Posts Tagged ‘Bashar Assad’

LinkSwarm for April 7, 2017

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Welcome to another Friday LinkSwarm!

I’m still not wild about President Trump’s decision to strike a Syrian airfield with cruise missiles last night, but the decision makes more sense if you look at it less of a tool to make Bashar Assad mend his ways than as a warning shot across the bows of Ali Khamenei, Kim Jong-Un and Xi Jinping, the latter of whom President Trump just happened to be meeting with while the missiles were hitting Shayrat.

Now some links:

  • Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court today. How’d that Nuclear Option work out for you in the long run, Harry Reid?
  • The Obama/Kerry policy on Syrian chemical disarmament has been such an astounding failure that even Polifact has been forced to admit it.
  • Here’s a really interesting precinct-by-precinct map of the 2016 presidential election, along with analysis of changes from previous maps.

  • Susan Rice has changed her story twice. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Intelligence agencies are stonewalling congressional information requests on unmasking scandal.
  • Even Rolling Stone has noticed Putin derangement syndrome.
  • Russia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while recognizing East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
  • Russia has banned this image:

  • Jobless claims “are hovering near the lowest level since the early 1970s.” Now the trick is to produce enough sustained growth to get the Obama-discouraged long-term unemployed back into the workforce…
  • Dissecting the mainstream media’s dishonest response to every jihad attack.
  • “Conniving, spineless, duplicitous, misleading, double-crossing—Chuck Schumer is a fitting exemplar for the modern Democratic Party.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Intersectionality is a religion. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Marines test polymers to cut weight.
  • College student who was once in pictures with Bill Clinton busted for prostitution. What are the odds? (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Justified shooting, unjustified indictment.
  • Mike Pence’s rules for not being alone with other women are probably less about preventing adultery than to prevent him from being framed and smeared by feminists.
  • “Ethicist” Pete Singer: Hey, let’s rape the retarded! It’s not like they’re real human beings…
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police can intercept your cell phone conversations.
  • Is Google prejudiced against ex-military employees?
  • ESPN is losing money hand-over-fist, but they’re still going shove the liberal culture war down your throat.
  • Oh the huge manatees…are doing just fine.
  • Hope you don’t need to use the stretch of I-35 near San Antonio this weekend: The Texas Department of Transportation is shutting it down for four days.
  • Don Rickles, RIP. With a great segment with him on the Tonight Show with Frank Sinatra.
  • Intervening in Syria is STILL a Bad Idea

    Thursday, April 6th, 2017

    Note: This post is 75% rerun by weight from this piece, because pretty much all the reasons listed there are still valid.

    Following a new report of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime in Syria, certain factions of the Washington establishment are demanding that President Trump “do something” to “punish” Assad.

    To which I reply: Why?

    Even assuming the report is true (at least some observers think the chemical attack report is a false flag), last time I checked, the United Nations had not made the United States the designated enforcer of Security Council Resolution 2118.

    We can’t back the good guys in the Syrian civil war because there are no good guys. Assad’s ruling faction are scumbags. The Russians backing Assad are scumbags. Hezbollah, fighting on Assad’s side, are scumbags. The Iranian mullahs backing Assad are scumbags. Turkey is currently ruled by Erdogan’s Islamist scumbags, and Turkey is more interested in attacking the Kurds than the Islamic State. The Free Syrian Army is riddled with Islamist scumbags. The al-Nusra front are scumbags. The Islamic State is made up of the very worst scumbags in the region (and world). The only notable faction that aren’t scumbags are the Kurds, who, as an ethnic and geographic minority, are in no position to rule Syria, or even a significant fraction of it.

    To the extent that Obama’s imaginary red lines and desultory, ineffectual backing of Syrian rebel groups harmed America’s reputation for competence in the region, the damage has already been done. (Indeed, the Obama/Clinton/Kerry strategy for fomenting regime change in the hope that things would turn out better, like a liberal funhouse mirror distorted reflection of George W. Bush’s far more limited regime change goals in Iraq, have made things worse across the region.) We have no pressing national interest at stake in the Syrian civil war, there’s not a contending faction (outside the peripherally-involved Kurds) worth backing, and it’s not apparent what such an intervention might reasonably achieve.

    All of which makes me incredulous when I read pieces that suggest that President Trump is considering military actions in Syria.

    Even some on the right have been agitating for the United States to “do something” in Syria, and S. E. Cupp’s Twitter timeline has (yet again) gone to an “all heart-tugging photos of Syrian children” format without saying why it is the United State’s interest to intervene in Syria or proposing anything concrete as to what form that intervention should take beyond vague talk of “safe zones.”

    A large part of the latest push to intervene in Syria still seems to be coming from an interest group called The Syria Campaign. Who is behind it?

    From that Zero Hedge piece:

    A careful look at the origins and operation of The Syria Campaign raises doubts about the outfit’s image as an authentic voice for Syrian civilians, and should invite serious questions about the agenda of its partner organizations as well.

    A creation of international PR firms

    Best known for its work on liberal social issues with well-funded progressive clients like the ACLU and the police reform group, Campaign Zero, the New York- and London-based public relations firm Purpose promises to deliver creatively executed campaigns that produce either a “behavior change,” “perception change,” “policy change” or “infrastructure change.” As the Syrian conflict entered its third year, this company was ready to effect a regime change.

    On Feb. 3, 2014, Anna Nolan, the senior strategist at Purpose, posted a job listing. According to Nolan’s listing, her firm was seeking “two interns to join the team at Purpose to help launch a new movement for Syria.”

    At around the same time, another Purpose staffer named Ali Weiner posted a job listing seeking a paid intern for the PR firm’s new Syrian Voices project. “Together with Syrians in the diaspora and NGO partners,” Weiner wrote, “Purpose is building a movement that will amplify the voices of moderate, non-violent Syrians and mobilize people in the Middle East and around the world to call for specific changes in the political and humanitarian situation in the region.” She explained that the staffer would report “to a Strategist based primarily in London, but will work closely with the Purpose teams in both London and New York.”

    On June 16, 2014, Purpose founder Jeremy Heimans drafted articles of association for The Syria Campaign’s parent company. Called the Voices Project, Heimans registered the company at 3 Bull Lane, St. Ives Cambridgeshire, England. It was one of 91 private limited companies listed at the address. Sadri would not explain why The Syria Campaign had chosen this location or why it was registered as a private company.

    Along with Heimans, Purpose Europe director Tim Dixon was appointed to The Syria Campaign’s board of directors. So was John Jackson, a Purpose strategist who previously co-directed the Burma Campaign U.K. that lobbied the EU for sanctions against that country’s ruling regime. (Jackson claimed credit for The Syria Campaign’s successful push to remove Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s re-election campaign ads from Facebook.) Anna Nolan became The Syria Campaign’s project director, even as she remained listed as the strategy director at Purpose.

    From The Syria Campaign’s own website:

    The Syria Campaign is a non-profit organisation registered as a company in the United Kingdom as The Voices Project—company number 8825761. (You can’t be a registered charity in the UK if most of your work is campaigning.)

    We have a Governing Board who are legally responsible for the organisation and oversee strategy and finance for The Syria Campaign. The board members are Daniel Gorman, Ben Stewart, Sawsan Asfari, Tim Dixon and Lina de Sergie.

  • Jeremy Heimans co-founded “a campaign group in the U.S. presidential elections that used crowd-funding to help a group of women whose loved ones were in Iraq hire a private jet to follow Vice-President Dick Cheney on his campaign stops, in what became known as the “‘Chasing Cheney’ tour” among other leftist activism.
  • Daniel Gorman heads “the UK’s largest festival of contemporary Arab culture.”
  • Ben Stewart is a Greenpeace activist who has a grudge against Russia for detaining 30 of his fellow travelers.
  • Sawsan Asfari is “active in various charities that help Palestinians across the Arab world” and is the wife of Syrian-born British billionaire Ayman Asfari.
  • Lina de Sergie seems to more commonly go by Lina Sergie Attar. “She is a Syrian-American architect and writer from Aleppo. She co-developed Karam’s Innovative Education initiatives: the creative therapy and holistic wellness program for displaced Syrian children and the Karam Leadership Program, an entrepreneurship and technology program for displaced Syrian youth.” Yes, I’m sure “holistic wellness” is a big priority for Syrian refugees. Karam’s Mission Statement: “We develop Innovative Education programs for Syrian refugee youth, distribute Smart Aid to Syrian families, and fund Sustainable Development projects initiated by Syrians for Syrians.”
  • Tim Dixon has quite an extensive resume, being a former speechwriter to two Australian Labor Party Prime Ministers and involved in a large number of causes:

    – a large-scale initiative to help change hearts and minds on the global refugee crisis;
    – The Syria Campaign, to move the world to action on the humanitarian crisis in Syria;
    – Everytown, the movement to tackle gun violence in America

  • Etc.

    So, to summarize: It’s run by international left-wing activists in favor of Europe accepting more “Syrian” “refugees”, soft jihadis, and gun banners.

    These are not the sort of people I want driving American national security decisions.

    The situation in Syria is horrible, but outside territory held by the Islamic State, it’s the same type of horrible that has plagued the Middle East pretty much constantly absent control by a ruling power with sufficient force to keep the endemic ethnic strife under wraps. Wars there are fought under Hama rules, not those of the Geneva Convention.

    It is not in the best interests of the United States to intervene militarily in Syria. We have no compelling national security interest in Syria right now, there’s no faction worth backing, and trying to “create safe areas” or “establish no-fly zones” would be dangerous, cost-prohibitive and unlikely to succeed.

    The fact that Barack Obama and John Kerry screwed up, drew a red line they were unwilling to enforce, pretended they got Syria to give up all their chemical weapons, and then walked away from their latest foreign policy disaster while loudly declaring victory doesn’t obligate President Trump to clean up their mess. Assad is a complete and utter bastard, but there is still no plausible candidate to replace him with that we could say with 100% certainty wouldn’t be just as big (or bigger) a bastard.

    Retaliating against Assad would be a huge distraction from something that is a compelling American (and world) interest: crushing the Islamic State so completely and thoroughly that it will arise again in our lifetime.

    Military intervention in Syria is still an amazingly foolish idea.

    Sometimes the best choice is doing nothing at all.

    Update: President Trump just launched a cruise missile strike at Syria. I suspect I hit post while the missiles were literally in the air. Word is this is a limited one-time strike. Is that’s the case, it may have a salutatory effect on the other bastards of the world like Kim Jong-Un, putting them on notice that President Trump is a whole lot more serious about using force than Obama was. If that’s the end of it, it may. turn out to be a net positive. But that’s a big if, and intervention in Syria is still a bad idea, for all the reasons listed above…

    LinkSwarm for March 10, 2017

    Friday, March 10th, 2017

    Welcome to Friday! (And welcome Instapundit readers coming in off Stephen Green’s link to yesterday’s border security roundup.)

    First up: Liberalism’s continued idée fixe on the “Russians hacked the election” fantasy.

  • If Trump had actually been in the pay of the Russians, Wayne Barrett, who worked the Trump beat for the Village Voice for 40 years, would have known about it. “Wayne Barrett had this file for 40 years, and if neither he nor the reporters he trained got this story, it’s not a story.”
  • Even some liberals are now seeing the Russian fantasy as a dangerous distraction that helps Trump.
  • Lefty Glenn Greenwald agrees:

    This obsession with Russia conspiracy tales is poisoning all aspects of U.S. political discourse and weakening any chance for resisting Trump’s actual abuses and excesses. Those who wake up every day to hype the latest episode of this Russia/Trump spy drama tell themselves that they’re bravely undermining and subverting Trump, but they’re doing exactly the opposite.

    This crazed conspiracy mongering is further discrediting U.S. media outlets, making Washington seem even more distant from and irrelevant to the lives of millions of Americans, degrading discourse to the lowliest Trumpian circus level on which he thrives, and is misdirecting huge portions of opposition energy and thought into an exciting but fictitious spy novel – all of which directly redounds to Trump’s benefit.

    Snip.

    Above all else, it’s because it’s an offensive assault on reason. This kind of deranged discourse is an attack on basic journalistic integrity, on any minimal obligation to ensure that one’s claims are based in evidence rather than desire, fantasy, and herd-enforced delusions. And it’s emanating from the most established and mainstream precincts of U.S. political and media elites, who have processed the severe disorientation and loss of position they feel from Trump’s shock election not by doing the work to patiently formulate cogent, effective strategies against him, but rather by desperately latching onto online “dot-connecting” charlatans and spewing the most unhinged Birther-level conspiracies that require a complete abandonment of basic principles of rationality and skepticism.

  • The timidness of the House GOP ObamaCare repeal plan shows that liberalism has already won.
  • Liberals threaten to primary Democratic senators who vote for cloture on Neil Gorsuch. I’m sure there’s no way that supergenius plan could possibly backfire on them…
  • Speaking of Gorsuch, “the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary voted unanimously to rate Neil Gorsuch as “well qualified” to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” the highest rating possible. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Nate Silver at 538: “There Really Was A Liberal Media Bubble.” Silver comes to many of the same conclusions about MSM blinders that conservatives have been making for years. A few samples:
    • “Much of The New York Times’s coverage, for instance, implied that Clinton’s odds were close to 100 percent.”
    • “In a country where educational attainment is an increasingly important predictor of cultural and political behavior, some 92 percent of journalists have college degrees. A degree didn’t used to be a de facto prerequisite7 for a reporting job; just 70 percent of journalists had college degrees in 1982 and only 58 percent did in 1971.”
    • “The political diversity of journalists is not very strong, either. As of 2013, only 7 percent of them identified as Republicans.”
    • “All things considered, then, the conditions of political journalism are poor for crowd wisdom and ripe for groupthink.”
  • The headline is “Battle for Manbij shows Syria’s civil war is almost over – and it looks like Bashar Assad has won.” And that’s part of it. But there’s a lot of information on just how complex the Syrian-Iraqi battlespace is:

    Winners and losers are emerging in what may be the final phase of the Syrian civil war as anti-Isis forces prepare for an attack aimed at capturing Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital in Syria. Kurdish-led Syrian fighters say they have seized part of the road south of Raqqa, cutting Isis off from its other territory further east.

    Isis is confronting an array of enemies approaching Raqqa, but these are divided, with competing agendas and ambitions. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose main fighting force is the Syrian Kurdish Popular Mobilisation Units (YPG), backed by the devastating firepower of the US-led air coalition, are now getting close to Raqqa and are likely to receive additional US support. The US currently has 500 Special Operations troops in north-east Syria and may move in American-operated heavy artillery to reinforce the attack on Raqqa.

    This is bad news for Turkey, whose military foray into northern Syria called Operation Euphrates Shield began last August, as it is being squeezed from all sides. In particular, an elaborate political and military chess game is being played around the town of Manbij, captured by the SDF last year, with the aim of excluding Turkey, which had declared it to be its next target. The Turkish priority in Syria is to contain and if possible reduce or eliminate the power of Syrian Kurds whom Ankara sees as supporting the Kurdish insurrection in Turkey.

  • “The U.S. military is sending an additional 2,500 ground combat troops to a staging base in Kuwait from which they could be called upon to back up coalition forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.” So instead of following Obama’s strategy of losing slowly and expensively, President Trump’s goal appears to be to crush the Islamic State entirely.
  • “Marine Le Pen: ‘France Isn’t Burkinis on the Beach, France is Brigitte Bardot.'” France is a lot of things, but they could certainly do worse than Brigitte Bardot…

    (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)

  • 40% of households in Philadelphia can’t pay their water bill.” Remind me again which party runs Philadelphia… (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • School restages Trump-Clinton debates, but with a woman playing Trump and a man playing Hillary. Result: Hillary loses even more badly than before. “It seems to me that Hillary’s gender actually covered up her flaws, such as inauthenticity, scriptedness, recitations of pablum, and fake-smiling, while, when she was played by a male actor, those flaws were suddenly very visible to the people who think of themselves as ‘gender-woke’ but maybe should just think of themselves as gender partisans.”
  • Orrin Hatch reneges on retirement promise. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Social Justice Syndrome: “Rising Tide of Personality Disorders Among Millennials.”
  • “100 of the 544 Women’s March partners received a total of $246,637,217 from [George] Soros between 2000 and 2014. Soros gave more than $1 million to 36 of those partners, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, MoveOn.org, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.” (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)
  • Washington Examiner writer finds the perfect place to visit on the “Day Without Women”: Hooters. I guess that’s an excuse to break out this classic:

    (Hat tip: Director Blue.)

  • Charles Murray on what it was like to be in the middle of a violent crowd trying to assault him.
  • Lawsuit of man wrongly expelled from Amherst for a “rape” that consisted of him receiving a blowjob while he was passed out can move forward after a judge’s ruling.
  • “Defense contracting firm owners Jeffrey Harrington and Michael Mayer, and employee sisters Kimberlee Hewitt and Natalee Hewitt, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in California to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and file false claims for using their companies — Veteran Logistics, Inc., Industrial Xchange, Inc., and Boston Laser Technology, Inc. — to sell the government $45 million worth of mostly incorrect and overpriced products.” As far as I can tell, this naval contracting scandal is unrelated to the Fat Leonard naval contracting scandal. Did the Navy just forget to hire auditors?
  • What’s a little rape to Democrats if there are pipelines to be protested?
  • Lynne Stewart, the radical lawyer and convicted felon who represented murderous anti-American scumbags pro bono, has died.
  • Another day, another fake hate crime exposed.
  • CNN’s new frontier in tastelessness: Cannibalism. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Speaking of CNN: “CNN cuts feed on guest after he cites jihad terror cases involving ‘refugees.'”
  • “Trump Immigration Order Requires Govt Report on ‘Honor Killings‘ by Foreign Nationals.”
  • Don’t believe everything you read about the CIA Vault7 leak. (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • Radio Shack to close another 187 stores. In other news, Radio Shack still has stores to close. I also ask your forgiveness in advance when I rerun this joke next year. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • In prison, mackerel can be exchanged for goods and services.
  • Brings an entire new meaning to the phrase “Got wood?”
  • Japanese man dies after being crushed under six tons of pornography. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Note that I now have a Gab account in addition to my Twitter account.
  • Aleppo Falls

    Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

    The Syrian city of Aleppo has fallen to pro-Assad forces. This was an all-but-inevitable result, given the Russian airpower backing Bashar Assad and the disorganized nature of the opposing forces and the desultory backing those forces received from the likes of Saudi Arabia and, intermittently, a feckless Obama Administration.

    The reduction of Aleppo had all the hallmarks of modern urban siege warfare: grinding, bloody and merciless. (Having advisors from a military with extensive institutional experience with it (Stalingrad, Grozny) probably helped Assad.) Many western observers wailed about the horror of it, evidently unaware either than this is the way modern urban warfare is fought, or that Bashar Assad’s father Hafez was every bit as ruthless in destroying Hama in 1982 as his son was in the investment of Aleppo. Endless heart-tugging pictures of bloody children aren’t going to change the ruthless nature of Middle East conflict, nor obscure the fact that America had no good options in Syria. Remember, there were no good sides in the Syrian civil war, and no faction worth backing.

    The wider Syrian civil war still grinds on, as does the war against the Islamic State and the wider Sunni-Shia conflict (never mind that Alawites are about as Shia as Lutherans are Jewish). If Obama’s goal was to engender a Sunni-Shia civil war throughout the Middle East (and there’s a grimly Machiavellian case to be made that this might be in the best long-term interests of the United States), he’s done a bang-up job. Otherwise Obama’s policy there (like the rest of the world) has been an unmitigated disaster. Foes like Iran and Russia feel contempt for us, while erstwhile allies like the Saudis (who are, indeed, scumbags, though preferable to whatever nightmare Islamic caliphate would replace them were they to fall) no longer trust us. (And indeed, have even less reason to do so now that Obama has cut off precision munitions sales to them over targeting policy in Yemen, a position both irrationally petulant and deeply ineffectual.)

    Those worried about the effect Donald Trump’s inexperience might have on our Middle East policy needn’t. How could he do worse?

    So What The Hell Is Going On in Syria?

    Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

    The problem with doing an update on Syria is that I’m not sure anyone knows what the hell is going on there.

    The motivations of the major local players are clear: Assad wants to survive and maintain power, while his paymasters in Iran want to back him and the Shia against the Islamic State and other Sunni groups. The Islamic State wants to establish its brutal medieval caliphate over first Mesopotamia and the Levant, then the entire Ummah, then the entire world, exterminating Shia and subjugating Christians and Jews to dhimmitude along the way. The Saudis want to back Sunnis (possibly including the Islamic State). The Kurds just want to survive. Etc.

    However, what Barack Obama and Vladamir Putin want is considerably less clear.

    Obama, after royally screwing Iraq by pulling U.S. troops out after Bush had largely stabilized it (at great expense in money and lives), seems to want to fight a pretend air war against the Islamic State and a pretend insurgency against Assad in order to keep reporters from asking him about it, thus kicking the can down the road for the next President to deal with. (Then again, perhaps this gives Obama too much credit. Maybe, like Jeremy Corbyn’s desire to give the Falklands back, Obama screwed up Iraq just for the pure leftish joy of undoing the achievements of a conservative leader he loathed…)

    What does Putin want to accomplish in Syria? Prop up a military equipment-buying client state in Syria? Support a more important client state in Iran? Give Obama a black eye? Keep Russians distracted from domestic economic woes with military adventurism abroad? Make Russia the dominate political power in the Middle East, filling the vacuum Obama left with America’s withdrawal and betrayal of regional allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia? Actually destroy the Islamic State? Take the Shia side in a the wider Sunni-Shia conflict?

    Here are some links on Syria:

  • Zero Hedge sees the beginnings of a regional war.

    If Russia ends up bolstering Iran’s position in Syria (by expanding Hezbollah’s influence and capabilities) and if the Russian air force effectively takes control of Iraq thus allowing Iran to exert a greater influence over the government in Baghdad, the fragile balance of power that has existed in the region will be turned on its head and in the event this plays out, one should not expect Washington, Riyadh, Jerusalem, and London to simply go gentle into that good night.

    Sure enough, some experts now predict Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey will move to counter Russia militarily if Moscow continues to rack up gains for Assad.

  • Andrew McCarthy comes out against U.S. intervention:

    The Syrian mess has gotten messier because Vladimir Putin, with all the unpredictability of the morning sun, has invaded Syria on behalf of Assad and Putin’s more important ally Iran — Assad’s longtime string-puller. The Russian strongman’s claimed purpose is to fight the Islamic State — a pretext no more real than was the supposed need to protect indigenous Russian populations that Putin cited in invading Georgia, Crimea, and Eastern Ukraine.

    Putin, with China’s indulgence, is obviously attempting to fortify a sphere of anti-American influence across the Middle East. Anti-Americanism in this Islamic-supremacist region long predates Putin, of course. What has changed is that the United States is governed by a man of the hard Left — a president who is sympathetic to the Islamist narrative about American imperialism, ambivalent at best about American power, and determined to diminish America’s regional commitments, and thus American influence.

  • Disclaimer: Newsweek.

    The move provides a foothold in a part of the world that the Soviet Union was kicked out of four decades ago. At a moment when the United States appears to be washing its hands of the increasingly bloody and chaotic region, it gives Russia an expanding military presence in the Mediterranean on the doorstep of a NATO ally (its newly established airfield at Latakia in eastern Syria sits just 75 miles from the border with Turkey), and the gambit may yet serve as leverage with the West as Putin seeks to get out from under economic sanctions imposed as a result of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.

  • Vladimir S. Patton.
  • “Putin’s policy is ugly — Russian airstrikes produced immediate reports of civilian casualties — but effective for its purpose. Obama’s policy is high-minded and prudent, but it has been painfully ineffective.”
  • And there are already reports that Russian planes have already violated Turkey’s airspace. And remember that Turkey is still a member of NATO…
  • The pathetic failure of the Pentagon’s efforts in Syria indicate that if anything, this culture of self-congratulation and failure [in Obama’s Department of Defense] is getting more entrenched.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • The problem for America is that a logical Middle East policy is impossible as long as Obama is President and Kerry is Secretary of State.

    Can Putin achieve long-term victory in Syria where Obama’s fecklessness couldn’t? Maybe. Can Iran and Russia together crush the Islamic State? If Russia wanted to commit serious ground combat forces (think Operation Iraqi Freedom), probably, but that would be an exceptionally expensive move that would spread Russian forces dangerously thin elsewhere. But considering that does not appear to be Russia’s immediate goal, which seems to be crushing the Free Syrian Army and allied forces in Western Syria, expect the war against the Islamic State to drag out indefinitely.

    Except for the Kurds (which Obama’s feckless policies have refused to adequately support), the Syrian Civil War is bad guys vs. bad guys all the way down. Assad surviving, or a long-running war between Russia and the Islamic State, are far from the worst possible outcomes…

    $500 Million for 54 Syrian Rebels?

    Saturday, September 19th, 2015

    Anyone paying attention has long known what a miserable failure Obama’s Syrian strategy (such as it is) against Bashar Assad has been. But only recently has it come to light just how ridiculously expensive that miserable failure has been:

    The aim was to identify reasonably secular moderate fighters in Syria, transfer them to third-party countries in the region, train them, equip them, and reintroduce them into the theater of operations. By August of this year and $500 million later, the Pentagon acknowledged that only 54 Syrian rebels had been prepared for combat. Less than a month later, almost all of them had been killed or captured.

    $500 Million for 54 guys? What were they, hand-crafted artisanal rebels? Where did the money go? Did they hire Damien Hirst to make each of their 54 uniforms? Did each of the 54 make a $1 million donation to the Clinton Foundation? Even by the pathetic standards of the Obama Administration that’s a ridiculous amount of graft, fraud and waste. You could easily have trained and equipped an effective mercenary brigade for that much money.

    There were actual reasons to support the removal of Assad early in the Obama Administration, but the rise of the Islamic State rendered most of them obsolete. Now that Obama and Kerry have rolled over to let Assad’s paymasters in Tehran rub their furry bellies, there’s no point in pretending to equip opposition fighters beyond Obama’s desire to keep up the facade of a Syrian policy as a sop to his wounded vanity.

    Since Obama can’t topple Assad and is singularly unwilling to fight a real war against the Islamic State, at this point we should probably just let Iran, Syria and Russia try their hands at crushing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s barbaric caliphate. A long, grinding Sunni-Shia civil war in Mesopotamia is probably among the least bad outcomes available for the region after Obama’s serial bungling…

    (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll on Instapundit.)

    Why Did Obama Back Jihadists in Syria?

    Monday, August 10th, 2015

    This piece in Foreign Policy Journal is certainly eye-opening:

    In Al Jazeera’s latest Head to Head episode, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn confirms to Mehdi Hasan that not only had he studied the DIA memo predicting the West’s backing of an Islamic State in Syria when it came across his desk in 2012, but even asserts that the White House’s sponsoring of radical jihadists (that would emerge as ISIL and Nusra) against the Syrian regime was “a willful decision.” [Lengthy discussion of the DIA memo begins at the 8:50 mark.]

    Amazingly, Flynn actually took issue with the way interviewer Mehdi Hasan posed the question—Flynn seemed to want to make it clear that the policies that led to the rise of ISIL were not merely the result of ignorance or looking the other way, but the result of conscious decision making:

    Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?

    Flynn: I think the administration.

    Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?

    Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.

    Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?

    Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.

    The deeply puzzling thing about Obama’s Middle East policy is it’s sheer incoherence (except, of course, his unwavering dislike of Israel). His fixation on taking out Bashar Assad (a bad actor, to be sure, but not in the same league as the Iranian Mullahs who back Assad, and who Obama evidently has no qualms negotiating with) makes no strategic sense. In light of the above, he’s evidently funding the Islamic State in Syria, fighting it (in the most desultory manner possible) in Iraq, giving in to Iran on nuclear weapons, alienating allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, and has no discernible policy for a post-Morsi Egypt. Obama’s moves only make sense if he wants to promote a Sunni/Shia civil war, or as Obama’s personal fits of pique where he feels slighted. (Screw Syria for ignoring his red lines. Screw Israel for daring to reelect Netanyahu. Screw Iraq for Bush succeeding.)

    The only certainty about Obama’s foreign policy is that future administrations will be dealing with the repercussions from his feckless, aimless foreign policy for decades to come.

    (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)

    Iraq/Syria/ISIS Update

    Thursday, June 26th, 2014

    Since Iraq and Syria are now all part of the same greater Sunni/Shia conflict, let’s take a look at recent developments in the broader theater:

    The War Nerd pinpoints the biggest reason for ISIS’s rapid Iraq advance: the flat geography of the area they’ve taken: “It’s the Bonneville Salt Flats of insurgency, the place you go to set new speed records.” He also thinks the Kurdish Pesh Merga will slaughter them if ISIS is foolish enough to make a big push into the northern hill country.

    Michael Totten has a depressing interview with Lee Smith, the author of The Consequences of Syria:

  • For all Obama’s talk of arming Syrian rebels, no arms seem to have actually made it there. Indeed, the whole thing seems to have been a disinformation campaign the press lapped up. “This White House has been bad for the press, and the readership’s faith in our press, but it seems most journalists don’t much care.”
  • “The administration feared that helping topple Assad, an ally of Iran, might have angered the Iranians and pushed them away from the negotiating table, and getting a deal with Iran was the White House’s chief goal in the Middle East.” So the goal of the Obama Administration isn’t a free Middle East, or a stable Middle East, but signing a piece of paper with the ayatollahs.
  • Since Obama’s serial retreats have put us in a situation of such profound weakness, they won’t even be getting that: “What we’re seeing [is] a United States in retreat in the Middle East. So I don’t see what the accommodation would look like. It’s not a grand bargain with Iran, but an American fire sale, with the US virtually giving away its assets. The US is retreating from the region and leaving it in Iranian hands.”
  • “What we’re seeing in cities like Mosul is a Sunni rebellion against Maliki and the Iranians. In addition to ISIS, there are also former Baath party figures, like one of Saddam’s deputies, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, as well as Sunni tribes. ISIS would appear to be playing the role of Sunni shock troops, who are dispatched to the fronts to terrorize and create havoc. Behind them are the Baathis and the tribes.”
  • Reason for ISIS’ rapid advance? Maliki’s brutal sectarian incompetence. “What Maliki and the Iranians have done is unite the tribes and ISIS through their anti-Sunni policies.”
  • Read the whole thing.

    A look a Syria’s Christians, who are getting it from both sides.

    Here’s a piece that suggests that moderate Sunnis are just using ISIS to get Maliki out. (Well, what are a few Shia mass graves anyway?) Yeah, not buying it. It’s the guys with guns who use “moderates,” not the other way around. Also argues for a de jour rather than merely de facto partition of Iraq.

    Iraq: It’s All George W. Bush’s Fault

    Thursday, June 12th, 2014

    (Note: This headline is only slightly factitious.)

    The problem with George W. Bush’s Middle East policy is that there’s no political gain there, no matter how great the price or resounding the achievement, that Obama can’t throw away through his manifestly gross incompetence. Al Qaeda in Iraq’s successor organization, the Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “consolidated and extended their control over northern Iraq on Wednesday, seizing Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, threatening the strategic oil refining town of Baiji and pushing south toward Baghdad, their ultimate target.”

    That’s the same ISIS that captured Mosul, where they seized $429 million worth of Iraqi dinars from the local bank, making them the richest terrorist army in the world.

    Remember when Obama declared that “al Qaeda is on the run”?

    And remember when Obama pulled out of Iraq and walked away without a status of forces agreement there?

    Now two battalions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds forces have deployed to Iraq, ostensibly to support Maliki’s Shiite government. So now, in theory, we’re allied with the Mullahs in Iran in Iraq against the Isalmists we’re supporting in Syria against the Iran-aligned government of Bashar Assad.

    About the only good news out of the region is that the Kurds are holding their own. An independent Kurdistan would be far from the worst development in the region, and would probably freak out both Iran and Turkey enough to distract them from further mischief elsewhere.

    The current situation highlights the age-old truth that the Middle East is filled with people whose deepest desire appears to be to kill and gain power over members of rival clans/tribes/factions/confessions/etc. This has been true for pretty much all of recorded history save when a strong power (Ottoman, British, Baathist) is able to keep those tendencies in check through heavy policing, military occupation, or a brutal security state apparatus. The presence of our troops there gives the natives a distraction and a target, allowing them to temporarily stop killing each other in preference to killing us. The exceptions to this rule, such as multicultural Lebanon circa 1946-1974, have proven frustratingly ephemeral.

    Israel provided a temporary target of unifying hatred, but the Jewish state’s defensive measures have made it increasingly difficult to get close enough to any Jews to kill them, hence back to the old internecine pursuits.

    Bush43’s foreign policy in the Middle East and the decision to invade Iraq stems, in large measure, from Bush41’s decision not to let Schwartzkopf take Baghdad in The Gulf War. Whether doing so would have brought all on all our Iraqi troubles two decades earlier is debatable. There is much to say for toppling a totalitarian thug like Saddam, not least of which was liberating the children’s prison, where children as young as 5 were tortured to make their mothers talk. Perhaps the ideal strategy would have been to depose and execute Saddam and his top regime supporters in 1991, then immediately leave and let Iraqi factions kill each other rather than our troops. But I doubt anyone put forward that idea as a serious suggestion at the time.

    Bush43 ultimately succeeded in largely pacifying Iraq, but the cost was high and, as recent events proved, the gains were temporary. The problem with interventionist policy in the Middle East is that there is no gain safe from the feckless impulses of surrender and appeasement that dominate the Democratic Party’s thinking today. The Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party is dead, and Obama and Kerry perfectly embody the combination of naivete, hubris, multilateralist, and hostility to the military that dominates today. They love signing treaties and “the peace process,” even though it’s all process and no peace.

    It turns out that Ron Paul may be right for the wrong reasons. Because no foreign policy gain in the Middle East is safe from Democratic incompetence, Republicans should not pursue any interventionist foreign policy there, especially in the name of impossible “stability”. No interventionist accomplishment there can endure long past the end of a Republican President’s term, because there is no gain safe from the likes of Kerry and Obama. And since there is no indication the nature of the Democratic Party will be changing any time soon, a military interventionist foreign policy there, no matter how well-intentioned, well-planned, and well-executed, must be doomed to ultimate failure.

    In hindsight, the liberation of Iraq turns out to be a tragic mistake, because Bush underestimated how decisively his hard-won gains could be undone by the incompetence of his successor.

    A Quick LinkSwarm on Syria

    Monday, June 17th, 2013

    So Obama is (maybe) going to be shipping arms to Syrian rebels. I think this is a remarkably bad idea for a number of reasons, none of them that Bashar Assad isn’t a murderous thug who oppresses his own people, supports terrorism, and attacks and destabilizes neighbors like Lebanon and Israel. All that is true, and Assad certainly deserves a bullet in his head for his sins.

    But there’s zero compelling evidence that toppling him is in the United State’s best interests, that America has any vital interests at sake in the Syrian civil war, or that al Qaeda-related Islamslist thugs won’t come out on top, impose Sharia law, and export Sunni-branded terrorism every bit as vicious and deadly as Assad’s Shia-backed variety. Indeed, the history of Libya and Egypt suggests that they are likely to be considerably worse. And predicting that Sunni Islamists are likely to come out on top of a post-Assad power struggle is like predicting that guys are going to wake up with no memory of last night in a Hangover sequel: we’ve seen this movie before.

    Anyway, here are a few links for the current situation in Syria.

  • Who makes up the opposition to Assad in Syria? “An array of rebel militias heavily infiltrated by radical Islamists and al Qaida loyalists with no central command.” In other words: exactly who those of us paying attention have said they are.
  • Victor Davis Hanson makes the case that intervention in Syria is a bad idea. I’m glad I’m not the only one.
  • Michael Totten can’t make heads or tails of Obama’s plans for Syria…including whether we’re actually arming the rebels or not.
  • Speaking of Totten, he links to this piece that argues. “The Islamic Republic[of Iran]’s headlong intervention in Syria is akin to Nazi Germany’s surge of military forces into the Battle of Stalingrad in the fall of 1942 – an operationally competent, strategic blunder of epic proportions.” Not buying it, especially the part that says “Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ultimate defeat is a foregone conclusion.” His argument of Irnaian-backed losses being unsustainable also sounds remarkably like the “flypaper strategy” some said would kill off the supply of radical Islamists by drawing them to the insurgency and killing them in Iraq, and we all know how well that theory turned out…