April 11, 2017

"Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said on Tuesday that the reign of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria was 'coming to an end' and warned that Russia was at risk of becoming irrelevant..."

"... in the Middle East by continuing to support him. Mr. Tillerson, in comments made just before he traveled to Moscow for a high-stakes summit meeting, sought to clear up the United States’ position on Syria while also declaring that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia needed to choose whether to side with Mr. Assad or the West. Russia can be a part of the discussions 'and play an important role,' Mr. Tillerson said at a Group of 7 meeting in Lucca, Italy, or it 'can maintain its alliance with this group, which we believe is not going to serve Russia’s interests longer term.'"

The NYT reports.

Also in the NYT this morning: "Feud Over Syria Missile Strike May Have an Upside for U.S. and Russia."
“The hope for a privileged relationship demanded big gestures and compromises, special restraint and complaisance of the tango partners,” Aleksandr Baunov wrote in an opinion piece on the analytical website Carnegie.ru, of which he is editor. “Now none of it is necessary, and the partner can fearlessly step on the other’s toes.”...

Aleksandr Shumilin, head of the Center for Research of Middle Eastern Conflicts, said Mr. Putin was interested in weakening Russia’s dependence on Mr. Assad and did not want to feel responsible for all of his actions.

“The problem is that Russia cannot afford to distance itself in public, as Mr. Assad has already become a hero of the Russian television,” Mr. Shumilin said. “Therefore, on the surface the rhetoric will remain the same, but deep inside there will be efforts to establish some kind of a cooperation and mutual understanding.”

69 comments:

Achilles said...

Funny thing is the most important thing here is probably the pipelines.

Russia really is in a tough spot demographically. And shale is going to ruin all of these people. That is shale without the restrictions of a democrat in the white house propping up tube Russians and tin pots in the ME.

John Tuffnell said...

This tends to complicate the Trump-as-Putin-stooge narrative. Need some NYT logical jiu jitsu to leftsplain it.

Nonapod said...

The Russia/Syria thing somewhat parallels the China/North Korea thing. You have these big old legacy communist powers somewhat reluctantly sponsoring these small, nasty and dangerous actors.

mockturtle said...

We've got Putin by the balls but we need to let him save face. Ultimately, we need to work together.

Michael K said...

Putin has done very well with a weak hand but the time is coming to cut his losses.

Inga said...

A spurned lover is always dangerous.

Matthew Sablan said...

Good thing Putin has Trump in his pocket to keep Trump from doing anything harmful to Russia's interests.

John Tuffnell said...

Thanks for the laugh Inga. Is that the new narrative?

Trump was jilted a la Granny Weatherall but unlike Granny is lashing out in response to the shame?

Rick said...

For the last week the dominant narrative has been that this could work fine as long as it isn't a first step to a bigger engagement like regime change. Then we read the administration is again talking regime change.

traditionalguy said...

I smell a deal in the making. That Tillerson has balls. He is a mini Trump.

Bad Lieutenant said...

There is a lot of room between continued Assad Butchery and Isis chaos and Butchery. For instance maybe Assad hands over to another relative or a junta is formed removing the personal pretext for the revolution or plausibly so.

Most retired dictators like to go to someplace like KSA for their retirement but I guess that would be iffy for an Alawite. Perhaps Tahiti. Perhaps that's what Obama is doing out there, masterful statesmanship, setting up an exit for Assad.

Luke Lea said...

W. too said he wasn't into nation building.

Achilles said...

Inga said...
"A spurned lover is always dangerous."

You are getting paid to write this or you are a moby. Nobody is really stupid enough to believe it at this point.

Michael K said...

"Nobody is really stupid enough to believe it at this point."

Having followed Inga for years, I have to disagree.

The Democrats are capable of degrees of stupidity that will exceed all expectations. Although Barbara Boxer has retired and Kamala Harris is still working on it.

Hagar said...

Putin has done very well with a weak hand but the time is coming to cut his losses.

Don't know that I would put it quite that way, but the Russian Federation is not the Soviet Union or even the Russian Empire. It may well be that it falls back to being a middling large country, but no longer a "major power." Perhaps Putin should be thinking of preserving what Russia has got rather than expanding its reach.

Inga said...

None of you have any sense of humor I see. Whatever. Michael, with you it's always a step forward and two steps back. Can you possibly try not to be a troll? As for Achilles, he's a humorless extremist. I have no hope for him whatsoever. I've actually been softening my position on Trump since the missle attack on the airport. Lighten up Trumpists.

J. Farmer said...

I had high hopes for Tillerson and his ability to mediate the US-Russia relationship. Those hopes are quickly being dashed. What happened to that limited, surgical, pinprick strike that was only limited on sending a message about the special dangers of using chemical weapons? Why is the US making proclamations about the continued existence of a government that does not threaten us and has not attacked us? What vital American interests would be served with the Assad regime coming to an end?

And can anyone really ask the simplest, most basic fucking question possible--what comes next? When the Assad regime comes to "an end," what replaces it? Will it be Jaysh al-Islam in Damascus, Douma, and Eastern Ghouta? Will it be the Islamic Front, which itself comprises numerous smaller factions? Will it be the tens of thousands of fighters who make up Ahrar al-Sham? Will it be Tahrir al-Sham (basically Al Qaeda in Syria) who dominate in the Idlib Governorate in western Syria? Perhaps the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army operating in the Daraa and Quneitra Governorates of southwestern Syria? Oh and what about the Syriac Military Council in the Al-Hasakah Governorate of the northeast? And of course we haven't even begun talking about ISIL or the separate Rojava conflict taking place within that autonomous region of Syria.

Hey, Rex, can you spell Q-U-A-G-M-I-R-E?

Sebastian said...

This just shows Putin's wizardry, engineering the election of a Russian stooge who would bomb his friends, denounce him at the UN, tell him to choose sides, while keeping the oil and gas flowing, all as cleverly disguised maneuvers to help him manage his decline more effectively.

Hagar said...

The picture of the "Admiral Kutznesov," Russia's lone aircraft carrier, and so decrepit it goes to sea accompanied by its own breakdown tug, painfully limping from KĂžnigsberg to Aleppo and back again and lucky to make it without breaking down in front of God and everybody, about says it all.

Michael K said...

What happened to that limited, surgical, pinprick strike that was only limited on sending a message about the special dangers of using chemical weapons?

I have hoped all along that the attack was part of a longer term strategic plan. Not to go to war like Obama and Hillary and assorted idiots did but to maneuver through the swamp.

We'll see how it goes. I never thought a single attack as a "message" was a good idea.

That was Lyndon Johnson's plan.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

I have hoped all along that the attack was part of a longer term strategic plan. Not to go to war like Obama and Hillary and assorted idiots did but to maneuver through the swamp.

If that is the case, what the hell is Tillerson doing talking about the regime "coming to an end?" That's the worst of pretty much all possibly bad outcomes.

The Cracker Emcee said...

"I had high hopes for Tillerson and his ability to mediate the US-Russia relationship. Those hopes are quickly being dashed"

Oh, please. We're seeing a hardball negotiation (and what other kind would you have with Putin?) and everyone is acting like we're sending the legions to raze their villages. After 8 years of Obama's groveling, Tillerson has the delicate/indelicate job of reminding our enemies what the balance of power actually is.

Robert Cook said...

This is all part of the deep state's agenda to dominate the world and exert control over all its resources. (Trump has obviously been kneecapped by the deep state and will henceforth faithfully execute its agenda. Either that, or he was always in sync with that agenda all along, his pre-election pronunciamentos notwithstanding.)

The end result of the deep state's agenda will be chaos, mass deaths, and catastrophe for the world.

J. Farmer said...

@Cracker Emcee:

Oh, please. We're seeing a hardball negotiation (and what other kind would you have with Putin?) and everyone is acting like we're sending the legions to raze their villages. After 8 years of Obama's groveling, Tillerson has the delicate/indelicate job of reminding our enemies what the balance of power actually is.

What's being negotiated?

Robert Cook said...

"After 8 years of Obama's groveling...."

"Bloody Barry"...groveling?

Who would satisfy you as a sufficiently bloodthirsty President? SMERSH's Enrst Blofeld?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Assad's reign is coming to an end. Ok. Who's next?

exhelodrvr1 said...

"We've got Putin by the balls but we need to let him save face. Ultimately, we need to work together. "

Which is why Russia was warned of the impending missile strike. Something a lot of the left is too dense to understand.

tcrosse said...

Bring in Moose and Squirrel.

Robert Cook said...

"Which is why Russia was warned of the impending missile strike. Something a lot of the left is too dense to understand."

What does this even mean?

And...what left?

Michael K said...

If that is the case, what the hell is Tillerson doing talking about the regime "coming to an end?" That's the worst of pretty much all possibly bad outcomes.

I dunno but they may be hoping one of the warlord generals steps up and offs Assad.

My hope in Iraq was that Bush would let the Iraqi Army run the country sans Saddam.

Iraq was worth the cost, even if it proves that Arabs cannot govern themselves without tyrants. I think it will turn out alright but we need a bigger Army. Iraq is not a one-time thing. We will see other counter-insurgency campaigns for the rest of the century unless Islam finds the capacity for Reformation.

That was in 2007. An Iraqi general could have done the job. Instead, Bremer dissolved the army and left thousands of unemployed Sunni officers.

Brando said...

So it's safe to say that no matter who becomes president, no matter what they promised, they are determined to meddle in the Middle East, forever, regardless of any U.S. interests there and regardless of our ability to actually fix things the way we intend.

Clinton promised a focus on the domestic economy, and he got us mission creep in Somalia, bombings of Iraq and missile strikes all over the region. Bush promised a more "humble" foreign policy, and 9/11 gave him license for interventionism. Obama, supposedly elected as a reaction to this, found reason to intervene in Libya, engage in proxy war in Yemen, beef up our Afghan presence and try to intervene in Syria.

And now Trump. He had every good political reason to stay out of this one, but the temptation was apparently too strong.

How about "not a mess we want to be in" becoming a new foreign policy?

Inga said...

Looks like Tillerson and Nikki Haley finally are on the same page regarding Assad. Maybe someone told Trump to make up his mind one way or another what his stance was going to be on Syria. This "keep ''em guessing" policy wasn't cutting it, at least with his own cabinet. I'm pretty sure the Alt Right aren't happy with Trump's new found milartaristic style.

Trump seems to be back to tweeting. This time he's tweeting threats to Little Kim and Little Kim isn't having it. Message back is that it'll be our fault if nukes rain down on... someone. I'd be awful nervous if I lived in that region. Way too much saber rattling.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael K:

That was in 2007. An Iraqi general could have done the job. Instead, Bremer dissolved the army and left thousands of unemployed Sunni officers.

I am no fan of Paul Bermer, but I think the effect CPA Order #2 has been overblown. The problems facing Iraq were much more fundamental. There was no real deep Iraqi nation to which a large part of the population felt any allegiance. Instead, their allegiances were much more regional, provincial, tribal, and even familial. Baathist soldiers were already disbanding, and the Army was crumbling as a result of the invasion. I don't know of any candidate who could have held the army together the way that 30 years of despotic minority-rule had.

cubanbob said...

If we help topple Assad who are we going replace him with? I'm cautioned by the removal of Gaddafi. But then again getting rid of Saddam Hussein was a net positive. I hope we don't get too ambitious in foreign affairs when we so desperately need to get our domestic affairs in order.

Matthew Sablan said...

"And...what left?"

-- The one that is to the left. Insisting that they're not left enough for your tastes, and therefore not the left, is just unproductive stubbornness.

Inga said...

The Alt Right most hurt by Trump's reversal on foreign entanglements. Ivanka encouraged Trump to retaliate for the nerve gas attack, which he did, apparently, according to Eric Trump. Bannon must be feeling jilted. Farage is perplexed.

Nigel Farage, the pro-Brexit leader, aligned himself with Trump during last year’s campaign, spoke at his rallies and was among the first to meet with him after his election. On Friday morning, however, he said he was “very surprised” by the Syria action.

"“I think a lot of Trump voters will be waking up this morning and scratching their heads and saying, ‘Where will it all end?'” he said. “As a firm Trump supporter, I say, yes, the pictures were horrible, but I’m surprised,” Farage continued, arguing that in a region riven by Islamic extremism, “whatever Assad’s sins, he is secular.”

Farage’s comments captured the wave of right-wing anger and frustration that followed the US strike — and they pointed up an odd reversal.


Populists who applauded Trump for his disdain for US interventions overseas and his campaign declaration that the US “cannot be the policeman of the world” were aghast by the strike. In contrast, an international community that has often held Trump at arm’s length stepped up to declare their rock-solid support for the new US president."

http://fox2now.com/2017/04/11/alt-right-turns-on-president-trump/

Inga said...

Alt Right truly butt hurt.

https://altright.com/2017/04/10/america-first-becomes-beautiful-babies/

"Our vision for Trump was shattered Thursday as an American destroyer poured cruised missiles into Syria. Only 63 hours after the chemical attack in Syria, Trump ordered military action on a sovereign nation. The doctrine of “America First” and Trump’s entire public facing record on foreign policy flipped. “Beautiful Babies” usurped “Make America Great Again.” Syrian officials claim six civilians including four children were killed in Trump’s “symbolic” strike, according to The Telegraph. Who will mourn for them?

Trump may be unsalvageable. Will his new globalist allies support him come reelection season? The Alt-Right stands ready to fill the void. Trump has skyrocketed our movement. We projected our image onto him and took his image onto us. For better or for worse, the moment for political independence has arrived."

mockturtle said...

Sidestepping all the troll manure makes it harder to read the real comments but it's worth the trouble.

J. Farmer said...

@Inga:

Is Trump Enlisting in the War Party?

Collapse of Trumpism—On War and Immigration?

Pat Buchanan and John Derbyshire talk so much good plain sense on Syria it's no wonder their views are considered verboten among establishment-type polite society.

mockturtle said...

J. Farmer, I always liked Buchanan and contributed to his Presidential campaign. Good, common sense guy.

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

J. Farmer, I always liked Buchanan and contributed to his Presidential campaign. Good, common sense guy.

The 2000 election was the first in which I was eligible to vote, as I turned 18 in April of that year. Buchanan's Reform Party candidacy got my vote.

exiledonmainstreet said...

Blogger mockturtle said...
J. Farmer, I always liked Buchanan and contributed to his Presidential campaign. Good, common sense guy.

4/11/17, 1:24 PM

I part company with Buchanan (and the Pauls and J. Farmer) when it comes to Israel. As leery as I have become of interventionism in the ME, I remain a strong supporter of Israel. And it is worth noting that the Israelis were happy to see Trump win, although their liberal Jewish cousins in the US were not. The Israelis knew Obama was no friend of Israel.

Brando said...

"I part company with Buchanan (and the Pauls and J. Farmer) when it comes to Israel. As leery as I have become of interventionism in the ME, I remain a strong supporter of Israel."

Opposing constant intervention in the Mideast where America has no interest or little chance of even achieving its goals does not mean leaving Israel to rot. Israel is a powerful and capable country, more so now than any time in their history. Getting sucked in to a Syrian civil war or any other nation building projects does nothing for Israel.

As for Israeli support for Trump, keep in mind that during the election he ran on staying out of these messes (while Hillary was, reasonably, viewed as very much an interventionist).

exiledonmainstreet said...

"Opposing constant intervention in the Mideast where America has no interest or little chance of even achieving its goals does not mean leaving Israel to rot. Israel is a powerful and capable country, more so now than any time in their history. Getting sucked in to a Syrian civil war or any other nation building projects does nothing for Israel."

Agreed.

mockturtle said...

Exiles explains: I part company with Buchanan (and the Pauls and J. Farmer) when it comes to Israel. As leery as I have become of interventionism in the ME, I remain a strong supporter of Israel. And it is worth noting that the Israelis were happy to see Trump win, although their liberal Jewish cousins in the US were not. The Israelis knew Obama was no friend of Israel.

Yes, that has also been my point of departure with him.

mockturtle said...

As for Israeli support for Trump, keep in mind that during the election he ran on staying out of these messes (while Hillary was, reasonably, viewed as very much an interventionist).

But, Brando, Hillary also favored a Palestinian state.

J. Farmer said...

@exilitedonmainstreet:

And it is worth noting that the Israelis were happy to see Trump win, although their liberal Jewish cousins in the US were not.

Actually, Israeli public opinion is a bit muddled on this matter. A poll was published the day before the election and found that 41% supported Clinton, 31% supported Trump, 7% supported neither, and 21% had no preference. Nonetheless, the same poll indicated that 37% believed Trump would be better for Israel, compared to 30% who believed Clinton would be better. Without seeing the actual questions asked and the precise methodology, it's hard to guess. However, a few days prior to that survey, the Rafi Smith Institute conducted its own survey of 500 Israelis and found that 49% preferred Clinton, 32% Trump, and 19% not expressing a preference.

The results of these two surveys are discussed here and here.

But you are right about my position. I don't vote based on who I think will be good for Israel, and I don't expect Israelis to vote for MPs based on who they think will be good for America. That's what having separation nations is for.

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle and @exiledonmainstreet:

So you both support the kind of policies Buchanan would have for America, but you depart with him because of his policies over Israel, essentially saying that you'd prefer candidates who were worse for America but better for Israel. Does that not seem a little perverse to you, as Americans? Isn't the point of being a nation that you put the needs of your nation ahead of the needs of other nations?

mockturtle said...

J. Farmer, while it may seem paradoxical, the interests of the US and Israel are so entwined there can be no dissection.

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

J. Farmer, while it may seem paradoxical, the interests of the US and Israel are so entwined there can be no dissection.

If Israel disappeared tomorrow, how would America's strategic position be significantly altered?

To take just one example, the settlements in Israel are a very big political issue. They mean nothing to most Americans. Not very difficult to dissect at all.

J. Farmer said...
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J. Farmer said...

There is no country in the world where America has such "entwined" interests. And it's certainly not a country that contains 0.1% of the world's population.

America's relationships with Canada and Mexico are much more strategically significant than our relationship with Israel, yet no one with a straight face would declare that there should be "no daylight" between the interests of those countries and ours.

mockturtle said...

J. Farmer, there are more ways to be entwined than just strategically.

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

J. Farmer, there are more ways to be entwined than just strategically.

Agreed. For example, we are entwined with the British over a shared language, culture, and history. Our Constitution was born from the English common law. But you said "the interests of the US and Israel are so entwined." To which interests were you referring?

mockturtle said...

Ideological and spiritual.

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

Ideological and spiritual.

Well, I'll have to take a pass on "spiritual," since I don't believe anything of a supernatural nature ever occurred there. As for "ideological," how are we closer to Israel than the UK? Our economic and legal systems essentially originated from the UK. Israel is a modern nation that has only existed for 70 years.

exiledonmainstreet said...

mockturtle said...
Ideological and spiritual.

4/11/17, 4:21 PM

I know J. Farmer is an atheist and so has no use for the Judeo-Christian line of reasoning. (Although it should be factored into account on a historical basis even if you are a non-believer. Christianity has, after all, has shaped the Western world for 2000 years and Christianity is the daughter of Judaism - even if Christians have often, during that time, been quite nasty to their mom.)

A more secular argument is that Israel is an advanced Western country in the middle of a terrible, barbaric neighborhood. Unlike most Western countries, it is fighting to survive - because it has never had any other option. It has managed, in the face of unrelenting hostility from its' backward neighbors, to create an impressive, democratic society. We share a bond with the country just as surely as we share bonds with the UK.

J. Farmer said...

@exiledonmainstreet:

We share a bond with the country just as surely as we share bonds with the UK.

Oh, I don't think the bond we share with Israel is anywhere near as deep as the bond with the UK, which goes back hundreds of years and is present in our language, our political, legal, and economic systems, and our culture. And yet, I would never claim that the US-British relationship was "so entwined there can be no dissection." We're separate nations with separate interests. I certainly would never support putting British interests ahead of American ones.

mockturtle said...

J. Farmer: Then you disapproved of our intervention in WWII?

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

J. Farmer: Then you disapproved of our intervention in WWII?

That's a big subject and a very complicated question. I will say from the outset, though, that we did not get involved in World War II because of "entwined" interests between the British and the Americans. The British were fighting a war with Germany for over three years before we got involved. What drew America into the war was the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. When we declared war against Japan, we were still officially neutral in the Second World War, and it was Hitler who declared war on the USA.

Also, I would point out that at the present time the NATO treaty obligates us to treat an attack on the UK as an attack on ourselves and to come to their defense in the case of such an attack. We have no similar international legal commitment to Israel.

mockturtle said...
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mockturtle said...

We were involved in the ETO long before Pearl Harbor brought us formally into declaration and we were supplying munitions, aircraft and ships to the British long before that.

J. Farmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

We were involved in the ETO long before Pearl Harbor brought us formally into declaration and we were supplying munitions, aircraft and ships to the British long before that.

Yes, but I assumed by "our intervention in WWII," you were referring to our actually entering the war, not selling supplies to one side of the war. The US was also suffering losses in the North Atlantic thanks to German torpedoes.

I am not opposed to selling supplies to Israel; I am opposed to letting Israel buy those supplies with US taxpayer money.

Also, I am curious, would you describe the US and the UK has having interests that are "so entwined there can be no dissection?" Why or why not?

Rusty said...

The United States declares war on Japan and then invades Algeria.


J. Farmer said...

@Rusty:

The United States declares war on Japan and then invades Algeria.

The invasion of Algeria occurred almost a year after Pearl Harbor, and Algeria was a French colony in 1942. And you left out the German declaration of war against the United States and the subsequent American counter-declaration. What's your point?

mockturtle said...

Also, I am curious, would you describe the US and the UK has having interests that are "so entwined there can be no dissection?" Why or why not?

I shall be forced to recuse myself from this decision, being an unabashed Anglophile and having been married 40 years to a Brit. ;-)

J. Farmer said...

@mockturtle:

I shall be forced to recuse myself from this decision, being an unabashed Anglophile and having been married 40 years to a Brit. ;-)

Fair enough. And congratulations on the long-lasting nuptials.

mockturtle said...

Thank you. He passed away in 2013 and I miss him.