Mike Whitney writes on politics and finances and lives in Washington state. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The UN-sponsored Syrian peace talks, which began on Friday in Geneva, will be boycotted by the main Syrian opposition group which has insisted that Russia stop bombing its positions while negotiations are conducted. To appreciate how ridiculous these demands are, one would have to imagine a similar scenario taking place in the United States. Let’s say, for example, that Ammon Bundy, the crackpot leader of the armed militia that seized the federal wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon, demanded that the FBI and all other federal agents vamoose while the UN convened negotiations between his representatives and the Obama administration for the establishment of a transitional government that would remove Obama from power after 18 months while rewriting the constitution so it better reflected the far-right political and religious convictions of Bundy and his gaggle of ne’er-do-well followers.
Does that seem like a reasonable proposition to you?
This is the context in which the current "talks” are being held. Is it any wonder why Moscow doesn’t take this charade seriously? It’s a joke.
In what other country are armed militias allowed to occupy cities, kill civilians, destroy critical infrastructure, create total mayhem and threaten to overthrow the elected government?
None. And yet, the Obama team thinks this is a perfectly acceptable way for citizens and even non citizens (most of the ‘rebels’ are foreign nationals or jihadis) to act, provided their political objectives coincide with those of Washington. Which they do. From the very beginning, Washington’s sole aim has been to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad so the oil fields and pipeline corridors could be secured by the western oil giants and protected by new US military bases sprinkled across the country. This has been the basic gameplan since Day 1, and this is why Obama and Co are so eager to slow the Russian-led offensive by any means possible even if it means engaging in meaningless negotiations that have no other purpose than to implement a ceasefire so these same US-backed terrorists can regroup and fight at some future date when they are better prepared.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sees through this ruse but–all the same–he’s dispatched diplomats to Geneva to play along and go-through-the-motions. But will he cave in and agree to a ceasefire so Obama’s "rebels” can live to fight another day? Don’t bet on it.
What Americans are not reading in the western media is that, after months of slow but steady progress, the Russian-led coalition (Syrian Arab Army, Iranian Quds Forces, and Hezbollah) has broken through the sluicegate and is advancing on all fronts while enemy positions are crumbling. Key cities and towns in Latakia province along the Turkish border that used to be jihadi strongholds have buckled under Russia’s relentless bombing raids and been liberated by the Syrian Army. Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city to the north, has been surrounded by loyalist forces that have cut off supplylines to Turkey leaving fighters from Salafi groups like Ahrar al Sham, Jabhat al Nusra, Jaish al Islam, ISIS and the other al Qaida-linked groups to either surrender or hunker down while they await the final desperate confrontation. The momentum has shifted in favor of Assad’s forces which now clearly have the upper hand. What the western media characterizes as a "quagmire” has all the makings of a stunning victory for the Russian-led coalition that is gradually reestablishing security across Syria while sending the invaders running for cover. This is from Reuters:
"Three months into his military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved his central goal of stabilizing the Assad government and, with the costs relatively low, could sustain military operations at this level for years, U.S. officials and military analysts say.
That assessment comes despite public assertions by President Barack Obama and top aides that Putin has embarked on an ill-conceived mission in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that it will struggle to afford and that will likely fail…
since its campaign began on Sept. 30, Russia has suffered minimal casualties and, despite domestic fiscal woes, is handily covering the operation’s cost, which analysts estimate at $1-2 billion a year. The war is being funded from Russia’s regular annual defense budget of about $54 billion, a U.S. intelligence official said…
"An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work,” (President) Obama said on Oct. 2. On Dec. 1, he raised the prospect of Russia becoming "bogged down in an inconclusive and paralyzing civil conflict.”
The senior administration official denied any contradiction between Obama’s statements and private assessments that Russia’s campaign has been relatively effective so far.
"I think the president’s point has been…it’s not going to succeed in the long run,” the official said. The Russians "have become bound up in a civil war in a way that’s going to be extremely difficult to extricate themselves from.”….
Vasily Kashin, a Moscow-based analyst, said the war is not financially stressing Russia."All the available data shows us that the current level of military effort is completely insignificant for the Russian economy and Russian budget,” said Kashin, of the Center for Analyses of Strategies and Technologies. "It can be carried on at the same level year after year after year,” he said.”
Americans are so conditioned to believe that every military intervention ends in a quagmire that they are surprised when the outcome is different. That’s understandable given the fact that the so called "best military on earth” has been unable to defeat a ragtag collection of goat-herding fundamentalists for more than 15 years. (Afghanistan) No wonder Americans expect failure. The fact is, however, that Putin has no intention of getting "bogged down” in Syria for a decade or two.. What he plans to do is to defeat the enemy and move on. Recent reports from the frontlines suggest that that is precisely what he is doing. This is from a post at Sic Semper Tyrannis:
"The Fall of Salma”
Things had started to move early last week, when the SAA (Syrian Arab Army), NDF (National Defense Force) and local militias moved into Salma, the rebel stronghold that was key to defensive positions South of the M4 highway linking Latakia to Idlib. After weeks of preparations and softening up defences, R+6 finally moved in and there was not much the various rebel groups could have done at that point to stop or reverse this trend…
… Once the strategic breaking point is reached though, the side having gained the upper hand usually pushes through, which results in the opponent’s posture crumbling under the pressure. This is what happened with Salma, a former mountain resort North-East of Latakia… When R+6 went for their final assault, Salma had already become untenable. Its loss meant that the whole defensive line South of the M4 highway was compromised and both SAA advances and "tactical” retreat by the rebels made for a very quick correction of the frontline in the area…
The inroads made by the SAA… again proved decisive against a rebel frontline that had already been destabilized by the loss of Salma and the prospect of being cut off from their LOCs with Jisr al-Shughur.” (Rebel Defences Crumbling In Latakia Province, Sic Semper Tyrannis)
Get the picture? The jihadi misfits are getting the holy hell beat out of them by a superior army that is recapturing critical cities and strategic territory along the Turkish border and across the southern and eastern parts of the country. As a result, Assad will not be removed from office nor will the country become a "Salafi-jihadi principality” governed by Islamic freaks who rule through terror.
That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of potential pitfalls ahead. There are, in fact there’s a situation developing right now that could explode into a regional conflict involving Turkey, NATO, the US and Russia. You see, Russia plans to use its Kurdish allies in the YPG to seize a stretch of land along the Syrian side of the Turkish border to reestablish Syria’s territorial sovereignty and to stop the flow of terrorists from Turkey into Syria. Turkish President Erdogan has promised that if the YPG pursues that course, Turkey will invade, in which case, Putin will come to the defense of the Kurds. There’s no telling how this powderkeg situation will play out, but there’s no doubt that the next few weeks are going to be extremely tense as the main players rattle sabers and jockey for position while edging closer to a full-blown conflagration. Will cooler heads prevail?
I can’t answer that, but I can tell you that Washington has already backed off its "Assad must go” campaign and moved on to Plan B, which is seizing territory and establishing bases in Northeastern Syria that the US plans to occupy for as long as they can. Check it out from South Front website:
"As SouthFront: Analysis and Intelligence predicted month ago the NATO allies are urgently trying to implement a new plan to hold control at least of the northern oil corridor from Iraq and try to take advantage of this opportunity to involve Russia in a long expensive war. This plan includes an occupation of the crucial infrastructure including oilfields by the NATO contingent and establishing of anti-government, meaning anti-Russian and anti-Iranian, forces in parts of divided Syria.
Implementing of this plan could easily lead to a global war launched by military escalation over the Syrian crisis. The stakes of the global geopolitical standoff have been raised again.” (Escalation in Syria, South Front)
So even though Washington has scrapped its plan to topple Assad (temporarily), it has deepened its commitment to creating Sunnistan, a new state comprised of eastern Syria and western Iraq controlled by US-clients who will allow western oil giants to connect the pipeline grid from Qatar to Turkey in order to replace Russia as the EU’s primary supplier of natural gas. It’s all part of the imperial strategy to "pivot” to Asia by controlling vital resources and making sure they remain denominated in US dollars. It’s an ambitious plan for global rule that is now being openly challenged by Russia, the emerging power that threatens to derail the lethal US juggernaut and put an end to the malign unipolar world order.