Syria: Assad, Not ISIS or AQ, Is the Problem

Charles Lister's article today on our epic misreading of the problem in Syria is getting tons of praise from analysts on Twitter. Shorter version: The U.S. is walking into an abyss on Syria. Some quotes:

[T]he US and its European partners remain dangerously disconnected from Syria's realities. The threat posed by IS has become a convenient obsession, while the more complex dynamics in the rest of the country appear all but ignored and misunderstood.

... IS remains a potent force in Syria and must be countered, but it will not be marching on Damascus anytime soon, contrary to some uninformed fear mongering. Al-Qaeda also poses a pressing and more long-term threat, perhaps more so than has been acknowledged. But at the end of the day, the root cause of the entire Syrian crisis is Assad and his regime.

Our efforts in Syria to date: "To label the mission a catastrophic failure would be a generous assessment." [More...]

Assad cannot be part of the solution.

Bashar al-Assad has professionalised and industrialised the use of detention and torture to "cleanse" his own population, while imposing dozens of medieval-style sieges on vulnerable populations. He has consistently flouted UN Security Council resolutions and according to some sources, has been responsible for 95% of all 111,000 civilian deaths since 2011.

Enabling Assad to remain in power will have disasterous consequences:

While accommodating Russian and Iranian demands for Assad's survival and potentially even a de facto partition of the country may seem like an attainable objective, this will only prolong and intensify the conflict and will almost certainly spark a jihadist mobilization the like of which the world has never seen.

The vast majority of refugees now entering Europe are fleeing Assad's murder machine, not IS or al-Qaeda. Ever since Syrians took to the streets in March 2011, the Western response has been both feeble and noncommittal, but the world is now in need of real leadership. Unfortunately, it seems our leaders are walking into the abyss with their eyes closed.

< U.S. Trained Rebel Defector Gave Equipment to al Nusra | The Sexism Is Back: NYT's Bruni Calls Hillary "Calculating" and "Controlling" >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Seems (5.00 / 4) (#13)
    by FlJoe on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 05:21:47 PM EST
    to me he is spewing the same old neo-con line, kill then dictator and peace will break out.
    While an unenviable challenge, it remains the international community's moral and political responsibility to find a solution in Syria that ensures the best chance of a sustainable peace. This means genuinely engaging with Syrians of all stripes, including the armed opposition and incorporating their views into a potential solution.
     Unenviable or impossible? Lister thinks that once the big bad the Assad is gone we can "genuinely engage" with the likes of Al-Nusra or ISIS and "incorporating their views", I believe he has been smoking something powerful.

    One more bonus "how to tell if you're a neo-con"
    Just accuse your target of being in league with our current enemy

    From the very first days of the revolution, Assad and his intelligence apparatus have consistently facilitated the rise of jihadists. This policy of aiding and abetting jihadist militants and manipulating them for Damascus' policy interests is a well-established Assad family practice, dating back at least to the 1990s.
    By releasing dozens of al-Qaeda prisoners in mid-2011, Assad helped give birth to a thriving Islamist insurgency, including an al-Qaeda affiliate. By then adopting a deliberate policy of not targeting IS, Assad directly facilitated that group's recovery and explosion into the transnational "Caliphate" movement it claims to be today.
    Never mind that this thriving insurgency is his deadly enemy and this caliphate owns half of his country. Opionated hash is my guess.

    My take is that "the west" was moving full speed towards regime change until they wisely slammed on the brakes when the true nature of the opposition finally dawned on them.

    Gosh, that Lister is such a tease (5.00 / 4) (#20)
    by shoephone on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 09:30:04 PM EST
    He leaves us breathless, but doesn't tell us which new dictator we should install to take over after we depose Assad. Perhaps one of the Pahlavi descendants? Is it possible one of el-Sisi's Syrian cousins would like to wage a military coup?

    Our track record of deposing and replacing leaders in the Middle East is so exemplary.

    Yes. If there were an obvious alternative (none / 0) (#22)
    by ruffian on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 09:39:31 PM EST
    I would have supported us taking stronger action to depose him three years ago. The 'what then?' question is no more clear now than it was then? How many of the current ISIS leaders were names mentioned 3 years ago as plausible alternative to Assad?

    I did not have a policy suggestion then, and I still don't have one, even knowing what I know now.


    I don't think this is about installing anyone (none / 0) (#27)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 09:35:23 AM EST
    This is about Sunni majority Syria voting in its leadership. And the war will not end until that begins to happen.

    We let Syria sit there, and now Russia and China have shown up...introducing power that thrueatens to increase and prolong the war.

    Some say this is our fault. I don't think there are easy answers. But obviously the choice to do nothing comes with undesirable consequences too.

    As all war goes. It really amounts to degrees of losing. To what degree are we willing to allow Syrians to experience loss? Because the refugee situation is impacting the world now.

    And perhaps that was the way to go too. Having the world be involved, the world pressuring..and not just the U.S.

    We have also committed to taking refugees along with other countries. I know how this will go on our end though. We threw a number out there, but it will be years before we reach that number. They won't vet the refugees any different than they did Afghan translators. Almost none of our translators were able to meet the criteria to immigrate.

    I don't know that any other nation taking refugees will use more lax criteria. So just throwing a number out there of how many refugees you will take does not equate to that many fleeing Syrians having been made safe today. It only means we are committing to taking that number of refugees who can pass the vetting process, and that will take years.


    Come on, could you be less out (none / 0) (#26)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 09:11:12 AM EST
    Of touch with Syrian reality? It is a Sunni majority country. There was a bizarre balance between Assad and Saddam. Saddam was Sunni ruling a Shia majority and Assad was a Shia ruling a Sunni majority. As long as that strange balance existed neither Shia or Sunni experienced disenfranchisement, in fact an odd secular diversity was encouraged to exist and families moved freely across the Iraq/Syrian earth berm.

    We removed Saddam though and there is no going back, predictably a voting Iraq put Shia leaders in control. Now the Sunni have been completely disenfranchised in the region and the war will not end until a new balance is created, and the most feasible outcome is a voting Syria is allowed Sunni leadership.


    Way to completely miss the point (none / 0) (#44)
    by shoephone on Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 12:18:14 AM EST

    Assad (5.00 / 2) (#23)
    by lentinel on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 07:22:38 AM EST
    may be the problem... but why must our politicians make it our problem?

    I suppose I can be accused of being an isolationist, but with so many problems here at home, so many people barely making ends meet - barely having enough to keep warm in winter - why must we shell out billions to depose a dictator who will only be replaced by another dictator?

    Did we get anywhere by deposing Saddam?

    Why should we be financing operations that benefit the Saudis - when they have billions upon billions upon billions of dollars in their coffers?

    Are we still there based on that horrific resolution giving Bush the power to invade?

    In short: What is going on here?

    Yup! (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Robot Porter on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 12:32:36 PM EST
    And even people on the "left" who support this lunacy won't admit what it's really about:

    Pipelines, mineral rights, port access and gun-running (cough, I mean arms deals).

    No one (repeat NO ONE!) who supports action in Syria cares one wit about the Syrian people.


    I think the problem is both (none / 0) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 01:40:44 PM EST
    It isn't as if Assad leaving would instantly end the ISIS reign of terror.

    And Lister is wrong, the US knows Assad is a factor. That's why we are negotiating with Russia. And our negotiating with Russia was probably the last straw for Allen.

    Obama's UN speech (none / 0) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 01:54:48 PM EST
    Makes it clear that he has factored the Assad regime into all understanding and assessments of war torn Syria.

    Curious (none / 0) (#3)
    by CoralGables on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 02:17:46 PM EST
    Are analysts on Twitter a step above or a step below analysts on Facebook?

    Both Above... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by ScottW714 on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 03:00:29 PM EST
    ...the major news stations analysts, IMO.

    That said, Charles Lister is correct. Bashar al-Assad and not ISIS is the primary reason why Syria became so unstable in the first place. Nature abhors a vacuum. ISIS and other groups such as al Qa'eda sought to fill it in those places where the regime in Damascus proved unable to exert political control over an increasingly unhappy and resentful populace.

    Allowing Assad to remain in power in Damascus is merely a postponement of the inevitable. We'd likely be better served by reincarnating the Ottoman Empire, for that matter. As weak as they were by the turn of the 20th century, at least there was a modicum of political stability in the Middle East under the Ottomans' rule.

    I bring up the Ottoman Empire in this discussion in all seriousness, because much of the present-day turmoil in the Middle East can be traced to:

    • That empire's collapse and demise at the end of the First World War; and
    • The subsequent division of its former territories in the Levant between Great Britain (present-day Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates) and France (present-day Syria and Lebanon).

    Until we finally come to acknowledge and understand what was actually wrought in the Middle East by our own allies nearly a century ago, the region will remain a volatile locale of political chaos and modern feudalism, divided in name only by the post-World War whims of a couple of patriotic but frightfully ignorant imperialists, Mark Sykes (for Britain) and Francois Georges-Picot (for France).



    Let's not (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Zorba on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 05:07:26 PM EST
    resurrect the Ottoman Empire, okay?  They were a disaster for the Greeks (among others).  I have ancestors that were tortured to death by the Ottomans.

    I merely brought up the Ottoman Empire ... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 08:48:17 PM EST
    ... as an analogy to highlight the futility of our current efforts, and to further note that much of the region's chaos can be attributed directly to that empire's demise in 1918-19.

    The 560 years' worth of antipathy between the Turks and the Greeks is well documented, well known and hereby acknowledged. In that regard, I would also note that modern post-Ottoman Turkey can trace its own origins to the failed Greek invasion of Anatolia during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-22.

    The Greeks did themselves no favors by allowing themselves to act as Franco-British surrogates in the attempted further dismemberment of a rump and prostrate Turkish nation. They had been seduced by an ambitious vision of a "Greater Greece," which would unite the Greek homeland with the substantive Greek communities along the Aegean, Black Sea and Mediterranean coastlines of Anatolia and in Cyprus under Athens' rule.

    But the Greek invasion of Turkey proved an historic blunder of immense proportions, with profound consequences for everyone even peripherally involved in the conflict. The assault upon their own homeland by an historic and thoroughly despised enemy united the Turkish people under Mustafa Kemal's leadership in a way that four years of bloody conflict with the British during the First World War never did.

    The result was nothing less than an complete military disaster for Greece, and a serious strategic and military failure for her western allies as well. Kemal's victory set the reconstituted Turkey's borders along its present-day boundaries, restored eastern Thrace and western Anatolia to the new republic, and further resulted in the wholesale expulsion of over one million Greek residents from their ancestral homelands along Anatolia's Aegean coast -- including the loss of the ethnic Greek city of Smyrna (now the Turkish city of Izmir), which prior to the war was actually bigger than Athens itself.

    Additionally, French forces were expelled militarily from Cilicia in southern Turkey, while the Italians complied with Kemal's demand that they abandon southwestern Anatolia. The Greek collapse further rendered untenable the British military occupation of Constantinople, which the Turks renamed Istanbul upon their triumphant re-entry into the former Ottoman capital.

    (The British had initially decided to resist Turkish military encroachment upon Constantinople and the Dardanelles, but London's request for military reinforcements from Canada, South Africa and Australia was immediately refused by those countries. One could therefore make the cogent argument that commencement of the British Empire's decline can be dated to that particular moment.)

    Alone among the Central Powers in the First World War, and thanks to some serious Allied overreach, Turkey was the only one to compel its adversaries to return to the table. Mustafa Kemal successfully renegotiated the original harsh terms imposed upon the vanquished Ottoman Empire in the wake of the Allied victory in 1918. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne recognized the Republic of Turkey, and cemented Kemal's legacy as the founder and father of his new nation.



    Okay, Donald (none / 0) (#24)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 07:24:10 AM EST
    What should we do??

    500 words or less, please.


    What do you care, Jim? (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 01:13:32 PM EST
    You never listen to anyone here anyway, even though you're the one who dearly needs the history lessons.

    That's 23 words.


    Speaking of not listening (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 04:06:24 PM EST
    My question was what should we do?

    It wasn't what we have done.

    Oh well, thanks for showing us that you don't have a clue as a solution, just hundreds of words designed to show us you have seen "Lawrence of Arabia" at least once.



    Look here, you old wingbat -- you're not my professor, and I don't answer to you. My own credentials in this particular field far outweigh whatever it is that you bring to the table, which appears to be little more than the repeated binge-watching of John Wayne movies.

    Perhaps you ought to figure things out for yourself, rather than constantly trying to put other people here on the spot so you can then insult and criticize them, and act as though you're somehow their moral and intellectual superior, when you're really anything but.

    We're not in 6th grade any more, and I don't have time for your pre-adolescent bullschitt.



    Donald, I am your worst nightmare (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 07:27:31 AM EST
    I tell the truth and I am not  impressed by claims of association with various government officials.

    You burst on this scene like the latest revival of Socrates rewarding us with thousands words all designed to show us that you are at least as educated as the average high school graduate.

    My question was simple. The vast majority of the people reading/commenting on this blog have an understanding on a lot of subjects. How the ME was divided up is one of them. The discussions have been around whether that was good/bad and how we have reacted/entered into the mess.

    Now, do you or do you not have a solution??


    Well.. (none / 0) (#40)
    by jondee on Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 11:15:42 AM EST
    at least he's not impressed by claims of association with various government officials..

    Truthfully (none / 0) (#34)
    by FlJoe on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 04:27:29 PM EST
    I don't think the greatest minds in the world could answer this question. When it comes to seemingly intractable problems such as this it, the only wise path should be "first do no harm".  

    I Can Answer that in Two Sentences: (none / 0) (#35)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 05:17:13 PM EST
    Let the people in the area figure out their own GD problems.  We solve our problems before we solve theirs.

    Actually Scott that would have been a great (none / 0) (#46)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 10:42:59 AM EST
    solution after WWI. But with all the good intentions that the road to Hell is so often paved with England in particular but joined by France, decided they could civilize the locals and add them to their colonial empires.

    The rest, as they say, is history. The question now before us is simple. ISIS is spreading like a cancer and is pushing millions of people into Europe. The islamic states are doing nothing, unless you count Saudi Arabia's pledge to Germany to provide funding for the building of 200 mosques in Germany. Perhaps Iran will join in this important work.

    Russia is playing what use to be our trump card, real politics, and is supporting Syria's chief murderer, Assad, by claiming that if Assad loses ISIS  will take over and that will be worse. Shades of Kennedy and Vietnam.....

    Putin, deciding that Obama really is as weak as he appears to be, has now told us to get out, or words to that effect, and issued a no fly zone that applies to us.

    Now, what would I do?

    I would immediately use all necessary force to attack and destroy ISIS in Iraq while arming the rebels in Syria. With Iraq under our control Iran is blocked and the Syrian rebels can bleed Russia for a while.

    And I won't even use a private email account.


    Sorry I Thought We Were... (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 12:26:04 PM EST
    ...talking about the ME in 2015, not Europe in 1940, my bad.  Any other 75 year old advise you have would most certainly be relevant to the discussion.

    It would be nice if someone could tell me why we need to be involved other than isolationism would not have worked against the Nazis.  Not that any republican cares, but ISIS is not the Third Reich, no matter how much they want it to be.

    The idea that we will succeed when we have a modern day proven track record of failure in the ME, is especially rich.  This time right, this is the time we will, without a doubt, not make it worse.  

    Fingers crossed of course, what could possibly go wrong in a ME country with, Russians, Iranians and the US taking sides, add in exactly how many different religion/cultural factions and it's so simple, it's shocking that it hasn't solved itself.

    Jim, your bumper sticker mentality is what brought us Iraq, which was an epic failure long before Obama was a household name, much less a candidate.

    It also so sweet of you Jim to care more about Syrian refugees than American citizens, which is the group I think we should focus on helping.  Too bad it's non-sense, you care enough to drop bombs on their homes, but not to take them in as citizens.

    The idea that more bombs and guns in Syria is going to help anyone is how the deluded let themselves get talked into unnecessary wars.


    Page One of the neocon propaganda playbook: (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by jondee on Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 12:49:37 PM EST
    or How To Be A Neocon For Dummies: Continually compare ANY currently volatile situation in the ME to WWII or to the events in Europe leading up to WWII; compare the current main combatants in the ME to the Allied Powers and to the Axis Powers and evoke Hitler and the Nazis, and Stalin and the communists often as possible..

    Well, we are talking about 9/30/2015 (none / 0) (#50)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 03:55:49 PM EST
    But as Donald pointed out, how we got here is important.

    But it is actually irrelevant. Of course the Right wants to ignore invading Iraq and the Left wants to talk about invading Iraq....but not about Obama leaving and allowing ISIS to bloom.

    But the truth is we are here NOW and millions are fleeing into Europe and ISIS is killing thousands.

    If we ignore those facts then millions will continue to overrun Europe and ISIS will keep killing. Neither is acceptable.

    My solution, which you obviously did not read since you bring up Syria is:

    I would immediately use all necessary force to attack and destroy ISIS in Iraq while arming the rebels in Syria. With Iraq under our control Iran is blocked and the Syrian rebels can bleed Russia for a while.

    How well arming the rebels to keep Russia from keeping the butcher of Syria in power is uncertain but it appears to be a worthy goal since the rebels also hate ISIS, as does Asaad. So it appears that we win either way without ever entering Syria.


    Short Answer... (5.00 / 1) (#51)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 05:39:46 PM EST
    ...kill people and figure out the details later, because ?   What is the end goal ?

    Still waiting on that answer about why we should intervene with affairs 10,000 miles away.  

    Spare me the you care about refugees going into Europe, I mean "Come On Man."  


    The endlessly delusionary Right (5.00 / 1) (#52)
    by jondee on Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 08:37:55 PM EST
    seems to always forget that at one time ISIS was "the rebels" in Syria..

    And the answer is (none / 0) (#53)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 10:14:52 PM EST
    The problem is that the world has shrunk.  I would list all the attacks inside the US, not to mention outside, but you know them.

    It would be great if we could just walk away and let them sort it all out. But we chose to play the game and now we will suffer gravely if we just walk away.

    And that is your answer. Like it or not we are involved. And while it can be argued that we chose to be involved, do you really think that if we had not radical islam would have let us alone? Do you think we can leave and every thing will be all ok?? As bin Ladin told Peter Arnett, then with CNN, in this 3/97 interview:

    "REPORTER: Mr. Bin Ladin, will the end of the United States' presence in Saudi Arabia, their withdrawal, will that end your call for jihad against the United States and against the US ?

    BIN LADIN: So, the driving-away jihad against the US does not stop with its withdrawal from the Arabian peninsula, but rather it must desist from aggressive intervention against Muslims in the whole world."


    That is an easy to understand declaration of war.

    And no, this is not killing people and figuring it out later. It is an easy to understand strategy.

    I would immediately use all necessary force to attack and destroy ISIS in Iraq while arming the rebels in Syria. With Iraq under our control Iran is blocked and the Syrian rebels can bleed Russia for a while.

    It is very focused and very easy to understand. Plus, it keeps us out of Syria. Let Russia take care of that.

    And no. I do not care about the refugees in any way beyond being concerned that the end result will be another islamic state(s) with Sharia law.


    Grown Folks... (none / 0) (#54)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Oct 02, 2015 at 08:54:46 AM EST
    ...can walk away at any time.

    FYI, Bin Laden is not only dead, he had nothing to do with ISIS.  Jesus Jim, at least try, what next, quotes from Pol Pot and Genghis Khan ?

    The fact that you have to dig up a BL quote as a reason to go to war in Syria/Iraq only proves the level of straw grasping coming from the right.  Foreign policy for ISIS is not being crafted by the right based on a Bin Laden interview.  Yeah, no surprise you find that reasonable.

    FYI, read the BL quote you posted, it basically says if we leave muslims alone they will leave us alone.


    Should Read.... (none / 0) (#55)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Oct 02, 2015 at 11:52:01 AM EST
    Foreign policy for ISIS is now being crafted by the right based on a Bin Laden interview.  Yeah, no surprise you find that reasonable.

    don't care about the refugees in any way (none / 0) (#56)
    by jondee on Fri Oct 02, 2015 at 01:52:44 PM EST
    how Christian of you..

    Not even if you found out that your country fomented instability in Syria, you wouldn't care?


    I can't help it (none / 0) (#10)
    by CaptHowdy on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 05:12:06 PM EST
    That term always makes me visualize vicious blood thirsty footstools.

    That's because (none / 0) (#11)
    by Zorba on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 05:20:38 PM EST
    you're not of Greek extraction, Howdy.   ;-)

    carnivorous castro convertables... (none / 0) (#14)
    by Mr Natural on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 06:03:44 PM EST
    Oh my!

    Nobody likes to talk about that (none / 0) (#28)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 10:57:47 AM EST
    Mostly we want to remember the Ottomans as "those who knew what a REAL Caliphate was".

    How? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Mr Natural on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 04:12:07 PM EST

    Mr N, you sound like oculus... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by fishcamp on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 04:58:47 PM EST
    The Allies drew boundaries ... (none / 0) (#19)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 09:25:42 PM EST
    ... in the Middle East that simply addressed their own immediate desires and imperial ambitions, and completely failed to take into account the disposition of the various peoples who actually lived in the region.

    Oh, you were answering ... (none / 0) (#21)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 09:30:32 PM EST
    ... my rhetorical question about how one performs "analyzes" in 140 characters or less, rather than asking for a succinct answer reqarding how the Allies bolloxed up the Middle East after the First World War.

    That's what you get for sounding cryptic like oculus.


    For certain. (none / 0) (#12)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 05:21:32 PM EST

    Clearly the decision of the Ottoman Empire to join the central powers in WWI with the goal of taking hunks of land from neighboring states had nothing to do with it.

    The Ottoman Empire's decision ... (none / 0) (#17)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 09:20:21 PM EST
    ... to enter into an alliance with Imperial Germany had more to do with the high-handed manner with which London had been treating Constantinople, including London's own decision to enter into a military entente with the Ottomans' historic enemy of Russia in 1908, which did nothing to further endear the British to the Turks.

    Even then, there was a good possibility that the Ottoman Empire could have poosibly been induced to join Britain, or at the very least stay neutral, were it not for two key events in the late summer and early fall of 1914:

    • The summary confiscation by the British in August of two capital battleships then being built in Liverpool for the Turks, who had already paid for them;
    • Britain's increasingly belliose demands during the early days of hostilities with Germany that the Sultan open the Dardanelles to Allied shipping, so that Russia -- the Turks' mortal enemy -- could be rearmed and resupplied.

    The needs of their Russian ally had compelled London to abandon its longstanding role (since 1815) as protector of the Ottoman Empire's territorial integrity in the Middle East, and the Germans were only too happy to fill the void left by the British reordering of priorities. With the Turks now perceived to be firmly within Imperial Germany's orbit, Britain declared war on November 13, 1914, and the Sultan reciprocated the following day.



    The Brits made them do it!! (none / 0) (#25)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 08:17:49 AM EST

    The view that the Ottomans had no lust for neighboring lands and no agency as well is quite amazing.

    As for seizing the battleships at the start of WWI it's hard to imagine how the Brits could possibly release two modern battleships to an brand new ally of Germany. Yikes!  


    The Turks weren't Germany's ally ... (none / 0) (#31)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 02:02:23 PM EST
    ... at the time. In fact, the Ottoman Empire was barely hanging on to the territories that it held in the Middle East, so no, they weren't "lusting" after neighboring lands. Rather, other nations were coveting ITS lands.

    The Sultan had immediately declared neutrality during the runup to the war's outbreak. Britain requisitioned those two ships for their own use two weeks before declaring war on Germany, which had offended the Sultan, who had already paid for the vessels.

    Germany then sought to curry favor with the Sultan by offering to replace the ships seized by the British. The British then compounded their error by demanding that the Dardanelles be opened to their naval convoys to Russia. The Sultan responded by taking the Germans up on their offer, and the Germans turned over two warships that had been bottled up by the British at Constantinople and quarantined by the Turks.

    Relations between Britain and the Ottoman Empire very quickly deteriorated from that point, culminating in what amounted to a British ultimatum that their convoys to Russia be allowed to pass through the Dardanelles. When the Sultan refused, the Russians responded with a naval attack on the main Turkish naval base on the Black Sea on Nov. 10, 1914. The two reflagged German warships, now under Turkish control, responded by sailing to the Russian Black seaport of Odessa and shelling the city. Britain, as an ally of Russian, declared war on the Ottoman Empire the following day.

    The war with the Turks was never really more than a sideshow to the main event in western Europe, yet it nevertheless fueled Britain's imperial ambitions in the region, even as it proved a serious drain on already stretched British military resources.

    The ill-conceived 1915 attack on Gallipoli in a failed effort to force open the Dardanelles stands as one of the great military quagmires and disasters in British history, and forced Winston Churchill -- as that mission's primary visionary and advocate -- to resign his post as First Lord of the Admiralty. A hopelessly inadequate British force which invaded Mesopotamia was quickly defeated and then compelled to surrender at the First Battle of Kut.

    They British then redeployed their forces in Italy and the Mediterranean to deal decisively with the Turks once and for all. They eventually gained the upper hand by 1917 with the captures of Baghdad and Jerusalem, but the Turks proved a much tougher opponent than anyone had foreseen three years earlier. By the end of the war in Nov. 1918, the Brtish had military control over most of the Middle East, but at the frightful cost of nearly a half-million casualties.

    Afterward, Britain and France redrew the regional map. The British had already embraced the concept of Zionism with the 1917 Balfour Declaration and began to allow Jews to resettle in Palestine after the Turks had been driven out. All of this compounded upon itself over the next three decades, which served to create many of the problems which plague the Middle East today.



    It gets better... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Mr Natural on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 04:26:28 PM EST
    Chinese aircraft carrier docks at Tartus to support Russian-Iranian military buildup

    As US President Barack Obama welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping to the White House on Friday, Sept. 25, and spoke of the friendship between the two countries, the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning-CV-16 docked at the Syrian port of Tartus, accompanied by a guided missile cruiser. This is revealed exclusively by debkafile.

    World war III anyone ? (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by gbrbsb on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 06:22:29 PM EST
    Hyperbole much? (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Mon Sep 28, 2015 at 09:21:29 PM EST
    The Syrian civil war, in my view, (none / 0) (#32)
    by KeysDan on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 02:09:23 PM EST
    is underpinned by Middle East sectarian power struggles and a penchant to never let bygones be bygones.

     Assad and the governing class are Alawites (about 20 percent) and Sunni, essentially, the remainder of the population. But, it was not always so. It was once different. The Sunni majority was the ruling class and the Alawites were the servant class.

     It is often said that Alavites are an off-shoot of Shi'ism, but that does not tell the entire story.  Alawites broke away from Shi'ism over 1,000 years ago, over what the Sunni believe is heresy--Ali the descendant of the Prophet is a deity; and the religion is enigmatic,  incorporating Gnostic, Islamic, and Christian elements (e.g. wine is taken in a form of mass, holidays such as Christmas and the Epiphany are celebrated). All of which add to the suspicions by the Sunni, and the historical discrimination of the fewer Alawites by Sunni.

    The Sunni, rather than going into the military, sent their Alawite servants--who then rose in the military. After turmoil, Syria reversed sectarian rule in a military coup by Assad's father, in 1970.

    Until the civil war, a detente of sorts carried on for years, between Alawite rulers and the Sunni merchant class. Alawites had the power, Sunni business.  But, Alawites have always lived in fear of the Sunni majority, especially since Sunni Arabs are not very tolerant of non-Sunni Arabs, preferring them to be second class.

    With this history and compromise seen as a shameful partial loss, a peace that relies on a sharing of power and governance seems to be an untenable one.  Assad sees himself fighting for his and Alawite existence. The Sunni factions see a return to their proper place.  

    As is the case in the Middle East, there are no good, and certainly, no easy solutions. My thinking is that, as in Iraq, there can be no effective central and unified government. Perhaps, a partition or autonomous regions. That might give a chance for a new Syria.  

    I doubt we could get the warring to agree (none / 0) (#37)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Sep 29, 2015 at 11:08:56 PM EST
    To partitions. One of their current existing key arguments is that partitioning led to this mess.

    Alawites are considered Shia by most Islamic scholars. And Sunni and Shia both fundamentally believe the other sect practices heresy.

    I have always found it interesting though that Osama bin Laden's mother was an Alawite. He was the product of a secular marriage.


    Having doubts (none / 0) (#42)
    by KeysDan on Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 05:18:27 PM EST
    about any course of action in Syria is a responsible position to take.  One doubt I have is that Putin will make friends with Sunni Arabs and broaden his influence in the Middle East by his military support of Assad and his attacks on Sunni ISIS and Sunni Syrian rebels.

     And, I have doubts about achieving peace with a centralized, diversely sectarian, unified government. More doubts than in creating partitioned or autonomous governments.  In partitioning, the issue is who gets what part. And, who gets water.  These are not insurmountable, they are government issues.

      Getting over Alawite fears of Sunni majorities, and Sunni discounting of Alawites is a bigger problem to tackle--one that has been going on for a good while.


    Shia aren't exactly not discounting of Sunnis (none / 0) (#43)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 07:50:15 PM EST
    In their strongholds either Dan :)

    I have no idea what Putin thinks he will accomplish in the long run. With crashing commodities he's already stretching Russian resources thin fighting in the Ukraine. I know the Pentagon doubts he will in the end have the resources to even accomplish that mission. The Pentagon as a whole itself having to recently face those realities, now a majority seem able to comprehend that instead of a minority back in 2004.

    Sometimes I think Putin must be using amphetamines or something :) Maybe he's just high on his popularity polls. Of course accountability doesn't give him pause at this time in the same way it does other world leaders. It was weird, other worldly, witnessing the Bush administration fiascos build, tumble, and crash. Feels the same watching Putin lose his marbles.


    Iraq informs the U.S. this morning (none / 0) (#39)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 08:38:19 AM EST
    That Russia will begin bombing ISIS today over Iraq. Iraq also advises the U.S. and the coalition to avoid Syrian airspace. U.S. taken by surprise but responds with Meh.

    meh (none / 0) (#41)
    by pitachips on Wed Sep 30, 2015 at 02:05:49 PM EST
    The sooner we rid ourselves of this delusion that we can do anything to settle disputes that have raged on for literally a thousand years, the better. "Meh", in my opinion, is the appropriate response.

    President Assad's family website (none / 0) (#45)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 10:39:25 AM EST
    is here, in English.

    This was buried in a Washington Post article which touched on the celebrity cult aspects of Western Journalism.  It begins with discussion of Hitler's domestic makeover, media manipulation and journalism's giddy complicity.  This is compared to a Vogue magazine article about Assad's wedding, home furnishings and domesticity, equally gushy.

    After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad married Asma Akhras, the couple welcomed the Western media into their Damascus home. News outlets, such as ABC News, praised the couple for their unpretentious lifestyle, especially their modest house. The couple insisted on the normality of their domestic lives. Vogue gushed that the Assads household "is run on wildly democratic principles."

    Vogue has since attempted to scrub online traces of its article, but the story -- along with many others -- remains proudly posted on Assad's Web site.

    From what I've been able to ascertain.. (5.00 / 3) (#48)
    by jondee on Thu Oct 01, 2015 at 12:34:02 PM EST
    NOBODY, not even foreign policy geniuses like Henry Kissinger, Tom Friedman, or Obama's crypto-neocon defense and intelligence analysts, is a hundred percent sure who exactly are the good, trustworthy, "moderate" rebel factions in Syria..

    Yet in the middle of an already murderously chaotic situation in Syria that every day threatens to get worse, all the Paul Wolfowitz wannabes still continue to bluster every day and night of the week that the Assad regime "must go".

    What's happens if Assad doesn't go? Will the Saudis and Bibi Netanyahu get mad at us and cut off all foreign aid to the U.S?


    Neocon garbage (none / 0) (#57)
    by Jack203 on Mon Oct 05, 2015 at 10:23:41 PM EST
    I'm going to go ahead and call bullsh%t on these statements:

    "according to some sources, has been responsible for 95% of all 111,000 civilian deaths since 2011."
    "The vast majority of refugees now entering Europe are fleeing Assad's murder machine, not IS "

    Assad was losing ground during the preceding months before Russia stepped forward in September.  They were outnumbered and couldn't match the fanaticism of ISIS.  It really seemed a tipping point was coming, if not already there.   A bloodbath seemed likely coming for Alawites and anyone associated with the regime as everyone ran for their lives.

    But we are told to believe they are running from the loser?  In neocon's world anything is possible as long as it furthers war in the Middle East...especially an ally to their boogeyman of the moment Iran.

    Good for Putin and Russia for stepping up and saving a genocide of the Alawites.  Our current strategy in Syria of training a few people and handing them free money and equipment (which ends up in IS or Al Qaeda's hands anyway) is atrocious.

    If you think a genocide of the Alawites was not likely, here is a reminder to what happened, (happening now) to the Yazidi.


    IS slaughtered the men and captured the Yazidis women for no strategic reason other than terror and fanaticism.

    Nova did a special on Assad a few years back.   He tried reforms.  He was much more reasonable than Saddam and without any doubt NOT a threat to the United States or any of our interests.  Judging by the opposition, I can see why his reforms didn't work.  This is a total war for survival.  Anyone that expects Assad to fight for his people's survival against ISIS using liberal 21st century war tactics, you do not understand history or human nature very well.