Putin's goal in Syria: Disrupting NATO and key U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia

The second strategic benefit to the Kremlin of an ME stalemate is existential pressure on Saudi Arabia. Bruce Reidel, former CIA point man for Saudi Arabia wrote in Brookings that the Kingdom is now on a political knife-edge. “What the future has in store for the kingdom is of great concern to Washington. Within months of becoming king, Salman plunged into what appears to be a quagmire war in Yemen, snubbed President Obama, and endorsed hardline clerics who are opposed to reforms that Obama argues are necessary if Saudi Arabia is to remain a stable partner for the United States.”

The Saudis are now at a crossroads, divided between those who realize ISIS and al-Qaeda are now an existential threat to the monarchy itself, and those who still see cooperation with the jihadis as the only hope for survival. What makes things even more interesting is the division at the top.  The current Saudi King was once the prince in charge of funding the Jihad, and his son the crown prince Nayef, was buddies with Osama bin Laden…

Clearly if Putin gets his way, the coming winter will create a migrant crisis that will shake Europe to its core. Saudi Arabia, bogged down in Yemen, will face a nation of Jihadis based in Syria. From this point of view Obama’s breezy dismissal of Putin’s intervention is hardly justified.  It is almost comically obtuse.

If Putin’s offense in Syria succeeds enough to breath the life into Assad’s regime, Syria’s agony will be extended for years. Far from being something Obama can watch from afar, it has the potential to break open NATO’s southern flank like a can-opener and deliver up the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia, into the hands of  America’s mortal enemies.