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Are Trump and Obama right about a “Russian Quagmire?”

Are Trump and Obama right about a “Russian Quagmire?”

Putin unifies the rebels…against Russian intervention

For all his faults, Vladimir Putin has managed to do the impossible: by ordering rogue airstrikes on non-ISIS strongholds in Syria, he has united the various rebel factions vying for power in the region, and forced Barack Obama and Donald Trump to agree on something.

During a press conference last Friday, President Obama told the pool that he was willing to work with Putin in Syria, but only if the resulting plan includes removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. He went on to say that Putin’s strategy of attempting to unite forces in support of Assad’s regime—which directly contradicts US strategy in the region—will result in Russia being stuck in a “quagmire” with no easy exit strategy.

This isn’t just an easy talking point. Administration officials close to the situation see nothing but disaster:

Two U.S. officials told The Daily Beast they more or less hoped that Russia did dive into what they called the “quagmire” of Syria, a conflict that the U.S. has kept at arm’s length by limiting its involvement to airstrikes directed exclusively at ISIS and al Nusra forces.

“If he wants to jump into that mess, good luck,” one official said, noting that Russia had become bogged down in Afghanistan a generation ago in a fight against Islamic radicals.

Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told reporters that the Russians may be “making a terrible strategic mistake” by deepening their military involvement in Syria. He also warned of the “risk of running into a quagmire.”

“I think they remember Afghanistan. That knowledge or that concern may have some limiting governor on what they do themselves,” he added. “Their relationship in Syria is nothing new. It’s been their one foothold in the region for a long time. And it’s a foothold they are trying to hold on to.”

Russia’s desire to maintain their client state in the Middle East is a powerful factor in Putin’s decisionmaking process, but even Donald Trump—who has made a point to highlight the strategic value of ruthless relationship-building—is ready to “sit back” and and let Putin get himself good and stuck:

In comments aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Trump said he would not establish a no-fly zone over Syria, as several other candidates, including Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, have suggested.

“I think what I want to do is I want to sit back and… see what happens,” Trump said, before suggesting that the Soviet Union’s war in the 1980s against Afghan mujahideen rebels “destroyed” the communist bloc.

“Now they’re going into Syria, there are so many traps, there are so many problems. When I heard they were going in to fight ISIS, I said, ‘Great, let them,'” the billionaire real estate mogul told the show.

Of course, for what it’s worth, Trump appears to back a stronger Assad, signaling a sharp divide between himself and the president.

Still, in terms of quagmires, both men may have a point. Putin’s belligerence has prompted the more than 40 Syrian rebel groups currently vying for power to unite against Russian “occupiers.” They argue that Putin interrupted what was about to prove a successful campaign against the brutal Assad regime, and charge that Russian airstrikes have not targeted ISIS strongholds, but rebel ones.

Via The Times of Israel:

“This new reality requires the region’s countries and the allies in specific to hasten in forming a regional alliance to face the Russian-Iranian alliance that occupies Syria,” the 41 factions said in a statement released by Ahrar al-Sham. It was apparently referring to backers of the opposition such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The Syrian militant and rebel factions, including the US-backed Division 101 and Tajammu Alezza, said “the Russian military aggression on Syria is considered a blatant occupation of the country even if some claim it was done with the official request of the Assad regime. Those who lost legitimacy can’t offer it.”

“All Syrian armed revolutionary factions must realize we are in a war to push an aggressor, a war that makes unifying ranks and word a duty on all brothers,” the factions said in the two-page statement posted online. “Any occupation force to our beloved country is a legitimate target.”

Earlier in the day militant websites report that Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood declared that jihad against the “sheer Russian occupation of Syria” is a legitimate duty for everyone capable of carrying weapons.

If this keeps up, we’re going to need a flowchart to track who has declared jihad against whom. We’re now looking at a two “front” shootout between rebel groups, Assad, and Russia, with no one focused on ISIS and no workable solution to address the growing humanitarian crisis.

In this case, Obama and Trump may both be right—and that says a lot about the state of international politics in the Middle East.

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Russians are not fighting ‘to not lose.’

Also – if Putin actually kicks ISIS around the block then he engenders good will from Christians around the world.

    Estragon in reply to MattMusson. | October 5, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Putin won’t touch ISIS if they leave Assad alone and concentrate on their domestic rebel opponents and Iraq. Putin’s ONLY interest is in propping up Assad to maintain his foothold in the region and to foster closer ties with Iran, which is already happening.

    US officials are still talking about a “solution” which “must include Assad leaving Syria,” demonstrating a complete misunderstanding of the situation. Assad would never make it to a plane if he tried to abandon his Alawite commanders, who face certain massacre if they lose. They have ruled Syria with a bloody iron fist for nearly half a century and there can be no peaceful solution. Neither the Sunnis, the Shi’ites, or ISIS will leave any Alawite alive. Payback time.

    – –

    Obama is just whining as usual, he has no will and no influence on the situation any longer, having voted “present” once too often. Trump just has no understanding of the situation, but he’s not a detail-oriented policymaker.

      DaveGinOly in reply to Estragon. | October 5, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      If Putin kicks ISIS out of Syria, that simplifies our opposition to the group, because it removes the entire Syrian mess from our consideration of any campaign against the organization. We will be free to attack ISIS elsewhere in situations (such as in Iraq) in which our actions will be more clearly in support of our own interests and those of our allies.

Obama is projecting. His desperate deal with Iran was prompted by the culmination of the Obama-created quagmire and regional chaos that crosses three continents. Secretly, he welcomes Russian intervention to relieve him of responsibility for the lives of the people he sacrificed. Secretly, the Europeans welcome Russian intervention to stem the progress of the social activist-inspired global humanitarian disaster.

I think the Russians will have realistic ROEs. Where is Bomber Harris when you need him?

Let’s see now, Netanyahu and Trump: Russians bombing the hell out of ISIS is a good thing because it needs doing and Obama won’t do it because he supports Muslim extremist terrorism.


Carly, Yeb, Hillary, Kasich: we should threaten to go to war with Russia to force “no-fly” zones to provide “safe” corridors for the ISIS and other Muslim terrorist savages to operate in Syria, free from aerial destruction.

Hmmmm. Decision, decision …

Oh, yes. A quagmire.

In a way, he’s right — Russian forces will be in the Middle East for decades to come.

Just like our forces in western Europe and South Korea.

    Paul in reply to clintack. | October 5, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    We better hope US oil production stays at the high levels it has been at in recent years. If we find ourselves needing middle eastern oil we may be in a world of economic hurt.

David R. Graham | October 5, 2015 at 2:52 pm

This post would be improved by an assembly of ground-based data, specifically geological, hydrological and operational.

NC Mountain Girl | October 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Access to the Mediterranean Sea has been a strategic goal of Russia for centuries.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to NC Mountain Girl. | October 5, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    They have access, a Russian naval base at Tartus, Syria. The Russians need to control whomever controls Syria, but are not married to Assad should he throw the Russian bit once/if he regains full control of Syria, at which point a mysterious accident or rogue missile strike blamed on rebels will take out Assad.

Russia’s been involved in the Muslim world for centuries. It’s still around.

Two countries are not whinging about Russia in Syria, Jordan and Israel. I strongly suspect they are both sharing intel with the Russians that neither would trust obama with. They both have a vested interest on a stable Syria. No one on the outside knows any real thing about these rebel groups. Syrian Kurds never had a real problem with Assad, but have had nothing but grief from Turkey. the silver lining, dead people do not immigrate to Europe or the USA.

Why is Russian action characterized as “rogue”? Russia has every bit as much right to enforce its own policies and interests in Syria as do we. They may be diametrically opposed to our interests, but Russia is a sovereign nation entitled to taking action in pursuit of its own security objectives as is the US.

    DaveGinOly in reply to DaveGinOly. | October 6, 2015 at 1:13 am

    I see there are readers who believe the US has a privileged status that permits it to use force in the pursuit of its national security interests to the exclusion of an exercise of similar authority by any other nation.

    Where did we get this wondrous authority?

      Sure, Russia has as much of a right of enforcing its interests in Syria as the US, and, actually, we have a lot to learn from Russia here. The world would be a better place if we were to intelligently and consistently pursue what should be our foreign policy, which is make the world free for trade.
      I didn’t give you a thumb down btw, and if some people did, I suspect it’s because they are coming to terms with what’s happening here rather than out of some sort of philosophical differences.

Henry Hawkins | October 5, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Short goal, Russia wants/needs to protect its naval base at Tartus, Syria, its only access to the Mediterranean. Long goal is to be the largest power broker in the Middle East, supplanting the US, currently in process with the help of (a) a bumbling Obama/Kerry foreign policy or (b) a purposely planned surrender of our Middle Eastern influence by the Obama administration. Russian controls almost all natural gas going into Europe. Putin wants to add a sizable percentage of Middle East oil to that portfolio. They aren’t there because of a sand shortage in Moscow nor as a humanitarian effort becuae it’s the right thing to do.

Russia can’t fight ISIS too hard – ISIS’ existence is their reason to be there in Syria in the first place. Putin wants to stay long-term. He’s got plans and no world power willing to oppose him beyond tongue-flapping and hand-waving.

    forksdad in reply to Henry Hawkins. | October 5, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    It’s dangerous to oppose American Interests but deadly to become America’s ally or disarm when faced with American pressure. Do you really think Quaddaffi would have been sodomized with iron rods then murdered if he kept his nuclear program?

    We’ve made it clear you either comply with what we want and probably wind up in a show trial or just lynched or you keep your military might and tech programs running and we negotiate until you get what you want.

    We’ve supplied most of ISIS weapons and all of the AQ affiliated opposition. Moderate opposition. Good luck finding it. “Amina” was as moderate as you’ll find and ‘she’ was an American man living in England. I haven’t believed a word from the media machine since then.

    Watch how fast Putin runs the rebels and their ISIS allies out of Syria. Damn fast I bet. Then we’ll be faced with our Frankenstein monster isolated in Iraq where we started the power vacuum.

    We have the choice of looking like lying chumps because we have actually been using ISIS not fighting it or starting WWIII over it.

    We’ll slink away with our tail between our legs like we did when he annexed the Crimea.

      “Sodomized with iron rods then murdered…”

      Exactly what ‘Barack Hussein Obama (or whoever the f–k he is), the democRat party and the idiots running the GOP as well as John Roberts have done to the United States. Hope everyone enjoyed it – there’s a lot more of it to come.

“In this case, Obama and Trump may both be right—and that says a lot about the state of international politics in the Middle East.”

And if Trump is right, then Hillary and Fiorina with their crazy world war 3 inducing no fly zones are wrong.

    Ragspierre in reply to Gary Britt. | October 5, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Gary, liar, you REALLY need to stop loading your pants over “WWIII”.

    The MOST likely cause of any war is ambiguity, not a show of strength and resolve.

    It’s funny that Fiorina shows a LOT more balls than your little yellow god…

    “I think what I want to do is I want to sit back and… see what happens,” Trump said.

    Putin snickers.

      Ragzini its not a question of balls its a question of mature good sense. Trump has it and Hillary/Fiorina not so much.

      Hillary/Fiorina are trying so hard to show they know something (Hillary) or have balls (Fiorina) that they would risk starting world war 3. Fiorina has a reputation for balls at HP. It was the good sense and mature judgment that was lacking and got her fired.

        Ragspierre in reply to Gary Britt. | October 5, 2015 at 7:00 pm

        “…its a question of mature good sense”.

        Just as a good Chamberlain supporter would declare!

        Remember how Churchill was “fired” between the wars? No?

        I forget. You know less about history than most of the things you know nothing about, but on which you are sure.

          As is often the case with your bloviations it has nothing to do with the post to which it replies or the discussion as a whole. Topped off with childish name calling to reassure yourself that you really are somebody.

        PhillyGuy in reply to Gary Britt. | October 6, 2015 at 8:49 am

        Exactly correct Gary. Mark Hurd had to clean up the mess she left. Don’t forget Mastercard Mario is also advocating a no fly zone.

Quagmire. Riiiiighttt …

The operational feature of a quagmire is that it’s sticky. Once you blunder in, it’s hard to get out.

But there’s nothing keeping Putin in. He finds Assad convenient, but in no way essential. If things get too hot or too embarrassing, Putin can change his plans at any time. The Middle East is full of horses; he can drop one and back another whenever opportunity presents itself. Who’s going to remove this freedom of action by boxing him in? Obama? Riiiiighttt …

Putin is a very cautious man. There’s been an international power vacuum centered on the Oval Office for the better part of a decade now, but the Russians have made little serious effort to exploit it so far. Perhaps Putin can’t believe his good luck and has been waiting to see that it’s real. Certainly a Khrushchev would have waited days rather than years to take advantage of such an international opportunity. If Putin is moving now, it’s a good guess that he’s very sure that he’s running no risk.

Trump has nothing much to say about it because he realizes perfectly well that the 2016 election will not be about which crummy choice of Middle East policy the US should pursue. He gains nothing by announcing any strong opinions; on the contrary, such statements might leave him open to “gotchas” and similar sniping by the press. No gain, and potential loss; he’ll steer clear of the whole question. He may be a poor candidate but he’s no moron.

Superpower + political will to win = Victory.

Putin won’t have any trouble routing the “rebels” or ISIS from Syria.

The “quagmire” the US fell into in Iraq came in the aftermath of overthrowing the regime due to the fact that no one considered what regime would rule after we won the military victory. Then, civil war, and we had to win that too. Putin has Assad’s regime, and he will have no trouble consolidating after Putin defeats his enemies.

“…its a question of mature good sense”.

Duh Donald has the maturity of a rather dim frat boi.