How America can counter Putin’s moves in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/AP)

Washington Post, by Condoleezza Rice and  October 8, 2015:

Condoleezza Rice was secretary of state from 2005 to 2009. Robert M. Gates was defense secretary from 2006 to 2011.

One can hear the disbelief in capitals from Washington to London to Berlin to Ankara and beyond. How can Vladimir Putin, with a sinking economy and a second-rate military, continually dictate the course of geopolitical events? Whether it’s in Ukraine or Syria, the Russian president seems always to have the upper hand.

Sometimes the reaction is derision: This is a sign of weakness. Or smugness: He will regret the decision to intervene. Russia cannot possibly succeed. Or alarm: This will make an already bad situation worse. And, finally, resignation: Perhaps the Russians can be brought along to help stabilize the situation, and we could use help fighting the Islamic State.

The fact is that Putin is playing a weak hand extraordinarily well because he knows exactly what he wants to do. He is not stabilizing the situation according to our definition of stability. He is defending Russia’s interests by keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. This is not about the Islamic State. Any insurgent group that opposes Russian interests is a terrorist organization to Moscow. We saw this behavior in Ukraine, and now we’re seeing it even more aggressively — with bombing runs and cruise missile strikes — in Syria.

Putin is not a sentimental man, and if Assad becomes a liability, Putin will gladly move on to a substitute acceptable to Moscow. But for now, the Russians believe that they (and the Iranians) can save Assad. President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry say that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. That is true, but Moscow understands that diplomacy follows the facts on the ground, not the other way around. Russia and Iran are creating favorable facts. Once this military intervention has run its course, expect a peace proposal from Moscow that reflects its interests, including securing the Russian military base at Tartus.

We should not forget that Moscow’s definition of success is not the same as ours. The Russians have shown a willingness to accept and even encourage the creation of so-called failed states and frozen conflicts from Georgia to Moldova to Ukraine. Why should Syria be any different? If Moscow’s “people” can govern only a part of the state but make it impossible for anyone else to govern the rest of it — so be it.

And the well-being of the population is not the issue either. The Russian definition of success contains no element of concern for the dismal situation of the Syrian people. Refugees — that’s Europe’s problem. Greater sectarianism — well, it’s the Middle East! Populations attacked with barrel bombs and Assad’s chemicals, supposedly banned in the deal that Moscow itself negotiated — too bad!

Putin’s move into Syria is old-fashioned great-power politics. (Yes, people do that in the 21st century.) There is a domestic benefit to him, but he is not externalizing his problems at home. Russian domestic and international policies have always been inextricably linked. Russia feels strong at home when it is strong abroad — this is Putin’s plea to his propagandized population — and the Russian people buy it, at least for now. Russia is a great power and derives its self-worth from that. What else is there? When is the last time you bought a Russian product that wasn’t petroleum? Moscow matters again in international politics, and Russian armed forces are on the move.

Let us also realize that hectoring Putin about the bad choice he has made sounds weak. The last time the Russians regretted a foreign adventure was Afghanistan. But that didn’t happen until Ronald Reagan armed the Afghan mujahideen with Stinger missiles that started blowing Russian warplanes and helicopters out of the sky. Only then did an exhausted Soviet Union led by Mikhail Gorbachev, anxious to make accommodation with the West, decide that the Afghan adventure wasn’t worth it.

So what can we do?

First, we must reject the argument that Putin is simply reacting to world disorder. Putin, this argument would suggest, is just trying to hold together the Middle East state system in response to the chaos engendered by U.S. overreach in Iraq, Libya and beyond.

Putin is indeed reacting to circumstances in the Middle East. He sees a vacuum created by our hesitancy to fully engage in places such as Libya and to stay the course in Iraq. But Putin as the defender of international stability? Don’t go there.

Second, we have to create our own facts on the ground. No-fly zones and safe harbors for populations are not “half-baked” ideas. They worked before (protecting the Kurds for 12 years under Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror) and warrant serious consideration. We will continue to have refugees until people are safe. Moreover, providing robust support for Kurdish forces, Sunni tribes and what’s left of the Iraqi special forces is not “mumbo-jumbo.” It might just salvage our current, failing strategy. A serious commitment to these steps would also solidify our relationship with Turkey, which is reeling from the implications of Moscow’s intervention. In short, we must create a better military balance of power on the ground if we are to seek a political solution acceptable to us and to our allies.

Third, we must “de-conflict” our military activities with those of the Russians. This is distasteful, and we should never have gotten to a place where the Russians are warning us to stay out of their way. But we must do all that we can to prevent an incident between us. Presumably, even Putin shares this concern.

Finally, we need to see Putin for who he is. Stop saying that we want to better understand Russian motives. The Russians know their objective very well: Secure their interests in the Middle East by any means necessary. What’s not clear about that?


Also see:

Russia’s endgame in Syria: Follow the Money

3300795117Center for Security Policy, by John Cordero, Oct. 6, 2015:

As Vladimir Putin orders airstrikes against rebels of all stripes fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, there are important strategic economic goals behind Russia’s actions in Syria.  The short term goal is easy to discern: prevent Assad’s collapse as no alternative suitable to Russian interests exists, preserve Russia’s only naval base in the Middle East at Tartus, and promote Russia both at home and abroad as a world power that counterbalances American hegemony.

Much of the media has focused on Putin as a personal driver of Russian behavior.  While forays into Georgia and Ukraine have accomplished the tactical goals of preventing increased European Union presence in Russia’s sphere of influence, these have come at a high cost both politically and economically in the form of isolation and sanctions. Putin seems to have concluded that intervening in Syria in the name of fighting terrorism can only help repair Russia’s battered image.

It is important to at least try to understand Putin’s motivation without delving too much into psychoanalysis.  He is on record as lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”  In power since 2000, the former KGB officer is an ardent Russian nationalist, a promoter of a personality cult concerned with his country’s standing and perception in the world.  With his career spent in the service of the state, he is not one to take a background role in world affairs. Putin has effectively used Russia’s alliance with Iran as an effective tool to undermine the US, both regionally in the Gulf and globally with the nuclear deal.

The current buildup at Tartus and Latakia is nothing new: since Hafez al-Assad’s rise to power in 1970, the Former Soviet Union and then Russia was and is a stalwart ally, long attempting to position Syria as a counterbalance to American and Israeli military superiority in the Middle East.

Russia’s actions are also a message to the world: unlike the US, which abandoned long-time ally Hosni Mubarak during his time of need in Egypt, Russia is prepared to intervene, militarily if necessary, to preserve a friendly regime in danger.  Therefore, it pays for autocrats to court Moscow, especially if they possess valuable resources or are in prime strategic locations.

While Vladimir Putin ostensibly espouses the acceptable goal of a global alliance against IS, the strategic context is that he has entered into a sectarian alliance with Shia Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the proxy army Hezbollah (The P4+1) against the American-backed Sunni alliance of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and the UAE, all of whom insist that Assad has no future in Syria.

Through its airstrikes, Russia continues to advance the prior Syrian strategy of focusing efforts against pro-Western rebels, with the recognition that, while dangerous, the Islamic State is the one party in the conflict the West will never support.

The Islamic State will take advantage of both the respite, and the propaganda value of being the recognized number one enemy of the infidel coalition, which it uses to rally supporters simply by pointing out that its enemies are gathering to destroy the renewed Caliphate.

The one strategic motivation for Russia that has been widely ignored is the economic one.  Qatar, the richest country in the world per capita and also owner of the world’s largest natural gas field, proposed in 2009 to jointly construct a gas pipeline running through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and into Europe.  Assad, not wanting to provoke Moscow, refused to sign on.  Instead, he floated an alternative: an Iran-Iraq-Syria and possibly Lebanon pipeline, to then follow under the Mediterranean to Europe. The Qatar-Turkey pipeline would run through majority Sunni countries with the exception of Syria’s Alawite regime. Assad’s counter proposal follows the Shia crescent.

Russia, not wanting to lose its primary market in Europe, is adamantly opposed to a prospective Qatari project.  A military presence in Syria will guarantee that even if Assad is removed from power, the pipeline will not be built.  It will look on favorably to the Iranian proposal, provided Gazprom and other state-owned companies get their share of the pie.

Pipeline politics in the region have a long and varied history of Russian involvement.  TheBaku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was built only after Moscow’s demand for an alternative pipeline for Azeri oil to Russia was met.  During the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, US intelligence officials determined that an explosion on the pipeline near the Turkish-Georgian border was carried out via Russian government cyber warfare.  Days after the explosion, Russian fighter jets bombed positions in Georgia close to the pipeline. Although the BTC pipeline was built precisely to avoid Russian interference, the Kremlin has never let that stop them.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have also begun construction on a joint natural gas pipeline, theTANAP. This project’s stated goal is to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian natural gas, a prospect that cannot please Moscow.   Both the BTC and TANAP bypass Armenia, a Russian ally and wary of its neighbors in the Caucasus.

As the endpoint for the Qatari project, Turkey is adamant in calling for Assad to step down or be removed, which dovetails with the proposed Sunni pipeline.  By clearing the way through Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia can receive a handsome return on their investment in backing jihadis fighting Assad.  On the other hand, Iran will not sit idly by and leave potential billions of dollars in the hands of its ideological and regional enemies.

Russian intervention in Syria is just beginning. There is every possibility that it will expand as more targets are found, perhaps those that are in the way of the proposed Iranian pipeline, directly threatening Damascus and by extension, the Russian monopoly of gas exports to Europe.  For the time being, Putin has the world’s attention.


EXCLUSIVE: Russian jets ‘intercept’ US predator drones over Syria, officials say

Also see:

What now? How to deal with the utter collapse of Obama’s Syria-Iraq strategy


Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, Oct 1, 2015:

A year ago, in response to the growing strength of ISIS and outrage over internet videos of ISIS beheadings, President Obama announced a strategy on Sept. 10, 2014 to “degrade and destroy” ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The president’s four-step plan included: a systemic campaign of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria; increased support to forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Iraq and Syria, including training and arming moderate Syrian rebels; expanded counterterrorism efforts to weaken ISIS and cut off its resources; and continued support to humanitarian assistance to civilians displaced by ISIS.

Twelve months later this strategy is in ruins. Russia has sent troops into Syria and began bombing ISIS targets Wednesday.  [Author’s note: There are some reports that Russia actually bombed non-ISIS Syrian rebels, including some rebels backed by the U.S.]

Also on Wednesday, the Russian government told the United States to stay out of Syrian airspace and remove American warplanes.

Iran has increased its presence in Iraq; Moscow has strengthened its relationship with the Iraqi government.

On Sept. 27, Russian officials announced a new anti-ISIS pact between Russia, Iraq, Iran and Syrian that will include intelligence sharing.

President Obama’s Iraq-Syria strategy collapsed so quickly because, as I wrote here for Fox News Opinion last May, it was really a non-strategy to do as little as possible about this crisis for the rest of his presidency so he can hand this mess to a future president.

Pinprick airstrikes in Syria under Obama’s policy did not stop ISIS from making gains on the ground.

In Iraq, ISIS took the city of Ramadi last May despite being outnumbered 10-1 by the Iraqi army.  Iraqi officials said they would retake the city “in days.”

Four months later, there is little prospect of this or an assault to retake Mosul which was supposed to occur last spring. This is due to the weakness of Iraq’s army and President Obama’s refusal to allow U.S. military advisers or special forces leave their bases and accompany Iraqi forces into the field.

The Obama administration recently admitted its $500 million plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels has been a disaster.  The program spent $42 million to train its first group of 54 recruits who entered Syria from Turkey last July.  The recruits were quickly attacked by the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria) and forced to surrender trucks and ammunition to this terrorist group.  Most of these rebels returned to Turkey; a U.S. general told Congress only “four or five” are still fighting in Syria despite a goal of training 5,400 per year.

The fighting in Syria has caused a huge flood of refugees to seek refuge in Europe.  At the same time, more than 7,000 foreign fighters – including 250 Americans – joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq over the last year according to a new bipartisan congressional report.

Obama officials responded to the rapid collapse of its Syria-Iraq strategy with spin to exaggerate the effectiveness of the president’s policy and dismissing ISIS gains.  50 Department of Defense intelligence analysts recently filed complaints with the Pentagon IG that their work was doctored to support the Obama administration’s claim that its anti-ISIS strategy is succeeding.

The failure of President Obama’s Iraq-Syria policy is now so obvious that his advisers can no longer spin it away.

Mr. Obama’s policy created a power vacuum in the Middle East that Russian President Vladimir Putin has filled.  By seizing the initiative in the fight against IS, Putin is trying to create a new Russian-led regional axis that will counter American influence and portray Russia as a more reliable partner.  This gambit could have major benefits for Putin, including possibly by convincing Europe to drop its sanctions against Russia due to its intervention in Ukraine by promising to stop the flow of refugees to Europe from Syria.

The Obama administration is scrambling to respond to these developments.  Obama chided Putin’s Syria moves in his speech to the UN General Assembly this week, called for the removal of Syrian President Assad but also expressed willingness to work with Putin in the battle against ISIS.  Putin dismissed Obama’s demands by blaming the United States for the civil war in Syria, called for working with the Assad regime and criticized America’s efforts to train and equip Syrian rebels.

The president’s Iraq-Syria policy continues to be incoherent and dangerous.  There’s no chance of removing Syrian president Assad due to Russia’s increased support.  In his UN General Assembly speech, President Obama expressed his willingness to work with Iran to fight ISIS and end the civil war in Syria even though increasing Iran’s role in Iraq and Syria will expand Iranian influence and exacerbate Sunni-Shia tensions in Iraq.

Given that this situation is the result of seven years of incompetent policy by this administration and the president’s continuing refusal to take decisive action in Iraq or Syria, it is hard to see what the Obama administration can do to reverse it.  But there are several guidelines Mr. Obama should consider employing to dig out of the hole his policy has created:

  • Recognize that Russia and Iran are the problem, not the solution.  The United States needs to maintain dialogue with Russia but stop talking about working with Russia and Iran to fight ISIS since their goals are counter to American interests and regional security. Mr Obama needs to realize that an expanded and entrenched Russian/Iranian presence in the Middle East will have dire long term consequences for America and the region.
  • Work with our European and regional states to form a better military alliance to combat ISIS and to counter Russian and Iranian influence.  This should include creating a safe haven protected zone in northern Syria and intensified air strikes against ISIS targets.  The refugee crisis probably has made Europe more willing to participate in such an alliance.  France conducted its firs airstrikes in Syria last week.
  • End the limitations on fighting ISIS in Iraq.  Let U.S. troops leave their bases so they can operate behind the lines in Iraq and support Iraqi security forces.  Provide better weapons to the Iraqi Kurds or let our allies arm them.  Incredibly, the Obama administration blocked Gulf states from sending heavy weapons to the Iraqi Kurds in July.
  • President Obama must stop making demands he has no intention of enforcing.  The world correctly sees Mr Obama’s demands that Assad leave office and Russia stop its military aid to the Assad government as idle threats.  Every time the president makes such demands, he further undermines American credibility and emboldens U.S. enemies and adversaries.  The word of the leader of the world’s superpower must be enough to change international events and not viewed as chatter that can be safely ignored.

Given his record to date, I doubt President Obama will adopt any of these guidelines.  I expect his administration will continue its non-policy policy to leave this crisis for the next administration to solve.  As a result, American interests and regional security are likely to suffer for the rest of this presidency as Russia and Iran increase their influence.

The presidential candidates need to watch this situation closely since the Middle East disaster they will inherit from Mr. Obama likely will be much worse than the current crisis


Also see:


GettyImages-490448488-11-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sep. 30, 2015:

Fox News is exclusively reporting that Russia has demanded American warplanes exit Syrian airspace immediately, as Russia begins its bombing campaign on behalf of Bashar Assad.

The news came from a senior U.S. official, who said there was “nothing to indicate” the U.S. was complying with Russia’s demand.

Another defense official said, “We have had every indication in recent weeks that (the Russians) were going to do something given the build-up.”  That’s an interesting claim, because just a few days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry was saying Russia’s long-term intentions were unclear, and he thought their buildup of air power in Syria was merely for “force protection.”

The inventory of aircraft and weapons Russia moved into Syria includes advanced air supremacy fighters and surface-to-air missiles, which would have no conceivable use against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, or any other Syrian rebel group, as none of them have an air force.  The planes were slipped into Syria using clever subterfuge designed to defeat satellite surveillance, which is something else no element of the Syrian rebellion has.

“The Russian demand also mirrors one made by Turkey this past July, when Ankara asked U.S. planes to fly only in airspace south of Mosul, Iraq. In that case, 24 Turkish jets bombed Kurdish positions, catching the U.S. off guard,” Fox News writes.

Also on Wednesday, the Russian parliament unanimously voted to give President Vladimir Putin war-fighting authority in Syria.  Putin’s chief of staff, Sergey Ivanov, said only a “time-limited” air campaign is envisioned.

Russian bombs are already falling on Syria according to some sources, and the first targets reported include a rebel group vetted and supplied by the United States:

green lemon tweet

Update, 10:30 AM EST: According to CNN, the Russians sent an official to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to announce the Russian strikes, and “request” the removal of American planes from Syrian airspace, with only an hour or two of warning before the Russian strikes began.

The CNN report also notes that the Russians have given “no geographical information” about where they planned to strike.  That’s a remarkable gesture of contempt, an incredibly reckless and dangerous approach, and possibly an indication that the Russians are planning to blow up some people they think the United States would have warned.

Update, 11:00 AM EST: Further testimony that Russia isn’t primarily interested in bombing ISIS positions, and has caused significant civilian casualties with its first wave of bombings:

conflict news tweet


Russians Conduct Airstrikes in Syrian City of Homs, Where Anti-Assad Forces Are Concentrated

New Cold War

Click the image above for audio
The Gorka Briefing, SEBASTIAN GORKA, PHD on 28 September 2015:


ISIS-beheading-Christians-Libya-ap-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sep. 28, 2015:

President Obama’s address to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday morning was a rambling journey through a fantasy world where his foreign policy hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster.

Perhaps the most bizarre moment came when he tried to tout his Libyan adventure as asuccess.

There was plenty of tough-guy posturing that intimidated absolutely no one.  The Russian and Iranian delegations were especially good at looking bored and unimpressed when he called upon them to do this-or-that because The World supposedly demanded it. Obama hasn’t figured out he’s the only leader at the U.N. eager to sacrifice his nation’s interests to please The World.

Obama made the weird decision to vaguely threaten Russia over its invasion of Ukraine by claiming that The World would not stand idly by and allow it… when that’s exactly what The World, and especially First Citizen of the World Barack Obama, has been doing.  He essentially pleaded with Iran to stop supporting terrorist proxies and pursuing its aggressive regional ambitions, and focus on their economy instead.  (Of course, in Obama’s vigorous imagination, the U.S. has been enjoying an economic boom under his stewardship, instead of an endless grinding non-recovery and limp, sporadic growth, after Obama’s spending doubled the national debt in a single presidency.)

It was bad enough that the President talked about American troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan as the triumphant conclusion of an effective policy, rather than the hideous blunder that allowed ISIS to create a terror state, al-Qaeda to rise from the ashes, and the Taliban to begin planning its return to power.  At the same moment Obama was speaking, the Taliban was conducting a major offensive in Afghanistan, on par with the importance of ISIS taking Mosul in Iraq.  Obama’s pitifully small “New Syrian Force” of U.S.-backed rebels just handed a good deal of its American equipment over to al-Qaeda, and no one really knows what became of the unit itself.  Their predecessors were destroyed by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in Syria, with less than half a dozen survivors still on the field.

When Obama boasted of the Libyan operation as the successful removal of a tyrant, jaws must have hit the floor around the room.  Libya is an unholy disaster, a wasteland of warlords fighting to keep ISIS off their turf.  It’s a key gateway for the incredible migratory tide blasting out of Africa and the Middle East and now surging across Europe.  And yet, Obama portrays it as laudable example of tyrant removal… while modestly admitting that “our coalition could have, and should have, done more to fill a vacuum left behind.”

Of course he blamed everyone else in the “coalition” for the disaster in Libya.  He’s Barack Obama.  The day may come when he takes responsibility for something, but today is not that day, and tomorrow isn’t looking good either.

The scary thing about Obama is that he believes so completely in the power of his own rhetoric.

He thinks he can reshape reality with his words.  When he scolds the Iranians for their “Death to America!” rhetoric by saying bloodthirsty chants don’t create jobs, he’s asking Iran to live up to the silly talking points he foisted off on the American people to cover the Iranian nuclear deal.  He’s commanding Iran to act like the enlightened, responsible nation-state he gambled the future of Israel, America, and much of the Western world on.

The Iranians, on the other hand, see no reason to knock off the “Death to America!” chants, disband their theocracy, and begin spending their days arguing about stimulus bills.  Belligerence has gotten them everything so far.  They’ve been rewarded for it… by Barack Obama.  They’ve got $150 billion in sanctions relief coming their way.  They can afford to send a few guys to sit in the U.N. General Assembly with pissy expressions on their faces while Obama rambles on about how geo-political crime does not pay.  They know for a fact it pays, quite handsomely.  The Iranians are already using their Obama loot to reinforce terror proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah, and secure Bashar Assad in power.

Ah, yes, Bashar Assad… the dictator Obama still blathers on about removing from power, even as his own diplomatic apparatus gets used to the idea Assad is not going anywhere.  The only really good part of Obama’s speech was when he spent five seconds glaring at the Syrian ambassador before launching into his denunciation of barrel bombs and chemical weapons.  But you know what?  That Syrian ambassador gets paid enough to take a few seconds of hairy eyeball from the ineffectual American president.  The Russians are smoothly replacing American influence across the Middle East, in partnership with Iran.  The new order is taking shape.  Obama isn’t going to reverse that process by telling aggressive, bare-knuckle conquerors they should be ashamed of themselves.

The other dangerous thing about this delusional President is his belief in the “judgment of history.”

He’s constantly hitting on the idea that all of the world’s villains are on the wrong side of history, and will find themselves buried in the sands of time any day now.  It’s a dodge, a way of Obama evading responsibility.  Bashar Assad is going to remerge from the Wrong Side of History in pretty good shape.  ISIS is very comfortable there, as is Iran.  Qaddafi didn’t assume room temperature because History caught up with him. Vladimir Putin has a lovely view of Crimea from the wrong side of history.  The history of Europe is being reshaped by the tramping of a million “refugee” feet.

In every example, Obama clings to the idea that he can change the world by talking and scoring debate points, while his adversaries seize territory and control the course of events.  It’s not as though Obama has some deep-seated reluctance to use deadly force – there have been a lot of deaths by drone strike since he won that Nobel Peace Prize.  What Obama lacks is commitment.  His foreign policy is all about gestures and distractions.  He cooks up half-baked plans that will blow up a terrorist here and there, so he can’t be accused of doing “nothing,” but he won’t do anything that could cost him political capital at home.  Even Libya was half-hearted and calculated for minimum risk, which is why the place went to an even deeper Hell after Qaddafi was overthrown.

Obama talks as if he’s taken action against numerous crises, but all he ever did was talk about them.  The men of action are stacking up bodies, and raising flags over conquered cities, while this President is writing speeches and trying to win applause from editorial boards.  The men of action know that Obama’s promises all have expiration dates, his vows of action always have escape clauses, and no matter how he loves to boast that he heads up the most powerful military the world has ever seen, he’s done everything he can to make it weaker.

President Obama is still clinging to a romantic vision of the “Arab Spring” as a flourishing of democracy, despite all evidence to the contrary.  He’s giving the same foreign policy speeches he gave in 2009 because he can’t bear to live in the world he made.  He talks about filling vacuums and voids… but those voids are already filled, by hard characters with plans to make the most of the extraordinary opportunity Barack Obama afforded them.



How to Lose Friends and Empower Radicals: The Peace Prize President’s More Dangerous World



Breitbart, by Sebastian Gorka, Jan. 29, 2015:

Since 2008, the world has become a significantly more dangerous place. In every region, new threats have emerged or old ones have reasserted them. The scorecard is clear: the bad guys are winning and America’s interests are being undermined daily.

As a nation, America has yet to recover from the experience of September 11th, 2001. Public opinion on our national response to the attacks against the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 is today divided. On one side we have the “Bush lied, People Died!” crowd who portray President George W. Bush’s response in terms of a conspiracy, despite the fact that we now know Saddam Hussein indeed possessed thousands of WMD warheads (and had used them in the past).

On the other, we have conservatives who are themselves split between the unsophisticated isolationists/non-interventionists who believe that an American withdrawal from the world will make us safe, and the quietly resurgent neoconservatives who see in the rise of ISIS/The Islamic State a justification for more foreign engagements.

For a moment, let us put Operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF), to one side. Instead, let us take an unemotional snap-shot of the global geostrategic situation to see whether the administration whose head was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize during his first year in office has indeed make the world a safer and more peaceful place.

Europe: During most of the last century, American security was tied directly to the continent of Europe. Whether it was the generational genocide of World War One, the racial genocide of WWII, or the class-based totalitarianism of the Cold War, Europe was the source of strategic, and at times existential, threats to America.

During the first Obama Administration, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton declared a “Pivot to Asia” which would deemphasize Europe’s importance and see Washington focus more on our Pacific partners than on old Atlantic Allies.

Since that announcement, an emboldened Vladimir Putin has seen fit to break an almost 70-year-old international taboo by using force to redraw national borders with his annexation of Crimea. This includes, incredibly, the shooting down of a civilian jet-liner by forces armed by Moscow.

At the same time, we have seen the European Union become evermore centralizing and undemocratic as untenable economic and fiscal policies are propped up by a Brussels bureaucracy in the name of “broader and deeper union.” This has naturally led to two types of responses: the unprecedented success of a paleo-conservative backlash, best typified by the insurgent victories of UKIP in Great Britain, as well the reverse: Utopian socialist populists such as the victorious Syriza party of Greece.

Then there are Europe’s ties to the Global Jihadist Movement. The recent slaughter in Paris, the beheading of a British serviceman on the streets of the UK, and Spanish and Belgian terror-related arrests all attest to the failure of the current international campaign against Islamist terrorism.

The flawed immigration policies of many EU nations have also facilitated the establishment of literally hundreds of ethnic and religious enclaves across the continent where integration is seen as a bad thing and where radical talentspotters for groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS/IS identify, indoctrinate and recruit murderers such as the Charlie Hebdo killers, as well as thousands of fighters for The Islamic State.

This has led to a grass-roots response from Europeans afraid of the future survival of their countries embodied in the ever-broadening PEGIDA movement that Breitbart London has covered in great detail. The failure of multiculturalist immigration policies has not only encouraged the enclave phenomenon, but is also clearly linked to the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism on the continent which has led to unprecedented numbers of European jews deciding to leave the nations of their birth for good.

If we include Turkey in our European snapshot, the situation is even worse, as we have seen the one viable example of a secular Muslim state slip even deeper into the corruption-ridden maelstrom of Islamic fundamentalism under the Erdogan government which is either incapable or unwilling to prevent Turkey becoming a pre-deployment site for jihadist fighters traveling into Syria and Iraq. All this from a formal NATO ally of the US.

Asia: The much-vaunted Pivot to Asia has clearly not worked. China has, over the last several years, openly challenged the post-Cold War peace in the region with a commitment to its own military build-up coupled with a concerted campaign of intimidation against its smaller and weaker neighbors.

While challenging and intimidating our regional partners, China has continued to grow economically at such a rate that the nation which was once universally ridiculed as the maker of plastic toys for McDonalds Happy Meals has now surpassed the US economy in terms of gross output.  At the same time, China is waging a covert war against America in the cyber domain, stealing not only state secrets for use in developing its new weapons systems, but also billions of dollars worth of intellectual property and commercial secrets from American businesses. See the remarkable report from Mandiant on scale of the threat.

North Korea has also used the internet to assault American interests as the Sony hacking attack attests, while Washington has proven totally ineffective in undermining the world’s last truly fully-fledged Stalinist regime, or its regionally destabilizing nuclear weapons capabilities.

Africa: A giant continent, with threats as bad as they were in 2008, or in several cases much worse. The Global Jihadist Movement continues to consolidate its control in Nigeria through the horrific attacks of Boko Haram, the group made famous for the kidnapping of the girls from Chibok, an attack which is just one part of a vast campaign targeting Christians and anyone who does not want to live under a theocratically run system based upon sharia and 7th century interpretation of the Koran.

In addition to the insurgent-like threat of Boko Haram, we have also witnessed horrific hit and run terrorist tactics used by other African jihadists, as in the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi by Al Shabaab. At the same time, China proceeds to build its vast network of economic interests in the continent in ways that far outstrip American geostrategic investment in Africa.

Australasia: Of course, the Pivot to Asia should have pleased our Antipodean allies. But the concrete consequences of the declarations and speeches by Secretary Clinton and the White House have amounted to little more than the deployment of a handful of US Marines from Camp Pendleton to Australia. Instead of the security situation improving, Australia faced its own Jihadist attack just before Christmas last year as a self-styled imam took hostages and brought the violent jihad so familiar to New York, London, Madrid, and Paris, to the streets of Sydney.

The Americas: Canada likewise became a direct victim of the Global Jihadist Movement after a spate of attacks against its armed forces and even its parliament which was only stopped when a brave sergeant-at-arms applied deadly force in the face of a rampaging jihadi.

Those who like illicit quality cigars may be celebrating the White House’s “normalization” of relations with Communist Cuba, but if statements by the Castro regime are to be credited as expressing Havana’s true intentions, then the deal was good for the dictatorship and bad for America. And despite the US government’s historic decision, conditions inside Cuba have remained the same, or in many case deteriorated, with last year seeing record-breaking numbers of political arrests on the island nation. And Cuba’s anti-democratic influence is a problem for the region, not just its wretched population, with Raul Castro’s secret police providing aid and expertise in the oppression of dissidentsto the government of Venezuela.

The Middle East and North Africa: Leaving the worst for last we have, of course, the Middle East, and North Africa. The highs hopes for the Arab Spring turned very rapidly into a “Christian Winter” and a victory for the fundamentalist and anti-Democratic forces of the Muslim Brotherhood. One after another, one-man authoritarian regimes fell to Islamist MB governments, or collapsed into deadly civil wars which are still being fought in places like Syria and Libya. Throughout the region, proto-democrats and vulnerable minorities, especially ancient Christian communities, have been targeted for death or persecution, or have been forced to flee.

The one ray of hope, the people’s revolt in Egypt against the Brotherhood government of Mohammad Morsi, which led to his being ousted by a secular military, was rejected by the US administration as a coup, despite the fact that General, now President, Sisi, has been fighting his own war against Jihadi fundamentalists since he was the Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

And now Yemen, which was lauded just a few months ago by President Obama as the poster-child of his successful counterterrorism strategy, has collapsed under insurgent attacks and the resignation of the government in Sanaa.

Then there is Iran, which, much like Cuba, has squeezed concession after concession out of the administration without either stopping its acquisition of nuclear weapons capability, or curtailing its support of Shiite terrorist fighters in either Iraq or Syria.

I said I would leave Afghanistan and Iraq of our the equation, but nevertheless, it is important to recognize that this is a new jihadist threat that is even more dangerous than Al Qaeda. ISIS, the Islamic State, is today a full-fledged insurgency, one that in four dimensions is much more of a threat that Al Qaeda ever was.

The Islamic State is more than a terrorist group, it now functions as a quasi-state and controls territory equivalent to the size of the UK. It is the richest non-state threat group in human history. It has an incredibly sophisticated understanding of information warfare and how to use social media as a propaganda platform, and lastly – and relatedly – it has recruited ten of thousands of young Muslim men from around the world, including Europe and the US, to fight for the new Caliphate of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Bin Laden dreamt of being this powerful. The Islamic State has turned his dream into a horrific reality.

There is not one area of the world of import to America in which we have either not lost friends, or failed to help our allies to defend themselves against the common enemies that threaten us all. Whatever your politics, or whomever you favor for the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States, one thing is certain: without resolute American leadership the world can become, and now is, a much more dangerous place.

Sebastian Gorka PhD. is the Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University and Associate Fellow at the Joint Special Operations University, USSOCOM. Follow him at @SebGorka.


snowden-monitor-AFPBreitbart, by BRETT M. DECKER AND VAN D. HIPP JR.

President Obama said Sunday that U.S. intelligence underestimated ISIS’s strength on the ground in Syria and Iraq. National-security officials counter that the president has been receiving precise briefings on the rise of the terrorist group for over two years, but Obama ignored the threat. While politicos point fingers, the danger is escalating rapidly as ISIS acts on insight into U.S. vulnerabilities it is getting from Russia.

Chris Inglis, former deputy director of the National Security Agency, stated that ISIS has “clearly” studied leaked classified NSA material to evade U.S. detection of its activities. More than oceans of indecipherable metadata and email correspondence, as it often is portrayed, the treasure trove divulged by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden details U.S. cyber defenses, military operations and proficiencies, codes, partnerships, alliances, cooperative foreign nationals, special-collection capabilities, and domestic defense systems. This intel gives Islamists enhanced capability to bring war to the American homeland.

It is not an accident that the point man for the damaging disclosure of so much Top Secret information enjoys asylum in Russia and that the intelligence is ending up in the hands of Islamic extremists. “It is reasonable to assume that Vladimir Putin is giving information obtained via Snowden to ISIS or al Qaeda so they can damage U.S. infrastructure as his proxy,” former NSA executive Charlie Speight explained to us. “Without getting his hands dirty or spending a single ruble, Putin can bring us down and elevate Russia.”

The Putin-Snowden collaboration makes sense in the context of the Russian leader’s background in the trade-craft of international espionage. A former colonel in the KGB, Putin initially served in counter-intelligence before spending the bulk of his career in the directorate responsible for training and management of covert agents and the collection of political, scientific, and technical intelligence. “It is becoming increasingly apparent that Snowden is actually a Russian agent who went into his NSA contractor job with the instructed intent to steal as much information as possible,” says Speight, a 35-year veteran of the NSA. “The dots connect that he already was a Russian spy before going to work for U.S. intelligence.”

One strategic asset put at greater risk from the Snowden leaks is America’s under-defended electronic infrastructure. In July, John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security, warned that major cyber attacks are being planned on a 9/11 scale, and that Islamic radicals are a threat on that front in addition to state actors such as China and Russia. “It’s clear that the terrorists want to use cyber-enabled means to cause the maximum amount of destruction to our infrastructure,” he said. “American companies’ most-sensitive patented technologies and intellectual property, U.S. universities’ research and development, and the nation’s defense capabilities and critical infrastructure, are all under cyber attack.”

What Putin gets out of this terror threesome is simple. Without leaving a trace to Moscow, a terrorist proxy could use knowledge divulged by Snowden to take out key functions of the U.S. economy such as the power grid, air-traffic controls, and banking institutions that would catapult a superpower backwards into the Third World with the push of some buttons. Although terrorist organizations are growing in sophistication, it is more likely they could pull off such a blow with the help of a major power whose global status would benefit as a result of U.S. weakness.

All of the dangers facing the West are heightened by operational compromises resulting from Snowden’s espionage. Central to this precarious posture is the neutralization of U.S. intelligence superiority by the sidelining of important combat-support structures such as the NSA. When the next terror attack occurs, the perpetrators’ jobs will be easier because of the ISIS-Putin-Snowden threesome.

Brett M. Decker is consulting director at the White House Writers Group and former senior vice president at the Export-Import Bank. Van D. Hipp Jr. is chairman of American Defense International and a former deputy assistant secretary of mobilization for the Army.

World Leaders Lambast Obama’s “Failures” in the Middle East

????????????????????????by Raymond Ibrahim:

World leaders are increasingly pointing to U.S. President Obama’s failures in the Middle East.

Some are direct and blunt.  For example, during his recent visit to Brazil, Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked by journalists about U.S. sanctions against Russia due to the Ukrainian crisis.  While naturally condemning such moves, part of his response was to accuse the Obama administration of “encouraging war between neighboring states.”  In the same context, Putin added:

American objectives have not been realized, nor have they accomplished anything, because everything has collapsed.   Afghanistan faces problems, and Iraq and Libya are falling apart.  Egypt also was going to collapse had President Sisi not taken matters in hand.  And all this demonstrates the failures of the Obama administration.

In fact, and as I have pointed out in several articles, every Muslim nation the U.S. has interfered in—whether to promote “democracy,” as in the much ballyhooed “Arab Spring,” or to defeat “terrorism” and/or eliminate “WMDs”—has seen two results: the empowerment of Islamists, followed by chaos, conflict, and constant atrocities.

Other leaders, such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, indirectly point to the Obama administration’s failures in the Middle East.  This occurred during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, in the context of the Presbyterian Church of the USA’s recent decision to divest from Israel in the name of the Palestinian people.

After pointing out that “Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East”—and nary a word of condemnation or concern from the Presbyterian Church—Netanyahu said:

You know, I would suggest to these Presbyterian organizations to fly to the Middle East, come and see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour, go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq, and see the difference.  And I would give them two pieces of advice, one is, make sure it’s an armor-plated bus, and second, don’t say that you’re Christians.

While not directly mentioning the U.S.’s role in these three nations—Netanyahu, after all, is on better terms with America than Putin—the obvious is clear: 1) the U.S. played a major role “liberating” two of these countries—Iraq and Libya—and is currently supporting the freedom fighters/terrorists trying to “liberate” Syria; and 2) in all three nations, the human rights of non-Muslims, specifically Christians, have taken a dramatic nosedive, evincing the nature of those the U.S. helped empower.

Consider Iraq today, one decade after the U.S. took down Saddam Hussein, bringing “freedom” and “democracy” to the Iraqi people: now an Islamic caliphate exists, enforcing the savageries of Sharia—from stoning women accused of adultery to crucifying others, burning churches and forcing Christians either to convert to Islam, pay “taxes” (jizya) and embrace third class status, or face the sword.

Libya, Afghanistan, and rebel-controlled areas of Syria are little better.

As Putin pointed out, the only nation still trying to hang in there is Egypt, thanks to the anti-Muslim Brotherhood revolution—which, of course, was criticized by the U.S. government, including by people like John McCain.

To recap Egypt: the Obama administration turned its back on 30-year-long U.S. ally, the secularist Mubarak, embraced the Islamist Morsi, and some of the worst Muslim persecution of Christians—the litmus test of “radicalization”—took place against the Copts during Morsi’s one year of rule, from an unprecedented attack on the most important Coptic building and seat of the pope, the St. Mark Cathedral, to a dramatic rise in the imprisonment of Christians accused of “insulting” Islam.

As for Egypt’s current president, Sisi, he too made some observations that comport with those of Putin’s (that “someone” is fueling conflict between neighboring states) and Netanyahu’s (that the region is a mess, thanks to the empowerment of Islamists).

During his televised speech in early July, Sisi warned that “religion is being used to destroy neighboring countries”—a clear reference to the empowerment of Islamists in the same failed nations highlighted by Putin and Netanyahu, namely, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan—all the handiwork of U.S. leadership in general, Obama’s administration in particular.


russia-flag-crimea-reutersBreitbart, NATIONAL HARBOR, MD—The potential for a new world order in which Russia is the main superpower is a potential outcome of the current Ukrainian crisis, a national security panel at Breitbart News’s Univited II National Security Action Summit agreed Thursday.

At a talk sponsored by Breitbart News, the Center for Security Policy, and EMPAct America, a number of experts agreed that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s kleptocracy needed to be contained for the good of the United States and the greater world community.

American Foreign Policy Council President Herman Pirchner began the discussion with a look into the Ukrainian protesters and their motivations. The Ukrainian crisis “is very much a generational problem,” he explained, with many young people looking towards more Westernized nations like Poland and the Baltics and hoping to be included in their prosperity. This did not mean that there was no support for Russia in Ukraine, or that individuals did not speak the language or adhere to some cultural norms, but the economic pull of Western neo-liberalism was there.

Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow Ariel Cohen expanded upon that desire and the threat of Russia overriding it and changing the world map in a way that endangers America. Cohen, who was born in Crimea, warned that a victory for Putin in Ukraine could mean “the end of the post-Cold War arrangement and possibly the end of the post-World War II arrangement.” A move that allows Russia to work the way it currently is in Crimea would launch a competition between a number of nuclear-armed nations to stop each other and create a “more chaotic and dangerous environment,” he concluded.

Sebastian Gorka, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, agreed but emphasized America’s moral imperative to intervene. “Why should we care about Ukraine?” he asked simply. “Because we are Americans.” The issue of helping freedom-loving people was one of “morality, and what this nation stands for,” he asserted. “If we don’t care about Ukraine, 1776 means nothing.”

The Claremont Institute’s Claire Lopez spoke more about the nature of the Putin regime that has been in power for a decade. “We are up against a KGB thug,” she explained, one that runs a “KGB-controlled and directed kleptocracy.” The invasion of Crimea, she added, was no surprise after the invasion of Georgia in 2008, in which Russia never retreated out of Abkhazia or South Ossetia. “If we don’t make a stand,” she argued, “this won’t happen again.”

Breitbart’s own Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak concluded the discussion emphasizing how completely the Obama administration had left that part of the world to their own devices. The United States is “the only stabilizing force in the world,” he argued, “and we don’t always have to be fighting wars to do it,” something that escapes the Obama administration and many in Congress. Pollak also noted that Ukraine was not alone as a nation fighting for pro-America values and being left behind: “Why are the conservative media ignoring Venezuela?” The current state of affairs, a “hollow foreign policy still committed to internationalism,” would result in danger for Western values, he concluded.

Also see:

Thwart Putin’s ‘Evil Empire’ 2.0

1135894153Center for Security policy, By Frank Gaffney:

Vladimir Putin is claiming that his invasion of parts of Ukraine is required because Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine as Adolf Hitler came to that of Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia.  He seems intent, however, on bringing all of the Ukraine to heel, as his predecessors in the Kremlin did with Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. What is in prospect makes the sort of aggression Putin previously engaged in with Georgia in 2008 pale by comparison.

In fact, Putin’s goal seems to be to reconstitute as much as possible of the old Soviet Union, whose collapse he once called “the greatest calamity of the 20th Century.”  This statement, of course, speaks volumes about this former KGB colonel, given the competition for that dubious distinction – including World Wars I and II and the genocides perpetrated by the Nazis and assorted Communist regimes.

President Obama has responded to this renascent threat to the Free World in characteristic fashion: empty rhetoric about the will of the “international community” being flouted and unspecified costs that will be incurred if the Russians cross some ill-defined red-line. It would appear that they had already crossed it in Crimea, even before Mr. Obama warned them not to.

Thus far, Team Obama’s most concrete idea of how to respond to Putin’s aggression in the Ukraine – and, presumably, that in prospect elsewhere in the Russian littorals he menacingly calls “the near abroad” – is to boycott the next spectacle in Sochi: this summer’s G-8 meeting.  It is hard to imagine that such a penalty would even register as a cost in the calculations of the megalomaniac in the Kremlin.

What might just give Vladimir Putin pause, and perhaps spare the world another generation of Moscow-directed repression and imperialism, or worse, would be the adoption by President Obama and the rest of the Free World of a strategy modeled after the one Ronald Reagan used to end the last “Evil Empire.” It was articulated in a top-secret presidential directive known as National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 75.

Today, the key elements of such a strategy should be:

  • A clear objective:  To use NSDD 75’s formulation, we must work to “contain and over time reverse” Putin’s threatening geostrategic ambitions.
  • Information warfare: President Reagan understood that at the core of his NSDD 75 strategy had to be a robust assertion of the superiority of our constitutional republic and civilization – and a concomitant effort to delegitimate and undermine our enemies’ totalitarian form of government and repressive ideology.  A similar foundation is essential for countering Russia’s renascent hegemonism.

Every instrument of the U.S. government – especially a reconstituted and state-of-the-art information warfare capability at least as effective as that brought to bear at the height of the Cold War by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – must be utilized to wrest information dominance from Putin, his puppets and apologists.

  •  Political Warfare: Directing our support, legitimation and outreach efforts to the Ukrainians and others threatened by Putin, while denying it to the Kremlin, is an indispensable ingredient in our struggle against the Russian regime. In addition, others who lend support to Moscow must be regarded as part of the problem, not as allies.
  •  Intelligence Operations: We must take a page from the playbook developed during the Reagan administration by then-Director of Central Intelligence William Casey and use covert means wherever possible to counter, divide and undermine our adversaries. To the traditional intelligence techniques should be added aggressive use of psyops, cyberwarfare and special operations.
  • As with the Reagan strategy, there must be a central economic and financial warfare component.  This would entail, for example, constricting the principal source of revenue for the Russians – namely, the vast petrodollar transfers from Western nations to the Kremlin’s state-owned or state-controlled enterprises.  Make no mistake: Such funds are used to bankroll Putin’s military buildup and expansionism. Burgeoning North American energy resources and the possibilities for fuel-choice in this country’s transportation sector (i.e., in addition to gasoline, using methanol derived from our abundant natural gas deposits) offer opportunities for leverage that can be used as Reagan did to constrict our adversaries’ cash-flow.
  • Reestablish as America’s national security policy “Peace through Strength”: Just as President Reagan did in in his day, the contemporary hollowing-out of the U.S. military must be reversed as a matter of the utmost priority.  The perception of American weakness it bespeaks is only reinforcing the sense shared by Putin and other enemies of liberty that the time has come for intensifying their aggressive behavior.

As a result, restoring and enhancing the power-projection capabilities of our armed forces is not only necessary to ensure we have the range of capabilities necessary to address some of those threats.  It is also vital if we are to minimize the chances we will needlessly have to fight wars that might otherwise be deterred and, hence, avoided.

  • Finally, the American people must be mobilized to comprehend the perilous state we are in globally and the necessity for concerted action to correct it. By adopting and implementing an updated version of National Security Decision Directive 75, we can: clarify for the public the adversaries we confront; address the various forms of ideological, political, economic and financial underpinnings that animate and sustain them; and adopt the comprehensive steps necessary to counter those underpinnings.

An NSDD 75 2.0 formula is our best bet for preventing Vladimir Putin from realizing his goal of what would amount to an Evil Empire 2.0, a terrible defeat for the Free World and an ominous advance for its enemies worldwide.

Frank Gaffney is the Founder and President of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. Under Mr. Gaffney’s leadership, the Center has been nationally and internationally recognized as a resource for timely, informed and penetrating analyses of foreign and defense policy matters. Mr. Gaffney formerly acted as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy during the Reagan Administration, following four years of service as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control Policy. Previously, he was a professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee under the chairmanship of the late Senator John Tower, and a national security legislative aide to the late Senator Henry M. Jackson.



Russian military convoy on the outskirts of the Crimea Armyansk in the direction of Kherson, Ukraine March 3, 2014


Also see:

Red Star Says It All: Egypt Makes Strategic Alliance with Russia


Egyptian Defense Minister El-Sisi, whose power essentially makes him the head of state, made his first trip abroad. It wasn’t to the U.S., or even to Saudi Arabia. It was to Russia, where he was photographed wearing a jacket with a red star given to him by President Putin.

This single photograph sums up what has happened since the Muslim Brotherhood was toppled from power in Egypt. The Egyptian government immediately turned to Russia after the U.S. criticized the toppling of the Brotherhood and the subsequent crackdown on the Islamist movement. Egypt’s Arab allies like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are also moving towards Russia in response to U.S. policy towards Iran.

This change in relations was music to the ears of President Putin, who said in a national address that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the century. When Egypt embraced Russia, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said, “We want to give a new impetus to our relations and return them to the same high level that used to exist with the Soviet Union.”

Both parties have agreed that they want to return to the days of the Cold War. That agreement was on display when Putin gave El-Sisi the jacket bearing a red star and he publicly wore it.

Putin signaled to the Egyptian delegation that his meeting with El-Sisi isn’t just about selling arms. It’s strategic positioning. He told them, “Egypt is the center of stability in the Middle East.”

The language of the Russian government is clearly designed to contradict that of the U.S. Putin zeroed in on the points of friction between the U.S. and Egypt.

The U.S. opposed the Egyptian military’s toppling of the Brotherhood and almost certainly opposes his inevitable presidential bid. Putin, on the other hand, came as close to endorsing El-Sisi’s candidacy as a foreign head of state can.

Read more at Clarion Project

Let the Terror Begin? Jihadists Cast Pall of Fear over the 2014 Winter Olympics

Russia-OlypicsBy Andrew E. Harrod:

Many of the 120,000 persons expected to visit the Olympics do not realize that they are walking into what effectively is a war zone,” Hudson Institute Russia scholar David Satter recently opined with respect to the 2014 Winter Olympics opening in Sochi, Russia, on February 7, 2014.  Satter highlighted the security concerns due to Caucasian jihadist terrorism overshadowing the athletic events at this Black Sea town.

Sochi’s neighboring North Caucasus region, Heritage Foundation analysts observe, “exists in an atmosphere of low-level anti-Russian Islamist insurgencies.”  Here skirmishes between security forces and rebels “are almost a daily occurrence.”  Numerous jihadist groups seeking to overthrow Russian rule in the region include the Caucasian Emirate (Imarat Kavkaz, IK), established in 2007 and designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States State Department on May 26, 2011.

Amidst this turmoil Russian President Vladimir Putin made a “brazen bet” to demonstrate his stabilization of the Caucasus by bringing the Olympics to Sochi, argued Center for Strategic and International Studies Russia scholar Andrew Kutchins.  Despite doubts about Russian representations of their “young democracy,” Putin won in 2007 Olympic Committee endorsement of Sochi with a pledge of $12 billion in preparations, twice the amount offered by other countries.  Official Russian estimates now put the total cost invested in a highway, high-speed rail line, electric power stations, and thousands of hotel rooms, among other things, at $51 billion, making the Sochi games the most expensive ever held.

The “inability of the Russian authorities to prevent attacks” described by Satter recently became clear in two successive suicide bombing attacks in Volgograd, a key transit point for travel to Sochi. The December 29, 2013, attack on Volgograd’s train station and an attack on a trolley bus the following day claimed 34 lives.  A pre-recorded internet video furthermore appeared on January 19 with two young men believed to have been suicide bombers in the attacks ominously boasting of an Olympic “present from us for the Muslim blood that’s been spilled.”

The video complemented a previous July 3, 2013, online video from IK’s leader or “emir,” Doku Umarov, condemning the Olympics as “satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors.”  Umarov thereby recalled 19th century Russian slaughter of 1.5 million majority-Muslim Circassians while subjugating the region, culminating in an 1864 Circassian “last stand” near Sochi, 150 years before the 2014 Winter Olympics.  Outside of Russia, Austria’s Olympic committee revealed the reception of a German letter threatening two female Austrian athletes.

Dangers presented by groups like IK have prompted extraordinary Russian security measures to protect 6,000 athletes and team members from 85 countries along with spectators purchasing a planned 1.1 million tickets.  The successor to the Soviet Union’s KGB, the Federal Security Service (FSB), will oversee some 100,000 security personnel guarding Sochi and the games, including Cossacks.  These forces will implement an officially proclaimed “ring of steel” around Sochi (video here) with a “controlled” zone.  Only locally registered and Olympic-accredited vehicles may enter this zone subject to security checks including x-rays of vehicles and baggage.  Completely closed “forbidden” zones in the mountainous area around Sochi surround the “controlled” area.  Security at Sochi’s brand new airport is also tight.

Russian forces guarding Sochi include at least six Pantsir-S medium range surface-to-air missile systems capable of intercepting both aircraft and cruise missiles.  Numerous navy destroyers and coast guard cutters, meanwhile, patrol offshore.  Sochi stores such as hunting shops must also suspend during the Olympics sales of weapons, ammunition, and explosives or industrial and agricultural supplies containing them.  By comparison, the 2012 London Olympics had merely 18,000 security personnel, a deployment then criticized by Russian security officials as excessive.

The recent 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey, though, had “unprecedented security.”  Bomb sniffing dogs, fighter jets and helicopters, and high-speed boats with radiological and infrared sensors all guarded the event.  Every stadium delivery received a police escort while stadium workers underwent thousands of background checks.  The Russians in Sochi are thus hardly alone with terrorism concerns at large public events.

American concern is evident in Sochi as well, with the United States deploying the command ship U.S.S.Whitney and the frigate U.S.S. Taylor to the Black Sea.  C-17 transport aircraft will be two hours away on standby in Germany along with aircraft under State Department contract will complement any helicopter evacuation of Americans by these ships.  Russian concerns about foreign forces on their soil, however, could complicate any relief.  Needing help in an emergency would be 10,000 American citizens estimated by the State Department as attending the games as well as more than 500 American athletes and coaches.

An unspecified number of American security officials, meanwhile, will accompany the American teams in Sochi while Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Martin Dempsey has discussed sharing advanced bomb disposal technology with the Russians.  For good measure, American athletes have received instructions not to wear national uniforms outside of Olympic venues.  Back home, American law enforcement agents have conducted “knock and talk” visits with individuals having ties to the Caucasus for “informational” purposes, similar to visits undertaken after the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon bombing.

Yet the Heritage Foundation assesses that success of these security measures “is far from certain…as the targets are many, the terrain is difficult, and the Russian security standards are in need of improvement.”  Indeed, Russian officials have already put out alerts for a member of the notorious “black widows,” jihadist terrorists who lost their husbands to Russian security forces.  This woman might already be in Sochi and security analysts have warned of others.  Successful attacks at Sochi by jihadist groups or “Lone Wolfs” would be particularly prized for “international coverage,” Heritage warns.  This “is generally hard for them to achieve due to the difficult access to the region for both domestic and international journalists.”

Read more at Religious Freedom Coalition

The Caucasus Emirate and its Capacity to use Women Terrorists and other Methods to Attack the 2014 Winter Olympics

20140123_russiasochoterrorists_largeby ANNE SPECKHARD, PHD:

Security forces in Russia are frantically searching for four women thought to be suicide terrorists hiding out in the run up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Ruzanna Ibragimova-one of the four-is believed to have already penetrated the “iron ring” of Putin’s security perimeter drawn in the radius around Sochi-waiting to attack.

Twenty-two year old Ruzanna Ibragimova, is motivated both by the separatist political and religious ideology of her senders and by her own personal trauma and desire for revenge. As many of the dozens of “Black Widows” that have gone before her; she is both a widow and traumatically bereaved. Russian forces gunned down her husband, a rebel insurgent, last February as she sat in the car beside him. Wounded as well, she escaped death.  Now she is willingly seeking it-after having trained under the protection of a Dagestani group that has already successfully dispatched female bombers to Moscow-one of them having caused a deadly explosion in the metro there in March 2010.

Oksana Aslanova another of the Dagestani women under search, like Ruzanna, is also traumatically bereaved. She is ready to avenge her husband’s death-Emir Valedjanov, the leader of the rebel group Jamaat Sharia of Dagestan was also killed by Russian forces. Upon his death, Oksana volunteered to become a suicide bomber and prepared to detonate herself last June on the Day of Russia in Dagestan, but she had to wait as the operation was postponed.  Oksana is now believed to be hidden somewhere near Sochi-filled with the desire to “martyr” herself.

Zaira Allieva and Dzannet Tshakhaeva, the other two women under search were good friends of Naida Asilova who in October of 2013 exploded herself on a packed bus in Volgograd. A week later the women fled Dagestan and are also believed to be in the vicinity of Sochi, ready to attack.

President Putin swears that his security is tight, yet posters of the women have been widely disseminated, and there is clearly a race to see who will win in this fight against terror. On the side of the state, Putin’s security apparatus is heavy handed, arresting and intimidating innocent family members of missing rebels throwing them in prisons as they have in the past. On their side, the Caucasus terrorists have shown themselves to have well placed terror cells, highly motivated cadres-whose motto is “Victory or Paradise”- who are clearly unafraid to die for their cause.  They have a demonstrated capacity for small scale but terrifying attacks-successfully detonating in transportation hubs and places where the public congregates.

Read more: Family Security Matters

Iran Takes Global ‘Victory Lap’

Hasan RouhaniBy :

Senior Iranian officials have launched a full blown diplomatic charm offensive across the Middle East and Europe following the recent signing of a nuclear accord that Tehran has celebrated as victory over the West.

Top Iranian leaders have shuttled between Tehran, Damascus, Baghdad, Moscow, and Turkey in recent days as they seek to boost Iran’s economic portfolio and regional influence on issues such as the Syrian civil war.

Iran’s diplomatic charm offensive comes on the heels of the recently inked nuclear accord that provides Tehran with some $7 billion in economic sanctions relief in exchange for a temporary halt of some of it nuclear activities.

Regional experts say that Tehran is feeling empowered by the deal and flexing its diplomatic muscles in a bid to court foreign investors and bolster its regional influence.

As Iran gets set to see sanctions rolled back for this first time in years, senior officials have been entertaining a cadre of foreign leaders.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was in Moscow on Thursday for a series of talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, according to regional reports.

Zarif stressed that Iran and Russia will “continue growing relations” on the economic, energy, and foreign relations front, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

Moscow has in turn been pushing for Iran to play a role in an upcoming global meeting on ending the civil war in Syria, where Tehran has backed President Bashar al-Assad militarily.

Zarif was in Lebanon for high-level meetings over the weekend and in Iraq earlier this week to meet with “senior officials” in Baghdad.

He then flew to Amman for “meetings with senior Jordanian officials” before taking off on Wednesday for Damascus, where he met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

“During the meeting on Wednesday, Zarif and Muallem reviewed the political, economic and cultural relations between the two countries as well as major regional and international developments,” Fars reported.

While in Damascus Zarif also met with a “number of Palestinian resistance leaders,” according to Fars.

Zarif then linked back up with Muallem to fly to Moscow, where they were scheduled to “meet high-ranking Russian officials” on the issue of Syria.

Zarif was expected to also meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has taken a particular interest in bolstering ties with Tehran.

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