Author Topic: Syria!  (Read 1408 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Syria!
« on: April 11, 2018, 05:15:42 AM »
So, what's your thoughts on current events in Syria? Personally I find it very worrying. As someone on the BBC News just said it is not necessarily helpful for the USA and Russia to communicate with each other in the style of East London gangs (a separate subject in itself) with aggressive tweets etc. We've had no discussion on recent events in Salisbury either on GMG Forum - maybe for good reasons. I know that this is controversial but wished to communicate my concerns. Maybe this overlaps with the Donald Trump thread and, if so, my apologies.
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Offline drogulus

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2018, 08:08:41 AM »

     
So, what's your thoughts on current events in Syria? Personally I find it very worrying. As someone on the BBC News just said it is not necessarily helpful for the USA and Russia to communicate with each other in the style of East London gangs (a separate subject in itself) with aggressive tweets etc. We've had no discussion on recent events in Salisbury either on GMG Forum - maybe for good reasons. I know that this is controversial but wished to communicate my concerns. Maybe this overlaps with the Donald Trump thread and, if so, my apologies.

     How would US/Russia cooperation serve a Syria purpose? What purpose would it be trying to serve? I would ask in turn what the British people think about this. I would expect they would not want to get more involved than they are now, but does that mean the British look with favor on what TrumPutin has delivered so far in terms of Brexit? Or is the connection not made?
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Offline Zeus

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2018, 08:49:24 AM »
Here's a decent resource to keep track of developments in Syria:

https://syria.liveuamap.com

In fact, it's a real treasure trove of certain types of information.

The ability to turn back the clock to see, for example, the borders between factions on any given date over the last few years is fascinating (see "Time" in the top right).  Sadly, no way to animate changing borders, AFAIK.

« Last Edit: April 11, 2018, 08:54:41 AM by The Fish Knows... »
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Offline LKB

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2018, 08:59:02 AM »
I normally refrain from posting on anything controversial at GMG, particularly as regards non-musical topics. This is because a) on an average of three hours' sleep a day it is difficult to consistently form cogent arguments, opinions and observations, and b) l find myself insufficiently motivated, for the most part, to contribute to non-musical threads except those created to amuse or entertain.

The Syrian scenario is sufficiently interesting to me that it emerges as the exception to this rule, as it were, because of the presence of the two major personalities involved.

I'll have more to say later, once three hours of sleep have worked their magic on what's left of my cerebral cortex...

 :D,

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2018, 02:15:08 PM »
     
     How would US/Russia cooperation serve a Syria purpose? What purpose would it be trying to serve? I would ask in turn what the British people think about this. I would expect they would not want to get more involved than they are now, but does that mean the British look with favor on what TrumPutin has delivered so far in terms of Brexit? Or is the connection not made?
I just wrote a longish response which disappeared into cyberspace. Too tired to write much again but suspect that most people here (UK) would support military action against Assad but are fearful of the conflict escalating and some wanting military action to take place only after a vote in Parliament.

Thanks for all the responses which I read with much interest.
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Re: Syria!
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2018, 02:23:23 PM »
I just wrote a longish response which disappeared into cyberspace. Too tired to write much again but suspect that most people here (UK) would support military action against Assad but are fearful of the conflict escalating and some wanting military action to take place only after a vote in Parliament.

Thanks for all the responses which I read with much interest.

The problem is that Russia seems to be all-in supporting Assad. It becomes a proxy war. And how can we imagine Trump negotiating a settlement of some kind, as happened in Bosnia. He has the attention span of a goldfish. Do the European powers have the stomach for it? They have the motivation, since Europe is absorbing the refugees.

At this point, there has been so much killing, reconciliation seems unthinkable. Hostilities will only stop when one side or the other has been completely defeated, either driven from the country, subjugated, or exterminated. Nothing good.

Offline Zeus

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2018, 03:50:18 PM »
Here's a few observations derived from glancing at the above-mentioned site almost daily for the past year or two.  In no particular order, and with no particular claim to insightfulness or relevance:

1) All (foreign) sides have justified in part their activity in Syria as a fight against ISIS.  At this point ISIS is almost completely wiped out, and has been so for several months. But other sides seem to be reluctant to finish them off completely for fear of losing their political cover story.

2) The US has set up a very curious semi-circular do-not-enter zone centered on the point where Jordan and Iraq and Syria meet.  If the Syrians enter, they get shot.  The strategic purpose seems to be cutting off the most direct highway link from Iran to Syria.  So far this zone seems to be rarely challenged.

3) The US has also helped the Kurds to take control of (most) land east of the Euphrates, as well as a few chunks of land west of the Euphrates.  The Syrians/Russians have a sliver of land east of the Euphrates near Dar-el-Zour and recently a group of mercenaries tried to launch an assault from there into nearby oil fields, but were wiped out by American air power at night.  Apparently around 200 Russians died, though not regular army.  They had no air defenses.

4) The Kurds have de facto (though contested) control over significant chunks of both Syria and Iraq, adjacent to majority-Kurd areas in Iran and Turkey.  Arguably, the Kurds should have their own state.  However, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq are all actively opposed to the Kurds.  Erdogon in Turkey seems to be particularly strong in his hatred of the Kurds.

5) There is no doubt that the Syrian government, with extensive Russian and Iranian backing, have made steady and significant progress, and have taken control of most of the country west of the Euphrates.  The Syrian opposition (ex Kurds) does not seem particularly well organized or supported, and seems to be fighting a losing battle.

6) The Russians have pursued a very straightforward and sustainable strategy in Syria: befriend and support Assad, deepen cooperation with Iran, and pry Turkey out of the West's orbit.  Recently it's all working out for them quite well.  Setting up the missile defense systems in their area of control seems a real headache to the West, as Israel recently found out when one of its planes was shot down.

7) The real test of Russian strategy will be how well they are able to pry Turkey away from the West. So far they have been very successful at pitting Turkey against the US by encouraging Erdogon's confrontation with the Kurds, a group obviously supported by the US.  The litmus test seems to be Manbij. I think if Turkey attacks Manbij against US wishes, then Turkey will be burning some serious bridges with NATO, etc.  Of course Erdogon doesn't need too much help burning bridges with US and the EU, but Putin has been very skillfully exploiting existing fissures.

8} On balance, I suspect Erdogon will try to maintain at least some independence from both the US and Russia, then play the two off each other to extract favors from both sides.  There are plenty of precedents for such a strategy. We'll see if Erdogon will be able to pursue this strategy though.

I can't tell what Turkey hopes to accomplish in northwest Turkey, except to punish the Kurds and maybe to grab a piece of any eventual partition of Syria. 

9) The US (and France and UK) seem to have a very tenuous position.  They cling to the claim that they are fighting ISIS when in fact they are pushing (not very effectively) for peace talks and regime change. In addition, their major ally in the region (the Kurds) is very unpopular with Turkey.  If Turkey turns against the Kurds in force, the US may have to pull out of Syria in a hurry.  Trump of course will find a way to claim victory, but facts on the grounds will suggest a stinging defeat.

10) For a while it looked like Israel might be trying to set up a kind of buffer area near their border by entering into a covert cooperation agreement with some group or another to help them control the area.  Instead the Syrians/Iranians attacked the area with some success.  More recently, Israel seems too busy exchanging blows with the Iranians to worry much about a buffer area.

----------

Concerning a Western response to the latest chemical weapons incident, some response seems likely.  It should be noted, however, that another missile strike really plays into Russia's strategy of cementing its role as Syria's defender.  It should also be noted that with each passing month it's getting harder for the West to seriously change the situation in Syria or even inflict major damage on the Syrian regime.  The first missile strike several months ago no doubt served as a wake-up call, and has given the Syrians and Russians plenty of time to reduce their exposure and boost their defenses.  Even a meaningful counter-attack is not out of the question.

Bottom line: at the moment the US (and UK and France) seem to have a weak hand which is only getting weaker with each passing month.  I don't really see a proactive strategy in Syria.  Instead, they are forced to react to and oppose the plans of Assad, Iran, and above all the Russians.  At the moment, the West seems to be getting outplayed, albeit at a game with relatively small stakes.

On a more positive side, Mattis at least is no idiot.  Also, I don't think it would be too difficult for the US to get Turkey to accept continued Kurdish control of northeastern Syria, and leave things at that.

We'll see what happens.

« Last Edit: April 11, 2018, 08:19:35 PM by The Fish Knows... »
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Offline BasilValentine

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2018, 04:58:48 PM »
I don't have anything to contribute. Just wanted to thank you, Judge Fish, for compiling and sharing those observations.

Offline amw

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2018, 06:21:03 PM »
I don't think it would be too difficult for the US to get Turkey to accept continued Kurdish control of northeastern Syria, and leave things at that.
That would be extremely difficult. Turkey's attitude towards the Kurds is straightforwardly genocidal, and the primary Kurdish group that has formed in opposition to Turkish ethnic cleansing (the PKK, of which the Syria's PYD is a branch) is not particularly concerned with e.g. civilian lives or human rights either, though IMO much preferable to the Erdoğan regime. At the moment it's only the US military presence in Manbij that is accidentally preventing the Turkish army and its allies from overrunning all of northeastern Syria and displacing or killing its ~2.5 million inhabitants.
 
The main point of ideological difference that led the PYD to separate from the PKK is that the PYD does not seek an independent Kurdish state but rather wants Rojava ("West Kurdistan") to be an autonomous region within an undivided Syria. It's also somewhat less dominated by the kind of Stalinist cult of personality of the PKK (around Abdullah Öcalan, who has been in solitary confinement in a Turkish prison for 20+ years). The main reason the US supported the PYD is because they were the only force fighting against Daesh/ISIS in northeast Syria that was not aligned with Iran. The peshmerga (Iraqi Kurdish fighters) more or less abandoned the adjoining Sinjar region of Iraq when ISIS arrived; Turkey tacitly supported and continues to tacitly support ISIS; the Free Syrian Army is made up of Salafi jihadist groups, some linked to Al-Qaeda, that have at times openly supported or fought alongside ISIS; Israel tacitly supports the ISIS presence along its borders. The Syrian Army, which fought against ISIS, is supported by Iran; almost all Iraqi government-aligned groups are supported by Iran; the Iraqi Army, which seized Mosul from ISIS, has been supported by the US but is not hostile to Iran (sources estimate as many as 40,000 civilian casualties in Mosul during the battle to retake it). Only the PYD has been hostile to both ISIS and Iran, so it got the US air support, although not much else.

The US is not in Syria to fight ISIS. Strategically speaking, in the region, the US and ISIS are actually on the same "side", i.e. the anti-Iran, anti-Shi'a side. The US is in Syria to reduce Iran's influence and weaken the Assad government significantly enough that it will become susceptible to US influence, to facilitate the US's eventual invasion of Iran, which has been telegraphed in US media/politics for about 40 years. The US wants to invade Iran because it is one of the world's largest countries that is still not under US hegemony and cannot be ordered around by the US. (Russia, China and North Korea are the others, but they all have nuclear weapons; Iran doesn't, yet.)

Russia is not in Syria to fight ISIS, although this incidentally aligns with its objectives. Russia is in Syria in order to gain access to the Mediterranean Sea through establishing Syria as a strategic partner.

Iran is not in Syria to fight ISIS, although this also incidentally aligns with its objectives. Iran is in Syria because it's aware that if the Assad government falls, Iran will become more geographically isolated and the US will gain a position of influence to facilitate the US invasion of Iran that has been telegraphed in US media/politics for about 40 years. Obviously, Iran doesn't want to be invaded by the US.

Turkey is not in Syria to fight ISIS. Turkey has tacitly or openly supported ISIS for some time (ISIS's founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is probably in Turkey at this point). Turkey is in Syria to kill Kurds and seize Syrian territory for itself.

ISIS is in Syria in order to kill everyone who isn't a Salafi Sunni Muslim and establish a territorial/financial base.

The PYD has the primary objective of, as mentioned above, establishing an autonomous region in northeastern Syria.

The Free Syrian Army & its aligned rebel groups have the primary objective of replacing the secular Assad government with a theocratic/Islamist government.

The Assad government has the primary objective of regaining control over all of Syria.

The chemical weapons attacks are carried out by either the Assad government government itself, or Free Syrian Army affiliates. Neither group has shown much care for civilian lives: during recent events in Douma, Jaish al-Islam (a FSA-aligned rebel group) shelled Damascus city centre and fired on civilians trying to evacuate into government-held territory, whereas the Syrian Army bombed civilian areas such as apartment buildings. Rebel groups are possibly more likely to use chemical weapons because they're in the weaker position at the moment, but even if the Assad government didn't use chemical weapons there is still a tendency for evacuated civilians to vanish into government prisons on suspicion of being rebels, without due process, so it's not like it's much better to civilians. Chemical weapons held by rebel groups are probably supplied by Turkey or Saudi Arabia; chemical weapons held by Assad are probably from Iran.

What the future likely holds: the PYD will likely grant some concessions to the Assad government and ally with them to prevent further Turkish encroachment, if the Assad government is willing to do so. (It has become increasingly vocal about demanding Turkey return territory it has seized, which at the moment is Afrîn, Jarablus and areas of Idlib.) The US will continue to intermittently bomb Assad government forces. ISIS will regain strength now that the PYD is focused on fighting Turkey. Russia will probably commit more forces, and the Assad government will eventually launch major offensives to retake Idlib, Dara'a, and Deir es-Zor. The Assad offensive in Dara'a will probably run into Israeli & Jordanian resistance, further complicating the map. It's unlikely the US will actually start committing troops on the ground in Syria, but it will probably increase cash flow to anti-Assad groups. If the US does start committing ground troops, it will turn into a significant disaster probably leading to the fall of the Syrian government and the restrengthening of ISIS (or a similar or even worse group). If events continue on their current path, Russia will eventually broker peace, with the US making some token demands in order to claim victory, and there will be a natural gas pipeline running from Latakia to the Caucasus. The Assad government will be more repressive and probably become increasingly isolated until the US decides to invade Syria in 2030-ish in order to "bring democracy" and seize control of its natural gas resources. By 2050, most of Syria will be uninhabitable due to climate change causing massive droughts and heat waves too intense for human beings to withstand, and the natural gas will be mostly exhausted, so most likely the war will be over by then.

These observations are my own personal views formed from following a number of journalists covering Syria or living in the region, as well as developing a large amount of cynicism.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2018, 06:25:28 PM by amw »

Offline zamyrabyrd

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2018, 10:07:11 PM »
I don't have anything to contribute. Just wanted to thank you, Judge Fish, for compiling and sharing those observations.

Ditto. Getting involved in what at base is a religious dispute, is not smart. The best strategy would be for the US to keep out. The chemical attack may have been a false flag.

https://www.channel4.com/news/sunni-shia-islam-muslim-syria-middle-east-key-questions

Syria is a majority Sunni country, but has been governed under Assad by a Shia minority... (this is) the opposite of the situation in Iraq before the Iraq war – where the minority Sunnis led by Saddam Hussein governed the majority Shia community.
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Turner

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2018, 11:12:13 PM »
Have only limited knowledge, but by far the most constructive attempts at solution I think I´ve heard were launched maybe two years ago -
the split of Syria in
 
A) a Kurdish-,
B) a Sunni-, and
C) an Alawite/Shia/Assad-state,

each group allowed either complete independence, or maybe a de facto one, in some sort of kanton-system.

I think this was the expected outcome, until Russia began supporting Assad so intensely, and interference of the West waned.
Seems like the most sane concept, but it will make compromises necessary from all parties.

There are indeed many horrendous, less published events going on in the Middle East - the Saudi Yemen bombings and resulting famine, the Israeli suppression and massacres of Palestinians ... but the Syrian civil war is at the top, as regards fatalities and extent.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2018, 11:19:14 PM by Turner »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2018, 11:25:20 PM »
I don't have anything to contribute. Just wanted to thank you, Judge Fish, for compiling and sharing those observations.

Yes, from me too.

The Russian Authorities are now stating that Yulia Skripal (the daughter who was poisoned in Salisbury) must have been abducted by the British authorities since she has expressed no desire, at the moment at least, for any contact with Russian Embassy officials!
« Last Edit: April 11, 2018, 11:29:23 PM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Turner

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2018, 12:09:32 AM »
The effectiveness of the Russian propaganda in recent years has been very impressive. They´ve established enough followers, and not only domestic (though this is the main reason for it, since the siege mentality legimitimizes the current system and oppressive moves), that such statements are considered worthy entries, and their content perfectly possible, to many listeners. There is a certain amount of liberty of speech, but the moment a critical media becomes a bit important or dangerous for the system, it is cut down.

In the case of Syria, views such as that there wasn´t a chemical attack, or it was staged by the US or the UK; that the White Helmets are lying terrorists from the West; that Assad is a democratically legitimate and humanitarian leader; that the Russian military has generally pulled out from Syria, without resulting in civilian casualties, etc. etc.

Surkov, an important advisor and a major negotiator on the Kremlin´s behalf in Donbass, recently said that Russia should prepare itself for relative isolation from the West for the next 100 - 300 years, and that it must rely on the military as its only, true "ally". The editor of RT.com similarly compared the channel to military assets in the national fight against adversaries. Imagine her then standing for any traditional, journalist principles.

Some have compared this to the isolation of the Führerbunker in the last weeks; it certainly doesn´t sound sane, and in reality, it can´t be in the interest of the broader Russian people.

Another aspect is that in our digital age, it will soon be possible to create convincing "proofs", movies, sound clips etc. of literally anything you would want. Traditional journalism and political thinking will face a lot of new problems, since it increases the tendencies among the public to take side, and make reality a matter of manipulated beliefs. The seggregation among the public since the US presidential campaign & the president´s shouts of "fake news" are maybe just a start ...
« Last Edit: April 12, 2018, 12:21:33 AM by Turner »

Offline drogulus

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2018, 04:03:30 AM »
     


The US is not in Syria to fight ISIS. Strategically speaking, in the region, the US and ISIS are actually on the same "side", i.e. the anti-Iran, anti-Shi'a side. The US is in Syria to reduce Iran's influence and weaken the Assad government significantly enough that it will become susceptible to US influence, to facilitate the US's eventual invasion of Iran, which has been telegraphed in US media/politics for about 40 years. The US wants to invade Iran because it is one of the world's largest countries that is still not under US hegemony and cannot be ordered around by the US. (Russia, China and North Korea are the others, but they all have nuclear weapons; Iran doesn't, yet.)



     Here is where TrumPutin differs the most from independent U.S. policy. Trump wants to fight Iran, U.S. policy preTrump is to avoid direct confrontation and fight their proxies to the extent it's consistent with other goals. Note that there's a big inconsistency within TrumPutin as the Trump part sets us against the Putin part on Iran. Trump is playing his role as useful idiot, providing as much incoherence to U.S. policy as Putin could ever want. It's not so bad for Putin to joust with the U.S. and to have Trump split with Europe on the nuclear agreement. He wants all the split between the U.S. and its allies he can get.
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Offline drogulus

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2018, 04:24:03 AM »
     The parties that shout fake news the loudest are on the same side, hostile to alliances among democratic countries. These alliances have faults, they are hypocritical, fight wars with hidden goals, want to dominate the world and push dictators around, and have a vigorous free press sensitive to the weaknesses I have mentioned. A curious thing, though, is the fake news shouters want news to be more fake, not less. Sinclair said so, warning that its own news could be fake. Fox has Shepard Smith to spread fake news. I suspect we are to get to the point where all news is propaganda and all propaganda is news, so that there would be no point in trying to discern a difference.

     In order for propaganda to have a goal a propagandist has to monitor real news to know what kind of fake news to spread. I note that one difficulty under TrumPutin is that even its functionaries can get caught up in their own lies. Who tells Trump the Truth, or Putin for that matter?
« Last Edit: April 12, 2018, 04:25:49 AM by drogulus »
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Offline Todd

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2018, 04:41:02 AM »
The US is in Syria to reduce Iran's influence and weaken the Assad government significantly enough that it will become susceptible to US influence, to facilitate the US's eventual invasion of Iran, which has been telegraphed in US media/politics for about 40 years. The US wants to invade Iran because it is one of the world's largest countries that is still not under US hegemony and cannot be ordered around by the US. (Russia, China and North Korea are the others, but they all have nuclear weapons; Iran doesn't, yet.)


We still live with the ramifications of the Carter Doctrine; neither Iran nor Russia can be allowed to become the regional hegemon.  US dominance as in the 90s is not necessarily required.  A full-scale war with Iran seems unlikely, though it is possible.  In lieu of that, proxy wars in smaller, weaker countries like Syria make sense.  Regional destabilization policies (eg, Libya) can also help in this regard.  Also, the US refreshing ties to the House of Saud means that we have a wealthy partner to act as counterweight in the region, killing on our behalf. 

The US should most certainly not get more directly (ie, militarily) involved in Syria.  If Trump chooses to lob some more cruise missiles, or order some targeted drone or fighter strikes, that's one thing, and a common practice for decades now, but boots on the ground should be limited or eliminated.  Syria isn't worth any more American lives, and it's worth limited American money.  It is worth some jawboning, though.
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Offline drogulus

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2018, 05:13:18 AM »
     The difference between TrumPutin and independent U.S. policy is over whether war with Iran will be fought directly so as to sunder alliance cooperation or whether it will be a fight with Iranian proxies with alliance support. Bolton is in a strange place, or a strange person in a place, or something. He's been acting as a Trump surrogate for some time but his roots are in the most nihilistic wing of the neocons. One thing about Trump is that useful idiots can't follow a script because their idiocy means they don't know what it is in any detail.  Trump knows Putin as a personal threat/friend in his mobsterish way, useful to Putin since Trumpian opposition will be chaotic and self thwarting. Putin doesn't see Trump as ally and partner, his goal is a weak opponent, not a strong friend.
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Spineur

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #17 on: April 12, 2018, 09:43:06 AM »
Apparently, Trump got the green light from Putin to wipe out an empty lab, an empty warehouse that was one a chemical storage facility and two empty airstripes.

Perfect for the show Trump wants.  Theater Trump, that is all what it is about.

Offline amw

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2018, 03:23:26 PM »
A full-scale war with Iran seems unlikely, though it is possible.
Everyone in government is aware that a US invasion of a country of 90 million people with a full-sized modern army and air force, and ballistic missiles capable of striking the US mainland, would be a disaster leading to millions of casualties, but quite a few people in government right now (eg John Bolton) have been obsessed with the idea of forcing regime change in Iran somehow and ignoring that this will almost certainly lead to war. I think a full-scale war will have to wait for a point when the US is losing or has lost influence over Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan and Iraq and therefore is losing all power in the region.

Quote
The US should most certainly not get more directly (ie, militarily) involved in Syria.
I personally agree with this. I don't think the US should ever have got involved in the first place.

Offline Todd

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Re: Syria!
« Reply #19 on: April 12, 2018, 03:28:44 PM »
I don't think the US should ever have got involved in the first place.


Of course not.  Many US policymakers, irrespective of party, are inveterate busybodies, though, and just can't help themselves.  I'm sure some of them even have PowerPoint decks highlighting the benefits of intervention. 
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations