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Monday, May 18, 2015

Developments in Ukraine and Syria.

Links: A. U.S. Troops Training Ukrainian Army.
           B. Syrian War Nearing Conclusion?

No doubt the Ukrainian military is pleased that the United States has provided military trainers to prepare the growing number of Ukrainian Army recruits for combat, as all indications point to an escalation in hostilities.  Although I don't recall the legislation that allows for U.S. troops to be peripherally involved in the conflict, I'm glad that at least we have made it clear that we believe Russia to be the antagonist.  Like most of Congress, I urgently call for the Obama Administration to provide immediate military assistance to Ukraine.  Today I noticed a Reuters Article that quoted Vladimir Putin as identifying Ukraine as a "fascist state".  Not to be outdone, Reuters took the time to educate all of us idiots out here that the Ukrainian government and parliament were passing legislation that could be interpreted as "fascist".  News flash to Reuters (News Flash to a premier news organization?): Ukraine is under military assault by a nation with a much larger army and greater access to military resources.  What country does not rely on extreme internal measures during war, to protect the safety of the people and the integrity of the state?  Heck, Russia has draconian internal laws and they are always the aggressor in these instances.  By my history book, Russia has not been invaded since Hitler's Operation Barbarossa in 1941.  Since the dissolution of Communist Russia, the Russians have managed to be militarily aggressive towards Moldova, Chechnya, Georgia, and Ukraine.  I'm waiting for Reuters to point out that "invading your neighbors under false pretenses" is a tad bit fascist, but I'm not holding my breath.

During the 9 May May Day celebrations in Donetsk and Luhansk, the separatists paraded all sorts of military gear in front of small of enthusiastic crowds.  Interestingly enough, much of the hardware on display was supposed to be removed from Ukraine according to the provisions of the 12 February Cease Fire signed in Minsk by Russia and Ukraine.  Of course, the Russians will claim that the military vehicles and weapons on display were removed according to the Cease Fire obligations, but had only recently been returned.  And those of us with a shred of common sense will chalk that claim up to another in a long list of outright Russian lies.  Here is a bit of free intelligence for everyone who hasn't caught on yet:  Vladimir Putin is a liar, and the Russian government cannot be trusted to fulfill a treaty requiring it to clean a litter box.  And yet, looking about as moronic as is humanly possible, here is Secretary of State John "Frankenstein" Kerry, discussing the possibility of a new Cease Fire with Putin.  What is congenitally wrong with these people, that they continue to go on trusting people who have proven time and again that they can't be trusted?  Has it been that long since the Russian separatists in Ukraine, misusing the latest in Russian military equipment, shot down a commercial jet full of innocent men, women and children?  Lets not forget that the Russian government disseminated every kind of bizarre "breaking news story" to try and blame the incident on everyone from the Ukrainians to the United States.  The Ukrainian front line in southeastern Ukraine is soon to be assaulted by Russian weapons, Russian warplanes, and probably even Russian troops.  The brave of ineffectual Ukrainian Army (and the undisciplined collection of foreign mercenaries they've contracted, who can walk off the battlefield at any moment, and will) will be no match for the firestorm that approaches, and when we all wake up a few weeks later, Kiev itself maybe in the Russian's gun sights.

Simply put, the only action that Putin will respect is a hard military response.  And you can bet your last ruble that he needn't worry about seeing one.

As we have been reporting over the last month, the pro-Assad military has suffered one strategic calamity after another, mostly at the hands of Jabhat al-Nusrah (JN).  In reality, aside from a few isolated and unimportant outposts out in the eastern desert, Assad's authority is limited to Syria "west of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains.  He has lost both the border in the north to the Kurds, and the Jordanian border to a variety of opposition. Folks are beginning to grumble about chemical agents because the use of such unpredictable weapons is usually reserved for desperate times.  And lets be clear about one thing:  the clock is ticking on the Assad Presidency.  The key was the lack of real support from his usual sugar daddy, Russia.  We had expected the Russians to take advantage of last year's lull in fighting to rebuild Assad's armor capabilities and air force.  Aside from a few new helicopters, we see no indication that Russia has made any kind of effort to strengthen Assad's army.  Is it possible that Putin realized that his dream of a Russian naval port on the Mediterranean wasn't going to happen, at least not on the Syrian coast?  Is it possible that the situation in Ukraine demanded too much focus from the Russian military, so Assad was cut lose?  That would be highly unlikely, so the decision was more of a pragmatic, realistic choice on the part of Putin.  With the extremist armies growing in strength, and Turkey screaming for Assad's removal, Putin probably weighed his equities and decided that Assad would have to sink-or-swim on his own.  And the last few weeks have been all about swimming for Assad and his dwindling military.

Indications are that the Islamic State (IS), which had been quiet on the Syrian front as of late (and making lots of noise in Iraq), is about to launch a two-pronged offensive in Syria, exclusively targeting regime forces.  So let me scream this from the rafters, so those in Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon can hear: we need a proactive plan regarding what happens after Assad leaves.  The United States cannot find itself in a Libya, part II situation.  Even though the Free Syrian Army still hasn't made an impression on the battlefield, is it possible that they can be utilized to protect our interests and equities in Syria?  We didn't spend billions of dollars on training an army and leading an air campaign in order to have no say-so in post-Assad Syria.  But this is where my suggestions end. I have no idea what to do with this mess.  If it had been up to me, we would have mobilized the entire U.S. military to destroy the IS in both Syria and Iraq, and left a few useful military bases behind us.  But I guess I can be labeled as a bit of a "Hawk".  Both JN and IS have legitimate claim to rule in Syria, if we follow the law of the desert: he who stands last, stands tallest.  If the IS flushes Assad and his herd of cronies out of Damascus, have they not earned their "Caliphate"?  I have a sneaky feeling that the end of Assad will result in a "rapprochement" with JN, the IS, Khorasan, and all the other shitty little groups out here in the desert.  They all fight for the same goal: Islamic extremist hegemony, under the guise of Al-Qaeda.  So dealing with is may be all that will be needed.  Either way, do we try and negotiate with them, or do we go to war again?  Is there another option?  I guess we could just evacuate all of our folks and let Israel sort it out. 

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