Monday, October 12, 2015

FOD 2015.10.12

A lengthy post today, but IMO a worthwhile one. Grab another cup of coffee and read away...

I am flabbergasted - no, make that gobsmacked - by the magnitude of obama's failure in the Middle East, and the corresponding lack of media coverage concerning what IMO has great potential to lead directly to a catastrophic nuclear exchange. The latest flash point is Syria.
The Syrian Civil War is entering a third and potentially very dangerous phase in its continuing evolution. It began as a purely domestic crisis, became steadily internationalized as other countries intervened, and it now risks becoming a full blown Russian-American cold war proxy conflict. This is a conflict that could turn hot very quickly given the proximity of American and Russian military forces in the same theater of operations.

The civil war started as an Arab Spring sparked revolt by elements in the Syrian military, under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, against the Assad government...

The civil war quickly became internationalized. Iran rushed to support its Syrian ally. Other Arab Sunni governments, led by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, fearful of the growing spread of Iranian influence in the Middle East and recognizing that the Assad government was a linchpin in Tehran's Shiite "arc of influence" that stretched across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza, also intervened with supplies and money for Assad's opponents.

The emergence of the Islamic State, first in the chaos of Syria and then its expansion into the Sunni triangle of Iraq, raised the stakes even higher. Until then, the United States had largely stayed out of the Syrian Civil War. The threat of IS destabilizing Iraq raised new complications, created both political and strategic problems for the Obama administration, and prompted an American intervention...

Up until then, the Russian government had been supplying weaponry, financial, and diplomatic support to the Assad government but had not been otherwise directly involved...

Over the month of September 2015, Russia disclosed that it had transferred two squadrons of Sukhoi fighter jets to the Basel al-Assad military base in Latakia, Syria... The presence of fifteen Mi-17 and Mi-24 attack helicopters were also confirmed as well as the arrival of two tank transport ships. Those ships were believed to each be carrying 25 Russian tanks, approximately 500 naval marines as well as assorted heavy artillery and transport including armored personnel carriers.

On September 30 (two days after obama and Putin had a face-to-face meeting), Russia began an air campaign over Syria targeting a broad array of anti-Assad groups. Although the Kremlin continued to insist that its primary target was Islamic State militants ... the bulk of its attacks were directed against ... groups that were being supported by the U.S. and its Arab allies.

On Friday October 2, President Barack Obama declared that the conflict in Syria was not a "superpower chessboard contest." White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest went on to add that the Obama administration was exercising "strategic patience." A longtime critic of Washington's Mid-East policy, a former, high ranking, Carter administration official, translated "strategic patience" as "we're clueless."

On Oct 3 and 4, as if to deliberately underscore Washington's impotence, Russian aircraft twice violated Turkish airspace... Russian pilots are highly trained professionals, they simply do not accidently violate neighboring air space unless they have an equipment malfunction or are deliberately told to do so.

On October 5, the Kremlin disclosed that "Russian volunteers" would be allowed to go to Syria and fight on behalf of the Syrian government. Subsequently, the Kremlin denied that additional Russian troops would be deployed in Syria and, just to make sure that the West recognized the linkage of the Ukrainian crisis with the one in Syria, that the "Russian volunteers" might be coming from those currently in the Ukraine.

Two days later, On October 7, Syrian army units, supported by Russian air power and a cruise missile bombardment from Russian ships in the Caspian Sea, began a ground offensive... shoring up the Assad government Moscow is sending a clear message to the Middle East and to the rest of the world that it is prepared to stand by its allies and to commit its military forces to insure their survival. That lesson will not be lost on countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere in the Gulf that are growing uncertain about the reliability of American guarantees.  (emphasis added)

Moreover, Russia's military presence in Syria now gives it the ability to intervene elsewhere in the Middle East...

Additionally, by aligning itself with Iran and the rest of the "Shiite bloc," Russia is accelerating the growing realignment of Mid-East politics around a Sunni-Shia pole. In doing so it is also leveraging its influence and taking advantage of Iranian proxies in the region to further isolate American influence and expand its own.

Secondly, although Russia is not a member of OPEC, despite repeated attempts to join, its role in Syria gives it valuable bargaining chips in its dealings with that organization and with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. Oil is critical to Russia's future. Natural gas and petroleum exports are responsible for 68% of Russia's export revenues and 50% of the government's budget. Simply put, the future of Russia rises and falls with the price of hydrocarbons.

Russia needs higher energy prices, so too, for that matter, do the Saudis and their Gulf partners. The ability of the Saudis and their allies to tolerate low oil prices exceeds that of Russia, however, especially a Russia that is subject to economic sanctions from Europe and the United States. Concessions on oil pricing and production might well be a quid pro quo for some role for the Saudi backed Syrian rebels in whatever negotiated solution emerges.

Thirdly, and most significantly, Russia needs relief from the sanctions imposed by the EU and the United States. Russia's potential ability to stem the flood of refugees leaving for Europe could turn out to be a valuable bargaining chip in the Kremlin's quest for sanctions relief. So also will its role in combating jihadist violence in Syria and in helping to curtail the flow of jihadists into Europe. The Kremlin has made a point of underscoring the links between resolving the crisis in Ukraine and resolving the one in Syria.

Finally, there is the ongoing issue of Ukraine and the general issue of NATO's eastern expansion and the buildup of NATO and U.S. sponsored military assets in Eastern Europe. The potential tradeoffs of Western support for Kiev against Russian concessions in Syria is not lost on Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko who has expressed his concern that European and American support for his government may get sacrificed as part of a larger deal with Russia over Syria. East European governments, privately, have been expressing the same concerns fearful that their long-term security and NATO support may be traded for Russian concessions elsewhere.

The United States now finds itself in a difficult position in Syria. American supported rebels are coming under direct attack by Russian military forces. If the U.S. challenges Russian planes it risks a potential escalation and a military incident between American and Russian forces. Worse, it risks being branded as the aggressor and the party responsible for escalating the Syrian conflict into a dangerous new level. (emphasis added)

For the last several years, the Obama Administration's policy in Syria has been little better than a poorly thought out PR campaign. Spread a few billion dollars here and there, drop some supplies to a few rebel groups, launch a lackluster air campaign, and continue to declare that you are winning. Critics of that strategy, admittedly it is a bit of a stretch to call it a strategy, were summarily dismissed by an administration that continues to believe they are the smartest guys in the room and that anybody that disagrees with them is hopelessly deficient. (emphasis added)
Something else to worry about:

Russia’s New Mega-Missile Stuns the Globe
On Oct. 7, Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired 26 high-tech cruise missiles at rebel targets in Syria—a staggering 1,000 miles away.

The missiles in question, which the Pentagon calls SS-N-30s, were mostly unknown to the outside world before the Oct. 7 raid. Even close watchers of the Russian military were surprised to see them. The missile attack was also highly visible. In many ways, it was an announcement to the world, and America in particular, that the once-dilapidated Russian navy is back in action—and that Putin’s missileers are now among the planet’s most advanced.

The SS-N-30 obviously boasts a much greater range than its predecessors and can also strike targets on dry land. That makes it broadly similar to the American Tomahawk missile, which the U.S. military traditionally fires in large numbers from ships and submarines in order to wipe out enemy air defenses before conducting aerial bombing campaigns. The U.S. Navy fired Tomahawks to hit the most heavily defended ISIS targets at the beginning of the American-led air war over Syria in September 2014.

Very few countries posses Tomahawks or similar munitions—and only the United States and Great Britain have ever successfully used them in combat. Now Russia has joined that exclusive club of global military powers. And that should worry the Pentagon, Wertheim said: “It should be a wakeup call that we don’t have a monopoly on the capability.”

What’s particularly striking is that Moscow has been able to build this long-range naval strike capability with much smaller vessels than anyone thought possible. In the U.S. Navy, large destroyers, cruisers, and submarines carry Tomahawk cruise missiles—and those vessels are typically at least 500 feet long and displace as many as 9,000 tons of water.

The four brand-new warships that launched the SS-N-30s were much, much smaller—ranging in length from 200 to 330 feet and displacing no more than 1,500 tons of water. “Small ships, big firepower,” Wertheim commented.

That matters because, after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s shipbuilding industry suffered a long period of deep decline that the Kremlin has lately struggled to reverse. That has had a profound effect on the Russian navy. “There are relatively few new warships in service at present and the ones that have been commissioned in recent years are all relatively small,” Dmitry Gorenburg, from Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, wrote in a recent analysis.

But the October barrage proves that even the small warships that Russia is building can strike hard and far—something that, once upon a time, only the United States and its closest allies could do. Moscow’s missile raid helps re-establish Russia as a global military power. “They’re very serious about this,” Wertheim said.
In the meantime, obama and his cronies continue to whittle away at our Navy, and in fact our entire military.

But there is a small ray of sunshine in this otherwise gloomy atmosphere.

Putin’s Missiles Take Out Terrorist Iranian Cows
Shortly after Russian warships in the Caspian Sea launched a reported 26 cruise missiles toward Syria on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu appeared on television to celebrate the success of the attack.

Shoigu announced that all 26 of the missiles struck within three meters of their intended targets, and he claimed that no civilian buildings were damaged.

In televised comments, Putin added, “The fact that we have launched precision-guided weapons from the Caspian at a range of around 1,500 km and hit all the targets indicates the good status of defense industry and the good skills of the personnel.”

However, reports began to trickle out on Thursday that perhaps not all of the Russian missiles had actually made it into Syria. A report from the town of Takab, which is directly under the flight path of the Russian missiles as revealed by maps released by the Kremlin, detailed how a massive explosion at around 6 a.m. rocked the rural area on Wednesday.

The “unidentified flying object” exploded several hundred meters outside Takab, close enough to shake buildings and frighten residents.

It also killed “several head of cattle,” according to the report.

On Thursday, U.S. intelligence officials told reporters that as many as four of the Russian  missiles had crash landed in rural Iran...
Well, at least we don't have to worry about those terrorist Iranian cows anymore...


Old NFO said...

Yep, that 'foothold' we had, however tentative is now long gone...

CenTexTim said...

We've lost influence, prestige, and our military superiority is being challenged.

Good job, obama...