Marches, Obama Watches
Guess who just popped up in the Kremlin? Bashar al-Assad,
Syrian dictator and destroyer, now Vladimir Putin’s newest pet. After four
years holed up in Damascus, Assad
was summoned to Russia to bend a knee to Putin, show the world that
today Middle East questions get settled not in Washington but in Moscow, and
officially bless the Russian-led four-nation takeover of Syria now underway.
Does the bewildered Obama administration finally understand
what Russia is up to?
President Obama says Russia
is doomed to fail in the Syrian quagmire. But Russia is not trying to
reconquer the country for Assad. It is consolidating a rump Syrian state in the roughly
20 percent of the country he now controls, the Alawite areas stretching
north and west from Damascus through Latakia and encompassing theRussian
naval base at Tartus.
It’s a partition. It will leave the Islamic State in control
in the interior north and east. Why is this doomed to failure?
Putin’s larger strategy is also obvious. He is not
reconstructing the old Soviet empire. That’s too large a task. But he is
rebuilding and reasserting Russia’s ability to project power beyond its
borders. Annexing Crimea restores to the motherland full control of the
warm-water Black Sea port that Russia has coveted since Peter the Great. Shoring
up a rump Alawite state secures Russia’s naval and air bases in the eastern
Mediterranean. Add to that Russia’s launching
of advanced cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea to strike
Syrian rebels 900 miles away and you have the most impressive display of Russian
military reach since the Cold War.
For Obama, of course, these things don’t matter. “In
today’s world,” he
told the U.N. last month, “the measure of strength is no longer
defined by the control of territory.” That he clearly believes this fantasy
was demonstrated by his total abandonment of Iraq, forfeiting U.S. bases from
which we could have projected power in the region (most notably preventing,
through control of Iraqi airspace, the Iranian
rearming and reinforcement of Assad’s weakening regime).
While Obama counts on the arc of the moral universe bending toward
justice, Putin acts. As soon as the ink was dry on the Iran nuclear deal,
Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani flew
to Moscow (a sanctions violation that we blithely ignored) to plan the
multinational Syria campaign he is now directing. HisShiite
expeditionary force is comprised of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Iraqi
Shiite militias and Lebanese Hezbollah fighting under the cover of Russian
They are pounding non-Islamic State rebels, many
equipped, trained and allegedly supported by the U.S. and Obama’s vaunted
60-nation coalition. What a comfort to be pulverized by 60 to 90 Russian
airstrikes each day but to know that Belgium is with you.
The immediate Russian objective is to retake Aleppo, the
eastern part of which is the rebels’ last remaining urban stronghold.
Russia is not fighting the Islamic State. On the contrary. Its
attacks on the anti-government, anti-Islamic State rebels have allowed the
Islamic State to expand, capturing rebel-held villages north of Aleppo, even as
the Shiite expeditionary force approaches from the south.
Apart from the wreckage to Obama’s dreams of a “reset”
with Russia, think of how these advances mock Obama’s dreams for Iran, namely
that the nuclear deal would moderate Iranian behavior.
What has happened since the signing of the deal in July? Iran convicts
an American journalist , contemptuously refusing to offer even the most
minimal humanitarian gesture. Iran brazenly
tests a nuclear-capable ballistic missile that our own U.N. ambassador
said violates Security Council resolutions. And now Iran’s most notorious
Revolutionary Guard commander takes control of a pan-Shiite army trying to
decimate our remaining allies in the Syrian civil war.
Obama’s response to all this? Nothing. He has washed his
hands of the region, still the center of world oil production and trade, and
still the world’s most volatile region, seething with virulent jihadism ready
for export. When you call something a quagmire you have told the world that
you’re out and staying out. Russia and Iran will have their way.
“60 Minutes” asked Obama: Are you concerned about yielding
leadership to Russia? Obama
responded dismissively: Propping up a weak ally is not leadership. I’m
leading the world on climate change.
Upon hearing that, anyone in any conflict anywhere who has put
his trust in the United States should start packing his bags for Germany.