are we equal in achievement and power?

    No, the fact that Russia and China hacks so much into US means that US is ahead of the game. It has more to steal from.

    Don’t be a dammy.

    • Replies: @Realist
  17. Realist says:
    @Priss Factor

    “If you build something great and if I burglarize and steal from you, are we equal in achievement and power?”

    If the thing I built is suppose to protect my property and you seal it from me, you are superior to me.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  18. Priss Factor [AKA "The Priss Factory"] says: • Website

    So, Somali pirates are superior?

    • Replies: @Realist
  19. Realist says:
    @Priss Factor

    “So, Somali pirates are superior?”

    They are superior to the people they steal from. How stupid do you have to be to allow Somali pirates to do anything to you.

    But as usual you are missing the point. I don’t know if you are stupid or just lonely. The concept I described is easy to understand. If you develop a lock/security software system and I break in to that lock/system….then I am superior. At least in security software.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  20. Priss Factor [AKA "The Priss Factory"] says: • Website

    You dammy.

    Let me hack into your brain….

    It says you’re making stuff up cuz you just love to troll.

    Since I hacked into your psychology, am I superior to you?

    • Replies: @Realist
  21. Realist says:
    @Priss Factor

    “Since I hacked into your psychology, am I superior to you?”
    In your dreams.

    Perhaps you’re lonely because you’re stupid.

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