“Forget the danger that an Assad backed by Russia poses, or what it means for the humanitarian crisis now washing onto Europe’s shores,” posits Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute. “Think instead about the fact that if, heaven forbid, the US decided to do something about both Assad and ISIS in Syria, and wanted a no fly zone or a safe corridor, it could put us in conflict with the Russian military. Suddenly, every calculus sounds like Ukraine: Doing the right thing increasingly means facing down a determined Kremlin. Arm Ukraine? No. Expand NATO? No. Contain Iran? No. Fight Assad[?] No. Suddenly, we are being deterred by Moscow. Welcome back to the old days.” Actually, the old days, at least the 1980s, were much better since the United States was successful in keeping Russia out of the Middle East and keeping Europe whole and free.
Anyone still think the Russia reset was a good idea? Obama’s about-face on the red line for Syria’s use of WMDs? Running to Russian President Vladimir Putin for help with Syria? Not unless he or she is willfully blind to events over the past couple of years.
It is hard to exaggerate the extent of the diplomatic debacle President Obama will leave his successor. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, noting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin, writes:
Israel[‘s] problem is that in keeping Assad in office, Putin is becoming an ever more important ally of Iran and Hezbollah, who have been fighting for Assad for three years now. Indeed Assad would be long gone despite Russian arms sales if Iran and Hezbollah did not have troops on the ground (estimates are 5-6,000 from Hezbollah) doing what his own army can no longer successfully do. So Russia is now a Hezbollah and Iranian ally and their military ties will grow as they work for the same goals on the same territory in Syria.A Russian alliance with Iran and Hezbollah is bad enough in principle. It is worse in practice, for Israel has long had a policy of interdicting arms transfers from Iran or Syria to Hezbollah. All those Israeli bombing runs in Syria (bombing runs our own military says are just too difficult and dangerous, if not impossible, due to Syrian air defenses) are aimed at blowing up such transfers. Will Israel be able to do that if Syria and Hezbollah have new Russian anti-aircraft weaponry, manned by Russians? Might some Russians be killed—and then what? Because the Syrian rebels and the Islamic State forces arrayed against the Assad regime have no air force—zero aircraft are at their disposal—just who is supposed to be deterred by Russian anti-aircraft batteries? The United States? Israel? . . . Netanyahu has plenty to talk about with Putin. Today, for the first time since Russian forces were ordered out of Egypt by Anwar Sadat in 1972, Israel must contend with this threat.
We had better elect a president in 2016 who has an iron will and brilliant foreign policy advisers. He or she will need it to dig us out of the messes Obama has created. If the sun never set on the British Empire, now the sun never sets on a part of the globe adversely affected by Obama wherein dangerous foes are on the march.