Obama, Putin and Syria: A bullet point update

by LAWRENCE SELLIN, PHD October 3, 2015

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  • Vladimir Putin's overall strategy is to prop up Russia's long-time regional ally, Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
  • Russia has bombed targets in northwestern Syria, an area mainly held by non-ISIS rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army and an Islamist coalition, Jaysh al-Fatah.
  • The aim is to eliminate non-ISIS groups first. Then the Syrian, Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah alliance can turn its attention to ISIS and, thereby, force the United States to support or, at least, do nothing to hinder their operations.
  • Controlling northwest Syria also safeguards Assad's Shia-Alawite home region and his base of support, as well as securing the strategically critical coastal area containing the Latakia airbase used by Russian forces and the important port of Tartus.
  • With Russia filling the power vacuum left by Obama's feckless foreign policy, the big losers in the region are the United States, Turkey and, to some extent, the nations that have supported the Sunni rebels, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Sunni Islamist, an opponent of Syria's Assad and a fervent supporter of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Like Erdogan, Obama also demonstrated ardent support for the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt.
  • Some have argued that the Muslim Brotherhood exerts undue influence on the Obama Administration.
  • Together with another strong supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar, which acted as an intermediary, Erdogan and Obama were likely shipping arms from Libya through Turkey to the Syrian rebels, which led, at least in part, to the death of Americans in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
  • Obama, having outsourced the Syrian rebel supply effort to Turkey and Qatar, not unexpectedly, lost control of the funding, the weapons distribution and any significant influence in the region with Turkey and Qatar pursuing their own interests.
  • Russia and the Shia-axis of Assad, Iran and Hezbollah are now positioned to drive events in the region, all of which will only to be strengthened by Obama's incompetent lead-from-behind foreign policy and his perilous Iran nuclear deal.

New information about the Russian disinformation campaign added October 4, 2015 from the Institute for the Study of War website - Russian airstrikes continue to primarily target Syrian opposition groups in areas far from ISIS's core terrain. These strikes are concentrated in northwestern Syria, particularly in rebel-held areas of Idlib Province and the northern countryside of Hama Province. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed only three airstrikes targeting positions in known ISIS-held terrain between October 1 and October 3. However, local reporting only confirmed two of these strikes. The Russian air campaign in Syria appears to be largely focused on supporting the Syrian regime and its fight against the Syrian opposition, rather than combating ISIS. 

 

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of "Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution ". He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.

 


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