Saturday, April 8, 2017

Political Rapids and Choppy Dangerous Waters Ahead For U.S. & Russia re: Syria

View of a Typical Syrian City Since October 2011 – Their “Civil War”
(Follows the “Arab Spring” across ME that started in December 2010)

Possible Complicit War Criminals
(Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin)

Aleppo is the last major urban stronghold of rebel forces in Syria where tens of thousands of besieged civilians are struggling to survive and escape the fighting, amid talk of a rebel retreat.
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth, the city of the Silk Road and the Great Mosque is poised to fall to Bashar al-Assad and his benefactors in Moscow and Tehran, after a savage four-year stalemate. Syria’s president, who has overseen a war that has left some 400,000 of his own citizens dead, with millions having fled will inherit the city now robbed of its human potential and reduced to rubble. This is a story of the influence foreign powers can have on civil wars.
Assad would not be winning without the support of Iran and Russia, which launched its military intervention in Syria a year ago. Also, it shows what happens when foreign powers (Russia and Iran), but not the U.S., choose to exercise their influence in civil wars – and make no mistake, Syria is a Civil War.
Highlights to Date:
1.  Former President Obama gradually withdrew military aid to what it considers moderate rebel factions in Syria, some of which are currently losing ground in Aleppo.
2.  Now, President Trump will probably cut off all U.S. assistance to these groups as part of his effort to partner with Russia in the fight against ISIS in Syria and surrounding areas.
3. Others opposed Syrian actions, like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, haven’t come to the rescue of those fighting al-Assad either like Russia and Iran have.
4. The U.S. is concentrated on ISIS elsewhere in Syria, as well as other Gulf countries are distracted by their war in Yemen, just as Turkey is focused on its fight with ISIS and Syrian Kurdish militias.
5.  Aleppo’s anti-Assad rebels are therefore, essentially, on their own, with tens of thousands already killed; mostly civilians and with no places to escape to.
If Assad reclaims Aleppo, he will achieve his most significant victory yet in Syria’s long war — a victory that would also belong to Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Iran. The fall of Aleppo will likely usher in a new phase of the conflict rather than end it with Assad then controlling all of Syria’s major cities: Aleppo, Damascus, Homs, and Hama. This would allow him and his allies to go on the offensive in other parts of the country like Idlib where Russian strategy is simple:
“Get them all in Idlib and then all the rotten eggs are in one basket” therefore making targets easier for Russian warplanes. Even with all that, it would take months for Assad to turn his attention to ISIS, and thus any brokered peace agreement would have to be on Assad’s terms.
And, now here we are today, which follows the recent U.S. Navy 60-Tomahawk (Cruise missiles) attack on a major airbase where planes flew from (some say) that launched the chemical attacks which killed some 70-80 innocent civilians and outraged the U.S. and many other countries with these two key points:
1.  Putin discussed Syria by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and stressed the “unacceptability” of airing “unfounded accusations” without a thorough and impartial international investigation, according to an emailed Kremlin statement. 
2.  Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized the international reaction to the attack, which she said was based on “fake” information about the involvement of Assad forces, adding: “The goal is to sabotage Russian efforts to promote a peace settlement in Syria – already in difficulty after a cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey has started to collapse – as well as revive efforts to oust Assad.”

What Lies Down the Road re: These Five Key Points: 
1.  Russia denounced as “categorically unacceptable” a UN Security Council resolution condemning the attack that was proposed by the U.S, the U.K. and France. Instead, Putin blames that deadly chemical attack on anti-Assad rebels, saying that the Syrian air force hit an ammunition depot where chemical weapons were stored.
2.  Russia accuses President Trump of rushing to judgement after the poison-gas attack further denting hopes of a breakthrough in relations as stated here: “We would welcome a more considered approach. This is a dangerous and heinous crime but it’s hasty to put labels on it,” stated Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
3.  The U.S. in turn lames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the attack in the northwestern province of Idlib at the same time criticizing Russia for backing Assad in pointing the finger at rebels opposed to his rule. Trump said the “heinous actions by the Assad regime had changed my thinking on the civil war and went “beyond red lines.” Thus he ordered the attack by our missiles.
4.  Until recently, Syria had seemed the one area where Putin and Trump were certain to find common ground with Trump saying during his election campaign that he wanted to cooperate with Russia in fighting terrorism.
5.  Now, Trump top officials have made clear that the U.S. no longer seeks regime change in Syria – that too seems to have pleased Putin.

It seems that all bets are off since the U.S. is now reluctant to join forces with Russia in Syria and the latest chemical event puts the U.S. and Russia, a former Cold War rival as far apart as they were during Barack Obama’s presidency, even if Trump is likely to avoid direct conflict.
“Some people believed in a miracle, but it didn’t happen. Unfortunately we have to deal with the U.S. as it is -- with its own interests that it tries to impose on the rest of the world. So we’ll have to be ready to strictly contain them if they try again to go beyond the realm of polite behavior,” thus stated Sergei Karaganov, a former Putin foreign policy adviser and Kremlin-supported, said of the hope for a new page in U.S.-Russia relations under Trump. He further added re: who did it: “We just don’t know. It could be true, there are bandits on all sides.”
Final Note: Russia and Iran are Assad’s main allies and their military support enabled him to reverse the course of the six-year war in his favor – this chemical attack puts a dent in all that and now a likely scenario may be increased confrontation between Russia and the United States with Iran on the sidelines holding Assad’s hand.
The B/L in all this, if truly there is a bottom line: The photo above shows Assad’s Syria – the country he has destroyed due to a lack of compassion for life or limb just to stay in power just as he father did via coups and military strength from 1970 and held power from 1971 until his death in 2000, when son Bashar took the reins and has ruled since pretty much with the same al-Assad iron glove.
As I said over 400,000 of Assad’s own citizens have been killed this is civil war and Russia should never have pitched in to keep him remain in power except that it benefits Putin and Russia by rewarding them with a warm water port of call off the shores of Syria.
What happens now – I suspect Syria, Iran and Russia will push or shall I say, back Trump into a corner … things do not look promising all around.
Keep a close eye on the next few weeks and months.

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