What is going on in Syria ?


Our feckless president has been lecturing the US public about various topics he considers important but what has actually been going on ? We do know that a Navy SEAL named Charles Keating was killed in Iraq.

(CNN)When a team of less than a dozen U.S. military advisers came under attack in Iraq Tuesday from more than 100 ISIS fighters, Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV was part of the force sent in to rescue them.

All the advisers made it back. Keating, a decorated combat veteran and star athlete who decided to enlist after the 9/11 attacks, did not.
Providing new details Wednesday about the operation that took the life of the grandson of prominent financier and World War II pilot Charles Keating Jr., Coalition spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that the clash between ISIS and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces the advisers were assisting was “a big fight, one of the largest we’ve seen recently.”

That’s Iraq, where Obama pulled out all US forces but is now sneaking a few back in, hoping no one notices.

In Iran, Obama’s foreign policy “advisor” named Ben Rhodes, admits it was all a lie.

“I immediately developed this idea that, you know, maybe I want to try to write about international affairs,” he explained. “In retrospect, I had no idea what that meant.” His mother’s closest friend growing up ran the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which then published Foreign Policy. He sent her a letter and included what would wind up being his only piece of published fiction, a short story that appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal. It was titled “The Goldfish Smiles, You Smile Back.” The story still haunts him, he says, because “it foreshadowed my entire life.”

From writing short stories, Rhodes now writes fiction as national policy.

Rhodes strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign, helped negotiate the opening of American relations with Cuba after a hiatus of more than 50 years and has been a co-writer of all of Obama’s major foreign-policy speeches. “Every day he does 12 jobs, and he does them better than the other people who have those jobs,” Terry Szuplat, the longest-tenured member of the National Security Council speechwriting corps, told me. On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.

Is the policy that Rhodes writes working ? Better not to know.

Iran has been supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. They have spent a lot of money and lives defending him against his people and the Russians. How is that working out ?

The Russians are back in Palmyra, which the ISIS types tried to destroy.

The orchestra played pieces by Johan Sebastian Bach and two Russian composers, Sergei Prokofiev and Rodion Shchedrin, in a second-century Roman amphitheater, the set for a 2015 film produced by the Islamic State that featured the execution of 25 people.

The contrast was intended to underscore what Russia sees as its underappreciated role in helping Syrian forces liberate Palmyra from zealots and fighting on the side of civilization against barbarism.

The Russians were so eager to make that point that they flew a group of reporters from Moscow to Syria and then bused them to Palmyra to see the performance. The production, attended by a heavily guarded V.I.P. guest list, was broadcast live on Russian state television.

Does Obama know about this ? Probably not. Ash Carter seems to be running foreign policy these days.

Rhodes’s opinions were helpful in shaping the group’s [Iraq Study Group] conclusions — a scathing indictment of the policy makers responsible for invading Iraq. For Rhodes, who wrote much of the I.S.G. report, the Iraq war was proof, in black and white, not of the complexity of international affairs or the many perils attendant on political decision-making but of the fact that the decision-makers were morons.

One result of this experience was that when Rhodes joined the Obama campaign in 2007, he arguably knew more about the Iraq war than the candidate himself, or any of his advisers. He had also developed a healthy contempt for the American foreign-policy establishment, including editors and reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and elsewhere, who at first applauded the Iraq war and then sought to pin all the blame on Bush and his merry band of neocons when it quickly turned sour. If anything, that anger has grown fiercer during Rhodes’s time in the White House. He referred to the American foreign-policy establishment as the Blob.

How is Iran, Obama and Rhodes ally, doing ?

They seem to be having trouble as they are recruiting child soldiers, as they did in the Iraq-Iran War.

Iran’s regime has done this before. During the Iran-Iraq War, which killed around a million people between 1980 and 1988, the Basij recruited thousands of children to clear minefields.

After lengthy cult-like brainwashing sessions, the poor kids placed plastic keys around their necks, symbolizing martyrs’ permission to enter paradise, and ran ahead of Iranian ground troops and tanks to remove Iraqi mines by detonating them with their feet and blowing their small bodies to pieces.

Children have been fighting in wars as long as there have been wars, but shoving them into the meat grinder in the 21st century is a war crime expressly prohibited and sometimes even punished by all civilized governments. The International Criminal Court in The Hague, for instance, convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of war crimes in 2012 for “conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.”

The Basij is a paramilitary branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, and it’s commanded by the iron-fisted head of state, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It’s mostly used for internal repression and provided many of the shock troops who brutally suppressed non-violent demonstrations during the Green Revolution in 2009.

Why are they now going back to the tactics of 1988?

“Second,” he continued, “the war in Syria and keeping the dictator Bashar Assad in power is so crucial for the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei that he is willing to pay any price for this objective. In February in a meeting with the families of the regime’s forces who were killed in Syria, Khamenei said that if we did not fight in Syria, we would have had to fight with our opposition in major Iranian cities. Resorting to the tactic of mobilizing teenagers only leads to one conclusion, the mullahs are facing a deadly impasse in Syria.”

So, the Russians seem to be winning and the Iranians are losing and who does Obama ally with ?

Rhodes’s innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal is likely to be a model for how future administrations explain foreign policy to Congress and the public. The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency. “It’s the center of the arc,” Rhodes explained to me two days after the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was implemented.

And some people think Trump will be a foreign policy disaster.

12 thoughts on “What is going on in Syria ?”

  1. “Iran has been supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. They have spent a lot of money and lives defending him against his people and the Russians.”

    Isn’t that wrong? Both the Russians and Iran have taken Assad’s side in the civil war, fighting against the Sunni rebels.

  2. Oh my. The Russians and the Iranians have the same goals in Syria. They are not fighting each other.

    The effort to depose Assad is to allow the Qataris to build a pipeline to Turkey. That should be enough of a clue to begin thinking about this conflict.

    As the Saudis, the Turks and all the Sunni powers in the area are involved in this endeavor, and as the US is the Saudis, go to for weapons and support, it’s not hard to draw the lines.

    Russia has changed the game completely. One might speculate as to why and I suspect there are several reasons. They are the only legal power fighting in the area, outside of Assad’s forces, and control the air. They will see Assad win back his country and kill as many of those who are likely to be a problem in the underbelly of Russia as he can. The rest is politics and they can afford to run that out as long as anyone wants to.

    Separating sheep and goats is part of what’s happening with these constant ‘quite times’ etc attempts by the US to preserve it’s chosen forces. Then the Russians can kill the goats when they get them away from the people they are liberating. Make no mistake, most of Aleppo does look on it this way.

  3. ” Both the Russians and Iran have taken Assad’s side in the civil war,”

    I think they are both supporting him but are not allies. They are rivals.

    By cutting deals with the Iranian government, the United States is increasingly out of step with the region, but if the Basij actually sends children into battle in Iraq and Syria—where ISIS crucifies and beheads its enemies and detests no one on earth as much as Iranian Persians and Shias—it’s going to be harder for Washington officials to explain themselves without going red in the face than it has been in a while.

    The Russians may be supporting the Iranians as an enemy of the US but Russia actually has more to lose with Iranian hegemony.

    It is extremely complicated. If Iran is getting over extended in Syria, why not let the Russians do the work ? Why recruit suicide squads of children again ?

  4. Trump suffers from the same prejudice that Palin did. He doesn’t talk in the way ‘smart’ people do, so he cannot be smart in their estimation. I prefer to look at what he has accomplished when trying to judge what he may be capable of.

  5. The sad, sad fact of the death Petty Officer First* Class Keating is that as foot soldiers throughout history of warfare, he was not even “bait” to lure the enemy, a valid military tactic. Indeed, Officer Keating was a sacrificed pawn, because there was not any tactic or strategy guiding his advance at the front.

    His ignorant and uneducated Commander ordered him there, without even the most rudimentary military experience (of having to execute and order anytime in his sorry life. His “Commander” decided to place him in harms way only on extrapolated hearsay from the ringed-bowels of the Pentagon.

    Acting like an an improvisational B-movie-actor, or juvenile video gamer, his putative “Commander” operated and decided on the whim and hunch, guided by his overriding “special” result-oriented political instincts. (What else could he know of the military combat?) With chin uplifted, his Commander regrets Officer Kesting’s loss, because he meant him to be “the last last pawn to be sacrificed” under his “grab-ass “sad “leadership.”

    (*And, respectfully, Dr. Kennedy: He earned his rank and we should show him the respect of addressing him by his rank, and not just as the scion of a Wall Street banker)

  6. Oh come now, we’re still not going with that “incompetent, out-of-his-league” thing are we?

    Petty Officer Keating. He was a first class, an E-6. Despite the university credentials he went in as an enlisted man. Probably could not have imagined that it was possible that such a person would become CIC.

    I don’t think Bill buys the incompetent line for a minute, but he’s got to avoid that audit, or worse, that SoCal Sudden Death Syndrome:


  7. “Officer Keating was a sacrificed pawn, because there was not any tactic or strategy guiding his advance at the front.”

    No, the guys who go into SEALS are dedicated and well trained,

    “Despite the university credentials he went in as an enlisted man.”

    They all do, as officers do not stay with SEALS and are rotated back to fleet assignments. If you want to stay a SEAL, you stay a CPO.

    I examine and interview these kids and they know exactly what they are getting into.

    “He earned his rank and we should show him the respect of addressing him by his rank, and not just as the scion of a Wall Street banker”

    If anyone said that it was at the link. I was impressed that, like the guy from AZ State who joined the Rangers, he knew what he was doing and had softer alternatives.

    “If Syria falls –> Iran falls. Russia loses its base in Syria.”

    You and I might see it that way but Putin may not. He may be satisfied with a base on the Mediterranean. Aleppo and environs may be all he wants.

  8. Iran and Russia are allies; Russia has provided lots of technical assistance to Iran’s nuclear programs, and supplied Iran with its latest model anti-aircraft missiles and radars.

    Both are supporting Assad in Syria.

  9. “Russia has provided lots of technical assistance to Iran’s nuclear programs,”

    You are welcome to your opinion. Russia and Iran have been rivals for centuries. Russia is after a Mediterranean port and Aleppo is their aim.

    I believe they also are well paid for their assistance.

  10. Mike K is correct. Russia and Iran do cooperate on certain issues such as arms sales, but Russia sells arms to lot of different countries including Israel. The cooperation in Syria has been overblown by the incredibly overrated head of the Revolutionary Guard and their general, Qasem Soleimani, who seemed to be auditioning for the new ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ beer commercial role while his army was in retreat all over the Middle East. Despite all the bluster and propaganda, Russia has been careful to only provide air cover for Syrian army operations like the retaking of Palmyra.

    Russia and Iran are indeed regional geopolitical rivals. The latest problem is Iran wants to start selling gas to Europe which was exclusively a Russian customer until the Ukraine revolution. With Syria divided, the only way to get Iranian gas west is either through Turkey or Georgia. Cooperation with the Turks is not going to happen. They are historical rivals in the first place, and the Syrian war has only driven them farther apart. Iran’s only choice is to work with Azerbaijan and Georgia. Russia supports Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, so this squarely sets up Iran and Russian on opposing sides.

  11. @Mike K: “No, the guys who go into SEALS are dedicated and well trained.” I agree, but that’s ‘inapposite to my point, that even the most elite are doomed if the are commanded by a ignorant fool without a overall strategy, except retreat and yield the field, and waste Seals as stopgaps.

Comments are closed.