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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/15/16

Putin's Syrian surprise-we should have seen it coming

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Syria watchers were caught off guard at the sudden announcement that Russia is withdrawing a substantial proportion of its aerial forces in Latakia. Its bombers based there had devastated the US-backed terrorist groups in Syria by destroying their oil smuggling routes and supply lines to and from Turkey, and more recently by providing air cover for the Syrian Arab Army to attack concentrations of ISIS forces. These military gains forced the US to call for a new round of peace talks. Given that the military situation left the US and its terrorist-sponsoring allies in a weak negotiating position, many interpreted this sudden call for diplomacy as a ruse. They saw it as a pretext for using a cessation of hostilities as an opportunity to regroup for a new wave of attacks. These cynics were mistaken, as anyone with a proper appreciation for the abilities of Putin and his generals should have realized. To maintain that argument now, in the face of the Russian withdrawal, they would have to argue that Putin and the Russian military are so foolhardy that they not only let the enemy regroup, but yielded the field to them.

Those suspicious of the motives of the US in seeking negotiations failed to consider that despite neocon dominance in Washington, Russia may have a willing partner in Obama. In addition to the increasing hopelessness of any scheme for regime change that doesn't risk a world war, the political landscape in the US and Turkey has been changing rapidly. The relative ease with which Russia's bombing attacks had routed the ISIS made plain that the coalition between NATO and the Gulf kingdoms (with Israel as a silent partner) was a sham. It was clear that the kabuki fight against ISIS was a transparent attempt to cover up the Empire's real intention of regime change in Syria. Even the gullibility of the US and EU public has its limits. In removing the bulk of the small fighting group that Russia used to rout ISIS, Putin is sending a clear signal that there is no excuse for widening the conflict in order to defeat ISIS. In the process, he is also making it clear that Russia is not making the problem worse, as Obama and others have claimed.

This would not be the first time that Obama has challenged the neocons. He shocked America and the world when he called for a debate in Congress before attacking Syria after the US claimed without evidence that "Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people." In the post-9/11 world, that was the only justification Americans would have expected or needed. Despite his saber rattling after the false flag attack on Ghouta, Obama had Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey announce that there was no urgent need to act without a debate, which he called for. Congress heard loud and clear from the public that they had no stomach for yet another American war in the Mideast.

If anyone thought that this was just a misjudgment by Obama, they must not have made the connection to the call for negotiations with Iran immediately afterward. Again, he played the game of repeating the neocon lies while doing everything he could to interfere with their plans to widen the conflict to Iran. Although there was no more evidence that Iran had a nuclear weapons program than there was for a Syrian government attack on Ghouta, the action enraged the Saudis, their Israeli friends and neocons in the US.

Problems with Erdogan are making negotiations more appealing to the US as well. By the time the call for negotiation went out, the situation in Turkey was becoming dangerously unstable. Under pressure from political opponents and an increasingly restive public, Erdogan was cracking down on civil liberties (and still is), inflaming the situation. He became increasingly erratic and belligerent when it appeared that the US was not willing to up the ante by confronting Russia and declaring a no-fly zone that Hillary Clinton still supports.

When Erdogan shot down a Russian jet in an unequivocal act of war, well-informed analysts confidently proclaimed that the US was calling all the shots. They assumed that Erdogan was acting on US orders in that attack, in repeated border incursions and in generally destabilizing the situation. These provocations in response to the proposal for negotiations seemed to justify the fears of those who saw a US hand in his actions, but others argued that Turkey was acting independently. They realized that Erdogan's political power could be undermined by a failed foreign policy coming on top of a flagging economy. As a result, the argument went, he was more likely out of Washington's control. It was not the US but Erdogan who was risking WWIII, or at least a military coup.

Unnoticed by many, Russia has been using the relative calm of the ceasefire to enter "rebel" held areas to negotiate local truces and security agreements, creating conditions for a more comprehensive settlement. At the same time, Russia is advocating that genuinely moderate (ie, nonviolent) opposition groups have representation in the settlement negotiations, setting the stage for real reforms in Syria despite powerful pressures on Assad by various power blocs in the Syrian deep state seeking to maintain the status quo. Putin's announcement of a planned withdrawal of "the main part" of Russian forces in response to the "overall completion" of its military aims means that facts on the ground have changed enough in favor of the Syrian government that further direct military intervention at this point would be counterproductive. The fact that Assad backs the withdrawal would seem to support this.

Obviously, the idea that the US may actually be looking for a relatively clean exit from Syria is too good to be true for those who habitually warn of the imminent takeover of the world by a neocon establishment. The fact is, it has far overreached itself in its attempts to dominate the world militarily. There is no doubt that they are still determined to succeed, or that they have tremendous influence over US foreign policy. However, it is clear that there are some in the US government, military and even intelligence community with enough common sense and courage to be calling for some limits on the use of American military force. It may be too late to save the US from the consequences of its history of imperialism, but there is still time to allow the development of a multipolar world where true democracy may someday emerge.

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Rick Staggenborg, MD Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linked In Page       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I am a former Army and VA psychiatrist who ran for the US Senate in 2010 on a campaign based on a pledge to introduce a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and regulate campaign finance. A constitutional amendment banning (more...)

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