Thursday, September 12, 2013

Russia Rising

This is a very timely and insightful article from FrontPage Magazine:

Putin’s interest in advancing an international monitoring plan for Syria’s chemical weapons, while continuing to arm Syria and Iran, is designed to enhance Russia’s influence in the critical Middle Eastern Shiite arc at the expense of the United States and its allies. Russia also wants to maintain its naval base in Syria as well as build a bulwark against Sunni jihadist expansion from the Middle East into the North Caucasus and the rest of Russia. Putin is not about to let Syria slip out of Assad’s hands if he can help it.

From the perspective of Putin’s overriding interest to keep the Assad regime in power, his international monitoring proposal makes Machiavellian sense. The devil is in the details of monitoring and enforcement. Who would be responsible? Assuming that the United Nations is called upon to provide chemical weapons inspectors for the mammoth task of verification, custody and destruction of Syria’s vast chemical weapons stockpiles, just consider how difficult it was to get even the small UN expert team into Syria, for a short period of time, to investigate past allegations of chemical weapons use. The “modalities,” in UN-speak, took months to negotiate. And we are still waiting for the results from their investigation of the August 21st chemical weapons attack – simply to ascertain that chemical weapons were in fact used, which we all know already, not who used them. We are now told that the results will be made available by this Monday.

Negotiating the mandate and procedures for a more permanent presence of UN chemical weapons inspectors in Syria is sure to run into far more difficulties. As they have already shown, the Russians will not agree to a Security Council resolution with any firm deadline or ultimatum imposed on Syria to surrender its weapons for inspection or face the use of force. Thus, Obama would have to go back into the corner from which Putin rescued him a few days ago. Either he would have to ask Congress for the authority to launch a strike on his own if negotiations with the Syrian regime drag on too long for his taste, or risk domestic and international wrath if he proceeds without any authorization from Congress or the UN Security Council while the UN is still in negotiations.

Even in peacetime situations involving nations that volunteer to give up their chemical weapons, the process of collection, identification, destruction and deactivation can take years. Syria is a war zone. The chemical weapons are dispersed, including in areas where the conflict with the rebels is raging. Security is imperative, as the small UN chemical weapons expert team found out last month when it came under sniper fire and had to temporarily retreat. Even with full cooperation from the Syrian government and military, the al Qaeda forces and their jihadist allies will not stand idly by. They are sure to do everything they can to disrupt the chemical weapons transfer to international control and launch attacks to seize loose chemical weapons for themselves.

A Pentagon study concluded that just securing the weapons would take more than 75,000 troops on the ground.  They will obviously be in harm’s way.  Where will they come from?
The United Nations will not say whether there is any contingency planning underway for a UN peacekeeping force to provide security. However, the UN peacekeeping operations are stretched thin as it is, have suffered significant casualties in other missions, and are not set up to handle this kind of massive task.

NATO is a possibility.  Turkey, which is a member of NATO and is a neighbor of Syria’s with the potential for direct exposure to Syria’s chemical weapons, provides a rationale for NATO involvement. However, a NATO-led operation, even if were to be under the auspices of a UN Security Council resolution, is almost certain to run into heavy resistance from Russia, which does not want to see a repeat of the Libya experience. In any case, it is inconceivable that the American people would support a significant commitment of American troops as part of a NATO or other international force contingent, after being assured that there would be no American “boots on the ground” in Syria.

Unless Turkey, Arab League countries and possibly some European countries such as France take up the slack, that leaves Russia itself and the Syrian military as the prime guarantors of security with some other nations’ troops possibly involved for window-dressing. In other words, to carry out Russia’s plan for protected international assumption of control over the Assad regime’s chemical stockpile, the price would be the Assad regime’s retention of power to avoid the specter of complete chaos.
The Assad regime buys significant time. Russia increases its military presence under the pretext of providing security for the transfer to international control. The rebels, including the so-called “moderates” whom the Obama administration says it is supporting, are marginalized.
In short, Russia wins. And the United States, under President Obama, looks weaker than ever.

The Russian ploy on weapons controls was followed by the brilliant move of abandoning strike options. Obama's speech the night of Sept. 10 was addressed to the U.S. public and Obama's highly fractured base; some of his support base opposes and some -- a particular audience -- demands action.
He cannot let Syria become the focus of his presidency, and he must be careful that the Russians do not lay a trap for him. He is not sure what that trap might look like, and that's what is unnerving him as it would any president. Consequently, he has bought time, using the current American distaste for military action in the Middle East. But he is aware that this week's dislike of war can turn into next week's contempt on charges of weakness. Obama is an outstanding politician and he knows he is in quicksand.
The Russians have now launched a diplomatic offensive that emphasizes to both the Arabs in the Persian Gulf opposing Bashar al Assad and the Iranians supporting him that a solution is available through them. It requires only that they ask the Americans to abandon plans for action. The message is that Russia will solve the chemical weapons problem, and implicitly, collaborate with them to negotiate a settlement.
Obama's speech on Sept. 10, constrained by domestic opinion, came across as unwilling to confront the Russians or al Assad. The Russians are hoping this has unnerved al Assad's opponents sufficiently to cause them to use the Russians as their interlocutors. If this fails the Russians have lost nothing. They can say they were statesmen. If it succeeds, they can actually nudge the regional balance of power.
The weakness of the Russian position is that it has no real weight. The limit on American military action is purely domestic politics. If the United States chooses to hit Syria, Russia can do nothing about it and will be made to look weak, the tables thus turned on them.
At this point, all signs indicate that the domestic considerations dominate U.S. decision-making. If the Russian initiative begins to work, however, Obama will be forced to consider the consequences and will likely act. The Arabs suspect this and therefore will encourage the Russians, hoping to force the U.S. into action.
The idea that this imbroglio will somehow disappear is certainly one that Obama is considering. But the Russians will not want that to happen. They do not want to let Obama off the hook and their view is that he will not act. Against this backdrop, they can appear to be the nemesis of the United States, its equal in power and its superior in cunning and diplomacy.
This is the game to watch. It is not ending but still very much evolving.


Stephen said...

Assad backtracking, playing the
game of INVOLVING the Jews in
his charades...

go here >>>>>>>>>>>>>

about getting rid of his CW arsenal.

that is his ACE card....

why would he let it go, especially
circus. ????

there is ANOTHER VIEW ON stocks I must mention, a DEEPLY BEARISH one.

recently option traders got the MOST BULLISH they have been since
JAN/FEB 2011.

like in the last 48 hours.


this would argue FOR AN IMMEDIATE
RESOLUTION to the wave count, ie.

we will see.

bulls are walking ON EGGS here.

that I know.

Stephen >>>>>>>>>>>

AudioOutlaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

are you expecting war anytime soon in Syria? I just wondering where the war will start?

WVBORN56 said...

Perhaps Tomorrow!


Scott said...

Yes - I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. None. This thing is more unpredictable by the way - but I do believe that the 'staging' for war that the US and Russia are now engaged in - will remain until the predicted biblical wars - and that ultimately, this staging is being done (unwittingly) for that