Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Are We Overestimating Russia's Influence in Syria?

First of all, Syria needs to be shelling Turkey and downing Turkish fighter jets like it needs a hole in the head. That's batshit crazy thinking; self-destructive and irrational behavior for even the most despotic regime. Syria is already deep into a popular incursion that is slowly but surely veering in the direction of the rebellion, away from the control of the regime. What does Assad want to do? Does he desire to draw Turkey into a conflict his side is already starting to lose (batshit crazy)? Does he want to draw NATO in to a war he is starting to lose (batshit crazy)? And yet Russia, fascinatingly, could not influence to stop the insanity of making mock bull charges into Turkish airspace, triggering this. From CNN:
"A European diplomat tells CNN says NATO will decide Tuesday to approve Patriot missiles for Turkey. Turkey has asked for the air defense system as protection from Syria.

"'It is a political decision,' the diplomat tells CNN, 'a sign of solidarity for Turkey.'

A Russian official, speaking with CNN on background, claims the Patriot systems are more symbolic than militarily necessary. Echoing comments by Russian president Vladimir Putin that Syria, embroiled in a brutal civil war, has no interest in attacking Turkey."
Although it seems like minor diplomatic news, this is not. Patriot missiles by NATO in Turkey is a cosmic blunder on the part of Russia, an Assad regime ally and -- most important -- a major arms dealer to that shaky government ($4 billion in 2010). Now when Russian weapons are shot down over Syria, it will be by US-made Patriot missiles, thereby devaluing the effectiveness of Russian military hardware in the rheumy eyes of data-driven tyrants around the world. Good going, Vladimir and Sergei! Russia's pocketbook -- their ability to sell weapons that are effective -- may take quite a hit on the despot street come 2013.

Why was Russia unable to make the case that IN NO CERTAIN TERMS SHOULD ASSAD'S REGIME SHELL TURKEY. I am not sure, but my guess, offhand, is that we in the West have vastly overrated the influence of Russia within Syria. Vladimir Putin, like all so-called "strongmen" of history, has a jones at projecting power way beyond his actual influence in any region. Further, the irrationality of shelling Turkey suggests that Syrian is in full-on "idiot regime" mode. Anything can happen, logic and proportion have left the building. That, in turn, would explain President Obama's cryptic allusion to the possibility that Assad might use chemical warfare against his own people. When logic and proportion have fallen sleepy dead ... things tend to get all, well, chemistry. The President was right to put on his daddy voice.

And finally, we are probably underrating the influence of Iran in Syria.

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