Apparently not. Looking at the operations in Syria, the NYT says:
Taken together, the operations reflect what officials and analysts described as a little-noticed — and still incomplete — modernization that has been underway in Russia for several years, despite strains on the country’s budget. And that, as with Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine, has raised alarms in the West.
In a report this month for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel argued that Mr. Putin had overseen the most rapid transformation of the country’s armed forces since the 1930s. “Russia is now a military power that could overwhelm any of its neighbors, if they were isolated from Western support,” wrote Mr. Gressel, a former officer of the Austrian military.
Of course we’ve been advised, for years, that the Russian military was only a shadow of its former self under the USSR. And while it certainly isn’t as potent as when Russia was the USSR, it is apparently vastly more potent than we’ve been led to believe.
Another factoid from the article:
Russia’s fighter jets are, for now at least, conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out each month this year.
The bottom line, of course, is we still have a much more powerful military – but we’re in the middle of cutting back on it both in manpower and spending. And, of course, that sort of power is only important if your potential enemies know you’re willing to use it. Russia is demonstrating that willingness.
Russia is also “field testing” its equipment and it is “blooding” its troops.
Not to mention rallying “allies” to the Russian cause. China has sent forces to Syria. And the latest?
On Wednesday, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and special forces units are on the ground in Syria, citing evidence from intelligence reports. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cuban troops may have been training in Russia and may have arrived in Syria on Russian planes.
Isn’t normalization with Cuba wonderful? Isn’t that reset with Russia working out well? It sure has been rewarding so far.
Noting the obvious, Vladimir Putin pointed out that the US is in a very weak position concerning Syria:
Russian President Vladimir Putin continued a war of words with the U.S. over Syria, calling its policy weak and lacking in objectives as his air force carried out fresh bombing raids in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
“I don’t really understand how the U.S. can criticize Russia’s actions in Syria if they refuse to have direct dialogue,” Putin told reporters Thursday during a visit to Astana, Kazakhstan. “The basic weakness of the American position is that they don’t have an agenda, though we’re keeping the door open” for high-level discussions with Washington, he said.
Of course, the administration had an answer:
“We’ve said that we’re not interested in doing that as long as Russia is not willing to make a constructive contribution to our counter-ISIL effort,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday, using an acronym for Islamic State. “Russia has their own agenda and it’s an agenda right now that they’re pursuing on their own.”
I suppose that’s so … but so does the US and it is apparent there really isn’t any desire for “dialogue” unless the US can have its way. And it is a basic understanding in negotiations that the weaker party doesn’t have as many choices (if any) than the stronger party. The US is certainly in the weaker position having ceded control of the Syrian conflict to Russia. Also, don’t forget that the US withheld military aid to Iraq until Iraq made political changes it wanted to see happen. What did Iraq do? Well, it bought its fighter aircraft from Russia instead (likely with US money).
As for the possibility of talks. Well, it seems that NATO partner Turkey has figured out a way to have them:
Russia and NATO member Turkey are establishing “lines of communication between our militaries in connection with events taking place in Syria” amid tensions over violations of Turkish airspace, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meshkov told a conference in Moscow on Thursday, Interfax reported. Turkey and Russia can find consensus on Syria, Umit Yardim, the Turkish ambassador to Moscow, said at the same meeting.
Interesting and telling.
Foreign affairs, for this administration, is a disaster. And they seem determined to make it worse instead of better.
And it is fairly obvious from here:
Maybe Putin will save Assad, maybe he won’t. But people and governments in the Middle East will long remember that Obama’s definition of leadership meant abandoning our allies in Baghdad, showing the back of his hand to our friends in Jerusalem, cozying up to the liars and killers in Tehran, waging an effete air campaign against ISIS, and dithering while Syria descended into an almost unimaginable humanitarian crisis.
In the broader region, Obama’s leadership left Libya in ruins and wide open to ISIS penetration, alienated Egypt, decreased our leverage in Pakistan, and accomplished almost nothing in Afghanistan except to turn it into a safe haven for pederasts.
Obama’s disastrous failure to lead in the Middle East has helped to flood Europe with refugees and potential terrorists, encouraging the rise of Putin-like far-right parties throughout NATO and the EU. Meanwhile, Moscow appears set to flagrantly violate Obama’s New START agreement, building up its arsenal of deployed nuclear warheads above the impending caps. Our own arsenal continues to shrink, already well under the 2018 limits.
However, the president does see an opportunity coming soon to turn all this around, telling Kroft that “my definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris.”
Obama fiddled with the thermostat while the world burned.
So I’m off the grid for a few days (enjoyably so) and find not much has changed.
And, given that, now we’re in the middle of “reaping the whirlwind”.
Meanwhile, the dope in the White House is all about fighting “climate change” which apparently doesn’t deal with whirlwinds. His Secretary of State reminds us he’s “concerned” about the Russians and the Middle East, which, you know, is pretty proactive for this administration.
And our erstwhile or, perhaps “former” allies in the region?
They’re shopping for a new patron.
And I bet you don’t even have to guess about whom I am talking:
David Petraeus testified last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee on U.S. policy in the Middle East. Regarding Syria, the former general and CIA director urged a credible threat to destroy Bashar Assad’s air force if it continues to bomb its own people. He also recommended “the establishment of enclaves in Syria protected by coalition air power, where a moderate Sunni force could be supported and where additional forces could be trained, internally displaced persons could find refuge, and the Syrian opposition could organize.”
But Barack Obama does not agree. At his Friday press conference, the president described such views as “mumbo-jumbo,” “half-baked ideas,” “as-if” solutions, a willful effort to “downplay the challenges involved in the situation.” He says the critics have no answers to the questions of “what exactly would you do and how would you fund it and how would you sustain it.”
America’s greatest living general might as well have been testifying to his shower drain for all the difference his views are going to make in this administration.
Exactly right – because, you know, ‘smartest man in the room’ and don’t you forget it. Anyone who champions actual, practical and doable solutions is, well, “downplaying the challenges” of the situation.
Really? Seems to me that Petraeus addressed them specifically and offered solutions.
One problem. They would actually mean Obama would have to get off his duff and actually DO something.
It’s not enough for him to stake and defend his positions. He wants you to know that he thinks deeper, sees further, knows better, operates from a purer motive. His preferred method for dealing with disagreement is denigration. If Republicans want a tougher line in Syria, they’re warmongers. If Hillary Clinton thinks a no-fly zone is a good idea, she’s playing politics: “There is obviously a difference,” the president tut-tutted about his former secretary of state’s position, “between running for president and being president.”
You can interpret that jab as a sign Mr. Obama is urging Joe Biden to run. It’s also a reminder that Mr. Obama believes his Syria policy—the one that did nothing as 250,000 people were murdered; the one that did nothing as his own red lines were crossed; the one that allowed ISIS to flourish; the one that has created the greatest refugee crisis of the 21st century; the one currently being exploited by Russia and Iran for geopolitical advantage—is a success.
No kidding. And the arrogant look he has for those who disagree is simply the bomb. He, and I don’t know how else to describe this, ignorantly and arrogantly thinks he’s doing the right thing and actually succeeding. Either that or he is indeed the smartest man in the room only when the room is empty of everyone else.
For instance, the Petraeus recommendations are not only good, they’re backed by experience and a good outcome:
As for what a serious Syria policy might look like, the U.S. proved it was capable of creating safe havens and enforcing no-fly zones in 1991 with Operation Provide Comfort, which stopped Saddam Hussein from massacring Kurds in northern Iraq the way he had butchered Shiites in southern Iraq.
And what has President Dither done? Well, certainly nothing that could be conceivably considered a coherent policy by anyone but a sycophant. In fact, unless you consider doing nothing a “policy”, well, he’s done nothing.
But he knows best, because “there’s a difference” between “running for President and being President.”
In terms of this Presidency, I fail to see the difference.
If ever there was proof of Russia’s intentions in the Middle East, it can be seen in a just announced 4 nation pact there:
Iraq joined Russia, Iran and Syria in a new agreement to strengthen cooperation against extremist group Islamic State, extending the Kremlin’s reach in the Middle East as it rivals Washington for influence.
Iraq’s Defense Ministry said Sunday that the country had signed an intelligence and security cooperation pact with Russia, Iran and Syria, pledging to cooperate in collecting information about Islamic State. The deal effectively formalizes years of military collaboration among the four nations, which have intermittently been allies since the 1980s.
Wonderful. And who, pray, is on the outside looking in and surprised by the pact?
U.S. officials appeared to be taken by surprise by the announcement of the four-nation security pact and said they were still struggling to understand Mr. Putin’s long-term strategy for the region. Mr. Kerry, they said, kept open the possibility that the White House and Kremlin could coordinate, if not cooperate, in fighting Islamic State.
“We’re just at the beginning of trying to understand what the Russians’ intentions are in Syria, in Iraq, and to try to see if there are mutually beneficial ways forward here,” said a senior U.S. official who attended the Kerry-Lavrov meeting. “We’ve got a long way to go in that conversation.”
“Just in the beginning of trying to understand”? Translation: “we’ve been caught flat-footed and hadn’t a clue that high-level talks between Russia and Iraq were happening”. While Kerry may feel they have a “long way to go in that conversation,” Russia has obviously moved beyond the talking stage and is in the “taking action” stage. The intent seems to be obvious to everyone but our State Department.
ISIS is the catalyst, or at least the excuse, for this alliance. And most experts agree ISIS is mostly a result of the poor Iraq policy followed by the US after the Obama administration took over. What Iraq is signaling here is no confidence in the US and with the pact, seems satisfied to let the US remain outside, looking in. Why? Well, take for example the fact that Russia sold fighter aircraft to Iraq last year to boost its ability to fight ISIS. Where was the US? It had delayed a promised shipment over political considerations. Iraq is now negotiating with Moscow to buy more advanced weaponry.
Additionally, the Obama administration and the Russians and Iranians are at cross-purposes when it comes to Syria. Both Russia and Iran have been very clear they support the Assad regime and hope to strengthen it. The Obama administration has repeatedly said that Assad has to go.
What basis there are for talks between Russia and the US (at the UN this week) remain a mystery. But what is very clear with the announcement of this pact just prior to those talks is the US enters them with an incredibly weak hand. It has very little to use for leverage to get its way. But one thing that can be determined for sure – this administration’s past actions, or lack thereof, have put the US in this weak and unenviable diplomatic position.
Outfoxed again. How “surprising”.
One of the many lowlights of this administration has been its many foreign policy failures. Many, if not most, are attributable to a lack of leadership and an abdication of the US’s role in world politics. As most observers of international politics have understood for centuries, when one power withdraws or becomes weak, other powers will both test it and fill the vacuum their withdrawal creates.
The NY Post editorial board provides a perfect example of this administration’s poor “policy” concerning Syria:
Secretary of State John Kerry says Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad has got to go. Where have we heard that one before?
Of course, it’s been a regular refrain of President Obama and both of his secretaries of state — Hillary Clinton even more than Kerry — for years now.
Kerry repeated the demand after talks with the British foreign secretary last week — but with one new wrinkle: Assad must step aside, said Kerry — but there’ s no rush. He added: “We’re not being doctrinaire about the specific date or time; we’re open.”
Not only is he not being “doctrinaire” he’s broadcasting weakness like a clear channel radio station. “We’re open” tells the world they haven’t a plan, a demand, or frankly, a clue. He’s telling Syria, and specifically Assad, that there is nothing to fear from the US. Nothing.
Remember those red lines we drew? Disappearing ink. Once they were crossed, it was like they never existed.
Cue the power vacuum. And, who moves in?
And the situation just got infinitely more complicated by Russia’s active military involvement in Syria. As Kerry said, the Russians “are bringing in more equipment to shore up Assad at the same time they say they are going after” ISIS.
That position, he said, has “a lack of logic.”
No: It makes perfect sense when Washington has abdicated leadership. Nature abhors a vacuum — especially on the world stage.
Exactly. What, you may ask, is in it for Russia? Well, for one it can put a thumb in the eye of the US (and it is). But it also helps reestablish old “client links” that the former USSR had in the area. And, as Russia works with Iran to defeat ISIS, it establishes links there and it is in a position to have a big say in Iraq. And it certainly makes sense that should Russia help Assad hang on and retake the country, Putin would have a solid client state in the middle east from which to base Russia’s influence operation.
So what has the US done? Well, according to testimony given last week before Congress, we’ve spent half a billion dollars training up 4 or 5 soldiers in an anti-ISIS effort. In fact, the effort has been so poor and haphazard that the chief anti-ISIS coordinator, ex-Gen. John Allen, is leaving out of frustration with the lack of a strategy or results.
Meanwhile our Secretary of State is left weakly complaining:
Meanwhile, Kerry complains that “Assad has refused to have a serious discussion and Russia has refused to help bring him to the table in order to do that. So that’s why we are where we are.”
Why in the world should Assad have a serious discussion with a paper tiger? Or Russia for that matter? What in the world is the downside for either if they don’t cooperate?
More disappearing red lines?
I remember when flying was mostly a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Not so much anymore:
Not too long ago, flying could be a relatively pleasant experience, but executives focused on cutting costs have stripped away everything flyers associated with luxury or even dignity. Food, baggage handling, boarding in a logical manner: Things once taken for granted now must be paid for or done without. Flights are more crowded than they’ve been since World War II, when they were carrying troops.
Competition has winnowed all the perks out of the process (mostly due to the demand for lower fares), security has made the boarding process a nightmare and, frankly, rude and short-tempered people who simply don’t know how to act in public have killed off the rest of the enjoyment. As they like to say, “you get what you pay for.”
Is anyone else laughing out loud at Hillary Clinton’s latest ironically impaired attempt to relate?
I want to send a message to every survivor of sexual assault.
Don’t let anyone silence your voice. You have a right to be heard. You have a right to be believed. We’re with you.
I hear Juanita Broadrick and Kathleen Willey agree. But Willey has a few words of her own in response:
“She believed what happened for sure,” Willey tells The American Mirror. “She just chose to ignore the plight of all of his victims, thus enabling him to continue to abuse and rape women in the future.”
Willey adds, “She’s a money-hungry hypocritical witch who will do anything for money.
“She’s a lying pig. I CANNOT believe that she had the gall to make that commercial. How dare she? I hope she rots in hell.“
Yup, so do a lot of us. One place we don’t want her, though, is in the Oval Office.
Bernie Sanders, the darling of the socialist left, has been getting a bit of traction against Hillary Clinton. In fact, Clinton is losing support so fast that even Joe Biden is considering entering his clown car into the race.
And what does Sanders bring to the table? Bigger government (much bigger), more spending (18 trillion, in fact) and much higher taxes. Wow, what a deal (one that has always appealed to the liberal left):
In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal, a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause. Mr. Sanders sees the money as going to essential government services at a time of increasing strain on the middle class.
His agenda includes an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges.
To pay for it, Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, has so far detailed tax increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years, according to his staff.
And the “but the government is paying for my stuff” crowd is going wild over him. How do you explain to the economically illiterate where this is all headed and what the result at some point in the future MUST be?
Oh, and by the way, they’re not even trying to deny it:
Mr. Gunnels, the Sanders aide, said the campaign hasn’t worked out all details on his plan—for instance, his version might allow each state to run its own single-payer system. But he said the $15 trillion figure was a fair estimate.
So, let’s elect Bernie and double our debt!
Monday at North High School in Des Moines, IA, President Barack Obama said the notion that people who illegally come to live in the United States, as they have for generations, are suddenly now “less worthy in the eyes of God,” is “un-American.” Obama said, “This whole anti-immigrant sentiment that is out there in politics right now is contrary to who we are. Because unless you are a native American, your family came from someplace else. And although we are a nation of laws and we want people to follow the law, and I have been pushing Congress to make …” yatta, yatta, yatta.
Who is making the argument that anyone is less worthy because of how they ended up here? I think the argument is they’re “illegal”! There is no “anti-immigrant” sentiment. There is an “anti-illegal immigrant” sentiment since our laws prohibit it. As for the “native Americans” they were merely the first immigrants as their families “came from someplace else”, namely Siberia. And this guy, who refuses to enforce the laws about immigration already on the books has the temerity to lecture others about being a “nation of laws”. Ironic guffaw follows ending with a contemptuous sneer.
Did the Obama administration turn down a Russian offer in 2012 to dump Syria’s Assad?
If true, this was a staggering missed opportunity. The President’s string of misjudgments on the Middle East—on the peace process, Erdogan, withdrawal from Iraq, Libya, ISIS as the “J.V. team”, and Syria—is one of the most striking examples of serial failure in the annals of American foreign policy.
Generally speaking, what the President seems worst at is estimating the direction in which events are flowing. He thought Erdogan was taking Turkey in one direction; Erdogan was going somewhere else. He thought there was a transition to democracy in Egypt; there never was a prospect of that. He has repeatedly been caught flatfooted by events in Syria. And Putin keeps running rings around him.
Understanding the intentions and estimating the capabilities of people who don’t share his worldview are not our President’s strong suits.
And now, who is it again that Russia and Iran are reported to be cozying up too? Worst president ever.
As if you likely haven’t figured that out yourself by now. Why does it suck? Well, here’s the promise:
Touring the Sunday morning talk shows, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz argued that the 24-day delay the deal provides is immaterial.
“We are very confident in our ability to detect the vestiges of any nuclear work beyond 24 days,” he said, and later explained, “When environmental samples are taken and nuclear activity has taken place, it is virtually impossible to clean up that place. You can paint the floors. You can do what you want. We feel very confident that we would find evidence of nuclear activity.”
Yet, this assumes that the IAEA will be able to inspect Iran’s military sites. What if those sites are off limits?
Ah, the key question. So … will there be sites that are off limits?
Khamenei’s foreign policy adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, was even more explicit. On July 25, he told al Jazeera’s Arabic service, “The access of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency or from any other body to Iran’s military centers is forbidden.” This was 11 days after the deal was struck.
Just days ago, according to Fars, the Iranian defense minister, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, announced, “Iran does not plan to issue permission for the IAEA to inspect every site.” He made clear that inspectors would never be permitted access to missile bases.
While some analysts and officials have dismissed such statements as the ranting of the hardest of hardliners (albeit the foreign and defense ministers and the supreme leader’s closest advisers), the Associated Press has reported that the IAEA has agreed to inspection procedures at the Parchin military site that would deny the agency physical access to the site, relying instead on photographs, videos, and samples collected by Iran. The IAEA disputes the AP story, but has not specified the procedures agreed to with Iran.
Former IAEA chief inspector Olli Heinonen writes, “If the reporting is accurate, these procedures appear to be risky, departing significantly from well-established and proven safeguards practices. At a broader level, if verification standards have been diluted for Parchin (or elsewhere) and limits imposed, the ramification is significant as it will affect the IAEA’s ability to draw definitive conclusions with the requisite level of assurances and without undue hampering of the verification process.”
My guess is the reporting is quite accurate, given the reaction of the Iranians. They have no intentions of letting anyone into their military installations. And certainly not representatives of the West. Of course the administration denies that these two people speak for the regime, even if they are the foreign and defense ministers as mentioned above.
Oh, and what if the IAEA “sniffs” something in the atmosphere? Then it is the IAEA’s word against Iran’s, given Iran won’t let them inspect the site. Then what?
Again, you’re asked to suspend your reasoning, ignore facts and statements from high government officials in Iran and believe an administration that has done nothing but lie about just about everything since it has been in power.
Yeah, no sale here.
Well it is much easier to list his abject failures than any success, that’s for sure. But what about Syria? Well, in term of incompetence, it is the tragic gift that keeps on giving:
One little boy in a red T-shirt, lying face down, drowned, on a Turkish beach, is a tragedy. More than 200,000 dead in Syria, 4 million fleeing refugees and 7.6 million displaced from their homes are statistics. But they represent a collective failure of massive proportions.
For four years, the Obama administration has engaged in what Frederic Hof, former special adviser for transition in Syria, calls a “pantomime of outrage.” Four years of strongly worded protests, and urgent meetings and calls for negotiation — the whole drama a sickening substitute for useful action. People talking and talking to drown out the voice of their own conscience. And blaming. In 2013, President Obama lectured the U.N. Security Council for having “demonstrated no inclination to act at all.” Psychological projection on a global stage. . . .
This was not some humanitarian problem distant from the center of U.S. interests. It was a crisis at the heart of the Middle East that produced a vacuum of sovereignty that has attracted and empowered some of the worst people in the world. Inaction was a conscious, determined choice on the part of the Obama White House.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus advocated arming favorable proxies. Sunni friends and allies in the region asked, then begged, for U.S. leadership. All were overruled or ignored.
In the process, Syria has become the graveyard of U.S. credibility.
Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Russia, Iran, you name the country, it is pretty probable that the situation is worse there or our relationship with the country is worse.
Foreign policy is one of the exclusive jobs of the executive branch. A crook and a clown have held the Secretary of State’s job now, and the disastrous results are in.
Now one of them wants to be President to carry on this “legacy”?
Who knew Richard Cohen reads QandO? Today’s headline on his op/ed:”Iran: The Obamacare of Foreign Policy”.
Of course he means it differently than I did yesterday.
There was no “better deal” — the fantasy of all those who hate Iran and hate Obama (which of them more is often unclear). The nuclear deal has become “such a luscious piece of Republican propaganda,” William Luers, the director of The Iran Project, whose goal is to improve American-Iranian relations, told me. And a long election season has already begun.
Or said another way, the “deal” was the goal. Not a good deal or the best deal, but any deal. Any deal at all.
My guess is Chamberlin had exactly the same goal in mind when he returned from Munich. And we all know how that turned out.
Sorta like Iran thinks this is going to turn out:
“The US officials make boastful remarks and imagine that they can impose anything on the Iranian nation because they lack a proper knowledge of the Iranian nation.”
Also today, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said they have work to do.
The IRGC’s top commander in Tehran province, Brigadier General Mohsen Kazzemeini, told operating units undergoing drills in the capital that “they (the US and the Zionists) should know that the Islamic Revolution will continue enhancing its preparedness until it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine,” according to Fars.
“And we will continue defending not just our own country, but also all the oppressed people of the world, specially those countries that are standing on the forefront of confrontation with the Zionists,” Kazzemeini said.
Yessiree … peace in our time!