One of the stranger things about living in America is the lack of a news media. With a few exceptions, what we call a news media is mostly just the propaganda arm of the Liberal Democrats. The proselytizing is endless. Even sports is larded up with “messages” that have nothing to do with sports. President Obama has been on ESPN more than the coach of the New England Patriots.
Another consequence of this is that big important stuff gets ignored. For instance, the great re-arrangement of the chess board in the Near and Middle East has gone largely ignored mostly because it would be embarrassing to Obama. The Russians are about to rub out ISIS and setup Iran as the regional hegemon.
Syria’s armed forces advanced south of the second city of Aleppo on Friday in a fresh ground offensive backed by Russian warplanes, a monitoring group said.
Since Moscow began its air war in support of Damascus on September 30, the Syrian army has launched assaults against rebels in at least four provinces with Russian aerial support, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Russian air cover is backing offensives by Syria’s army and allied militias in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, as well as Aleppo in the north and Latakia along the coast.
On Friday, the Syrian army pushed south from the provincial capital Aleppo city, where control is divided between regime and rebels forces, as Russian air strikes pounded the villages of Al-Hader and Khan Tuman and nearby localities.
“The Syrian army started a new front on Friday and advanced to take control of the villages of Abteen and Kaddar” about 15 kilometres (12 miles) south of Aleppo city, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said “dozens” of Russian aerial attacks in the past 24 hours had struck the area, which is controlled by a patchwork of groups including rebels, Islamist fighters and Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, Al-Nusra Front.
For a generation, the US ruled over the Middle East through the Saudis and Israelis. It was hardly perfect, but that was the arrangement. The main point of it was to keep the oil flowing and the crazies bottled up in their own lands. Suddenly, the regional hegemon is going to be Iran, backed by Russia, with some support from Syria’s Alawite tribe.
Once the Syrians regain control of the Western cities, the push east to wipe out ISIS comes next. It’s easy to forget that ISIS is a Saudi creation, for the most part, and the US has had some hand in funding them. Once ISIS is gone, the Saudis are out of cards to play and they will find their authority in the region greatly reduced. In the Arab world, might makes right.
That’s not a small thing. The Russians will now control a vital piece of Europe’s energy supplies. By setting up Iran as a Russian client and the bully on the block, the Russians will effectively control Middle East policy and be wired into the complex relationships that transcend the region. A while back, I pointed out that those millions of Arab men marching into Europe will have a lot of Russian friends too.
Another piece on the board is the fact that the Russians have transformed their military under Putin in response to what they have learned from US military involvement in the Arab world. Those little green men who turned up in Crimea should have been an eye-opener to the West. Now it looks like the Russian military success in Syria is getting the attention of Western strategists.
The strikes have involved aircraft never before tested in combat, including the Sukhoi Su-34 strike fighter, which NATO calls the Fullback, and a ship-based cruise missile fired more than 900 miles from the Caspian Sea, which, according to some analysts, surpasses the American equivalent in technological capability.
Russia’s jets have struck in support of Syrian ground troops advancing from areas under the control of the Syrian government, and might soon back an Iranian-led offensive that appeared to be forming in the northern province of Aleppo on Wednesday. That coordination reflects what American officials described as months of meticulous planning behind Russia’s first military campaign outside former Soviet borders since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
From an American perspective, handing the Middle East over to the Russians is not a terrible thing. Americans are far too moralistic to run a proper empire. The Russians are too incompetent to remain a big player in the region in the long run, but in the short run they will be the whip hand that is needed to keep the peace. The Russians will kill everything that moves in eastern Syria, for example, in order to subdue ISIS.
The bigger issue is that the Russians can effectively coordinate a multi-pronged attack on Europe, without triggering a nuclear war. In the east, they can put economic pressure on the Baltics, Ukraine and Poland. They can also put pressure on the Germans through their near monopoly of natural gas flowing into Europe. Then there is the wave of migrants flowing north that Russia can turn on and off as necessary.
The center of gravity in Eurasia is moving east and Americans hardly notice. How much of this is due to Obama’s incompetence and how much is Putin’s skill is hard to know. There’s also the fact that the American foreign policy establishment is exhausted spiritually and intellectually. Even so, the great under reported story of this decade is the rise of Russia as a world player.