Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

This will appear in the Farmerville Gazette, Farmerville, Louisiana, the week of June 15th.
Last week I wrote about the Syrian conflict, how Russia was using Syria as a Putin/Russian pawn and how President Trump had some major decisions to be made. Two days after being published, the United States, Great Britain and France attacked three major facilities that developed or stored potential nerve gasses and chemical agents. According to the Director of the Joint Staff of Staff, the strike was precise, effective and overwhelming. Additionally, the strikes were not American alone. Both France and Britain were involved and the attacks came from both the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Gulf. The Arabian Gulf strike meant that the missiles passed over both Kuwait and Iraq. No objections have been made from either county thus complicity between these two countries can be assumed.
Jordan is housing many of the millions of refugees that only want to live in peace, raise their children, make a viable living and be free of war, death and carnage. Many of these refugees are delighted with the attack but despair within the camps is present. Had the United States and the West’s aggressive approach to this conflict taken place years ago, the horrible conflict would been squashed and collateral impact to the free world would have been minimized. These collateral impacts include the rise of ISIS, growth if radical Islam, embolding Iran and a feeling that America was a paper tiger.
Last week I discussed how Putin used the Mid-East like a chess board. The question was asked about how President Trump and the free world would respond to what Putin and Russia was doing to shore up the Syrian regime. Russia had warned America that they would not allow an attack on Syria and made it clear that Syria was a friend. Trump made his move on the Mid-East chess board and did so without regard with reprisal. His statement was loud and clear, “We are here and we do more that spout empty rhetoric. When we speak, listen. We do carry a big stick, a stick that will not be used indiscriminately; but it will be used.”
Apparently President Trump is also a chess player. He did not only make a big move on the Mid-East chess board, he took the step of a master chess player and looked several moves ahead. It was announced several days prior to the strike that what is one of the largest naval task forces to sail from America was enroute to the Mediterranean. The message is clear. America and its’ allies are committed to ending the use of gas in Syria, and everywhere else. Also, it is sending a clear message to Russia that America is not cowering down because of Russian threats. There is definitely a lot of scrambling and head scratching going on in Moscow as they are trying to figure out their next move.
Hillary Clinton published a book titled “It Takes a Village” and identifies how influences outside the family are needed to successfully raise a child . To paraphrase this concept, “It takes a coalition” to have a successful military operation. Three countries led the raid on Syria. Even though a very important part of the raid; Great Britain, France and the United States were not the only participants in the raid. Saudi Arabia backed the raid as did Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Some planes took off from Qatar. British planes were launched from the Mediterranean island of Malta. It takes a region, a region of friends dedicated to a mission such as took place on April 12th that makes the strike such a success.
This strike displayed a remarkable coordination effort. Nothing was left to chance and even the time and date of the attack was part of the plan to minimize any chance of civilian casualties. To those in the West the attack took place on a Thursday evening, Eastern Time. This was actually about 4:00 A.M. on Friday in Syria. For us in America, Friday is the last work day of the week but in the Muslim world of the Mid-East, Friday is their Sunday. So at four o’clock on a Friday in Syria, the probability of any civilian being in any of the buildings targeted by the coalition forces would be very minor.
This week will be very interesting. Mr. Putin, your move.

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This was published in the Farmerville Gazette, Farmerville, Louisiana on April 11 2018, two days before the coalition strike against Syria.
If I had an opportunity to bet I would wager that Russia’s new demagogue is a chess player. Furthermore, the Mid-East is a big chess board and the contestant playing Putin is the Unites States while the rest of the world is the audience; sitting there watching but with no desire to play.
Five years ago I began writing about how we had to do something to support the rebels with their attempt to overthrow the brutal Assad family regime in Syria. We did little or nothing and instead of a few hundred civilians dying, the numbers of innocent men, women and children has risen to hundreds of thousands of casualties.
The refugee explosion is costing the world billions of dollars in aid and relief while American Mid-East ally Jordan is suffering from the load of hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking a safe place to stay. At the same time we saw despicable ISIS be birthed, grow into a monster and finally becoming old and dying. As the refugee crisis became critical, Europe opened its doors and many thousands of Syrians sought asylum. While the vast majority are in desperate need, a small segment causing trouble in their host European countries and the fear of terrorist attacks are continually with our friends in Europe.
In the middle of this chaos Putin enters the Mid-East scene and begins his chess match. No one saw him come and he became the savior to Syria. The vacuum in Syria allowed the Russian troops and aircraft to enter the country and aid the Assad regime. Syria and the Mid-East had been void of Russian influence since the end of the 1980s. They are now back and they outsmarted America and its’ foreign policy. To make matters worse, two of our best allies in the Mid-East, Turkey and the Kurds living in Syria, are fighting each other.
Before Russia physically entered Syria, the Syrians were hinting to use nerve gas. Then President Obama placed a line in the sand and said Syria had best not use any nerve gas. Syria did and America looked on and did nothing. Syria had called our bluff.
A year ago with Russia troops in Syria, Syria again used nerve gas on innocent citizens. The response was quick from President Trump and America as Tomahawk Cruise missiles rained down on Syrian air bases. This move surprised everyone, including Russia. A major move for America.
Since then there have small moves as pawns are called into play and knights go out to do battle but there has been no major game moves; until last week. A surprise announcement from America disclosed that the United States may pull all forces out of Syria in September and thus leave the game. We had now done just what the Obama administration had be blamed of doing in other confrontations; telegraphing an exit date. Then shortly after this the Syrians have once again used nerve gas on innocent civilians. Syria has thumbed its nose at the United States while pictures of dead children are broadcast around the world.
The silence from the American government is deafening. Has Russia and its; puppet Syria made a move that has left America trying to figure out its’ next move or is the response being determined at this time. Several things are certain.
1. If America pulls out of Syria and leaves it to Assad and Putin’s Russia, a breeding ground for anti-American and anti-Democratic countries will be constructed and Iranian influence will expand. Syria will become a huge petri dish growing hate and disease as it plans the invasion and destruction of its’ neighbor, Israel while strategic plans for the fall of Europe are devised.
2. Russia denies any knowledge of any actions in Syria. Russia is in sync with everything happening in Syria and has advanced knowledge of decisions to use nerve gas. As a preemptive move prior to retaliation by America and the West, Syria claims that Israel dropped the gas to make it look like Syria dropped the bombs.
3. America has a new National Security Advisor in John Bolton. Officially taking office last Monday, he will not mince words and will have a hardline plan to answer the use of nerve gas by Syria.

 

 

Theodore Roosevelt, former president of the United States, one said “Speak softly but carry a big stick”.  This iconic statement has embellished America’s resolve to build a great nation full of ideals and advantages for the common man and live in peace but be prepared to defend itself and its’ interest if required to do so.  This man felt that America had a manifest destiny to provide the leadership to throw off the yokes of dictatorships around the world and provide some semblance of safety and security to all mankind.  While Roosevelt was president the Czar of Russia was in power.  The Czar was ruthless and showed little care for the Russian peasants.  It has been reported that Roosevelt had a shooting range behind the White House and on occasion the targets he would shoot were silhouettes of the Czar.

Recently America transitioned away from Roosevelts comments.  Following several conflicts that made America war weary, the phrase changed to “speak softly, carry a stick but let someone else use their stick”.  While this keeps us out of conflicts it also left America’s allies asking where is the resolve to lead that made America such a great nation.

When I first began writing several years ago I expressed my concern that the United States needed to quickly support the Syrian rebels and overthrow the dictatorial Assad regime.  There had been 240 civilian deaths at the time.  Today over 400,000 have been killed.  Then later I noted that the revolution was taking its toll and allowed ISIS to get a foothold in the fragmented nation and later told how the longer we wait the harder it would be to obtain peace in Syria while at the same time defeating the growing monster, ISIS.  We have seen Russia move into Syria and take a lead in the region and eventually snubbing its’ nose at the United States and its European allies.  Then we saw America tell Syria that it would not accept use of chemical weapons on its’ civilians only to do nothing when they did use it.  Britain voted to take no action, America opted to do nothing and France stood by in amazement as its’ jets sat on the runways waiting to strike Syria alongside its’ allies.   The planes never launched and The Great American Mystic was beginning to lose its’ allure.

Last week Syria launched a deadly gas attack against its’ own civilians killing men, women and children with indiscretion.  Men and women that only wanted to live one day at a time and children that only wanted an opportunity to play in peace all met an agonizing and horrific death.  The use of gas in war has been outlawed by the Geneva convention so the gas used by the Assad regime to kill its’ own civilians should have never been developed and stored.  Also, this is not the first time that Syria used gas against its’ own citizens.  In the late 80s the present ruler Assad’s father attacked two Kurdish towns in Syria and used gas to indiscriminately kill the populations.  Last weeks’ attack was nothing new for Syria, it was its’ third time and like the saying goes, “three’s the charm”.

President Donald Trump launched a strike against Syrian air force resources in what is nothing less than brilliant.  First, the attack had to be designed.  That means that details of what was to be hit had to be identified.  Then each cruise missile had to be programmed to hit specific targets.  This was not a carpet bombing raid that would have indiscriminately dropped missiles on a Syrian base.  Instead a surgical strike that placed individual missiles inside aircraft bunkers was launched and only after a few hours to design the raid.  In addition to the precision of the strike the magnitude was surprising.  Instead of a few missiles being launched to send a message, the strike consisted of forty-nine warheads.  This sent a further message that when America launches a raid it will to win.  All this took place within a few short hours.

Had America wanted to take Syrian lives the cruise missiles would have targeted air force barracks.  Instead the causalities were small, only nine dead and shows America did not care to kill but instead destroy planes and missile sites and send a message.   Finally America was speaking softly but proved it carried a big stick and was prepared to use it.

Many criticized Trump for not debating the strike.  While this may be a nice gesture, telling an enemy it will be attacking and giving the enemy weeks to prepare is ludicrous.  The shock factor of this strike was enormous and sent a clear message to Syria and to its’ key ally, Russia.

 

I started writing this column about four years ago.  One of my earliest writings addressed the mid-east revolutions referred to as the Arab Spring.  Arab countries were throwing off the yoke of dictatorship and attempted to install some semblance of democracy.  America’s failing to mentor these countries and provide leadership to the fledgling democracies is one of the major foreign policies of our great nation.  Another failing was our inept ability to diagnose and act on what was taking place in Syria during the early days of the Syrian revolution has assisted in the growth of the world’s greatest cancer, ISIS.

Just as what had happened in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and attempts in other Arab countries, Syria had an uprising to overthrow a terrible dictatorship, the Assad family.  With countries collapsing around Syria it would have taken little encouragement from the United States and Europe to have Assad flee Syria.  I had said that we had a plumb to pick and not only encourage democracy in Syria but provide an opportunity for a moderate regime to promote peace with our staunchest ally, Israel.  At the time there had been about two hundred and fifty civilian casualties.  We did nothing and in the midst of revolution, confusion and external pressures; ISIS had a chance to be born.  This was the first phase, the formation of ISIS.  America became so nonchalant about this formation that we referred to ISIS as a junior varsity team.  The seed was planted and grew very quickly.   Modern technology such as social media plus financial support from abroad coupled with brilliant leadership and filling a niche for impressionable youth around the world led to a steep growth of this despicable organization known as ISIS.

By the time the full reality of ISIS was realized, the organization was spreading like wildfire across the mid-east.  Images of captured American tanks, trucks and other pieces of armament were shown around the world.  It takes a large maintenance staff to keep a tank running and this was apparently in place as the vehicles were kept rolling.  It also takes a huge supply system to keep an army moving and this level of sophistication was in place and shows that outside training and support was pouring into Syria and Iraq.  At the early days of this second phase, active military development and execution, Iraq requested drones from America to help thwart the spread.  America declined and very little military support was provided.  ISIS continued it spread and used brutal tactics to cause Iraqi and Syrian troops to run when the mere suggestion of ISIS approaching was spread through the troops.  Beheadings, mass executions, rapes and pillaging terrified a civilian populace waiting for the West to come to their rescue.  During this time Russia entered the revolution in Syria on the side of the Assad family and America sat back and watched as Vladimir Putin took a lead in the mid-east that it had lost in the early 1990s.   The West did eventually step up a bombing campaign that has led to significant gains by Iraqi and Syrian forces in their fight against ISIS.  Unfortunately, the Syrian government is still in power and will likely remain even after ISIS is destroyed.

ISIS has now moved into a third phase and for the United States and Europe it is the most dangerous phase to date.  This phase is to not take the fight to the enemy in a traditional manner.  Don’t mass tanks and soldiers dressed in uniforms and pit them in a large battle against a foe.  Instead use true terrorist tactics and attack from within using the civilians to carry on the war.  While ISIS is finally losing ground in Syria and Iraq, multi millions of refugees are pouring across borders fleeing the ISIS scourge.  The great masses do not want to leave, they are being forced to leave their homes and villages and seek some place to feel safe.  The Wests greatest failure is not providing a place for the refugees to flee, the greatest failure is allowing the mid-east to get to a situation that it is in today that has caused the refugee crisis.  We have a real mess on our hands and as I wrote a couple of years ago, ISIS will attempt to spread across Europe and America with the hope of world domination.  The difference in World War II and defeating the Nazis and Japanese and what we are up against today is that today command and control can be provided from a remote area in real time.  Technology allows despots such as ISIS to influence the youth of the world and launch attacks with little effort that garnishes huge headlines.

For this third phase it is hoped that the leadership of the free world understand what they are up against and provide a direction that can defeat ISIS on their own terms.  I only hope that some form of a fourth phase never materializes.  Make no mistake, ISIS is smart, well organized and will morph itself to fit a changing war environment.

 

 

Amazing what just 24 hours can make.  Yesterday Russia was the big boy in the fight against ISIS.  France was taking the leadership position for the West and while America talked about how ISIS would be stopped France was doing something about it with the air raids followed up today as it builds a coalition.   Yesterday the main players were France and Russia with America playing a smaller but still vital role in the war on ISIS and Al Qaeda.  Today all this has changed.

Turkey did something that the West could not do in the Ukraine.  Turkey told Russia not to violate its; Turkish air space.  It warned Russia not to do so for the last several days. Russia ignored the warnings just it had done in the Ukraine and just as it had done when it moved into Syria.  There was one difference though; Turkey did what it said it would .  No rhetoric, no diplomatic talks, no back tracking on what it said it would do.  It was like the movie Billy Jack.  He was surrounded by thugs and the main bully asked him what he was going to do about it.  Billy Jack responded by saying” I’m going to place my right foot in your left ear and nothing on this earth is going to stop me.”  And that is exactly what he did.

Now Russia is stunned and trying to figure out how to respond.  Turkey is huge and has a tough, real tough military.  Russia’s foreign policy is based on bullying and ignoring other governments as Putin flexes his muscles.  In twenty-four hours the table has turned.  Turkey has now flexed its’ muscles and Putin is on the defensive and it is his turn to respond.  Surely he will not perform a military action.  To make it worse for him he has NATO to consider.  The Ukraine was not a member of NATO so PUTIN could move in there with impunity and this led to annexed territory and the downing of a Malaysian Air Liner.  Turkey is a strong NATO ally and if attacked it is the obligation of NATO to respond to this attack.

Now Putin is on the receiving end of terrorism and his own style of actions following the bombing of a Russian passenger plane and the downing of a Russian military plane alleged to be over Turkish Air Space.  My, how twenty-four hours can make such a difference.

On a more grizzly note,  the defenseless pilots of the burning aircraft hit by air-to-air missiles from American supplied Turkish aircraft were parachuting to the ground.  It has been reported that the Syrian forces loyal to turkey machine gunned them in the air.  This is contrary to modern warfare and portrays what a barbaric war is being waged in Syria.  This act further complicates the situation that Putin is in and how he will respond to it.  While this has not been confirmed it is hoped that the report is false and there is slightly more humanity being shown in this horrific war.

Vladimir Putin is America’s best motivator. This may seem strange that the man that has rebuilt the Russian military, invaded an ally, snubbed his nose at America and its’ President and laughs at any threat that America throws his way can be considered to be an American motivator. Now he has taken the initiative to physically do something in Syria in spite of America objecting and the world realizing that all he is doing is propping up President Assad; a nemesis of the United States and Europe.
When Putin came to power he took over the leadership of Russia after the country had taken a nose dive in prestige following throwing off the shackles of Communism. While the majority of the country welcomed a chance at democracy, it had problems maintaining any semblance of world power and moral eventually waned. Vladimir Putin came to power and began to change the way Russia would be viewed by the rest of the world.
His brazen approach to foreign policy worked. When sanctions on Russia were put into place following the Ukrainian invasion they had no effect on Putin’s plan. The decline in the Russian economy due to the downturn in the collapse in the oil market hurt the country but the new found pride is softening the blow. Russia has also quietly beefed up its military and is threatening a nuclear expansion.
American foreign policy stood by and watched this unfold. Then as Syria became more dire Russia began providing diplomatic direction and undermined the American foreign policy in the Middle East. Following several years of turbulence in Syria which included very limited action by America to control ISIS, Russia used the ISIS situation as a pretext to move its’ military into Syria. The only thing about this use of Russian Force is that Russian air strikes not only hit ISIS but hit other forces, loyal to the West, that threatens President Assad.
In 2014 Putin was listed as the most influential man in the world. He was just selected to the same position for 2015 but for the first time in history, a standing U.S. President was not in the top two. Andrea Mirkel, Prime Minister of German, took second place while President Obama dropped to third. This degeneration in public popularity coupled with Russia’s intervention in Syria has led to a new found motivation to do something against ISIS, to take a lead. Bombings have quickly risen from American aircraft and last week America provided close air support as Iraqi forces are attempting to take a major ISIS site. Vladimir Putin has become the catalyst that had pushed our Federal Government to do what it should have done years ago.
But here is another prediction. Russia had a passenger plane blown from the sky over Egypt. This is a total game changer as the Russians have been slammed directly by ISIS. They can no longer bluff their way in foreign policy. With Russia in a precarious position and America being viewed as a paper tiger, the two countries may well form a strong alliance to actively take on ISIS. Then we will see Europe fall into support following the Paris bombings. France will take an active lead. Iraq, Saudi, Jordan and the UAE will provide support as the terror organizations is at their door steps. Then, we will finally see an end to ISIS.

This will appear in the Farmerville Gazette, Farmerville, Louisiana, USA the week of September 28th, 2015.

The United States lack of direction and leadership in international affairs has left a power vacuum in the Middle East that saw the growth of ISIS, the spread of revolution in Syria and a refugee crisis that the world has not witnessed since the end of World War II. Syria is collapsing much to the delight of America. A cruel dictator that holds control of a country that he inherited from his equally brutal father is fighting for his political life.
Iran has long been a supporter of Syria. Iran has also long been a hater of America and our values. This hatred of America dates back to the 1980 revolution when the pro-Western and staunch ally of America, the Shaw of Iran, was overthrown by fundamental Islamist Ayatollah Khomeini.
During the cold war Russia was a staunch ally of Syria as well as Iraq. Iraq and Syria had leaders that led the same political parties, the Bath Party. Russian weapons and advisors were present in Syria during the communist control of the Soviet Union. Prior to Russia’s involvement, America had a positive presence in Syria. In the early 1980s an American friend living in Saudi Arabia took his wife and young children to Amsterdam to purchase a new Suburban. He drove and camped from Holland through Europe, Turkey and then Syria enroute to his home in Dhahran. While many questioned his wisdom to drive through Syria he explained that it was very safe. He told his friends that not only were the Syrians friendly but they spoke of the arrogance of the Russians and how much they wished the American’s would return.
Iran was not a big proponent of Russia or the Soviet Union. As much as Iran disliked America, Iran truly disliked communism and its’ ideology on religion. So three years ago Syria was in a civil war, Iran gave some support and Russia was standing by on the sidelines with the rest of world and watched civilians getting gassed and killed as the strife in Syria turned into a bona fide civil war. Then we continued to stand by as we saw what was referred to by American Leaders as a JV team astronomically exploded into a military and political force that swept across much of Iran and Northern Syria. ISIS was born.
Iran sent paramilitary forces into both Iraq and Syria to fill a void that America and Europe had failed to fill. A coalition force of Mid-East air forces launched strikes deep into Syria. We watched as the unheard of occurred; strikes from the United Arab Emirates was led by a female fighter pilot. We also watched as a captured Jordanian pilot was burned alive by ISIS like a caged animal. We also stood by to see nothing of substance being done by the West. There was an attempt to train a handful of mid-East soldiers to fight ISIS. This was a token gesture considering that ISIS has had 30,000 foreigners join its’ ranks in the last couple of years.
Russia had fallen on hard times since the fall of the Soviet Union when communism collapsed. Failure of the West to adequately support the country and treating Russia like a step son since it fell in 1990 was insulting and degrading to a once proud country. Vladimir Putin came to power and rebuilt public pride and nationalistic fervor that the country was craving. Russia annexed the Crimea part of the Ukraine while the world stood by and watched. Now it is actively involved with the fighting in the Ukraine while we place sanctions on Russia and send MREs to the Ukraine and a civilian airline is shot from the skies. Ukraine needs new sophisticated weapons and nothing is provided.
This lack of direction from the West has led to a very unlikely collaboration. Syria is on its’ heals due to ISIS. American and the West is now in a big dilemma. Does the West support the horrible Syrian government that represents everything that we have loathed and fought against for over two hundred years? Or do we support the rebels fighting the Syrian government but with the understanding that if the rebels succeed ISIS will possibly overrun the country and an even greater threat to world freedom will be created.
With this confusion as to how to best proceed a new coalition has been formed. Russia has poured arms and advisors and aircraft into Syria. Putin and his country is providing arms to Iran also and thus a scary coalition has formed. Russia has taken a leadership role that was once American. And to add to this realignment of power, Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel visited Russia last week. An unheard of gesture three years ago.