Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Krauthammer: While Iran Marches And Russia Rules, Obama Watches

Guess who just popped up in the Kremlin? Bashar Assad, Syrian dictator and destroyer, now Vladimir Putin's newest pet.
After four years holed up in Damascus, Assad was summoned to Russia to bend a knee to Putin, show the world that today Middle East questions get settled not in Washington but in Moscow, and officially bless the Russian-led four-nation takeover of Syria now underway.
Does the bewildered Obama administration finally understand what Russia is up to?
President Obama says Russia is doomed to fail in the Syrian quagmire. But Russia is not trying to reconquer the country for Assad. It's consolidating a rump Syrian state on the roughly 20% of the country he now controls, the Alawite areas stretching north and west from Damascus through Latakia and encompassing the Russian naval base at Tartus.
It's a partition. It will leave the Islamic State in control in the interior north and east. Why is this doomed to failure?
Putin's larger strategy is also obvious. He is not reconstructing the old Soviet empire. That's too large a task.
But he is rebuilding and reasserting Russia's ability to project power beyond its borders. Annexing Crimea restores to the motherland full control of the warm water Black Sea port that Russia has coveted since Peter the Great.
Shoring up a rump Alawite state secures Russia's naval and air bases in the eastern Mediterranean. Add to that Russia's launching advanced cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea to strike Syrian rebels 900 miles away and you have the most impressive display of Russian military reach since the Cold War.
For Obama, of course, these things don't matter. "In today's world," he told the U.N. last month, "the measure of strength is no longer defined by the control of territory."
That he clearly believes this fantasy was demonstrated by his total abandonment of Iraq, forfeiting U.S. bases from which we could have projected power in the region (most notably preventing, through control of Iraqi airspace, Iran's rearming and reinforcement of Assad's weakening regime).
While Obama counts on the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice, Putin acts. As soon as the ink was dry on the Iran nuclear deal, Iran's Qasem Soleimani flew to Moscow (a sanctions violation that we blithely ignored) to plan the multinational Syria campaign he is now directing. His Shiite expeditionary force is comprised of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Iraqi Shiite militias and Lebanese Hezbollah fighting under the cover of Russian air power.
Read the rest of Charles Krauthammer's op-ed HERE.

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