By Barry Rubin
The original supposed intent of this whole Syria exercise--punishing Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons--achieved zero. In fact, it backfired.
Was this a pay-off for the Putin-Syria deal to get Iran to agree? Is it an advantage the Kremlin grabbed to show Russia can do anything it wants now? If so it was a heavy one indeed. Pay close attention.
Russian media reported Moscow is selling Iran five batteries of S-300 missiles for $700 million. The sale was frozen three years ago when the UN put on sanctions. Russia will probably claim the weapons are for defense.
And of course it is for defense, presuming Iran needs to defend a nuclear reactor or missile bases from Israel.
This step tightens the Iran-Russia alliance, presumably a way to make Iran feel more secure as it backs Syria. Russia may also have made an agreement to build a second nuclear reactor in Bushehr.
"Russian credibility is not in question," my colleague Dr. Jonathan Spyer pointed out, American credibility is in question.
"The Russian weapons lifeline to the dictator is buzzing with increased activity," Spyer continues, The arms ships that make their way from the Ukrainian port of Oktabyrsk have increased in number in recent weeks, shipping analysts say. They are bringing the vital spare parts for Assad’s planes and tanks."
But there's more.
In other words Russia-Iran alliance is stronger; America is weaker; Syria is more secure though it is still a very long way to win the civil war. But Iran—where the Obama Administration is cutting the sanctions—is more powerful and further away from any effective containment.
Here is Ammar Abdulhamid who is an honorable and sincere Syrian supporter of moderate rebels but knows he isn't finding any:
""So the Russians have put on the table a plan whose implementation requires thousands of peacekeepers and experts working together over a period of several years to dismantle Assad's chemical supplies and production capabilities. In practice, this requires cessation of all hostilities by all parties, in other words, an end to the civil war.
"End the civil war and the Russian plan can work. But how do we end the civil war? Well, how about a limited strike against Assad's military and security establishment to convince him to cease hostilities? There you go, we're back where we started: in order to make Russia's plan work we need to strike Assad, and in order to strike Assad, we need an American President who is willing to do it and does not go into convulsions each time we get to this point."
I unfortunately don't agree with Abdulhamid but I would if he had got the moderate opposition he wanted.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth O'Bagy who became famous overnight by being quoted as the rationale for saying Syrian rebels are moderates by Kerry, McCain and Washington Post and Wall Street Journal was fired by her pro-rebel lobbying group for faking her PhD.
Turns out she DID lie about her PhD BUT they had to get rid of her without pointing to the real scandal that the Syrian rebels are not moderate.
Did anyone learn anything? Again, they really fired her for embarrassment because it showed that State Department just bought intelligence it wanted-- saying Syrian rebels are moderate--by Kerry, McCain, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. A few months earlier she said the opposite.
The real issue--they are lying and faking intelligence--became disguised as a technical issue.
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Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs
(GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International
Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press.
Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition),
The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle
East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.