In Background, Russia

By Eric Margolis, published on the author’s website, Oct 4, 2015

FRANKFURT, GERMANY–Could anyone in the Obama administration have been so slow-witted to imagine that Russia wouldn’t move hard to counter U.S. efforts to overthrow Moscow’s  ally, Syria?

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon (L), U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) in Brussels on Oct 8, 2015 (Olivier Hoslet, European Pressphoto Agency )

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon (L), U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) in Brussels on Oct 8, 2015 (Olivier Hoslet, European Pressphoto Agency )

The Syrian war began almost five years ago by the U.S., France, Britain and Saudi Arabia  to overthrow Syria’s Iranian and Russian-backed government. The result so far:  250,000 dead, 9.5 million refugees flooding Europe and  Syria shattered.

This is nothing new: the first CIA coup attempt to overthrow a Syrian ruler, General Husni Zaim, was in 1949.

A combination of imperial hubris and ignorance has led Washington to believe it could overthrow any government that was disobedient or uncooperative. Syria was chosen as the latest target of regime change because  the Assad regime – a recognized, legitimate government and UN member –was a close ally of America’s Great Satan, Iran. Formerly, it had been cooperating with Washington.

After watching Syria be slowly destroyed, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has moved his rook onto the Syrian chessboard. For the first time since 1991, Moscow sent a small expeditionary  unit of 50 warplanes abroad to Syria both to shore up the Assad regime and to reaffirm that  Russia has long-standing strategic interests in Syria.

Map of SyriaFew of the  administration’s bumbling amateur strategists likely knew that Russia claimed during the 19th century to be the rightful protector of Mideast Christians. Russia watched in dismay the destruction of Iraq’s ancient Christian communities caused by the overthrow of their protector, President Saddam Hussein. Moscow has vowed not to let a similar crime happen again to Syria’s Christians.

Russia is also clearly reasserting a degree of its former Mideast influence. In 1970, Russian pilots tangled with Israeli warplanes over the Suez Canal during the “War of Attrition.” The flying time from Moscow to Damascus is about the same as New York City to Miami. Syria is in Russia’s backyard, not America’s.

A highly effective propaganda war waged against Syria and Russia by the U.S., French and British media has so demonized Syria’s President Assad that Washington will find it very difficult to negotiate or include him in a peace deal. The U.S. made the same stupid mistake with Afghanistan’s Taliban and now is paying the price.

President Bashar Assad is no Great Satan. He was a British-trained eye specialist forced into the dynastic leadership of Syria by the car crash that killed his elder brother. The Assad regime has plenty of nasty officials but in my long, regional experience Syria is no worse than such brutal U.S. allies as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco or Uzbekistan.

President Putin has long been calling for a negotiated settlement to end this destructive conflict that is quickly resembling Lebanon’s ghastly civil war from 1975-1990 whose horrors I saw firsthand.

Who rules Syria is not worth one more death or refugee. Sadly, Syria may be beyond repair. The crazies we created are now running large parts of Iraq and Syria. Russia mutters about going into Iraq.

Vladimir Putin keeps his game tightly under control. I’m not so sure about the Obama White House and its confused advisors. Better make a deal with Assad, a natural U.S. ally, and end this crazy war before Senator John McCain and his Republican crusader pals really do start World War III.

Washington refuses Russia any legitimate sphere of influence in Syria, though Moscow has had a small [naval] base in Tartus on the coast for over 40 years. This Russian logistics base is now being expanded and guarded by a ground force estimated at a reinforced company.

This week came reports that modest numbers of Iranian infantry have entered war-torn Syria. Lebanon’s tough Hezbollah fighters are also in action in Syria. Opposing them are a mixed bag of irregular forces and heavily armed religious fanatics trained and armed by U.S., French and British intelligence and financed by Washington and the Saudis. This writer believes small numbers of U.S. and French Special Forces and  British SAS are also aiding anti-Assad forces.

Israel and Turkey, hoping to profit from a possible break-up of Syria,  are also discreetly aiding the anti-Assad forces that include al-Qaida and everyone’s favorite bogeyman,  Islamic State.

Howls of protest are coming from Washington and its allies over Russia’s military intervention. [See New York Times news article below.] Don’t we hate it when others do exactly what we do. The U.S. has over 800 bases around the globe. French troops operate in parts of Africa. Both nations stage military interventions when they see fit.

Washington accuses Moscow of “imperialism” as 10,000 U.S. troops, fleets of warplanes and 35,000 U.S. mercenaries fight nationalist forces in Afghanistan. Iraq remains a semi-U.S. colony. Russia withdrew all of its 350,000 troops stationed in Germany in 1991; U.S. bases still cover Germany and, most lately, Romania.

Read also:

NATO rattles its swords over displeasure with Russia strikes against ISIS in Syria, news report in New York Times, Oct 9, 2015. (Here is a typical comment posted online to this New York Times story: It’s NATO (a proxy for U.S. influence in Europe) pushing up against Russia’s borders which prompted Putin’s defensive-turned-offensive posturing. Doesn’t seem that the strategy of continuing to poke the bear in the eye, and hoping for positive results, is working too well…

U.S. admits failure of Syria militia plan against Islamic State, cancels program, by Paul Koring, Globe and Mail, Oct 9, 2015

Syrian Kurdish PYD party voices cautious support for Russian military intervention in Syria, Al-Monitor, Oct 8, 2015

U.S. Kurdish allies welcome Russian airstrikes in Syria, McClatchy News, Oct 2, 2015


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