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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That Today's Zaman piece is an interesting piece of dissembling, through a Chomskyite lens (Israel is America's imperial lapdog in the Middle East). It notes that Israel's claims about weapons bound for Hezbollah are absurd:

It makes sense for several reasons. First, there is no compelling rationale why Israel would choose to hit military targets in Syria before the weapons are shipped to Lebanon. It is far easier to destroy the Hezbollah-bound military convoy in Lebanese territory. This would also save Israel time, as it would merely have to explain to the world that its goal was to cut the link between the two adversaries.

In addition, the Syrian regime would not waste its arms by sending them to Hezbollah instead of using them in its crucial war for survival.

But then, it makes the assumption that Netanyahu, for whom the Clean Break plan was designed, doesn't want to target one of the last of his targets (which is standing in the way of his other targets, Iran and Hezbollah). Even some of the MSM liberal talking heads have finally started speaking out about the neocons' pervasive drumbeats for war, pushing Obama on Syria. If anything, Obama's "Israel has a right to defend itself" was lip-service from Obama to keep Democratic congresscritters from getting nervous about their Zionist donors; the message to Netanyahu was "you're on your own."

Of course, there's no telling how much flak Obama will let Netanyahu take for the strikes. The UN monitors in Lebanon have lodged a complaint about Israel's violation of Lebanese airspace and the Lebanese have even taken a protest to the Security Council. Of course, if Rice is up to form, she'll veto that.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | May 8 2013 18:38 utc | 101

link for the John Swinton quote in #95 -- plus a tad more info. Wiki also covers Swinton.

Posted by: jawbone | May 9 2013 17:39 utc | 102

This article in Press TV supports b's earlier observation about the Russian's being a game changer.
It's also supported by Nasrallah's quote in the article below:

Posted by: Pauly | May 22 2013 11:46 utc | 103

u all seem to have forgotten what this has to do with the reglious war that is being fought being the sunni and shite with saudi being the main backers of all this.putin and osbama are just side liners.what the hell can russia achieve except trying to keep their so called manly views of how tough they r. back of any govt that attacks and kills their own people are worth crap and russia should stop defending them. but little men like putin have big napolean....history repeats...russia will never never commit itself to fully defend it so called allies..........oz

Posted by: davidoz | May 29 2013 11:10 utc | 104

i often wonder why except for oil america just doesnt back off from playing the worlds policeman which would save them a lot of money and let them in the middle east just go for it and sort it out amongst as though saudi,s will stop selling too men posturing and not enough lateral thinking...too many tough macho pollies...all states..all countries..and i am male...shame on men..of all orgins

Posted by: davidoz | May 29 2013 11:23 utc | 105

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