Remember how John Kerry thought Russia’s intervention in Syria might turn out pretty well for the fight against ISIS? Kerry told the UN that the US would “welcome those efforts” as long as Russia focused on areas where “ISIL and al-Qaeda are not operating,” but proposed “deconfliction talks as soon as possible.”
Not only did Russia strike where ISIS and AQ aren’t operating, their attacks in support of Bashar al-Assad has had a very unpleasant consequence. ISIS has swarmed into the Aleppo province, thanks to the vacuum created by Russian and Syrian attacks in western Syria. Surprise!
Islamic State militants advanced against rival insurgents in wide swathes of Aleppo province Friday, activists and local media said, even as Russia ramped up its campaign to recapture rebel-held territory for the Syrian government.
In a surprise advance — marking some of the Islamic State’s biggest gains in recent homes — jihadists routed Syrian rebels from at least five villages and threatened the outskirts of Aleppo city, Syria’s second-largest city, activists said. …
Also Thursday, Russian warplanes continued to back Syrian troops and allied militias in a campaign to reclaim territory in western Syria from various rebel factions opposing Moscow’s ally, Assad. The targeted groups include various Western-backed fighters.
Russia has some people on the run, but it’s not ISIS. It looks more like NATO who’s rudderless and impotent at the moment:
Outside Syria, NATO leaders on Thursday condemned Russia’s military intervention there, vowing to sharpen their eastern defenses from the Baltics to Turkey, but they stopped short of taking concrete action to parry Moscow’s moves in the Middle East.
At a meeting of NATO defense ministers at its headquarters in Brussels, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg decried a “troubling escalation” by Russian forces in Syria and the use of “some of their most modern weapons” near NATO’s borders. At the same time, though, alliance leaders appeared to have scant appetite for a confrontation with their long-time adversary and limited their response to minor or symbolic military countermeasures.
That must impress our allies in Syria, no? Stick with us, and we’ll respond with minor or symbolic countermeasures when the Russians attack you to prop up Iranian hegemony in the region. That’s a great example of the kind of leadership that will soon have the West pushed entirely out of the Middle East.
Speaking of leadership, Barack Obama and Steve Kroft get into a dispute on that point in an interview set to air Sunday on 60 Minutes. Obama insists that all of this military action from Russia is a sign of weakness, which Kroft can hardly believe he’s hearing:
Steve Kroft: A year ago when we did this interview, there was some saber-rattling between the United States and Russia on the Ukrainian border. Now it’s also going on in Syria. You said a year ago that the United States– America leads. We’re the indispensable nation. Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.
President Barack Obama: In what way? Let– let’s think about this– let– let–
Steve Kroft: Well, he’s moved troops into Syria, for one. He’s got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II.
President Barack Obama: So that’s– so that’s —
Steve Kroft: bombing the people– that we are supporting.
President Barack Obama: So that’s leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office– Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin.
Steve Kroft: Right, right, right.
President Barack Obama: Syria was Russia’s only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they’ve had for a long time. Mr. Putin now is devoting- his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. And in Ukraine–
Steve Kroft: He’s challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He’s challenging your leadership-
President Barack Obama: Well– Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in, in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership.
Well, that much is obvious, and has been for nearly seven years.