The article was originally published by Syria Deeply.
By Syria Deeply
The U.S. Cannot Pass Syria on to Putin
If we read between the lines of President Obama’s comments on Syria at the United Nations on Monday, writes David Ignatius at The Washington Post, we’ll find a “sad admission of failure” regarding the U.S.’s attempt to combat the self-declared Islamic State.
But while Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tough talk is helping him win “the perception game,” Ignatius argues that Russia isn’t likely to do any better than U.S. when comes to combating ISIS.
And although Moscow has demonstrated a willingness to take the fight to ISIS, Ignatius argues that acceding to Moscow would be a significant mistake.
“For all of Putin’s vainglorious boasting, the Russians can’t defeat the Islamic State,” Ignatius contends. “Quite the contrary, Russian intervention (in partnership with Iran) may fuel the Sunni insurgency even more. And if U.S. military partners in the region – such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and even Israel – really think Washington has ceded the ground to Moscow, the region could become even more chaotic.”
Russia Buildup Seen as Fanning Flames in Syria
While Russia’s recent military buildup in Syria will help to prolong the life of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, Pentagon officials and foreign policy experts told The New York Times that Moscow’s support “is unlikely to be a major factor in the campaign to defeat the Islamic State, and could further inflame – and lengthen – the conflict.”
As Russian reconnaissance drones increase their movements across Syria and its warplanes begin engaging militants on the ground, the conflict could easily and quickly escalate.
“If Russia takes the next step of sharing the intelligence with the Syrian government or carrying out airstrikes against those groups, it could easily lead to an escalation in the conflict,” write Helene Cooper and Michael R. Gordon, “frustrating already-dwindling hopes for a diplomatic resolution and prompting Arab governments to increase aid to Syrian rebels.”
Additionally, argue Cooper and Gordon, confronting ISIS may not necessarily be Moscow’s priority.
Think the U.S. and Russia Disagree on Syria? Think Again.
While tension was clearly visible between Obama and Putin during their speeches at the United Nations on Monday, according to Michael Hirsh at Politico, the two presidents are today more aligned than they have been in years when it comes to Syria.
“Some sources suggest that despite the tough rhetoric on the surface between the two countries, there’s a much higher likelihood of an accommodation with Moscow – an accommodation that will prolong Bashar al-Assad’s regime and place the U.S. and Russia on the same side against the so-called Islamic State,” writes Hirsh.
Now, as Obama casts around for a lifeline to save him from what Hirsh claims could be “the single-biggest blot on his foreign policy record,” he may give into Putin’s “fait accompli of sending military aid to Assad” and all that comes along with it.
Why the U.S. is Refusing to Come to Syria’s Rescue
Pundits who criticize the indifference of the U.S. administration when it comes to Syria are applying the wrong benchmark, argues Harry Hagopian in an opinion piece at Al-Jazeera English.
“If Syria is viewed by the U.S. as a case that tugs at U.S. humanitarian heartstrings, then that is not a political argument. But if a case could be made to show that the U.S. has a political interest in helping Syria toward political emancipation and human rights implementation, then the argument shifts dramatically and the response from the White House might well become more robust,” writes Hagopian.
Understandably wary after more than a decade of failed U.S. interventions in the Middle East and uncertain of what the outcome would be in Syria, Hagopian reasons that Obama “is applying a clinical approach and refusing to wade in with any proactive U.S. involvement.”
“So, should this be defined as a U.S. abdication of values in Syria? Not so in the president’s opinion, and that is why I believe we, too, are asking the wrong question, and hence, are struggling with the answer.”
U.S. to Putin: Welcome to the ISIS ‘Quagmire’
When President Putin warned the United Nations General Assembly on Monday that the U.S. and its allies had made an “enormous mistake” by refusing to collaborate with the Syrian government in a fight against ISIS, “several U.S. official privately laughed and wished Putin luck,” write Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef at The Daily Beast.
“Two U.S. officials told the Daily Beast they more or less hoped that Russia did dive into what they called the ‘quagmire’ of Syria, a conflict that the U.S. has kept at arm’s length by limiting its involvement to airstrikes directed exclusively at ISIS and al-Nusra forces,” according to Harris and Youssef.
Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken reportedly said Moscow may be “making a terrible strategic mistake” by further involving itself militarily in Syria, commenting that it would do Russia well to remember a similar quagmire it ran into in Afghanistan about a generation ago in a battle against Islamic radicals.
[Photo by Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]