Reportedly a Russian General strode into the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq and demanded to speak with somebody responsible for military actions and handed the officer a letter after which some curt words were exchanged and the Russian left without further explanation. It has been further reported that there has been a Russian demand that the United States cease all air activity and cease and desist any sorties in the greater Syrian theater or risk a confrontation with Russian aircraft who have orders to defend against United States interference, or so it appears was the implication. Other rumored reports claim that the Russian bombing runs today were concentrated on the areas occupied not by the Islamic State but on the Syrian “rebels” which were trained and working with the United States. This we believe is somewhat a bit of hyperbole as the latest reports claimed that the United States efforts had produced less than two dozen fighters after two years and countless investment in time, money and equipment and that does not sound like anything that would require more than one airstrike. The likelihood is that the Russians were hitting the rebels who oppose Bashir al-Assad which would include potential strikes on United States trained fighters, especially with reports from this past week that they were trading much of their United States provided aid in exchange for free passage through other rebel groups areas in order to avoid a fight which they would likely have lost. So, with the United States continuing to fly sorties, though how few is uncertain, and the Russians presumably threatening to protect Assad and his Alawites and their coastal region from United States air attacks, the question is would the United States attack Assad troops and position or simply contain their strikes to Islamic State positions. Another problem might become a point of contention is if the United States aircraft on missions necessarily cross over Assad’s regions would the Russians attempt to down the United States flights and if such should happen, what would be the reaction from the White House and the Congress.
There are too many questions and such complete uncertainty with far too few sources of information to base any hypotheses upon with any degree of accuracy; but why not just fly off the handle and take a stab at this situation and see what we produce and judge it later down the road. Apparently the Pentagon plans to continue with their missions as assigned and ignore the Russian threats probably hoping that it was just so much bluster and sabre rattling. Putin probably feels quite certain that should he push hard enough that President Obama would back down just as he did with the red line fiasco with Assad and the use of chemical weapons which President Putin saved Obama’s bacon as he stewed in pools of indecision and slow and repeated retreats. This is what Putin is basing his boldness upon and has no reason, from the track record which President Obama has compiled, to think differently. The problem is with the Iran deal beginning to tarnish already under the microscope of public opinion, President Obama may be seeking some strong armed acts which he can rebuild some form of foreign policy and military prowess legacy. A desperate man with the clock running out might prove too irrational and unpredictable for anybody to make a safe bet on what actions might be now considered worth the risk. When President Jimmy Carter found himself looking weak he attempted a rescue of the hostages held by Iran and the mission ended in tragedy and dead United States troops including Special Forces and Navy Seals if I remember correctly. A desperate Administration still seeking an uncontested foreign policy legacy which has hung its final shot on degrading the Islamic State and forcing regime change in Syria necessarily removing Bashir al-Assad from being in contention in that process. The Iranians, Hezballah and now Russia have staked their claim to Syria and restoring al-Assad to power and then holding a Syrian election where al-Assad will win reelection by sufficient margin to remove any doubt to his authenticity no matter how unverified the election numbers might be. The Russians have made one thing very clear, despite the overt efforts of the Obama White House’s demands for Assad to be removed from power and not permitted to run in any new elections, as the United States has Assad tried and convicted for his abuses of the men and women who had remained in Syria living in rebel occupied areas and presumed to have joined or be supporting the rebels even if all they were doing was protecting their home and limit their losses, just attempting to survive and not actually backing either side, the two sides will continue to butt heads until President Obama realizes the error of his ways, or so Putin is adamant. The United States does not actually have a dog in this fight while the Russians most definitely have their own pet dog in the fray, Bashir al-Assad, along with Hezballah and Iran, and a potential route towards gaining control over Iraq and Europe and the land bridges between them. The Iranians basically told the world what was the reason and against whom his forces are fighting for and this has been further validated through their actions. The enemy in Syria are the best training facilities built by the Soviet Union back before their break-down and Assad accepted the assistance from the many different sides thus making himself largely responding to the demands and instruction of Russian forces assisting and supplying the tools required to draw Israel into the fight.
This multiple fractioned war has coalitions which can be instructive as to who sides with whom and who are the actual players. The initial two sides have all but been destroyed or subsumed by their original parent groups. The Syrian forces of Bashir al-Assad have reacted strongly but with lesser and older weapons than has the Islamic State. The forces fighting with al-Assad currently are the remainder of his military who have stood by his side and watched their power and nation be laid waste and been unable to prevent this horror story. The immediate allies for al-Assad have been Hezballah and originally Iran who are the actual puppet masters working the marionettes. Their final benefactor, forced by the precarious situation faced by Assad and his allies as they had been defeated across the boards, the Russians have jumped into the fray with both feet betting that the United States will accept Russians determining the end results in Syria or be forced to face the Islamic State with little if any assistance from the remaining forces in Iraq as well as Syria using almost universally United States fighting men and women on the ground. The opposition breaks into three distinct groups, the social-Marxists consisting of the leftist forces whose desire was to restructure Syria into a model leftist socialist state. Then there were the Islamist supremacy groups which include all the various factions of al-Qaeda to the Muslim Brotherhood fighting against al-Assad in a semi-symbiotic relationship with the social-Marxists. Then there is the breakaway force which sees itself as the sole preordained leader of all Sunni and eventually all Muslim forces under their self-proclaimed Caliphate. That is the most basic description of the breakdown of the forces before the Russians responded to the sad state of the Alawite troops losses which threatened complete bombing began to systematically strike at the anti-al-Assad forces including the rebels trained by the United States. There are also the forces known as the Islamic State which appear to be a problem to everybody not an active subscriber to their radical agenda who claim they are the core of the new Caliphate. The end result is this self-proclaimed Caliph and his forces will continue to grow unless somebody is forced into committing troops to prevent such advances. From appearances President Obama had been attempting to prevent any large contingent to coalesce around the United States enemies, as well as to force al-Assad from power, without committing any United States ground troops, a tactic which has died gloriously just as predicted and allowed, if not forced, the Russians to appear. This forced Russia to declare their interests and willingness to enforce their side by any and all means required. This will settle the situation in favor of al-Assad by default. The problem is this may not go far enough to eradicate the Islamic State which could surrender their Syrian holdings rather than contend with the Russian troops and simply continue their expansions through Iraq and potentially further throughout the region.
The big, and we mean really big, question is what steps if any will the United States take from the Russian demands they leave the area. Will President Obama press a confrontation and how will he react when any actions, especially sorties flown by United States Air Force and Navy pilots are challenged over Syrian air space and warned to retreat and never return as their assistance is not required nor desired. Will President Obama press the situation to its breaking point of the Russians shooting down an American aviator and taking the pilot prisoner which could happen today of that is the way the cards are being laid out on the table. This current situation with the direct confrontation being pressed and the game of chicken and who will blink first begins. If the glares never blink the other result is a war between Russia and the United States and all the potential ramifications of such a conflict come into play. Our bet is it will get extremely tense and at the last minute some facilitation will be found or Putin will blink first as President Obama is not calling the shots for the United States or he would have turned and run from the first threats as he has done every time he has been challenged. This situation is as serious as or more so than has been played in the media and the media may try to prevent things from boiling over but they will find that beyond their control or even influence. The media can only exacerbate the problem and send things spinning out of control even faster. That is what they must avoid at all costs.
Beyond the Cusp