Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Syria, Russia and the refugee crisis

The Guardian has a report on an occasion in 2012 when NATO leaders including President Obama took a pass on cooperating with Russia to achieve a compromise settlement in Syria that could have led to an exit of Bashar al-Assad from office: Julian Borger and Bastien Inzaurralde, West 'ignored Russian offer in 2012 to have Syria's Assad step aside' 09/15/2015.

The Real News interviewed Phyllis Bennis about the report in The Guardian Reveals the West Ignored Russian Offer to Depose Assad in 2012 09/15/2015:

Graham Fuller takes a look at the Russian role on Syria in The Russians Are Coming! LobeLog Foreign Policy 09/15/2015:

There are two major countries in the world at this point capable of exerting serious influence over Damascus — Russia and Iran. Not surprisingly, they possess that influence precisely because they both enjoy long-time good ties with Damascus; Asad obviously is far more likely to listen to tested allies than heed the plans of enemies dedicated to his overthrow.

The overthrow of Asad seemed a simple task in 2011 as the Arab Spring sparked early uprisings against him. The US readily supported that goal, as did Turkey along with Saudi Arabia and others. As the Asad regime began to demonstrate serious signs of resilience, however, the US and Turkey stepped up support to nominally moderate and secular armed opposition against Damascus, thereby extending the brutal civil war.

That calculus began to change when radical jihadi groups linked either to al-Qaeda or to ISIS (the “Islamic State”) began to overshadow moderate opposition forces. As ruthless as Asad had been in crushing domestic opposition, it became clear that any likely successor government would almost surely be dominated by such radical jihadi forces—who simply fight more effectively than the West’s preferred moderate and secular groups who never got their act together. [my emphasis]
Bennis looks at the refugee crisis produced by military conflicts in Syria and Iraq in What America Owes the Refugees Pouring Into Europe Institute for Policy Studies 09/14/2015:

... the refugee crisis growing out of the multi-faceted Syrian war and others is now a full-blown global emergency. It’s not only an emergency because it’s now reaching Europe. It’s an emergency several years in the making as conditions have deteriorated throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to Syria, refugees are also pouring into Europe — or dying as they try — from Libya, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Bangladesh, and beyond.

But it’s the war in Syria — now involving a host of regional, sectarian, and global actors all fighting their own wars to the last Syrian — that lies at the bloody center of the current crisis. And here the United States bears no small responsibility.

The Syrian war — and particularly the rise of ISIS — has everything to do with U.S. actions dating back to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, which gave rise to ISIS in the first place. Even now the U.S. airstrikes in Syria and neighboring Iraq are escalating the war in both places.
Aljazeera America and Reuters report (Putin defends Russian military equipment in Syria as necessary 09/15/2015):

Russia has backed Assad since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, not only through military support but also through diplomatic cover at the United Nations Security Council, where Moscow wields a veto as a permanent member.

But Moscow’s on-the-ground role in Syria has increased significantly in the past weeks, with reports last Wednesday suggesting that, for the first time, Russian combat forces had joined the fight alongside Assad’s forces.

The rise of ISIL over the last year has worried both Russia and the United States, but Washington’s international coalition to strike ISIL has come in spite of Assad, whose removal remains a U.S. foreign policy objective and a point of contention with Moscow.

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