Russian warplanes have been conducting strike in Syria. As have U.S. fighter-bombers. And, lest we forget, France has been doing a little bombing there as well. As Reuters reports:
France launched a new air strike overnight in Syria against an Islamic State training camp and further strikes will follow, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday. "France hit Daesh (Islamic State) in Syria last night in Raqqa... It is not the first time, nor will it be the last time," Le Drian said on Europe 1 radio.
The U.S. seems less committed than France, however. This morning, we learn from Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt at the New York Times that:
The Obama administration has ended the Pentagon’s $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels, administration officials said on Friday, in an acknowledgment that the beleaguered program had failed to produce any kind of ground combat forces capable of taking on the Islamic State in Syria
And, as Josh Rogin and Eli Lake write at Bloomberg:
A week into Russia's military intervention in Syria, some top White House advisers and National Security Council staffers are trying to persuade President Barack Obama to scale back U.S. engagement there, to focus on lessening the violence and, for now, to give up on toppling the Syrian regime.
There was a time when getting rid of Assad was the United States’ objective in Syria. A time when we warned him about “red lines” and how he was on the wrong side of the magisterial force known as “History.” But, then, who needs History when you have Russia on your side. To paraphrase Stalin, “How many divisions – or fighter bombers – does History have?"
Obama's foreign-policy team no longer doubts that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to prop up President Bashar al-Assad and primarily target opposition groups other than the Islamic State, including those trained by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Last week an Obama administration official bragged that the White House’s Syria policy is working out just as planned. Special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney said that the “Russians wouldn’t have to help [Bashar al-]Assad if we didn’t weaken him.”
President Barack Obama talked about Hillary Clinton's recent disagreements with his Syria policy by saying "there's a difference between running for president and being president."
"Hillary Clinton is not half-baked in terms of her approach to these problems--she was obviously my secretary of state," said Obama. "But I also think that there's a difference between running for president and being president."
By any objective measure, Russia has made a strategic decision to challenge America for dominance in the Middle East. Despite depressed global oil prices and economic sanctions intended to curb his Ukraine adventurism, Vladimir Putin is pursuing an undisguised effort to expand Moscow’s military power, political heft, and economic influence in a region long under Washington’s sway. Barack Obama has made no effective response, and none seems in prospect. The recent Obama-Putin meeting at the United Nations did not change that underlying reality.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest compared Vladimir Putin's bombing in Syria to George W. Bush's "military solution in Iraq in the last decade." Earnest made the comparison at the daily White House press briefing.
Unlike American presidential doctrines, Russian doctrines tend to go unnoticed by the western media or are often dismissed as propaganda. This is curious, as the Russians, and before this the Soviets, are not known for hyperbole in geopolitics as they are in the ideological arena. For example, the Brezhnev Doctrine, which condemned Eastern Europe to Soviet domination was brutally enforced by the Soviet military and KGB.
The latest official report of a drone in the possession of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is tucked in an August 3rd press release from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the overseers of the air campaign in Syria and Iraq against the terrorist organization.
Even now with the Russians on the verge of combat operations in Syria, the White House still says it believes that they’re there to fight ISIS. John Kerry says that his Russian counterpart told him that the Russians are “only interested in fighting” the Islamic State. Other administration officials hold out hope for a grand U.S.-Russia coalition against ISIS. But that’s nonsense: Vladimir Putin landed troops in order to protect his investment in Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad.
Until mid-September, the half-million migrants who had been marching northwards into central Europe seemed like the Old World equivalent of Hurricane Sandy survivors. Families uprooted by the war in Syria were seeking safety, according to this view of things. It was sad to see little girls sleeping by the side of the road, but inspiring to see European volunteers, with their clipboards and their bags of snacks, their water bottles and Port-a-Potties, showing such compassion and logistical expertise.
While their fireworks have earned Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump the most attention after Wednesday night’s Republican debate in California, the winner for the most detailed and substantive performance may go to Marco Rubio.