Lose the ‘quagmire’ theme; Russia can’t fall into one in Syria

Interesting times.

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)

We’re going to keep this one (relatively) short.  I’ve written about Russia’s goals in Syria elsewhere (see here as well).

A Bloomberg article from Monday commendably recognizes that Russia’s goals in Syria are “far broader” than the official goal of fighting Salafi terrorists.  The authors fall short of “getting” what the Russian involvement there is about, but they’re on the right track.

The problem is that they, like almost everyone else, are still framing the situation in the terms of a U.S.-style expeditionary intervention.  This leads the authors to say something like this: Continue reading “Lose the ‘quagmire’ theme; Russia can’t fall into one in 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?”