War comes home: Russia v. Turkey; Jet shootdown; Rebels attack Russian helos with U.S. TOW missiles

Peace in our time.

Shootdown porn. (Image via rebel video on YouTube)
Shootdown porn. (Image via rebel video on YouTube)

The war in Syria is metastasizing, as long predicted by this author and others.  It’s perilously close to a direct confrontation of Turkey and Russia in combat — a situation that didn’t start with the warplane shootdown today, but rather seems to have culminated in it.  The ground picture in the area of the shootdown is the key.

What we know for sure today is that Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 Fencer attack aircraft, which the Turks say was violating their air space.  The Turks report that an F-16 fighter pair took out the Russian aircraft.

It also appears that Russian helicopters sent on a rescue mission for the Su-24 air crew were destroyed.  If a video posted by Syrian rebels (below) is valid – assuming it shows something the rebels pulled off today (24 November) – it looks like the rebels used TOW missiles to attack the Russian helos while they were on the ground at the Su-24 crash site.

These rapid-fire events raise questions that will not be answered at a leisurely pace.  The basic question is what Russia and Turkey will do now.  But there is also the question of “why now?”  Turkey has been closely tracking Russian air activity for weeks.  The two air forces have interacted at dangerous levels before; the Aviationist has a good summary here.  But today, instead of warnings and sword-rattling, the Turks shot the Russian aircraft down. Continue reading “War comes home: Russia v. Turkey; Jet shootdown; Rebels attack Russian helos with U.S. TOW missiles”

Obama blocks U.S. pilots from bombing ISIS; Iranian fighters escort Russian bombers

Interesting times.

USAF F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing (RAF Lakenheath) arrives at Incirlik in Nov 2015. (Image: USAF, Tech Sgt. Taylor Worley)
USAF F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing (RAF Lakenheath) arrives at Incirlik in Nov 2015. (Image: USAF, Tech Sgt. Taylor Worley)

It’s essential to have the big picture on this.  The war in Syria is turning into something bigger, with substantially bigger implications than what happens to ISIS.

But ISIS remains the handy pretext for Russia’s and Iran’s growing intervention in both Syria and Iraq.  That intervention is changing their posture, and the correlation of both military and political forces across the region, almost by the day.  They are not there for ISIS, and they’re not there for Assad.  They’re there – putting down stakes from the Caspian and the Caucasus to the Horn of Africa – because they intend to be in charge of carving up the rapidly fragmenting ruins of the post-World War I Middle East.

ISIS will get something of a vote in this conflict.  But America won’t.  The reason for these two realities is that Obama has limited the use of U.S. force – limited it to such an extent that ISIS is still a very viable entity.  Obama’s “restraint” is also the reason Russia and Iran keep having ISIS as a handy, open-ended pretext for arranging to occupy Iraq and Syria.  Which is what they’re actually doing.

Obama has in fact restrained the use of U.S. force to an unnatural degree.  We’ve known for a while now that 75% of the strike sorties flown against ISIS by our aircraft return to base without bombing anything.  U.S. Central Command reported that in operational statistics months ago, and it was picked up by stateside media as early as May 2015. Continue reading “Obama blocks U.S. pilots from bombing ISIS; Iranian fighters escort Russian bombers”

Paris, the Russian airliner, Lebanon: ISIS is enlarging the war

The center cannot hold.

The house of war comes to Paris. (Image: EPA, Etienne Laurent via UK Guardian)
The house of war comes to Paris. (Image: EPA, Etienne Laurent via UK Guardian)

his will be a quick update tonight, with less of the usual analysis, because I just don’t have time.

I have no doubt that ISIS is behind the recent attacks that have been spreading out around the Syria/Iraq theater.  ISIS has claimed responsibility for all of them, and it is credible that ISIS is behind them (although they are being executed through ISIS affiliates in each local area.  The core leadership of ISIS doesn’t have to be involved in planning or managing each attack, and I assume unless it’s proven otherwise that it is not).

But this is not a minor campaign of pinpricks from single-venue terror attacks, randomly distributed here and there.  This is a full-blown campaign: a strategy on ISIS’s part. Continue reading “Paris, the Russian airliner, Lebanon: ISIS is enlarging the war”

The future of our time: Rewriting ‘Westphalianism’

Interesting times: the new definition.

Past master. (Image via Outside the Beltway)
Past master. (Image via Outside the Beltway)

Reading Henry Kissinger’s typically well-considered and intelligent article for the Wall Street Journal this weekend (“A Path out of the Middle East Collapse”), I had a growing sense that it isn’t so much a prescription for the future as a description of the past.

The sense began with the first paragraph, in which Kissinger defines the scope of what’s collapsing, and dates it only to 1973, when the U.S. moved to stabilize the Middle East during the Yom Kippur War.

But far more than recent U.S. policy on the Middle East is collapsing today.  What we’re seeing is more like the collapse of “Rome” itself:  the organization of Western power as a Europe-centric territorial phenomenon, setting unbreachable boundaries north, south, and west of a restless and perennially “unorganizable” Middle East. Continue reading “The future of our time: Rewriting ‘Westphalianism’”

The real headline: Russians buy air space with cruise missile demo, as U.S. forces retreat

Cruise missile as geopolitical forcing mechanism.

Russian Caspian fleet frigate launches a long-range land attack cruise missile on 7 Oct. (Image: Russian MOD/YouTube)
Russian Caspian fleet frigate launches a long-range land attack cruise missile on 7 Oct. (Image: Russian MOD/YouTube)

The Pentagon released information Thursday that some of the cruise missiles launched by Russian warships into Syria the day before (Wednesday, 7 October) had crashed in Iran, instead of making it to their targets.  The missiles were launched from the Caspian Sea, between Iran and southern Russia.

The global audience was apt to note the point that four of the 26 missiles launched by Russia crashed.  But the more important point is that Russia launched the missiles in the first place.

The question is why.  The answer is not darkly nefarious (not particularly, anyway), but it’s not obvious from the standpoint of tactical military operations either. Continue reading “The real headline: Russians buy air space with cruise missile demo, as U.S. forces retreat”