Why US fears Putin success in Syria

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
A Russian aircraft on a sortie to carry out targeted airstrikes on ISIS infrastructure in Syria © Russian Defence Ministry
The US and its allies would like to see Russia’s military operations in Syria go horribly wrong as Russia’s success heralds a crushing defeat for Western regime-change machinations. It would also signal the balance of power shifting away from US hegemony.

Last week, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter darkly predicted that Russia would suffer blowback from its intervention in Syria with acts of terrorism being committed on “Russian soil.”

Within days for Carter’s pointed warning, Russian authorities arrested a jihadist cell in Moscow plotting terror attacks. This week, the Russian embassy in Damascus came under fire from two mortar shells – an attack which Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov quickly condemned as an act of terrorism.

It might be assumed that Washington has taken some nefarious satisfaction over what appears to be a harbinger of the terror blowback Carter warned of.

From the outset of Russia’s aerial bombing campaign against terror groups in Syria, beginning on September 30, Washington and its Western allies have sought all possible ways of discrediting and derailing the intervention. US President Obama poured scorn saying “it was doomed to fail,” while Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron labeled the Russian move as “a grave mistake” on the part of Putin.

This week, European Union foreign ministers amplified American claims that Russian air strikes are targeting “moderate rebels” and called on Moscow to halt its operations unless they are specifically against Islamic State and other “UN-designated terror networks.” The credibility of American and European claims about Russian air strikes is, of course, highly questionable.

But the point here is that it is becoming glaringly obvious that Washington and its allies want to make as much trouble for Russia’s military intervention in Syria. Why is the West going out of its way to thwart Russia’s intervention?

As has been widely documented, the notion of “moderate rebels” in Syria is something of a fiction peddled by Western governments and their media to provide cover for Western support to foreign mercenaries fighting illegally in Syria to topple the sovereign government. Russia’s Sergey Lavrov last week dismissed the supposed moderate ‘Free Syrian Army’ – much lionized by the West – as a “phantom”. This view was confirmed this week by Britain’s former ambassador to Syria Peter Ford, who said “virtually all the opposition armed groups in Syrian are Islamist radicals, either ISIS [Islamic State] or interchangeable with ISIS.”

One reason why the West is gagging to see a Russian failure in Syria is simply because Putin’s intervention is being so effective in destroying the terror networks, whether they be associated with Islamic State or the plethora of Al-Qaeda-affiliated mercenaries. The latter include brigades from the so-called Free Syrian Army which share weapons and fighters with the Al-Qaeda franchises of Al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Shams and Jaish al-Fatah, among others.

If we assess the four-year conflict in Syria as being the result of a Western-backed covert war for regime change, then it follows that the foreign mercenary groups fighting in Syria are Western assets. We know this because the former head of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, Lt General Michael Flynn has candidly disclosed that the Obama administration made a willful decision to sponsor the extremist groups for the purpose of regime change.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and US President Barack Obama © Sergey Guneev / POOL

So Russia’s effective anti-terror operations – as opposed to the year-long ineffectual US-led so-called anti-terror coalition – are causing angst among Washington and its allies precisely because Moscow is helping to destroy Western regime-change assets. Don’t forget that billions of dollars have been “invested” by Washington, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad, partly in order to undermine his allies in Russia and Iran.

Another reason for Western vexation over Russia’s intervention in Syria is that it is exposing the fraudulence and criminality of the Western powers and their regional client regimes. Russia is conducting operations that are lawful under international law with the full consent of the Syrian government – unlike the US-led coalition which is bombing the country illegally. Vladimir Putin has cogently delineated the all-important legal difference. From the Western viewpoint, this exposure of their depredations is intolerable. That is partly why Washington and its European minions are desperate to discredit Moscow in Syria. But they are failing.

Even the Western media has had to report on the rising popular support for Russia across the Middle East. The Washington Post this week headlined: ‘Amid Russian air strikes, a Putin craze takes hold in Mideast’. The paper reported how the Arab Street – from Syria to Egypt, Iraq to Lebanon – is celebrating Vladimir Putin as a hero because of Russia’s decisive anti-terror operations.

“Posters of Putin are popping up on cars and billboards elsewhere in parts of Syria and Iraq, praising the Russian military intervention in Syria as one that will redress the balance of power in the region,” says the Post. The paper goes on: “The Russian leader is winning accolades from many in Iraq and Syria, who see Russian airstrikes in Syria as a turning point after more than a year of largely ineffectual efforts by the US-led coalition to dislodge Islamic State militants who have occupied significant parts of the two countries.”

Three days after Russia began its anti-terror campaign in Syria, Obama made a curious offer to Putin. On October 3, CNN reported the American president saying that the US was willing to cooperate with Russia “but only if that plan includes removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” If Russia did not go along with this scheme to unseat Assad, then Obama “warned Russia’s air campaign would only lead to further bloodshed and bog down Moscow.” Russia, he said, would become “stuck in a quagmire.”

Putin has since stated unequivocally that Assad is the legitimate president of Syria and that Russia’s intervention is aimed at supporting his sovereign government. In other words, Obama’s offer of a regime change “pact” was repudiated.

Ominously, this week the New York Times reported that militants in Syria “are receiving for the first time bountiful supplies of powerful American-made anti-tank missiles.” The paper notes: “With the enhanced insurgent firepower and with Russia steadily raising the number of airstrikes against the [Assad] government’s opponents, the Syrian conflict is edging closer to an all-out proxy war between the United States and Russia.”

Washington wants, and needs, Russia to fail in Syria. Given the stakes of America’s dirty war, not just in Syria but across the region, Russia’s success would be too much to bear for Washington’s hegemonic ambitions.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.