Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 07, 2013

Syria: A Possible Russian Move

There is a currently flurry of diplomacy with regards to Syria. The Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi just visited Jordan. Salehi will next fly to Damascus. Next week the Qatari foreign minister will visit Tehran. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry just talked with the Turkish Foreign Minister Dovatoglu. Kerry is now in Moscow for a talk with the Russian president Putin (The talk starts at least three hours late. Was Putin making a point with this?) Putin recently talked on the phone with the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo. On May 10 the British Prime Minister Cameron will also have a talk with Putin in the southern Russian resort Sochi.

The U.S. still demands that Moscow gives up on Syria and presses for Assad to leave. Moscow will, I believe, not agree to that.

In this diplomatic context Sunday's Israeli airstrikes near Damascus were a message to Putin, certainly coordinated with Washington. "Look what we will do if you don't give in. Next time we will bomb the Syrian air fields. Then their troops." At the same time the flurry of unfounded "chemical weapon" allegations are used to prepare the "western" public for a military intervention.

The big question is of course what Obama will do after Kerry and Cameron fail to change Putin's stand. There is a risk that Obama will decide to overthrow Assad by overt military means. He committed himself to that when he demanded that "Assad must go." It will be hard, if not impossible for him, to retreat from that. Military means would include a "no-fly zone" which would start to be implemented by destroying whatever is left of Syria's air defenses. Naturally with lots of collateral casualties.

Putin should plan on how to counter that. He should send a signal that can only be understood as "Up to here and no further." He should announce it on May 9, the 68th anniversary of Russia's victory over Nazi Germany.

On request of the Syrian government a squadron of 24 Russian fighter jets could be dispatched to Syria. They would be stationed at two Syrian airports. At each airport a battalion of Russian paratroopers would take care of the local security. Some long range early warning radar and some command and control elements would also be needed.

Supplies would come through Iranian and Iraqi airspace as well as though the port of Tartus where Russia's new permanent Mediterranean fleet is just arriving.

The declared sole and exclusive task of the Russian squadron would be to defend sovereign Syria's airspace from any outer interference. The message to Washington (and Tel Aviv) would be clear. Attacking Syria means attacking the Russian air force. Might you want to think twice about that?

Such a Russian move would be a heavens gift for Obama. He could back down from his demand that Assad has to go without losing much face. He could join everyone else in Washington in blaming Putin while appearing reasonable in not risking a wider war.

There is precedence for such a Russian move:

A contingent of 200 Russian troops deployed in Bosnia and Herzegovina then crossed into Kosovo and occupied Pristina International Airport in Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo.

Upon hearing of the deployment, American NATO commander Wesley Clark called NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, and was told "you have to transfer authority" in the area. Clark then ordered a contingent of 500 British and French paratroopers to seize the airport by force, an order that is still debated. British officer James Blunt, who commanded the contingent, questioned and did not carry out this order. His delay was sanctioned by British General Mike Jackson. Jackson refused to enforce Clark's orders, reportedly telling him "I'm not going to start the Third World War for you".

The U.S. and NATO eventually backed down because they did not want to risk a wider war.

A Russian air force capability in Syria would up the risk for any outright attack to a very high level. Even if Obama believes that his "credibility" demands a regime change no-fly zone in Syria, Russian air defense of Syrian airspace would likely make him change his mind.

Posted by b on May 7, 2013 at 15:23 UTC | Permalink

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Obama had his red line. Bibi had his. It is Putins turn. This is his moment.
Russia cannot back down . They have too much to lose. They will gain the thanks and respect of countless people if they show they are the champions against bullying.

The US does not have the stomach for a fullblooded escalating confrontation. It will back down. Peace can return.

Aces versus Jokers. Game over

Posted by: boindub | May 7 2013 15:51 utc | 1

I wonder how much Obama is a victim of propaganda and spin. I don't get the sense he is in charge of the maelstrom surrounding him, though he certainly is "the decider".

It seems to me that he has set in place a dynamic where he asks each member of his cabinet to come and convince him of their policy, so instead of having his hand of the levers of power, he acts just as the fulcrum - his underlings have to gin up their own narrow PR campaigns for every narrow, uncoordinated action, and, if Obama has been swayed by this, he sets them loose to pursue their little interest with all of the power of the executive branch.

So in the lead up to any policy, we end up with all these conflicting signals - "Syria used chem weapons!" "No,the rebels used them!" "Israel has drawn a read line!" "Iran is not producing nuclear weapons!" "Social Security is insolvent!" "We have enough money for decades!". Instead of heading a coordinated strategy, he just holds back or unleashes those below him to do what they like, leading to every manner of half-baked, late out of the gate half-result, and broad disappointment which no one ever has to take accountability for.

It seems to be a weird strategy of leadership, and not a particularly successful one.

Posted by: guest77 | May 7 2013 16:02 utc | 2

Agreed that the Russians have to make some move. Their survival as a world power, and probably the respect of China as an international partner, depends on this.

Though I disagree in one aspect: I can see them giving up Assad (albeit, getting him and his family to safety) if they are guaranteed to keep in place a secular, pro-Russian leadership.

Posted by: guest77 | May 7 2013 16:06 utc | 3

Russia made clear from the very beginning that they would NOT get involved militarily. Perhaps they've changed their minds, but I'm not sure. The fact is, Russia cannot project nearly the amount of firepower that the US and NATO can. You are assuming that Obama and/or his controllers will back down in the face of a Russia tripwire. Maybe, but then again maybe not. I don't know if Russia would risk that since the fact of the matter is, the US could defeat a couple of Russian squadrons. Then what will Russia do? Start a nuclear war? And there are enough crazies who will be advising Obama that this is his chance to put the Russians in their place, and to become the "Greatest President since--insert favorite warmonger here--."

I simply don't think it's in Russia's interests to do that. And even if the US backed down.

Now Russia CAN do (although I don't know if they will do that either) is warn Obama that they will then undertake to back Iran to the hilt in every possible way. From offering to fully modernize it's air force and air defenses, promising to back Iran up should it withdraw from the NPT, allowing Iran to clear foreign transactions through the Russian central bank, etc.

In the mean time they can arm Syria with whatever they can. This is almost impossible to do in the last minute, so hopefully Russia has armed Syria with missiles that can seriously hurt both the Israelis and Turkey, especially NATO base Incirlik, long range Shore to ship missiles that will keep foreign navies at a safe distance, etc.

In short, Russia can, and hopefully will, promise to make any NATO/Israeli intervention as costly as possible. But it is far too much to hope that they will fight themselves.

Posted by: Lysander | May 7 2013 16:32 utc | 4

It might not be this simple. ZATO might keep pushing, by, for instance, attacking as Russia tried to bring the planes and equipment in. One question is what the Russian fleet is actually capable of. Another question is how quickly Russian planes could get there with the kind of support they might need.

Posted by: Paul | May 7 2013 16:37 utc | 5

But to a layman things have not changed. And the american layman is the target audience. Every single time Obama talks about Syria, it's; 'When Assad goes" "After Assad leaves" etc etc etc. All the rest about red lines and other esoterica means nothing. If Obama cared about peace, if he cared about ANYTHING, he wouldn't be making these daily statements that amount to nothing more than; "Well, we warned you".

I think these analyses are way too rational. So far we have the actions - the daily threats of open military action, the years of covert mercenary and false flag action, and now Israel has bombed Syria for the third time in recent years. Obama may as well have flown the bomber himself.

I think the one rational thought the US still holds is their knowledge that the Russians will NOT destroy their own empire at this time just to save Syria, and the longer they can drag this out(destruction of Syria is just gravy) the worse the Russians look, the weaker they look. The US really does plan on GSD. Russia knows that a stronger alliance needs to be formed before the US is confronted in any meaningful way, but the US knows this too, and like looters when the power's still out, are grabbing as much as they can.

Posted by: L Bean | May 7 2013 16:49 utc | 6

Lysander has some good points.

I don't see a Russian airforce presence on the ground in Syria. What I do POSSIBLY see is aid given to Syria in the form of more advanced weaponery so that they may defend themselves and the POSSIBLE deployment of a few s300 batteries manned by Russian personnel. There could be an air of "plausible deniability" regarding the Russian crews manning the batteries.

I don't see fighter squadrons on the ground. The Russians don't have the power projection that NATO has, on the other hand, NATO and especially the US/Israel are accustomed to fighting opponents who are incapable of fighting back. Libya, Afghanistan & Iraq had next to nothing to take on the juggernaut, but any military confrontation with Russia, even a conventional one, would incur casualties on a level that would be unacceptable to the American public who've become accustomed to one-sided affairs. They would either demand a quick end to hostilities or the use of nuclear weapons - which is why the overt Russian military option can't be entertained.

Posted by: RC | May 7 2013 17:00 utc | 7

Then what? The militants on the ground might not get their no-fly zone, but they'll have Russian targets to aim at. This isn't in Russia's interests.

Besides, Israel is gunning for Hezbollah. The weekend attack was a prelude of things to come - like the attack on a Sudanese weapons dump was a prelude to the Israeli attack on Gaza.

It's more than just about Assad; Israel smells the blood of the resistance.

Posted by: Pat Bateman | May 7 2013 17:01 utc | 8


The Russians obviously wargamed this all along, so what do you think their strategy will be? The US seems to be following the rough ideas of the Brookings report. I don't think Putin is exactly surprised that the US and Israel have attacked.

On the ground, ZATO's army is just about crushed. So now it's a matter of air power.

Posted by: Paul | May 7 2013 17:10 utc | 9


The US public would not demand going nuclear against the Russians, and, in any case, it wouldn't actually matter what the public wanted. Public pressure would only be used if the power elite wanted it to be.

Posted by: Paul | May 7 2013 17:13 utc | 10

Lysanders theory is the most logical. I don't see the Russians openly fighting to protect Assad. They'd lose too much and they still think the Syrians can do it on their own. We should have more faith in the Syrian army. They've proved themselves so far. They are fighting to protect their country, there families, there homes. However this is very reminiscint of WW1, the Russians went to defend an ally and the rest was history. I hope that Odummy isn't that much of a dummy, stupid jackass. He's leading us all straight to hell.

Posted by: Fernando | May 7 2013 17:15 utc | 11

Before we get carried away, I think the one thing we WON'T see is an armed confrontation between Russia and the US.

Someone is going to have to blink. We're just not sure who it is at this point.

Posted by: guest77 | May 7 2013 17:16 utc | 12

The siege of Constantinople is about to begin again

Posted by: Fernando | May 7 2013 17:18 utc | 13

you're brilliant b. why i love moa, and you.

Posted by: annie | May 7 2013 17:28 utc | 14

Paul, I can only guess, but my thinking is Russia will try to explain to the US that they will make an attack on Syria as costly as possible without intervening themselves. Should the US/Israel attack anyway, my guess is it will be most analogous to the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in 1982. Iran and Iraq will play the role Syria and Iran played back then. They will back up and arm any anti-western forces that remain, and Russia will run interference for them at the UN and maybe provide intelligence, etc. Hopefully, they will also arm Iran and encourage further progress of their nuclear program. (That last one is not at all certain, but we can hope.)

My guess is there simply is no Salafist militia that can control the country even if Assad falls. There will be enough Aliwites, Christians and non-Salafist Sunnis to hinder any US plan of occupation. Any Israeli incursion plays into their hands.

Posted by: Lysander | May 7 2013 17:29 utc | 15

@15 That leads us to a possibility I've mentioned before - it wasn't roundly appreciated - a third path that ends with Russia controlling its seaport and acting as protector of the Xtians and Shia (and Damascus), while the Sunnis and Kurds take the bulk of the east of the country.

If this whole thing is, in essence, a battle between Iran and Israel over Hezbollah, and Iran and Turkey and the GCC over the Sunnis along the Euphrates, then Russia could well see that their options are limited and they have to secure their main interests and nothing more, like they did in Georgia.

Posted by: guest77 | May 7 2013 17:37 utc | 16

It took a few years to turn Iraq into the sectarian nightmare with the only inhabitants remaining being those too poor to leave, and greedy comprmised warlords. If there's Russian counterinsurgency action that's anything less than decisive, it's only a bonus for FUKUS. They would love to bring back the USSR back as an official baddie to hide the USSA in the room.

Even if Syria after Assad did become unmanageable and financially draining, what's another few sacrifices to these fulks? And as regional cop, Israel can 'utilize' their gratis arms and be resupplied ad infinitum, until the whole world blows up. If we judge by their actions this is the trajectory.

Posted by: L Bean | May 7 2013 17:47 utc | 17


I agree that Russia has to make a move, but I seriously doubt that they will step up as your suggesting. They already made their point in Georgia and I think they are not in a position to stand up to the west on their own.

I would also be very interested in China's stance. Has the US already secured China's acquiescence? What is netanyahoo telling them today?

More importantly, what is Russia's price to stand aside, is it the removal of anti ballistic missiles from Europe? Is it a free hand against Georgia, with no more talk of inducting that small country into NATO? Is it promises to end talk of southern pipeline routes?

In any case, if Russia does back down, it will send a clear message that this is very much still a unipolar world!

Posted by: oab | May 7 2013 17:49 utc | 18

Russia did a wonderful move but could not hold it´s (General Ivashov´s) line in Pristina because of Yeltsin and the western oriented Jewish oligarchs who was running the country at the time.

All these bastards are either dead, behind bars or in "israel" now, thanks to Vladimir Putin. If anyone are going to shit their pants in this chicken race, it´s Foggy Ratmussen and Satanyahoo. Obomber will be left afloat, for now....

Posted by: Gavrilo Princip | May 7 2013 18:01 utc | 19

I don't expect Russia to back down because there's not much the west can really offer for them to do so. Rusisa also has lucrative Pipeline business with Syria as well (which Pepe Escobar has been on top of). The anti-ballistic "missile shield" is a ruse and represents no real threat to Russia's nuclear deterrent.

Both countries know this.

What the Russians CAN do is make things as unpleasant as possible for the west. They can make sure Iran gets the s300 systems they paid for in the first place and step up the re-armament of Syria (with s300 being a possiblity there as I wrote earlier). There's no reason for Russia itself to get directly involved militarily (save for the Russian techs operating the s300 systems) for the reasons already outlined by the astute writers here.

Putin has Russia undergoing it's largest military re-armament EVER. They're attempting to form a military alliance with China and other BRICS, but this is a work in progress (like the BRIC bank) that'll probably take another decade. Putin knows that they'll need the conventional military might to back up their positions, but it isn't there yet.

Putin has been pretty successful at standing up to the west so far, but direct military intervention would throw that all away, imho.

Posted by: RC | May 7 2013 18:14 utc | 20

First of all thanks to b for this insight. I hadn't known of this particular incident (pristina airport) until now.

The question remains on how far Putin will go to save Syria. He (Assad) certainly does not carry as much weight as the Serbians. Protecting them politically and arming them is one thing. Putting boots on the ground and escalating this conflict even further is quite another.

Yes, securing a couple of airports would definitely be a blessing for Assad since this A frees up some troops and B provides more security from aerial attacks/intervention.... but then...

by Pat Bateman #8
"Then what? The militants on the ground might not get their no-fly zone, but they'll have Russian targets to aim at. This isn't in Russia's interests"

Agree with this position.

Posted by: Gehenna | May 7 2013 18:17 utc | 21

Iran calls for a transitional government in Syria

“We have called on the [Syrian] opposition to negotiate with the government and form a transitional government and determine their own future,” he said.

The Iranian minister, however, made it clear that those terrorist groups which have the blood of innocent Syrians on their hands -- including the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front -- will not be part of the solution.

I assume that means a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Posted by: somebody | May 7 2013 18:24 utc | 22

It is quite unlikely that Putin would surrender to the demands of the West.
If God forbid , the Salafi head choppers and their paymasters would gain control over Syria , Russia as well as China would never be able to control their own islamistic extremists , who are already fighting in Syria and just wait for their opportunity to return.

Posted by: Tehran | May 7 2013 18:33 utc | 23

In the meantime:
-The idiots on the ground are doing that which idiots are known for....making fools out of themselves and making sure no one else likes them: UN peacekeepers held hostage in Golan heights

The same terrorists (Yarmouk brigade) who kidnapped UN peacekeepers a while back. Which the FSA and US had to reprimand because it only damages their PR. Well terrorists do what terrorists usually do: show what piece of scum they are

Elsewhere we have:
-Erdogan is angry because Israel bombs Syria and ruins the PR of the terrorists.

“These attacks are chances, opportunities offered on a golden plate to al-Assad and to the illegitimate Syrian regime. Using the Israel attack as an excuse, he is trying to cover up the genocide in Banias,”

-Kerry and Davutoğlu(Turkeys FM)compare notes on how to sell their CW BS scare.

-Putin shows Kerry how he feels about him

"Putin, however, kept John Kerry waiting three hours before their meeting at the Kremlin, fiddled with a pen while his guest spoke and made no mention in his own public remarks of the conflict in Syria, which has generated some of the frostiest exchanges between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War."

-not to mention Carla del Ponte's (yes this was yesterday) unwanted findings that it was the rebels who used Sarin and the hasty dismissal and retraction of that remark. Obviously someone should hire a new PR guy for the poor FSA/Al Qaida because this is just not working. The plebs are seeing through their lies and are not buying this nonsense

Posted by: Gehenna | May 7 2013 18:41 utc | 24


There was expectation in 1914 that Russia (then in political turmoil already) would not endanger its empire for the sake of Serbs, especially when they were criminally involved.

So much for that prediction back then....

Posted by: A different Anon | May 7 2013 19:01 utc | 25

The biggest problem, of many, with the US "Assad must go" position is that the US has no credible replacement for Assad. What the US has is a nondescript, unknown recent resident of Murphy, Texas, Ghassan Hitto, whom the US laughingly calls "prime minister."

Another significant problem with this position is that, unlike the Russian position, it is not backed by the UN Security Council. Which is why, along with arming the rebels, the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has signaled that he'll be quitting this month.

Obama is learning about red lines and diplomacy. He's young yet, it's okay.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 7 2013 19:15 utc | 26

"...the american layman is the target audience."

Nowhere on earth does the political class hold the general public in such contempt as in the USA. The "American people" are simply a screen on which the ruling class project their fantasies. And, if need be these rulers can turn on the proverbial dime, confident that public opinion will swallow anything it is given.
If CNN tells the audience that Assad is the best hope of stability. nobody will recall those "red lines" except for the McCains and Liebermans who are understood to be warmongers on industry's payroll anyway.
As to the pundits: they spout the party line or they stop being pundits.
US policy will be guided, as it always is, by the interests of a megalomaniacal ruling class (Paul Craig Roberts' 0.2%) whose last remaining claim to sanity is that it is doing so well, thank you, that it will not risk entering into any dispute, anywhere, which it is not a cast iron certainty that it will win.

One thing that Syria has done in the past couple of years is to remind the Pentagon that it is neither Panama nor Grenada: that puts it in same category as Iraq which required an international coalition hundreds of thousands of troops, trillions of dollars and the credibility built up over more than half a century to achieve the re-direction of its oil reserves to China.

The idea that the US would confront Russia, especially after the disappointment losing such valuable Chechen assets in Boston, would shock the thieves counting their profits on Wall St, if only because the price of gold would double.

Posted by: bevin | May 7 2013 19:17 utc | 27

Putin kept Kerry waiting 3 hours for their meeting today. US will blink or this thing will rapidly escalate. Here's what DEBKA had on Netanyahu and Obama's miscalculation

Posted by: Mcdoo | May 7 2013 19:19 utc | 28

Anon @ 25 yeah well the globally hegemonic US empire is in violent decline, and everyone has nukes. This is exactly the time for those in the right to maintain cooler heads. I don't really see the relevance of your comparison.

Posted by: L Bean | May 7 2013 19:20 utc | 29

A Kerry 'Rodney Dangerfield' experience. (Another one.)

The Daily Star, May 7

MOSCOW: The U.S. secretary of state sought Russian help in ending Syria's civil war on Tuesday, telling President Vladimir Putin in Moscow that common interest in a stable Middle East could bridge divisions among the big powers.

Putin, however, kept John Kerry waiting three hours before their meeting at the Kremlin, fiddled with a pen while his guest spoke and made no mention in his own public remarks of the conflict in Syria, which has generated some of the frostiest exchanges between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 7 2013 19:30 utc | 30

oops, sorry Gehenna

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 7 2013 19:30 utc | 31


Considering debka is Israel's intelligence mouthpiece, it doesnt seem they are very happy with Nutjobyahoo's go-ahead bombing in Syria. Assad gained more than he lost from this Israel's "adventure".

Posted by: Harry | May 7 2013 19:47 utc | 32

John "Americans Have the Right to be Stupid" Kerry.

Why do we even bother letting him outside.

Posted by: guest77 | May 7 2013 19:49 utc | 33

Posted by: Gehenna | May 7 2013 20:01 utc | 34

Judging by the happenings over the past two+ years, I don't think the Russians will just abandon Syria for some flimsy promises and assurance from the US. Ditto China. See, unlike the US, Russia and China don't flash their vetoes at every opportunity so whenever they use it, they mean business. They've used it TWICE in favour of the the Syrian government and I think that sends a clear message as to where they stand. Funny how in a sudden twice of fate, the US is now doing diplomacy for Al-Qaeda!!!

I believe Kerry's visit to Moscow is basically to judge the temperature up there in light of the recent Israeli premature ejaculation,sorry bombing, in Damascus. Retaliation will be in order but at the right time. Let the Israelis keep guessing.

It's also funny watching the US trying to work out a new narrative to promote the Chemical weapons propaganda after the UN came out to say it's the "rebels" and NOT the government that's used chemical weapons. Almost all the narrative they've been using to justify an intervention have fallen flat. From shooting of "peaceful protesters" who're heavily armed with anti-air guns, to supplying weapons to "secularists" who declared their allegiance to Al-Qaeda, to giving green light to Israel to bomb Syria in order to generate a response which will be used as a pretext to "go in"..As expected, Assad didn't bite the bait and videos I've seen from the bombed site revealed only dead and shell-shocked chickens.

In the mean time, the Syrian army is progressing and routing out the fsa from their strongholds. The Western border with Lebanon is almost sealed, same goes for the one in Jordan. The "rebels" in the Allepo and the Northern parts are harrased daily with constant bombardments.

Personally, I don't think much will happen by way of intervention.If anything, the Syrian army is still a cohesive force and the desertion rate has almost gone to zero. Just ignore the noise coming out of Washington and their echo chambers in the region and concentrate on what's happening on the ground.

Posted by: Zico | May 7 2013 20:01 utc | 35

Within one hour of Kerry getting the message Erdagon belatedly condemned Israel for its Damascus bombing. So much for new found friendship. Oh and SYRIA got a lift!,917f6ac6d9d_story.html

Posted by: Mcdoo | May 7 2013 20:08 utc | 36

The usual practice in diplomacy when there are two opposed positions -- Assad must go, Assad must stay -- there is a compromise based on time or other factors. Okay, Assad can stay, but he has to share power, or he must agree to a term limit, or something like that. But diplomacy these days seems old fashioned.

Still, I could see somebody like James Baker working a deal . . .oh well. Perhaps Kerry has talent that he's never revealed before.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 7 2013 20:13 utc | 37

Closely reading what's is going on in Moscow I can not but notice a snake language in diplomacy used by the U.S.

"Obama would like to discuss cooperation on Iran, N.Korea, Syria with Putin"

"Kerry thanked Russia for the assistance in the investigation of the terrorist attack in Boston. He added that the settlement of many international issues required closer cooperation of the US and Russia."

If this is an answer from Moscow that it feels, I believe, like a "cold shower".

"Moscow happy with level of the Russian-American cooperation - Putin"

Still, two powers will do almost nothing to antagonize each other. Will the Russian fall on this and what the U.S. will offer them time will tell. It is very nasty game and obviously the U.S. is now playing on the religious card (what else they can offer!?) using alleged bombing in Boston to get coopertation against "common" enemy: Islam. Over the time purpose of the choreography in Boston has became obvious.

Posted by: neretva'43 | May 7 2013 20:14 utc | 38

Interesting that all options are still on the table but multilateral negotiations involving all parties with a stake in the outcome (Iran, Hezbollah). Apparently the last thing BO would ever agree to is a negotiated settlement...

(Now there's a Nobel Peace Prize recipient in action for you. The Norwegian Parliament should acknowledge that they made a huge mistake and rescind it.)

Posted by: JohnH | May 7 2013 20:23 utc | 39

A major difference the US and Russia have is that Russia wants to abide by the Geneva communiqué of June 2012 which states that a transitional governing body should be formed on the basis of mutual accord of the government and the opposition. The US however has promoted its own hand-picked people.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 7 2013 20:23 utc | 40

Obviously Kerry will try to fix what Frederic Hoff failed. People like Hoff, Armitrage, Holbrook and the like, when visit "peripheral" countries, in gunboat diplomacy are known as a "fixers" and "troubleshooters". Russia obviously isn't a minor country, will laying wreath by Kerry (how convenient) the day before the parade on the Red Square will help we will see.

Russia and the United States agreed to encourage the Syrian government and the opposition to advance efforts in achieving a dialogue, and to this end have decided to convene an international conference in late May which will follow up on the Geneva meeting which took place on June 30, 2012, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

He noted that between Moscow and Washington there remain significant differences on a number of issues.

Looks like empty talk.

Posted by: neretva'43 | May 7 2013 20:34 utc | 41

@ #2 guest77--

Your description of US "policy"-making seems precise and correct. The relentless evil of American policy can make it seem that there has to be a mastermind behind it, but in fact a simple mix of desperation, pervasive bad faith, and chaos can serve as well. The only common feature behind all US policy is the desire to grab resources.

@ #4 Lysander--

I have to agree that whatever happens in Syria, the Russians will not pit their forces directly against the US. They will look for low-cost, low profile ways to impede the US effort. I expect they will find them, though I have no guess what these will be.

The US is still too powerful to take on directly. Everybody knows this, which is one reason the Syrian war is happening this year.

Another reason is that the cost floor (the price at which oil producers can afford to drill for oil) is rising to meet the price ceiling (the price at which consumers can afford to buy oil. These to lines are on a trend to meet in 2014 or 2015--at that point consumers will no longer be able to buy oil at the price it can be delivered. Either producers will quit producing, or buyers will quit buying, or both. This will be the end of markets and thus of the capitalist economy, certainly in the US our economic depression will spiral out of control and probably similar effects will occur elsewhere as well. The elites will try to implement a replacement economy, probably a command economy based on some form of fascism. Before that happens the US has to (try to) win its oil wars. So the next two years will see escalation.


Posted by: Gaianne | May 7 2013 20:35 utc | 42

Russian troops would be a target. Within two weeks of being deployed, rebels in the surrounding areas would magically have discovered they possess very high tech sniper weapons and anti-tank missiles. Once the Russians have taken a few casualties, the troops become hostages: either agree to steadily increasing UN sanctions against Syria or "rebels" will continue to kill Russians.

Posted by: Bill | May 7 2013 20:40 utc | 43

don bacon

Barry better learn quick and put that learning into practice quicker, he's got until the midterms next year before he is a lame duck.

Seems to me Barry would do better to notice 'that there were many more extremists in the ranks of the rebels than immediately was apparent, including many associated with Al Queda'.

Posted by: heath | May 7 2013 20:41 utc | 44

@Don Bacon #40
In my country we have a saying: Give them a finger and they take your whole hand.

Any words or sentences that are open to interpretation will be exploited to the fullest extent. The best example was the UN resolution on Libya where Russia made the mistake of allowing a no flyzone and they exploited that to intervene.

As yet no single inch to manuever has been given by the Russians and the Chinese and every biased or unbalanced proposal was vetoed by the UNSC. They can parade Ghassan Hitto all they want but Russia is not buying it. The US either has to intervene directly (without UN's "blessing") or play by the rules Russia has laid out.

Posted by: Gehenna | May 7 2013 20:41 utc | 45


I have hard time to buy that, "mistake". It was the Russian calculation not confront them.

Posted by: neretva'43 | May 7 2013 20:55 utc | 46

I think there are quite some problems in this discussion here.
Beginning with the wrong assumption that zusa and Russian want the opposite of each other. That is not really true.

zusa has a rather primitive PR oriented stance: Assad must go.
Actually Russia, having a far more intelligent view and respecting international law is not opposed to that zusa demand per se. They are opposed to remote design and control a new Syrian state and its organs. And they are opposed, of course, to the illegal international (read: zusa/zato) military and terrorist involvement in a souvereign country.

Of course this creates a bunch of problems because there are two quite different layers at work, a public one (just mentioned), and then a real one, where zusa/zato want to fraction Syria into either different zones or countries or at least, as done now, create havoc and de facto cripple Syria.

(There is more to say but first I want to see if this actually arrives in the blog)

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | May 7 2013 21:03 utc | 47

if Russia says NO. So far I suspect that is what the answer is going to be US/Israel and company have their plan in place
read to the end.

FSA is going to meet Hagel and AIPAC for the next move

NATO will go around the UN

Posted by: Penny | May 7 2013 21:06 utc | 48

Kerry leaves door open for Assad?

Speaking during a joint press conference in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, Secretary of State Kerry told reporters it was impossible to envision how President Assad could govern a future Syria. “I’m not going to decide that tonight and I’m not going to decide that in the end,” Kerry said Syrians have to decide who makes up the transitional body to govern them.

Posted by: somebody | May 7 2013 21:10 utc | 49

(Hmm, weird. In case you wonder, I yesterday sent a post re. Maloogas article 3 times (!) and always got "your post was sent" but when reloading I didn't see it in the blog here. Strange; I was never warned or banned and from what I know there was never a reason. So forgive me if I want to first try out whether I'm allowed to comment in this thread or whether it will vanish.
So far magic vanishing seems only to concern comments - politely! - critical of Maloogas texts.)

As a courtesy I will keep this comment here free of the matter at hand so as to politely make it easier to vanish it if that is indeed desired

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | May 7 2013 21:11 utc | 50

Looks like a win for Russia.

RT, May 7
Russia, US to push for global Syria conference to bring conflicting sides to table

Russia and the US reiterated their commitment to bringing the sides of the Syrian conflict to the negotiating table, and have announced an international conference to be called by the end of May which will serve as a follow-up to the Geneva communiqué.

The Geneva communiqué should be a roadmap to a new Syria, not a forgotten piece of paper, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters after their Tuesday Moscow meeting.

Moscow and Washington confirmed their commitment to the implementation of the principles set in the Syria peace plan – the Geneva Communiqué – including the territorial integrity of the conflict-torn country, Lavrov told journalists.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 7 2013 21:33 utc | 51


I have lost a few comments in the fact that some incite the requirement to fill out the CAPTCHA (which doesn't always show the image with the letters) and some do not - while the end result looks very much the same.

In essence, I post my comment, the CATCHA comes up without the image, so I think I am done and refresh, and it is gone with my impression it was sent.

This may not be your problem, but it has been mine in the past if that is any help at all.

Posted by: guest77 | May 7 2013 21:37 utc | 52

And from another source.


Russia and the United States agreed to encourage the Syrian government and the opposition to advance efforts in achieving a dialogue, and to this end have decided to convene an international conference in late May which will follow up on the Geneva meeting which took place on June 30, 2012, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"Russia and the United States will encourage the Syrian government and opposition groups to come to a political solution to the conflict," Foreign Minister Lavrov stated.

"We also agreed on the need to try, and I think it will happen as soon as possible, possibly at the end of May, to convene an international conference to be organized in on the basis of the Geneva Conference, which was held in June last year," said the Russian Foreign Minister.

"I am grateful to President Putin that he received me, and for the fact that we had a meaningful conversation," John Kerry said during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.

He also thanked his counterpart the Russian Foreign Minister for the hospitality he had received and for the approach of the Russian side to a number of critical issues.

So Russia may have thrown Kerry a bone on another issue.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 7 2013 21:39 utc | 53

Let the Chinese flood the bond market for a day and the fear of God will strike Washington much more than all Russian military could do.

Posted by: Li The Lotte | May 7 2013 21:53 utc | 54

Russia and the US make a date to talk "possibly in a few weeks"
FSA is still meeting with USA/AIPAC
And arms are still going to the rebels
Israel has already shown it is capable and willing to attack Syria
I am not jumping for joy, yet

Posted by: Penny | May 7 2013 22:09 utc | 55


That is pretty much the point. I could have thrown in Austria-Hungary instead of Russia and the would have been the same: crazy declining empires may get even more reckless in pursuing short term (seeming) gains, and no one in power atop great powers has learned anything in the past century since 1914.

Posted by: A different Anon | May 7 2013 22:09 utc | 56

Ad strategic and military aspects:

While I agree with b's general line "Putin should send a signal that can only be understood as "Up to here and no further."" I see other way as more promising - and way cheaper in any regard, incl. human lifes.

As I said (in 47) things are more complicated. On the public level (zusa demand for Assad to go) there is not even necessarily a problem; Russia didn't exclude that possibility.
So, quite probably, the Syrian matter on the table in Moscow is to do with the circumstances of Assads potential leaving and, of course, how to make happen and guarantee proper procedures for the Syrians themselves to decide/vote for a new leader.

Quite certainly the Russian position will be somewhere around '*if* the Syrian people want Assad to leave as president, then he has to leave' (and associated detail questions such as where and how Assad would live afterwards).

This makes the real american problem very clearly visible: They preach democracy but actually as so often before they live anything but democracy. In fact the whole Assad issue can be summarized as 'The Russians want a democratic decision by the Syrian people, zusa on the other hand wants the people (who are rather pro Assad) out the equation and impose their will - by force if and as needed'.

Similarly the Russians follow the line 'Syria can and shall be and do what it wants as long as the existing cultural, ethnical and religious groups basic rights and well being is not in danger and international law is respected'.

This is the exact opposite of zusas whishes and worse, a political solution is extremely hard to find because zusas agenda is a hidden one, about which to have poloitical talks and negotiations is complicated de nature.

It should be noted that the Russian position so far is brilliant and covers all their bases. It respects international law, it refrains from undemocratic decisions for the Syrians but rather demands those decisions being made by the Syrians - which, of course, is the best imaginable position towards what and whoever happens to be Syrias leadership of tomorrow.

Now to the ugly part ...

The fact is, Russia cannot project nearly the amount of firepower that the US and NATO can. ... I don't know if Russia would risk that since the fact of the matter is, the US could defeat a couple of Russian squadrons.

(to pick one typical remark, made similarly by many in one or another way)

Just reading about "projecting firepower" raises my neck-hairs; This and the supremcy and superior blah is enough to describe the irrational and unrealistic vanity bordering to insanity zusa view on themselves.

Let's clean that up quickly.

Maybe, let's assume that for a moment, zusa can indeed project lots of firepower. But that, ladies and gentlemen, is simply not the point. No points for zusa, sit down, please.

The point of any military undertaking is to reach a political goal, to project desired structure in other, more american digestable words.

So, not only did zusa fail in professionally projecting firepower in the last decade, even worde, they obviously failed to understand the ABC, the one-digit multiplication of war of the first grade.
Both Iraq and Afghanistan are in a way worse position than before and in both countries the vast majority detests the americans like the Nazis were hated. Actually, both wars brought the respective countries (and some neighbours along) *closer* to Russia.

Second, there is another simple reason. Wars are not won by projection of weakness and insanely blown up egos and PR - they are won by troups and with weapons.

Third, wars are also extremely expensive. And obviously zusa is broken; so broken in fact, that they started to spend considerably less on their holiest of cows, the military, the very base of their wet dreams.
At the same time Russia and China very much increased their military budget and, best of all, they can actually afford it.


There are btw. interesting signs that b's assumptions point in the right direction. Just yesterday Russia made a very telltale move in out of nowhere offering their S-300 systems to ... turkey.
Now, turkey is measly country run by whores and dogs. But it is nevertheless a real neighbour with potentially legitimate interests concerning Syria. Like in 'Syria with either a very much strengthened Russian base' or in 'Syria with glitzy new S-300 AD systems'. It would therefore be reasonable to, if only for political reasons of looking nice, offer assurances to turkey that any such new Syrians AD prowess is by no means directed against a neutral a fair turkish partner (get the hint?) but rather against wet zato dreams of "superiority" military engagements.

Some may continue to dream about zusa firepower supremacy projection blah blah. The facts on the grounds are: With russian ships (and even more with eventual new Syrian AD systems) Syria is a de facto no-fly zone. For *zato and israel jets* that is.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | May 7 2013 22:10 utc | 57

The US going wobbly in Russia will be off the congressional radar screen by tomorrow: "The White House's accounting of what transpired in Libya is expected to be contradicted by three self-described whistleblowers" in a congressional Benghazi hearing. The wolves are at Obama's door.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 7 2013 22:13 utc | 58

#28 that link to debka files is interesting indeed.

My first reaction when Israel attacked Syria this last week was that Assad was going to be the beneficiary. It would strengthen Russian and Chinese resolve to back Assad. It would undermine the legitimacy of the rebels in the eyes of the Muslim world now that their alliance with Zionism was transparent. This will probably effect retention and recruitment for the militias. Public support for Turkish backing of the rebels is likely to decline.

It sounds like there might be some wiser heads inside the Israeli establishment that are seriously questioning Netanyahu's judgement. It does seem to me as a naive outside observer that Nethanyahu continues to make decisions based on immediate political and tactical circumstances without any longer term strategic considerations. That is good news. One day that whole mess that is Israel will unravel and Netanyahu and his American backers are bringing that day closer.

Posted by: ToivoS | May 7 2013 22:15 utc | 59

BTW, I haven't read every comment yet but I think we've all forgoten Russia's ace in the sleave with a picture of Afghanistan on it. No need to confront the us military ily when you have 150k NATO troops who eat each meal only by your leave.

Posted by: Lysander | May 7 2013 22:19 utc | 60

@59 Perhaps that sociopath Netanyahu was just trying to make a show before heading to China - he's obviously childish enough to think that would be "impressive".

Posted by: guest77 | May 7 2013 22:27 utc | 61

What to make of this...

Belarus Might Become a Country With Nuclear Weapons

In response to American sanctions Belarus has threatened to regain its nuclear status. At the same time Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu announced the plans of building a Russian air base in Belarus. It is possible that the planes will carry nuclear missiles.

Posted by: guest77 | May 7 2013 22:31 utc | 62

Oh boy. It doesn't look good for Russia at all. Putin better get with the program.

Posted by: dh | May 7 2013 22:46 utc | 63,1

That leaves Russia's Vladimir Putin, who perversely is enabling a mass-murderer as part of a campaign to remain globally relevant. The Russians have a big event coming up next year in Sochi -- the Olympics -- that will have all eyes of the world upon them. To date, their support of Syria has had no real cost. It is time for Kerry to indicate that the United States has both carrots and sticks and the will to use them to move the Russians to a position more consistent with international law and basic human decency. Now that Washington has become more engaged, post-Boston, in its awareness of the problem of fundamentalism in Russia's near abroad, it can more effectively partner with the Kremlin in a way that will be increasingly important in the run up to the Games. Alternatively, the United States can and should privately send a message that should the Russians refuse to play a more constructive role, America will have to reconsider its involvement in their big party.

Posted by: neretva'43 | May 7 2013 23:17 utc | 64

It could turn into a BRICS Olympics. :)

Posted by: dh | May 7 2013 23:30 utc | 65

Speaking of BRICS, Brazil's Roberto Azevedo has been chosen as the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The EU (and presumably the US) favored the other semifinalist, a Mexican.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 7 2013 23:40 utc | 66

neretva'43 (54)

You should add the name of that junkpeace: david rothkopf.

visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for marauding countri ... err, International Peace

Ex-undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade (under clinton)
Ex-managing director of Kissinger Associates
Ex-CEO and co-founder of Intellibridge Corporation ("a leading provider of international analysis and open-source intelligence for the U.S. national security community and selected investors, financial organizations and other corporations")

That's dirty, really, rotten dirty, even for a zionist.

His education though seems to not have included the simple rule "We use toilets for excrements. If you use a newspaper for wiping afterwards, put it in the toilet, not into the public"

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | May 7 2013 23:47 utc | 67

This is what mercenaries had gotten early Tuesday morning - value: $8 million. The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III based in Dover, Delaware probably landed at Incirlik AFB, Turkey.

More fast-food and band-aid. What lunatics there are!

Mr.President, I understand the reasons behind your cautious involvement in Syria. But I hope you will not discount the imperatives urging the free world to assist us in protecting our people. We desperately need your support, as the Free Syrian Army under my command has neither the requisite training nor equipment to counter the effects of Assad's chemical weapons or to destroy them.

Buffoon, "chief of staff" Idris

He should be finish like Mussolini.

Posted by: neretva'43 | May 8 2013 0:31 utc | 68

The Guardian (of imperial interests) is reportig:

"Russia and the United States have pledged to convene an international conference aimed at ending the civil war in Syria,..."

Which is pretty well what Russia, China and the Syria government has been suggesting for the past year. It looks like a diplomatic triumph for Putin and a reward for the Syria government. I suspect that Netanyahu's over reach has contributed to this.

Posted by: bevin | May 8 2013 1:15 utc | 69

add "n"s where necessary my ew keyboard drops them at will.

Posted by: bevin | May 8 2013 1:17 utc | 70

Russia and the United States agreed to encourage the Syrian government and the opposition to advance efforts in achieving a dialogue

This will take some work. While President Assad has been willing to negotiate, the opposition has not been willing. Not a single opposition leader has agreed to negotiate and compromise with Assad. The opposition position has been like the US position: Assad must go.

Another complication is that none of the opposition fighting units have accepted the opposition political representatives who might be part of a transition government.

Oh hell, why don't we just go back to the situation antebellum.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 8 2013 2:13 utc | 71

I believe there will be no confrontation between the empire, it's minions, and Russia. The 1%ers will see to that. Business, for them, is too good these days. 1%ers also exist in China, so, no problem there either. As it is in most of the world today, only the peons, and peons to be, will suffer. Hope to be wrong, but, I see no opposing force blunting the drive towards the coming global plantation. Too many folks have their selling price.

Posted by: ben | May 8 2013 2:29 utc | 72

So how are the anti-Assad opposition figures going to react to this US change in direction? They're going to think that it isn't fair to them. They're correct, of course. They've been used, the non-jihadist ones. At least they have their first-aid kits and their MRE's. The Empire has pivoted to a new threat -- North Korea.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 8 2013 2:32 utc | 73


That piece in FP is mortifying. Rothkopf is a lunatic

Posted by: Base | May 8 2013 2:35 utc | 74

This via Reuters:

[...] "The alternative (to a negotiated solution) is that there is even more violence. The alternative is that Syria heads closer to an abyss, if not over the abyss and into chaos," Kerry told a joint news conference with Lavrov.

"The alternative is that the humanitarian crisis will grow. The alternative is that there may be even a break up of Syria," said Kerry, who earlier held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. [...]


Posted by: Juan Moment | May 8 2013 3:08 utc | 75

Meanwhile, a new Syria is shaping up. The Syrian military is is morphing into a formidable fighting machine in the image of Hizbollah, in anticipation of a remote future possibility of a Syria in the hands of the Gulf goat molesters.

Sealing all borders areas with Jordan and Lebanon is key. This is happening now with demonstrable successes and the swamps there are being drained depriving smelly jihadi parasites inside Syria of their supply routes (but their virgins are reportedly still waiting). HA is preempting its Nusra/salafi enemies inside Syria so it doesn't have to exterminate them in Lebanon. This is HA war of choice. They might very well win it. I would never underestimate the calculations of HA.

This leaves Syria with two open border fronts: South with Israel. North with Turkey. The message is clear: collapse the regime in Syria and a failed state will emerge. The two lovers (Gundogan and Nuttyahoo) will have to deal with some fun on their borders. Would their neuron-deficient brains dig the message? Who knows.

Posted by: MikeA | May 8 2013 3:22 utc | 76

We might have to re-assess John Kerry? Who knew? A welcome change from the War Goddess, it seems.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 8 2013 3:43 utc | 77

Mr. Pragma's confidence is refreshing. The Syrian armed forces have continued surprising us & the rest of the world with their resolve and professionalism thus far. This has been with older weapons and antique equipment. According to Ziad Abu Fadel in Syrian Perspective. The Syrian Arab Army has been seizing caches of weapons, weapons brought in from abroad and paid for by the Gulf monarchical REGIMES. These weapons and munitions are being distributed to the army and the local militias. I'm sure knowledge of this isn't bringing the sponsors any happy thoughts. So now that the stakes are higher & better weapons, plus equipment is arriving I surmise that the hardy Syrian warriors will be on their A game.

Posted by: Fernando | May 8 2013 4:29 utc | 78


Words spoken after my own heart. Greed, the lure of power and control etc are still with us.
Just read any history book and we can see ourselves in it. And I concur, the "world plantation" is a likely scenario for the future

Posted by: curious | May 8 2013 5:46 utc | 79

Not much has changed. The only viable solution is military victory for the Syrian army. The Syrian army is on a roll and I expect that to continue in the coming weeks. Once the crazy jihadists realize they cannot win, they will escape back to Qatar and Saudi Arabia to continue their quest for ultimate paradise where boy sex slaves are waiting. Hamad you dog, watch out. You just could be next.

Posted by: Hilmihakim | May 8 2013 6:08 utc | 80

65) that is the nice interpretation of the Rothkoph piece. thinking in the context of the Boston bombing, the yes/no cooperation it is quite ominous.

Posted by: somebody | May 8 2013 6:13 utc | 81

Mr. P.,

re: "Some may continue to dream about zusa firepower supremacy projection blah blah. The facts on the grounds are: With russian ships (and even more with eventual new Syrian AD systems) Syria is a de facto no-fly zone. For *zato and israel jets* that is."

How would the ships stop an attack along the lines of the recent one? How long would it take to get a new AD system? If Israel attacks once a week like the last attack, Syria will be worn down.

Posted by: Paul | May 8 2013 6:46 utc | 82

83) good news being that there seems to be an international agreement - this here is the original Reuters piece

Assad's forces started advancing from the north and west and I can still go back to Khirbet Ghazaleh but I cannot do anything," Abu Yacoub, commander of the Martyrs of Khirbet Ghazaleh brigade, told Reuters by telephone from Hauran.

"I can get a thousand fighters back but it is useless because I don't have ammunition in my hands."

Al Mutasem Billah, an activist with the Sham News Network opposition monitoring group, said most of the rebel brigades in the south blame Jordan and the military council for the defeat.

"The council follows Jordanian Intelligence, which is more concerned about setting up a proxy unit than an effective force on the ground to take on Assad," he said.

Posted by: somebody | May 8 2013 7:04 utc | 84

Syria: Escalation in Khan al-Sheeh Palestinian Refugee Camp

A few days before the latest escalation, thousands of camp residents poured out into the streets – some armed with kitchen knives – to confront the opposition after the death of Atta Saleh, a local refugee who attacked four FSA fighters with a knife to prevent them from entering his neighborhood.

The armed opposition was forced to withdraw to the fields and orchards on the outskirts of the camp in order to avoid the refugees’ wrath, thus making them an easy target for the Syrian armed forces.

Posted by: b | May 8 2013 7:51 utc | 85

Fernando (78)

I'm not sure that those weapons will be given to (and used by) Syrian troups other than maybe for psychological reasons. Quite probably they are mostly given to support groups or simply locked away.

Unless a rifle is very clearly considerably better than what a soldier has he will be hesitating to use it. Simple reason: The weapon is the smaller factor, the soldier is the decisive factor. And the soldier has trained, trained, trained with his weapon. He brings it up into a quite useable flat position ("not aiming properly but yet direct it quite well"), he knows how to diassemble, clean, and reassemble it and all that while half asleep.
All that is not easily transposed onto a new weapon. And what for? A good soldier will reliably kill with a Kalashnikov (albeit maybe firing a little more) while a lousy shooter (like most terrorists who usually had hardly minimal basic training) will fail with his Steyr Tactical or whatever.
Furthermore it's a question of ammunition and spareparts. Again it makes more sense to give those confiscated weapons to trustworthy civilians, police officers etc. for enhanced defense and staying capabilities and let the army work with their tools.

I think btw. that, in particular western countries, put way too much weight on weapons rather than on people, good training, loyalty, craftsmanship, aso. The result are often high-tech army molochs who, particularly in asymmetric situations fail or take way too much time to cope.

Paul (82)

Remember israel declaring that it was more practical and secure for them to fly over and attack from Libanon? We must remember that Libanon for a long time was half brother-state, half son-state of Syria. Of course the Syrian defense lines are ex traditio oriented towards israel.
Putting a single russian warship with s-300 like AD cap. along the Libanon coast closes that gap. While there are different missiles with different capabilities for the S-300 and similar systems it seems reasonable to consider any such system a non-fly zone of ca. 300km/200miles (150km radius) diameter.

Being at that it might be interesting to point out how much progress Iran has achieved with its missile systems. Actually in many and in particular in the relevant respects for the Iran situation the Iranian systems have not only come quite close to Russian system but, and this is widely unknown/ignored (arrogantly not considered possible?), it has to be assumed that nobody in zato excl. zusa, has systems of similar capabilities. In other words: british warship daring to attack Iran will with high probability simply be destroyed. Even zusa carriers are by no means secure in the Persian golf.

It seems quite reasonable to assume that Irans remarks that they will supply Syria with modern systems was not empty. Just imagine Syria having missiles flying with mach 2+, with a range of 250 - 350 km and 10m CEP (simplified: "precision" of +- 5m).

Being at that, a Russian flotilla would also make any attempts to attempt shipping blockades against Syria (e.g. to interdict Iranian deliveries) highly unprobable (and pretty much unenforceable).

Most importantly though the mere presence of the Russian flotilla will be a clear statement and at the same time drive up the risk and costs of any "funny actions" by israel/zusa/zato very considerably.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | May 8 2013 8:40 utc | 86

Confusion, contradiction and gridlock within western policy-making

But this fault-line, articulated so lucidly in the case of Iran, is not confined to it: it now runs through all spheres of western relations with the Middle East, giving rise to contradictions within western policy and to confusion. The issue of whether or not to intervene in Syria throws up the same dilemmas: on the one hand, the west has assumed for itself the international goal of deposing President Assad, but this can be achieved only at the cost of flouting international law and its ‘rules’ (i.e. the UN Charter), and by undermining both. Again we see substantive ‘push-back’ to this ‘goals approach’: a recent Pew poll shows substantive (approximately two thirds) disapproval in mainly Sunni Arab states for the western ‘green light’ for the arming of an insurgency in Syria – a striking expression of clear differences of opinion between the political élites and the public — a disapproval that spans all confessional categories. Again, the western ‘goal’ (at least since 2007) of conferring international legitimacy on Sunni states – and particularly the Gulf states as they pursued their (then) cold war against Iran – as somehow being standard-bearers of the international order, could not represent a greater contradiction to the claimed values of the international order, with its implicit acquiescence and reliance on Takfiri jihadist support, in the pursuit of their ‘international goal’ of isolating and weakening Shi’i Iran, Hizballah and their ally – Syria.

The contradictions were well encapsulated in an article by Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli political commentator, which described the recent capture of a foreign jihadist in Mali: the jihadist recounted how he had intended to fight in Syria against Assad, but events went against him and through happenstance, he had ended up in Mali. Barnea noted wryly that if the jihadist had succeeded in catching the flight to join the Syrian opposition, he would have been welcomed in the West as a freedom fighter, but having ended in Mali, he paradoxically became a terrorist.


Qatar’s controversial and ambiguous role was highlighted during the PM’s visit to Washington this week. Piqued by the criticism of Doha’s embrace of Islamist (including jihadist) movements (both armed and unarmed), a defensiveSheikh Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani, denied Qatar was siding solely with Islamist politicians and movements. But strikingly – and sanctimoniously – he also warned Arab states that their political systems were vulnerable if they don’t embrace democracy and reform, and underlined his warning by saying that “A big tsunami wave is coming,” he said at the Brookings Institute last week. “We cannot choose for the countries who are their leaders or which party should win. But in the end, they will be democracies in my opinion.” The Wall Street Journal author rued the divisions with the pro-American Middle East camp, noting that they imperilled the very US policy toward the Middle East with Doha and Istanbul in one opposing camp and with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan in the other.

Posted by: somebody | May 8 2013 8:58 utc | 87

this here is the Wall Street Journal article quoted above:

In one camp, said the officials, are Qatar and Turkey, whose leaders are supportive of a political Islam that is gaining hold in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and Libya. Qatar and Turkey have shown particular support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement whose politicians now dominate the governments in Cairo and Tunis and are active in Syria's opposition.

A second camp is led by Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Jordan, Sunni monarchies whose royal families are hostile toward the Muslim Brotherhood and its potential for destabilizing their own political and economic systems, said these officials.

"We have pretty fundamental disagreements on policy. We simply believe in different philosophies," said a senior Arab official from this second faction in describing his government's relationship with Qatar. "We believe in secularism and they support political Islam," he added. "We believe in picking sides; they believe in picking both sides."

These divisions have been playing out in Washington.

Posted by: somebody | May 8 2013 9:04 utc | 88

More diplomacy shuttle: Iranian vice president visits Turkey

Posted by: b | May 8 2013 9:21 utc | 89

Not sure I agree with all of this but interesting analysis: US asked Israel to strike Syria

The huge arms depots Israel hit could be “game-changers” -- but in Syria, not Lebanon. Despite a long indifference to Syria, Israel is now helping Washington to do what it can't do itself -- change the balance of power on the ground that has been tilting in favor of forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian army has made significant gains in the past few weeks ...

Worried about these developments, the US, the UK and France reportedly drafted a plan for airstrikes in Syria to change the calculus on the ground. To justify carrying out the plan, the US, the UK and Turkey floated the idea and then confirmed that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons.

Another option was to arm the Syrian opposition. US President Barack Obama's administration is seriously considering arming the opposition fighters if the Assad forces gain further ground in the battlefield. On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Moscowthat -- reading it reverse -- Washington will arm the Syrian opposition if political transition fails to move forward. With political transition, Kerry is referring to the victory of the opposition fighters, since the window for Syrian diplomacy has been shut for good.

The third and best option was to ask Israel to destroy some of Assad's most formidable weaponry. This would delay the regime's march into opposition-held areas around Damascus and districts neighboring Lebanon.

Posted by: b | May 8 2013 9:35 utc | 90


Isn't that just the worst of Gulen propaganda? The Jerusalem Post is going to be a lot more objective.

Posted by: Paul | May 8 2013 10:36 utc | 91

a familiar topic
Juan Cole
Fisk on Syria and Stenography “Journalism” (Democracy Now! Video)

Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk is interviewed by Amy Goodman on his experiences in Syria. In the course of the interview, he denounces the increasingly common stenography approach in Western journalism, where articles are written citing unnamed government intelligence analysts and security officials [and Coventry clothier], with no fact-checking and no reporting from the ground.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 8 2013 14:05 utc | 92

Paul @ 91 -- Just checking to be sure you're referring to b's comment at 90? Or his post? T/U.

Posted by: jawbone | May 8 2013 14:06 utc | 93

syria spill over?
tunisian jihadists supposedly have been fighting in syria

Posted by: clubofrome | May 8 2013 15:01 utc | 94

There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.

John Swinton

Posted by: neretva'43 | May 8 2013 15:06 utc | 95

this above is also valid for academia. For people like Juan Cole.

Posted by: neretva'43 | May 8 2013 15:14 utc | 96

94) hmm - its becoming a theme -
Al-Ghannouchi (Muslim Brotherhood): Jihad is in Palestine not Tunis

Is Egypt (Mursi) Moving Closer To Iran on Syria?

bservers believe that Syria is on the agenda of the Egyptian delegation’s visit to Ahmadinejad. But political science professor at the University of Cairo Hassan Nafi’a said to As-Safir that “it is not the only issue. ... I think that economic issues are the top priority, especially given that Iran has financial surpluses that could be invested in Egypt and that Egypt is counting on Iranian tourists” to revive Egypt’s tourism sector, which has sharply declined over the past two years.
It should be noted that Salafists held a demonstration and surrounded the headquarters of the Iranian diplomatic mission in Cairo to reject the arrival of Iranian tourists under the pretext of preventing the “spread of Shiism” in Egypt. According to the Egyptian Tourism Ministry, the demonstration caused the “temporary” suspension of flights between the two countries.
Nafi’a said, “Egypt should prepare itself to stand up to the US, Israel and the GCC as it re-establishes its relations with Iran. ... This requires a wide-ranging vision for Egypt’s regional role and its relations around the world. But that vision, unfortunately, does not exist.”

Posted by: somebody | May 8 2013 15:49 utc | 97

one minute you guys are claiming that Israel's bombing is meant to evoke a military response from Iran or Russia so that OBAMA CAN HAVE HIS WAR AND EAT IT TOO, and the next minute you're saying, no, OBAMA WANTS A WAY OUT TO AVOID A WAR.

meanwhile, it's all the same. Israel wants to destroy Syria. US wants to control the planet and sell weapons. Obama wants to retire rich and with a lot of armed guards. Probably the most Kerry is doing in Russia is reassuring them that the US is only trying to balance the "civil war" in Syria, and to relax, it's just that the "rebels" are failing so Israel has to go in and do it for them once in a while.

Posted by: anon | May 8 2013 16:20 utc | 98

98) sure, everyone wants to have their cake and it it, too.

The bombing of Syria was timed before Kerry's visit to Russia and before Netanyahu's visit to China. It does not seem to have changed anything on the ground and no one seems to be really upset.

Posted by: somebody | May 8 2013 16:39 utc | 99

Having and eating VS getting out. Both could work; the former for America's rickety prestige, the latter out of concern for available funds(and troops). Depends on how the press packages it. Saw the same thing during Vietnam.

Posted by: ruralito | May 8 2013 16:47 utc | 100

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