Obama surrenders the Middle East to Russia, and it matters
by DR. ROBIN MCFEE September 29, 2015
Putin asserts it is difficult to defeat ISIS without the current Syrian government. Whether that government is a puppet of Iran and Russia, is currently irrelevant. Putin is correct. Syria could act as a magnet to draw in ISIS fighters, and a kill box within which to defeat them, or at least eliminate a not insignificant number of their fighters.
Putin has doubled down on Syria in recent days. No news there. He has had bases in that beleaguered nation for years. He is in a good position to weaken ISIS in the process - to a far greater degree than the US has been willing to do.
Speaking of which, Obama, not having learned anything from his many foreign policy misadventures in the region, has decided to invest in Syrian "rebels" who somehow have become virtuous patriots - instead of merely another assemblage of Jihadists, former mujahideen, current members of the various Al Qaeda franchises, and to be clear, NOT friends of democracy or freedom fighters. Obama just doesn't get it. There are no freedom fighters or prodemocracy plays in that region. It is a war of the roses based upon religion, anti-West sensibilities, adherence to Sharia, tribal power skirmishes, and territorial control. The old saw ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend' is both tired, misrepresentative of the landscape, and a dangerous game for amateurs to play.
Syria is an important place - geographically and geopolitically. Putin knows this. More importantly, Assad is his ally. Putin - spy master, politician, businessman, diplomat, quasi-dictator, martial artist, energy expert, possible assassin, and global force to be reckoned with - recognizes the importance of supporting your allies. We could learn something from him, as we continue to abandon our friends, and give benefits to our enemies. Reputations matter. Consider this....If you had to select a second for a street fight, would you pick Putin or Obama? A sad reality, but who does the world trust more? Not who does the world use more, or misuse more, or abuse more, but trust or fear more.
Like Assad or not, he has created a vortex within which ISIS is being drawn in. Al Qaeda is in play there as well. We ought to think of it as an opportunity to let savages kill each other, and their teams become severely degraded. Instead we are arming, at ridiculous expense, a handful (think meaningless) of jokers to represent our interests over there.
Yes Assad is an unsavory fellow, using chemical weapons. He isn't alone. And to his credit - even bad guys have their good points - he has protected Christians far more than any other dictator in the region. Putin is supporting Assad. And?
As an aside, think Christians have had any political patronage in Iraq lately? Or Iran? How are Christians faring in other Moslem nations with few exceptions, like Morocco? A bit closer to home, how are Christians treated in the US? While Obama is yammering about human rights, and taking in refugees from the Middle East (let us not forget much of this mess is his fault), he is about to deport Christian refugees, and has been hesitant to allow Christians under siege in Iraq to enter the US. Double standard anyone?
Like it or not, the world is one big Stratego ® or Risk ® game board. It is winner take all. The good guys can choose to be benevolent victors, and good trade partners, even good neighbors, but at the end of the day it is all about which team controls the natural resources, the transit routes, influences decisions, trade deals, and leads globally with manufacturing and distribution infrastructure that wins the game.
We are losing the game, and badly. This is not to be gloom and doom, but to remind that our future, and that of our children depends upon the economic and security future we create and pass along. The two are inextricably intertwined. One cannot separate the economy, energy, immigration, and security issues. Within that construct, the Middle East matters to our economy and security - unfortunately.
We blew Iraq - which has been and remains an extremely important nation in the history of the Arab and Middle Eastern world. Located in a strategic crossroads, and a former ally we misread (thank you Barack Obama), and abandoned a vital piece of real estate. Not to mention our feckless behavior has emboldened the behaviors of radical Islamists, including ISIS.
As for ISIS or Assad or Libya or...There are no consequences that our enemies face when doing barbaric acts against Americans or our interests. Obama's laughable lines in the sand, and threats aimed at ISIS, ISIL, Russia, Assad or fill in the blanks, they are as fragile as a sand castle near the ocean during a tropical storm. And as meaningless!
Could you, would you trust Obama if your life depended on it? Ask Pastor Saeed, who languishes in Iran, when he and 3 other Americans could easily have been ransomed for, say $150 billion dollars?! That is what BHO is giving Iran. Ask the Iraqis who risked their lives to provide intelligence to our military, and are now isolated, hunted, alone. Ask the Christians who are being butchered by ISIS and other Islamists in the region. Where is Obama? Where is the United States? Russia has provided more moral clarity on the issue than we have. Wow, the world is upside down, when that can be said!
The vacuum created when Obama placed politics over patriotism and popularity over leadership by removing our military from Iraq, and then added stupidity to idiocy, by reaching out to Iran to help us fight ISIS (tacitly giving Tehran the political cover to enter, and likely capture much of Iraq), and capped it off with a moronic two year diplomacy play that has been a major financial and political coup for Tehran, and completed the process of colossal foreign policy failures by mishandling Syria, betraying Israel, ignoring Egypt as well as Morocco, the Kurds, and screwing up North Africa, has set the stage for a new sheriff to emerge...Putin.
All small entities need a big brother. Whether it is Israel, or Bahrain, or the Kurds (Putin supports), Libya or Syria or the Falklands, most countries recognize it is a dangerous world with unsavory neighbors. Even the vaunted Israeli military recognizes it cannot control the region alone. It needs an ally. It used to be the United States without question. Now Israel has to play Oliver asking for more soup every time it needs something from Obama's United States. Putin recognizes this, and has reached out to most of the countries in the Middle East, and starting with North Africa, establishing or reestablishing affiliations and alliances. Consider for a moment how Putin treats Netanyahu and Israel with more concern, and respect than POTUS; a deft, radical departure from prior Russian/Soviet strategy. And Vladimir has, in at least small ways, used his powerful influence to stem some of the attacks from Iran's proxies.
Make no mistake about it - Iran, Syria, Turkey are all critical to Russia's energy, security, and geopolitical strategy. Poking the US in the eye in the process is just a bonus for Putin. Israel offers potential for Russia, too. Keep a watch on that.
Obama has surrendered leadership of the Middle East to Russia. Pure and simple! And we should not blame Putin for that. He is doing what the leader of Russia is supposed to do - look out for the interests of his nation.
Putin may not be Teddy Roosevelt or Ataturk, but he arguably has been their best leader since the days of shoe bangers, and mass murderers. Looking at the world through the prism of a Westerner, it is tempting to vilify Putin. The media and Obama supporters sit and denounce Putin's limits on free speech, making Russia dangerous for journalists and dissenters. To be sure corruption and censorship remain in the Russian Federation. But this does not change a few facts. Putin enjoys a very high approval rating among urban and rural citizens. And while the old Russian axiom - it matters not who casts the votes, only who counts them might be true - it is hard to deny Putin is very popular. Putin has helped improve the national standard of living, and elevated many of the poor out of poverty. He is a nationalist. He is highly educated, and an effective statesman, diplomat, as well as willing to color outside the lines. Except here's the thing - he doesn't think he is coloring outside the lines.
Years ago Putin lamented the fall of the USSR as the greatest calamity of the 20th century. Putin is not subtle - his mission is to reestablish the USSR; in the form of a more egalitarian and practical nation, but a superpower none the less. Then there's his graduate thesis - how to turn an energy rich nation into an energy hyper-power. Putin has told us his plans, and every action over the last 10 years has put him closer to it. Rebuild the military. Reestablish by diplomacy or military action old components of the USSR. Control major energy sources - in the ground, under the sea, through pipes and ships (LNG) and innovation. Which is why asserting the Arctic, and placing a military presence in Iraq, Iran, and Syria should not surprise, except of course to the Oval Office.
If you listen to Josh Ernest, the DNC supporting media, Democrats, and the State Department, Russia woke up all of a sudden, and decided to place a powerful military presence into Syria, in defiance, mon Dieu, of President Obama. How unsporting of them! And Team Obama has a strategy - to chastise, disrespect, and lecture Vladimir Putin. This is madness, and stupid.
And there's where POTUS continues to play stupid with Putin. He insults or ignores him. Consider the recent televised insult Josh Ernest gave to Putin - the substance of which Obama was disappointed in Putin, and Russia should not lead in Syria, but fall in behind the US in our strategy to support the rebels. Putin leads an almost superpower. Our team just doesn't get it! You don't insult a proud race led by an unapologetic nationalist eager for their empire again. Putin is not Obama's butler or trainee or lapdog. On the contrary; Obama could learn a lot from Putin.
In "Risk TM game" terms check out where the US flag is located as key ally and where is the Russian or Chinese flag planted? In just a few short years the United States went from being a major influence worldwide, with our flag in lots of places, to now having the Russians, and Chinese, challenge us.
Energy is the key; it is the lifeblood for every nation - fossil fuels, NOT alternative energies. Whoever controls energy controls the world. Doubt me, why do we kowtow to Saudi Arabia? If Riyadh controlled wheat fields instead of oil fields we would ignore them. Doubt me, why did Europe capitulate to Gazprom/Russia? Because it is cold in the winter without heating fuel.
Until the United States fully utilizes our enormous natural resources - fossil fuels - from the Gulf to the Arctic, we will forever be wedded to the Middle East. Held hostage might be a better term for it. The importance of that region geopolitically, strategically, tactically and economically cannot be overstated. Instead of vilifying Putin, we should learn from him. He is in our backyard, and on the doorstep of our allies, vying for position. It is a game we must always play, but have under Obama, surrendered.
Even without oil and natural gas, that region is the 21st century maritime equivalent of the Silk Road - with canals, and waterways serving as major transit routes for shipping of important products and materials. Which is why it boggles the mind that the titular leader of the free world would do so precious little to protect the critical crossroads represented with Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Iran, Bahrain, North Africa, and well you get the idea. This region is vital to US interests, and that of our allies. Our so called "coalition partners." That by the way is laughable. There is NO coalition, but more on that in a later article. It is, as we've recently seen with the lifting of the sanctions on Iran - every country for themselves....except of course the US under Obama, who continues to give away the store, largely to our adversaries, like....Russia.
From the moment Obama took office, he has squandered any advantage the United States possessed internationally. His foreign policy failures, and that of his JV diplomatic team of Clinton and Kerry, had diminished the stature of our great country, and disadvantaged us geopolitically, especially in the Middle East. The Arab Spring - better named the Arab Winter or Arab Disruption - ushered in a level of chaos and destruction not seen in the region since the bloody days of Black September, the ill-fated attacks from Egypt, Syria and Lebanon against the Jews which resulted in more real estate for Israel, and the USSR-Afghan war.
In just seven short years the Middle East now belongs to Russia. Putin has reestablished workable bases - air and sea - in Syria, relationships with Turkey, reestablishing historic ties in spite of Putin's support of the Kurds, tenuous so it is. Putin has reached out to Israel, long a near exclusive protectorate and partner of the US. Though Israeli sensibilities still better align with the United States, Putin recognizes a need by and opportunity with Netanyahu. Netanyahu will have to be very careful walking the tightrope between a weak leader (Obama)of a longstanding ally, and a strong leader (Putin) of a questionable enterprise.
With the 2016 elections fast approaching remember this when selecting candidates regardless of party....Once upon a time in the world before Obama, the skies above the Middle East belonged to the United States and Israeli Air Forces. Once upon a time in the world before Obama, the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Aden, and much of the Oceans near the region, were all virtually the US Navy's private waterway. Once upon a time the Middle East was held together tenuously but with the United States as the key honest broker, authority figure, and, well we spoke softly and brought lots of battle carrier groups. Once upon a time the energy industry was considered a value not a villain to US interests. Once upon a time oil/gas exploration were important not incidental to the US. Once upon a time most people earned their living, not lived dependent upon entitlements. Once upon a time we valued our veterans; now we pay welfare recipients more than we pay the average enlisted man or woman in the military.
What the left seems to overlook - the power grab and battles being fought in the Middle East are not a pillow fight, or debate between academics. ISIS is playing to win. Iran is playing to win. Russia is playing to win. China is playing to win. Israel is playing for survival. Syria and Jordan are playing to win. The only nation/team that is more than happy to cede leadership, and defeat seems to be the United States, poorly led by Barack Obama and his supporters who give each other awards and kudos for illusionary successes when none have been realized in actuality.
Doubt me? Consider Libya. We ousted Gaddafi. We supported his adversaries - rebels who are more dangerous than the dictator's regime. And the Libyan revolutionaries were so grateful that they killed our ambassador and Americans trying to protect him.
Consider the misnamed Arab Spring - Egypt awash in flames, and the historic center of the Arab world perilously close to being ruled by the Moslem Brotherhood, were it not for a less Jihadist second revolution that wrestled power from the extremists.
Consider the peril Obama's policies inflicted upon Israel - the temporary control of Egypt by radical Islamists reinstated the tunnels into Gaza, allowed open military resupply to Hamas, and allowed attacks of Jewish enterprises along the border, including previously peaceful Eilat.
Having been in Bahrain during the Arab debacle, they remain in a tenuous position, as Iran, and its Revolutionary Guard Corps try to foster chaos and unrest in the tiny island nation - an ally with the US, and where significant intelligence and Navy assets remain.
Consider Iraq - when Obama ordered the US to precipitously leave the region, against military expert advice, it set the stage for Iran and ISIS to carve up the country, much to the peril of Christians and Kurds. Interestingly the people most likely able to defeat ISIS - the Kurds - have been left largely to their own devices, as we use them as bargaining chips, or sacrificial lambs in our failing diplomacy with Turkey. Putin by contrast has stood with the Kurds, and still managed to build a closer relationship with the folks in Ankara. Turkey and Russia are far closer during the Obama years than during the Bush years militarily, in geopolitical terms, in trade and energy.
In terms of economics, national security, energy policy, and regional stability, the United States has allowed the Middle East to fall into chaos. And we will pay the price for it in the US in terms of vulnerability to OPEC, bad trade deals, increased vulnerability to ISIS, which clearly is NOT the JV, in energy, and homeland security.
Syria is an important strategic crossroad. Nestled near Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and Jordan, with strategically and tactically important military and naval bases, Putin would have been foolish to not double down on his investments in the region. Putin is now the go to guy in the region who has demonstrated loyalty to those who trust him.
Putin in Syria is nothing new. And quite frankly had Putin not made another strong move into the region, Obama's inaction would leave that area up in flames, and continue the refugee crisis.
There is no doubt if Syria falls to ISIS, which appears to be Obama's strategy, Israel will be far more in danger than if Assad remained.
Putin knows ISIS is more dangerous to his interests, and ours, than Assad. Putin knows Syria is a strategically important area that cannot be allowed to fall into the growing radical Islamic caliphate, or become part of ISIS control. Putin knows the power of loyalty. And Putin understand the mistakes Obama has made, and will continue to exploit them globally. Syria is merely another place where Putin has planted the Russian flag, and outplays Obama. And as we speak I can hear the Russian national anthem playing in Baghdad, and Tehran as Russia's version of the red, white, and blue gets raised.
If you want to know where in the world something important is going on, just follow Putin.
And until the United States elects a strong, effective leader, we are left with Obama surrendering the Middle East to Russia. It won't be the last region Russia takes from us. Stay tuned...
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Dr. Robin McFee, MPH, FACPM, FAACT, is medical director of Threat Science - and nationally recognized expert in WMD preparedness, who consults with government agencies, corporations and the media. Dr. McFee is the former director and cofounder of the Center for Bioterrorism Preparedness (CB PREP) and bioweapons - WMD adviser to the Domestic Security Task Force, numerous law enforcement and corporate entities after 911, as well as pandemic advisor to federal, state and local agencies, and corporations during the anthrax events, SARS, Avian and swine flu epidemics. Dr. McFee is the former chair of the Global Terrorism Council of ASIS International, and is a member of the US Counterterrorism Advisory Team. She has delivered over 500 invited lectures since 9-11, created graduate level courses on WMD preparedness for several universities, authored more than 100 articles on terrorism, health care and preparedness, and coauthored two books: Toxico-Terrorism by McGraw Hill and The Handbook of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Agents, published by Informa/CRC Press.
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