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Saturday, October 3, 2015

DeYoung, Eilperin and Miller, "U.S. will not directly confront Russia in Syria, Obama says": "Thank You, Vladimir, May I Have Another?"

In a Washington Post article entitled "U.S. will not directly confront Russia in Syria, Obama says" by Karen DeYoung, Juliet Eilperin and Greg Miller, we are informed:

"President Obama has decided not to directly confront Russia over its new air offensive in Syria, believing that President Vladi­mir Putin will soon find himself in a Syrian 'quagmire,' but he has approved a new escalation of U.S. efforts against the Islamic State.

. . . .

At the same time, the president also approved proposals, made prior to this week’s Russian actions, to strengthen the U.S. fight against the militants. Those measures were recommended by Obama’s new Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.

They include direct U.S. weapons shipments, overland from Iraq, to Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters who in recent months have pushed the Islamic State from a major portion of northern Syria along the Turkish border."

Question: Why must Putin be informed in advance that he will not be confronted? Is this not the equivalent of undertaking a "surge" in Afghanistan, while concurrently informing the Taliban of a departure date for US forces? This is no longer "leading from behind." Rather, if you are familiar with the 1978 comedy "Animal House," Obama is effectively telling Putin, "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"

Weapons shipments overland from Iraq to Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters? Let's see how many of those shipments - if they are ever made - will be intercepted by Iranian forces and Shiite militias in Iraq and transferred over to Hezbollah.

The WaPo article additionally informs us:

"Current and former U.S. officials voiced concern that the Russian bombing would damage a covert program already struggling to gain traction in the fight against Assad. It is also likely to increase frustration among the rebels 'that the Americans don’t do as much as the Russians do for their side of the conflict,' said Robert Ford, the former U.S. ambassador to Syria who resigned that position in part out of frustration with administration policy.

. . . .

A former senior U.S. intelligence official said the U.S. failure to respond to the strikes or bolster support for CIA-trained units is likely to anger CIA paramilitary teams in the region that have for several years chafed at White House-imposed limits on the level of support given to moderate rebel groups.

'There is a huge amount of frustration with the indecision and ability to commit by this administration,' said a former senior U.S. intelligence official with extensive experience in the Middle East. 'The agency has a problem,' the former official said. U.S.-backed fighters 'look at the CIA or DOD trainers as reflecting the U.S. government. They believe that we know what’s going on and can influence what’s going on. If we’re not influencing it, it makes them insecure. They will defect, go home or join the refugee stream heading to Europe.'"

Ford and this "former senior U.S. intelligence official" are both correct. However, this is not the first time that we have witnessed Obama's abject indecisiveness in the Middle East. As Michael Oren wrote in "Ally":

"[T]he deeper disillusionment arose from Obama's handling of the Arab Spring. The president at first coddled Gaddafi and then aided his killers, cosseted Assad and then applauded the insurgency against him, and courted Mubarak only to cast him out. Such a leader could not be esteemed. And the eagerness with which Washington sought a nuclear deal with Iran - a regime actively working to undermine Middle Eastern governments while brazenly provoking America - only deepened Arab mistrust."

Needless to say, the repercussions of Obama's inaction in Syria extend beyond the Middle East. American allies in Asia and Eastern Europe are watching as Obama once again waves his white flag, tattered and frayed from overuse. It's not a pretty sight.

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