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”

Game change: Russia can now warn Israel against IAF operations over Syria

No going back.

The game-changers. Russian air defense soldiers man their weapon system, the S-300, in a recent drill. (Image via defencerussia.wordpress.com)
The game-changers. Russian air defense soldiers man their weapon system, the S-300, in a recent drill. (Image via defencerussia.wordpress.com)

A recent report in Arabic media suggests that Israel has agreed to coordinate the IAF’s operations over Syria with Russia, and claims that Russia has warned Israel against conducting strikes in Syria in which Russian soldiers may be killed.  Israel Matzav has the story here.

The reflexive inclination is to focus on whether this particular report is accurate, and what the narrow, immediate implications are.  The big-picture implications, however, are actually much more important.

Short-term/tactical

But let’s quickly address the first questions.  The tone of the Arabic reporting, even in pidgin translations, is triumphalist against Israel, and we should exercise due skepticism of any particulars.

That said, the concerns reportedly raised by Russia are valid and reasonable, if Russia is going to be operating in Syria.  The Arabic report is by no means unrealistic. Continue reading “Game change: Russia can now warn Israel against IAF operations over Syria”

Syria: You know this isn’t about Assad anymore, right?

It’s on.

Putin confers with his senior military officials. (Image: Kremlin/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin via Newsweek)
Putin confers with his senior military officials. (Image: Kremlin/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin via Newsweek)

As Russia and Iran move in more overtly on Syria, it’s important to understand that their objective is not to prop up a weak, dependent Bashar al-Assad.  Doing that is a convenience.  Assad functions now as a fig leaf for the real objective of his long-time patrons: establishing effective control of the territory of Syria.

The Western media will probably keep saying, by rote, that Russia and Iran are supporting Assad – just as they will keep saying that the U.S. coalition is battling Islamic State.  But there’s a reason for the “why this summer; why right now” behind Russia’s seemingly sudden strategic move on Syria.  And it’s not the superficial motives being attributed to Russia or Iran.

There are two interlocking catalysts for Russia’s decision to intervene actively, just at this moment.  One is the U.S.-Turkey partnership “against ISIS,” which became active in late July, and immediately resulted in Turkey attacking not ISIS, but Kurds in Syria and Iraq. Continue reading “Syria: You know this isn’t about Assad anymore, right?”

Obama demonstrates geostrategic incomprehension in webcast with Jewish groups

Uncomprehending.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the march. (Image: AFP via Der Spiegel)
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the march. (Image: AFP via Der Spiegel)

There was a lot to reject in the comments made by President Obama on Friday to the leaders of the Jewish Federations of North America, in a webcast sponsored by JFNA.  That’s putting it in the mildest possible way.

But we can gain invaluable perspective from focusing on one particular passage in the Q&A session.  It illuminates everything else that’s going on, and exposes the brittle emptiness of Obama’s rhetoric – because it betrays the anachronism of his view of the Middle East and Israeli security.  It’s as if Obama doesn’t realize it’s not 2009 anymore.

The topic is the security relationship of the U.S. with Israel: how strong it is, and how it can be reenergized.  Here’s Michael Siegal, Chairman of Jewish Federations of North America, asking Obama the question (from the White House transcript emailed after the webcast, which the Chicago Sun-Times has here): Continue reading “Obama demonstrates geostrategic incomprehension in webcast with Jewish groups”

Complete unraveling: Top 5 reasons why the non-deal agreement with Iran is bad

Such a time as this.

Obama MunichThese are the top five other than the fact that it’s not a deal; it’s a surrender.  The West has agreed to lift the sanctions on Iran.  Iran has not agreed to give up anything she needs to acquire a bomb, or cease any of her aggressive behavior (e.g., arming and training Hezbollah and Hamas, fighting wars in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen).  Not one of these things – not one – is a measure of performance Iran will actually have to demonstrate to get the sanctions lifted.

1. The agreement paves Iran’s path to the bomb. The only question about Iran and the bomb now is when Iran will get it. If Iran adheres to the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement (link to full text here), she will retain the means, and improve the expertise, to build nuclear weapons throughout the next 10 years.  She would wait for that 10 years to pass, however, before enriching enough uranium to test a warhead and stockpile weapons. Continue reading “Complete unraveling: Top 5 reasons why the non-deal agreement with Iran is bad”