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Friday, February 12, 2016

The Nine LIves of Syria's Basar al-Assad.

Anytime between 2010 and 2015, if you had told me that de facto Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would survive Syria's Civil War and eventually once again preside over a government that was recognized by the  Western Powers, I would consider you to be a bit out of touch with reality.  Let's face it; since the Arab Spring gave real impetus to a budding Syrian opposition movement, things had gone progressively bad for Assad.  The fact that he faced an armed opposition movement wasn't necessarily a surprise, but the ability of the rebels to almost immediately put government forces on the defensive was shocking.  Why?  Because up to the arrival of the Arab Spring, the Syrian Ba'ath Party and Bashar al-Assad, like his father before him, had never faced a legitimate threat to their authority.  For many years, Syria, under Bashar's old man Hafez al-Assad, held a major place on the Middle Eastern chessboard.  Syria was and continues to be Russia's greatest ally in the region.  Interestingly enough, the fall of the Soviet Union did not have much impact on Russia-Syria relations.  Another long-time and trusted ally of Assad is Iran, a fact which has proved beneficial in the evolution of Iran's new partnership with Russia.  Regardless, until two months ago, Assad appeared finished.  Jabhat al-Nusra, a major opponent of the Assad regime, had been making tremendous advances on the battlefields of northwest Syria since Spring 2015.  ISIS was not far behind, harassing regime elements in far east Syria, and also in and around Damascus itself.  Everyday seemed to bring a news item detailing the latest defeat of government forces.  Then Russia and Iran decided to not only stir the pot, but to tip it over completely.  Russia's military intrusion into Syria left very little to the imagination, deploying impressive amounts of military hardware and soldiers from the very beginning. Putin's public announcements attempted to paint Russia's military deployment (and almost immediate targeted bombing campaign) as just another sincere effort on behalf of one of the "good guys", to destroy ISIS.  At the same time, Iran increased effortd to involve itself on the conflict through its surrogate Hezbollah.  Most experts were not fooled.  Putin's vaunted "bombing campaign to destroy ISIS", wasn't targeting ISIS least not in the beginning.  After the first week or so of watching the Russian Air Force pulverize Assad's indigenous Syrian opposition, complaints. started to be directed toward Moscow.  The result?  Now, instead of ten out of ten bombing sorties targeting Assad opposition, now eight out of ten were focused on the regime's internal enemies, with the remaining two managing to drop a few bombs on ISIS Headquarters in Raqqah.

All along, the purpose of direct Russian military involvement in Syria was the survival of Bashar al-Assad.  Personally, I don't see what Putin appreciates so much about trained opthemologist Bashar and his Ba'ath Party buddies.  Russia could easily just have backed the opposition, and with the United States being completely disengaged, they would have no problem creating a new Russian client state through whatever opposition they decided to support. Why was Assad so important?  The answer appears to lie somewhere with Vladimir Putin.  He was bound and determined not to see a Russian loyal puppet regime fall victim to a variety of different armed Syrian liberation movements, including a few that were allegedly supported by the United States and Europe.  Under the previous Bush Administration, it is highly unlikely that Putin would have acted so brazenly (Russian jets killed many rebels who were trained and supported by the United States...remember the Free Syrian Army?).  But President Obama has telegraphed to the world that the United States is "checking out" of complicated foreign affairs during his last year in office.  His 2016 State of the Union Address, in which he once again dramatically downplayed the threat ISIS poses to the United States, and absurdly exaggerated the amount of discrimination that Muslim-Americans face stateside, appears to suppprt that belief.  Today Russia publicly stressed the need for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian situation (after Assad's legitimate opposition has been decimated).  Not surprisingly, the United States and the group of Obama sychophants that pretend to be the leaders of Germany, France, and the UK, have agreed to the Russian proposal.  What are the odds that the Russian plan calls for the return of President Bashar al-Assad to power (rhetorical question, folks)?

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