Reuters: Congress demands answers on how intel agencies missed Russian offensive in Syria

The Syrians’ “massive offensive” with the backing of a large Russian military force in the sea and on the air apparently came as a shock to American intelligence. Now Congress wants to find out how the Russian mobilization in a critical region got missed, Reuters reports:

Senior U.S. lawmakers have begun probing possible intelligence lapses over Moscow’s intervention in Syria, concerned that American spy agencies were slow to grasp the scope and intention of Russia’s dramatic military offensive there, U.S. congressional sources and other officials told Reuters.

A week after Russia plunged directly into Syria’s civil war by launching a campaign of air strikes, the intelligence committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives want to examine the extent to which the spy community overlooked or misjudged critical warning signs, the sources said.

Findings of major blind spots would mark the latest of several U.S. intelligence misses in recent years, including Moscow’s surprise takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region last year and China’s rapid expansion of island-building activities in the South China Sea.

Though spy agencies have sought to ramp up intelligence gathering on Russia since the crisis over Ukraine, they continue to struggle with inadequate resources because of the emphasis on counter-terrorism in the Middle East and the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, according to current and former U.S. officials.

“They saw some of this going on,” said one of Reuters’ unnamed sources, “but didn’t appreciate the magnitude.” Another source points out that even had the Obama administration known of the extent of Russia’s intervention a few days ahead of its launch, the White House couldn’t have done much about it anyway. It’s probably more accurate to note that Obama wouldn’t do much in either case — just as the administration has done little all along, except to spend $500 million to train 54 fighters as a counter to Bashar al-Assad.

Congress won’t get much more of an answer, either. Even though some members have called for greater US intervention in Syria — John McCain being the most vocal — there hasn’t been much unanimity on intervention overall, let alone what form it should take. Russia is fulfilling the policies advanced by the hawks, only instead of going after ISIS in the east, they’re applying them to the US-endorsed “moderate” groups in western Syria.

That’s a subtle thumb in the eye to Obama. CNN reports on a more blatant humiliation, one conducted by the Russians when the US met with them to discuss air safety over Syria:

The Russians videotaped a meeting on military coordination and put it up on YouTube. So much for being respected on the global stage, eh? Meanwhile, we’re backing off from our own missions because we’re not sure the Russians won’t make a “mistake.” The humiliations are certainly having the intended effect, no?