The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency has seen the future, and it is bleak:
Iraq and Syria may have been permanently torn asunder by war and sectarian tensions, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency said Thursday in a frank assessment that is at odds with Obama administration policy.
“I’m having a tough time seeing it come back together,” Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told an industry conference, speaking of Iraq and Syria, both of which have seen large chunks territory seized by the Islamic State.
On Iraq, Stewart said he is “wrestling with the idea that the Kurds will come back to a central government of Iraq,” suggesting he believed it was unlikely. On Syria, he added: “I can see a time in the future where Syria is fractured into two or three parts.”
That is not the U.S. goal, he said, but it’s looking increasingly likely.
Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ got the news more than two years ago that Iraq was finished — but there may be a new endgame in sight for Syria. Writing for The National Interest, Nikolas K. Gvosdev says Russia is sending five messages to the world, and the last two concern this post directly:
Forth: The Kremlin enforces its red lines. Just as Moscow would not permit the separatists to face catastrophic defeat last summer in Ukraine, Russia has signaled that it will not sit by and allow Bashar al- Assad to be overthrown or removed by outside military action. With more Russian forces on the ground, and reportedly augmenting Assad’s air defense capabilities, the risk calculus for any sort of U.S. or NATO action against Assad’s government has dramatically increased. Even more limited proposals; such as enforcing a no-fly zone to create protected space on the ground for refugees now opens up the possibility for a clash with Russian forces.
And Fifth: Russia’s willingness to put “boots on the ground” in Syria, in contrast to a increasingly desperate search on Washington’s part for local proxies willing and able to fight both Assad and ISIS and the reluctance of key U.S. allies to take on more of the burden, serves several purposes. It reassures Russian partners that Moscow is prepared to meet its pledges even if there is a cost in terms of resources, lives, and reputation. This has not gone unnoticed in places like Egypt and Azerbaijan, where governments question the depth of the American commitment to their well-being. For Middle Eastern countries that have opposed Russian policy in Syria, Putin’s decision to up the ante may lead them to reassess whether the path to a viable settlement resides not in Washington, soon to be increasingly distracted by an election campaign, but through Moscow.
How big is Moscow betting on changing the game in Syria? This big:
“Russian forces are building a long runway capable of accommodating large aircraft near the Hmaymeen military airport in Latakia province,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The monitor, which relies on a network of civilian, military and medical sources inside Syria, said “the Russians are preventing Syrians, whether military or civilian, from entering the area where they are building the runway”.
“In recent weeks, military airplanes arrived in Hmaymeen carrying military equipment and hundreds of Russian military advisers and technicians,” the group said.
Observatory director Rami Abdul Rahman said sources also reported that Russia was enlarging the Hamadiyeh airport in Tartus province, another regime stronghold that is south of Latakia.
Russia might not save 100% of Syria, but it may very well save the Assad regime and enough of Syria to allow Moscow to make an effective claim as the Middle East’s new guarantor.
That’s a shocking reversal of 40 years of American policy — but probably an inevitable one, too, following the collapse of President Obama’s red line two years ago, and his abandonment of Iraq two years prior to that.
If it’s worth anything at all, I first warned of a Russo-Iranian axis exactly two years and five days ago.
Sometimes it sucks to be right.