Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What Does Assad Ask For and What Does Putin Provide?

Russia's air strikes are energetic but not decisive. So what are Putin and Assad talking about?

Syria's Assad has gone to Russia to meet Putin:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew to Moscow on Tuesday evening to personally thank Russia's Vladimir Putin for his military support, in a surprise visit that underlined how Russia has become a major player in the Middle East.

Which is a bold move considering how many people seem to think Assad should take an extended holiday abroad to end the war.

This article says that the air strikes really aren't working:

So far, the United States doesn't believe the regime has recovered significant ground in key areas since the Russian bombing began.

"Airpower alone is unlikely to turn the battlefield in Assad's favor. His army is depleted and demoralized," the official said.

"While some tactical swings along the front lines may favor the regime in the near-term, pro-regime forces face significant challenges in loosening the opposition's grip on territory it has held for months, and in some cases years," the official said, pointing to the many provincial capitals occupied by Assad's army that remain under threat.

So Assad and Putin have something to talk about.

Interesting enough, the article actually starts with how our policy is actually parallel to Russia's. We want to make sure Assad doesn't collapse in order to pave the way for a magical clean hand off to the opposition; while Russia wants to make sure Assad doesn't collapse--period--so he'll survive in a smaller Core Syria.

How will we resolve this problem other than be fully adopting Russia's objective? Will we get the worst of both worlds by doing too little to overthrow Assad up to now and then side with Assad just as he is doomed?

Could we actually be that bad at this rather than accepting that this war will go on regardless of our desire to finesse the departure of Assad as if this all centers on the fate of one man?

Easing Assad out is no light at the end of the tunnel with so many trains on the tracks.

In the current big push, Assad's forces with foreign shock troops are making progress toward Aleppo and besieged defenders holding the base at Kweiras:

Government forces advanced Monday under the cover of Russian airstrikes toward an air base besieged by the Islamic State group in northern Syria, a Syrian military official and activists said, while a rebel military commander was killed in another battle in a nearby area.

Given that I've long felt that Aleppo was a bridge too far for Assad's forces, I'll guess this is a rescue and evacuate mission.

But Assad has not shown he is willing to give up this important (although wrecked) city.

So I guess there is something else to talk about in Moscow.

But a little advice to Assad: don't route your plane flight home over the Donbas region in case Russia decides that a terrible accident with a Buk anti-aircraft missile would be just the thing needed to move the peace process forward.