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Friday, March 18, 2016

Putin continues to keep the West unbalanced with the announcement that Russia would be pulling out of Syria.agenda.

I have no problem admitting my suprise at Russia's announcement earlier this week that it's military goals had been met and the time had come to leave Syria.  At first blush, I took Putin literally, and gave great consideration to a full-scale military withdrawal from the Syrian theater, even while Jabhat al-Nusra and other anti-Assad elements were still in a position to strike at Russian targets.  In reality, Putin has announced the withdrawal of some units, including certain air elements that had to to actually play a part in the conflict.  Frankly, it is inconceivable that Russia would enact a full withdrawal at this stage.  A review of the current battlefield will bring the entire development into perspective.

Russia has been very aggressive in pursuing its military strategy in Syria.  I have concluded that this strategy, in typical Russian fashion, is to pursue one goal while inundating the media with reports of military successes in an entirely different direction.  Its a bit of the ol' "bait amd switch game".  When the Russians began their campaign, the was cloaked in the description of a war "to destroy ISIS".  At the time of the Russian entry into the conflict, the media were reporting disturbing daily military advances on behalf of extremist groups, in particular in northeast Syria, in the homeland of the Druze and the Assad family.  With the absolute vassilation of the Obama Administration, and Europe's unwillingness to fart without a U.S. lead, many concerned leaders welcomed Russia's entry as part of the bulwark to stem the ISIS advance. Almost immediately, though, Putin betrayed his real motivation.  Russia intervened in Syria not to destroy ISIS, but to prop-up Russia's long-time puppet in Damascus, de facto President Bashar al-Assad.  Russian jets targeted anti-Assad forces from the beginning with a nasty vengeance, showing a complete disregard to the potential for civilian casualties.  Only after the Western media began to point out the peculiar singular direction of Russia's military targeting did the Russians begin to conduct the odd strike against ISIS locations.  As for the overall results of the Russian campaign to date, efforts to restore regime authority in an around Aleppo have been tremendously successful.  Also, Russian targeting has caused important strategic reverses to both al-Nusra and ISIS.  The most important question of the hour, is whether the rejuvenated and resupplied regime forces loyal to Assad can consolidate and hold these gains, especially as the negotiating season appears to be upon us.  Can we conclude for certain that this Russian intervention in Syria was primarly intended to solidify Assad's bargaining position?  It's very possible.  But Putin is flexible when it suits his agenda.  Its also possible that Putin had another goal in mind, something more long-term, but developments and the nature of the campaign convinced him that it was best to slow things down a bit and allow Assad the opportunity to negotiate from a position of increased strength.  Keeping all of these factors in mind, do not expect the Russians to really evacuate Syria.  No doubt Putin will leave enough airpower in place to continue his reactive support of Assad's forces, especially in the Aleppo theater.

Another issue that should be of concern to the American people, is the fate of the Obama Adminstration's policy in Syria, given last year's announced effort to set-up a "free Syria" military force, to be heavily trained (in Jordan, one can surmise) and supplied by the United States, to confront ISIS on the battlefield and provide the west with a certain "Boots on the Ground" representation.  Obama's unwillingness to pay the political pricetag of involving U.S. troops on-the-ground and incuring casualties, is the. motivation for the decision hire others to do our fighting for us.  A good question is, how much money has been spent by the United States vis-a-vis its policy in Iraq and Syria.  I am curious what we accomplished, dollar versus rouble, in comparison to the Russians, in their very short time on the battlefield.  I suspect the picture would not be pretty.

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