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    Are Trump and Obama right about a “Russian Quagmire?”

    Are Trump and Obama right about a “Russian Quagmire?”

    Putin unifies the rebels…against Russian intervention

    For all his faults, Vladimir Putin has managed to do the impossible: by ordering rogue airstrikes on non-ISIS strongholds in Syria, he has united the various rebel factions vying for power in the region, and forced Barack Obama and Donald Trump to agree on something.

    During a press conference last Friday, President Obama told the pool that he was willing to work with Putin in Syria, but only if the resulting plan includes removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. He went on to say that Putin’s strategy of attempting to unite forces in support of Assad’s regime—which directly contradicts US strategy in the region—will result in Russia being stuck in a “quagmire” with no easy exit strategy.

    This isn’t just an easy talking point. Administration officials close to the situation see nothing but disaster:

    Two U.S. officials told The Daily Beast they more or less hoped that Russia did dive into what they called the “quagmire” of Syria, a conflict that the U.S. has kept at arm’s length by limiting its involvement to airstrikes directed exclusively at ISIS and al Nusra forces.

    “If he wants to jump into that mess, good luck,” one official said, noting that Russia had become bogged down in Afghanistan a generation ago in a fight against Islamic radicals.

    Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told reporters that the Russians may be “making a terrible strategic mistake” by deepening their military involvement in Syria. He also warned of the “risk of running into a quagmire.”

    “I think they remember Afghanistan. That knowledge or that concern may have some limiting governor on what they do themselves,” he added. “Their relationship in Syria is nothing new. It’s been their one foothold in the region for a long time. And it’s a foothold they are trying to hold on to.”

    Russia’s desire to maintain their client state in the Middle East is a powerful factor in Putin’s decisionmaking process, but even Donald Trump—who has made a point to highlight the strategic value of ruthless relationship-building—is ready to “sit back” and and let Putin get himself good and stuck:

    In comments aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Trump said he would not establish a no-fly zone over Syria, as several other candidates, including Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, have suggested.

    “I think what I want to do is I want to sit back and… see what happens,” Trump said, before suggesting that the Soviet Union’s war in the 1980s against Afghan mujahideen rebels “destroyed” the communist bloc.

    “Now they’re going into Syria, there are so many traps, there are so many problems. When I heard they were going in to fight ISIS, I said, ‘Great, let them,'” the billionaire real estate mogul told the show.

    Of course, for what it’s worth, Trump appears to back a stronger Assad, signaling a sharp divide between himself and the president.

    Still, in terms of quagmires, both men may have a point. Putin’s belligerence has prompted the more than 40 Syrian rebel groups currently vying for power to unite against Russian “occupiers.” They argue that Putin interrupted what was about to prove a successful campaign against the brutal Assad regime, and charge that Russian airstrikes have not targeted ISIS strongholds, but rebel ones.

    Via The Times of Israel:

    “This new reality requires the region’s countries and the allies in specific to hasten in forming a regional alliance to face the Russian-Iranian alliance that occupies Syria,” the 41 factions said in a statement released by Ahrar al-Sham. It was apparently referring to backers of the opposition such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

    The Syrian militant and rebel factions, including the US-backed Division 101 and Tajammu Alezza, said “the Russian military aggression on Syria is considered a blatant occupation of the country even if some claim it was done with the official request of the Assad regime. Those who lost legitimacy can’t offer it.”

    “All Syrian armed revolutionary factions must realize we are in a war to push an aggressor, a war that makes unifying ranks and word a duty on all brothers,” the factions said in the two-page statement posted online. “Any occupation force to our beloved country is a legitimate target.”

    Earlier in the day militant websites report that Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood declared that jihad against the “sheer Russian occupation of Syria” is a legitimate duty for everyone capable of carrying weapons.

    If this keeps up, we’re going to need a flowchart to track who has declared jihad against whom. We’re now looking at a two “front” shootout between rebel groups, Assad, and Russia, with no one focused on ISIS and no workable solution to address the growing humanitarian crisis.

    In this case, Obama and Trump may both be right—and that says a lot about the state of international politics in the Middle East.

    Follow Amy on Twitter @ThatAmyMiller


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    Henry Hawkins | October 5, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Short goal, Russia wants/needs to protect its naval base at Tartus, Syria, its only access to the Mediterranean. Long goal is to be the largest power broker in the Middle East, supplanting the US, currently in process with the help of (a) a bumbling Obama/Kerry foreign policy or (b) a purposely planned surrender of our Middle Eastern influence by the Obama administration. Russian controls almost all natural gas going into Europe. Putin wants to add a sizable percentage of Middle East oil to that portfolio. They aren’t there because of a sand shortage in Moscow nor as a humanitarian effort becuae it’s the right thing to do.

    Russia can’t fight ISIS too hard – ISIS’ existence is their reason to be there in Syria in the first place. Putin wants to stay long-term. He’s got plans and no world power willing to oppose him beyond tongue-flapping and hand-waving.

      forksdad in reply to Henry Hawkins. | October 5, 2015 at 6:16 pm

      It’s dangerous to oppose American Interests but deadly to become America’s ally or disarm when faced with American pressure. Do you really think Quaddaffi would have been sodomized with iron rods then murdered if he kept his nuclear program?

      We’ve made it clear you either comply with what we want and probably wind up in a show trial or just lynched or you keep your military might and tech programs running and we negotiate until you get what you want.

      We’ve supplied most of ISIS weapons and all of the AQ affiliated opposition. Moderate opposition. Good luck finding it. “Amina” was as moderate as you’ll find and ‘she’ was an American man living in England. I haven’t believed a word from the media machine since then.

      Watch how fast Putin runs the rebels and their ISIS allies out of Syria. Damn fast I bet. Then we’ll be faced with our Frankenstein monster isolated in Iraq where we started the power vacuum.

      We have the choice of looking like lying chumps because we have actually been using ISIS not fighting it or starting WWIII over it.

      We’ll slink away with our tail between our legs like we did when he annexed the Crimea.

        “Sodomized with iron rods then murdered…”

        Exactly what ‘Barack Hussein Obama (or whoever the f–k he is), the democRat party and the idiots running the GOP as well as John Roberts have done to the United States. Hope everyone enjoyed it – there’s a lot more of it to come.

    “In this case, Obama and Trump may both be right—and that says a lot about the state of international politics in the Middle East.”

    And if Trump is right, then Hillary and Fiorina with their crazy world war 3 inducing no fly zones are wrong.

      Ragspierre in reply to Gary Britt. | October 5, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      Gary, liar, you REALLY need to stop loading your pants over “WWIII”.

      The MOST likely cause of any war is ambiguity, not a show of strength and resolve.

      It’s funny that Fiorina shows a LOT more balls than your little yellow god…

      “I think what I want to do is I want to sit back and… see what happens,” Trump said.

      Putin snickers.

        Ragzini its not a question of balls its a question of mature good sense. Trump has it and Hillary/Fiorina not so much.

        Hillary/Fiorina are trying so hard to show they know something (Hillary) or have balls (Fiorina) that they would risk starting world war 3. Fiorina has a reputation for balls at HP. It was the good sense and mature judgment that was lacking and got her fired.

          Ragspierre in reply to Gary Britt. | October 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm

          “…its a question of mature good sense”.

          Just as a good Chamberlain supporter would declare!

          Remember how Churchill was “fired” between the wars? No?

          I forget. You know less about history than most of the things you know nothing about, but on which you are sure.

            As is often the case with your bloviations it has nothing to do with the post to which it replies or the discussion as a whole. Topped off with childish name calling to reassure yourself that you really are somebody.

          PhillyGuy in reply to Gary Britt. | October 6, 2015 at 8:49 am

          Exactly correct Gary. Mark Hurd had to clean up the mess she left. Don’t forget Mastercard Mario is also advocating a no fly zone.

    tom swift | October 5, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Quagmire. Riiiiighttt …

    The operational feature of a quagmire is that it’s sticky. Once you blunder in, it’s hard to get out.

    But there’s nothing keeping Putin in. He finds Assad convenient, but in no way essential. If things get too hot or too embarrassing, Putin can change his plans at any time. The Middle East is full of horses; he can drop one and back another whenever opportunity presents itself. Who’s going to remove this freedom of action by boxing him in? Obama? Riiiiighttt …

    Putin is a very cautious man. There’s been an international power vacuum centered on the Oval Office for the better part of a decade now, but the Russians have made little serious effort to exploit it so far. Perhaps Putin can’t believe his good luck and has been waiting to see that it’s real. Certainly a Khrushchev would have waited days rather than years to take advantage of such an international opportunity. If Putin is moving now, it’s a good guess that he’s very sure that he’s running no risk.

    Trump has nothing much to say about it because he realizes perfectly well that the 2016 election will not be about which crummy choice of Middle East policy the US should pursue. He gains nothing by announcing any strong opinions; on the contrary, such statements might leave him open to “gotchas” and similar sniping by the press. No gain, and potential loss; he’ll steer clear of the whole question. He may be a poor candidate but he’s no moron.

    Aarradin | October 6, 2015 at 4:22 am

    Superpower + political will to win = Victory.

    Putin won’t have any trouble routing the “rebels” or ISIS from Syria.

    The “quagmire” the US fell into in Iraq came in the aftermath of overthrowing the regime due to the fact that no one considered what regime would rule after we won the military victory. Then, civil war, and we had to win that too. Putin has Assad’s regime, and he will have no trouble consolidating after Putin defeats his enemies.

    Ragspierre | October 6, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    “…its a question of mature good sense”.

    Duh Donald has the maturity of a rather dim frat boi.


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