Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Putin’s Syrian Misadventure

Thomas L. Friedman, NYT
DEC. 2, 2015

When President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced he was setting up an air base in the middle of Syria to take on the Islamic State and bolster President Bashar al-Assad, more than a few analysts and politicians praised his forceful, game-changing, strategic brilliance, suggesting that Putin was crazy like a fox. Some of us thought he was just crazy.

Well, two months later, let’s do the math: So far, Putin’s Syrian adventure has resulted in a Russian civilian airliner carrying 224 people being blown up, apparently by pro-ISIS militants in Sinai. Turkey shot down a Russian bomber after it strayed into Turkish territory. And then Syrian rebels killed one of the pilots as he parachuted to earth and one of the Russian marines sent to rescue him. Many of the anti-Assad rebels in that area are ethnic Turkmens, with strong cultural ties to Turkey; Turkey was not amused by Putin bombing Turkmen villages inside Syria, because it weakens Turkey’s ability to shape Syria’s future.

Meanwhile, in Crimea, Ukraine, which Putin annexed, pro-Turkish Tatars apparently cut the power lines, plunging Crimea into a near total blackout. And in October dozens of Saudi clerics called for a “holy war” against the governments of Syria, Iran and Russia.

In sum, Putin’s “crafty” Syrian chess move has left him with a lot more dead Russians; newly at odds with Turkey and Iran; weakened in Ukraine; acting as the defense lawyer for Assad — a mass murderer of Sunni Muslims, the same Sunni Muslims as Putin has in Russia; and with no real advances against ISIS.

Other than that, it’s been a great success.

(More here.)

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