I was nonplussed today when a friend said that we were on the eve of a situation like World War I, an idea that Michael Weiner Savage has apparently been pressing. Thinking about the Ukraine, and how it has brought American and Russian troops into the same country, I thought I might agree with Mr. Weiner.
But it turns our he was talking about Syria. My friend thought it was notable that a nuclear submarine is heading in that direction. I thought it was a lot less notable since Russia has been a military ally of Syria for something like 50 years.
In the U.S. media, we see the strange phenomenon of a lie and the truth twining around one another, as illustrated thus:
W.J. Hennigan and Brian Bennett, LA Times, tentative title Scary Russian Intervention in Syria:
U.S. intelligence has captured evidence of a significant escalation of Russia’s military engagement in Syria’s civil war, including satellite images of an apparent Russian base for staging troops and heavy equipment under construction near a port city that is a stronghold for Syrian President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say.
“It’s obviously a big concern,” one official said. “If they’re moving people in to help the Syrian government fight their own fight, that’s one thing. But if they’re moving in ground forces and dropping bombs on populated areas, that’s an entirely different matter.”
The White House said it was closely monitoring reports of Russian military operations in Syria after images of Russian-built warplanes and reconnaissance drones appeared on social media accounts belonging to Syrian opposition fighters. The pictures purportedly showed the aircraft operating near Idlib province in northwestern Syria. Idlib, like Latakia, is in the part of the country dominated by the Alawite sect, the religious minority group to which the Assad family belongs.
“Any military support to the Assad regime for any purpose, whether it’s in the form of military personnel, aircraft supplies, weapons or funding, is both destabilizing and counterproductive,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday.
In August, news footage from Syria showed updated versions of Russian-made BTR-82A fighting vehicles with Russian military markings that hadn’t been seen before in the country. A video clip from the conflict also appeared to show orders being given in Russian to a tank operator.
Also last month, a website that tracks ships moving through the strait between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean published photos of a Russian landing ship that appeared to be carrying several armored vehicles under camouflage netting and four military transport trucks. (emphasis added to identify bulls–t)
And here’s the second story, also W.J. Hennigan and Brian Bennett, LA Times, tentative title, Russians suppoprt Syria, counter ISIS:
increased Russian involvement could extend Assad’s hold on power…
the Russian government has provided the Assad government financial support, intelligence information, weapons and spare parts for its Russian-made military equipment.
the Kremlin has long stated its support for Assad in the fight against insurgent groups, including the Islamic State militants who control large swaths of Iraq as well as Syria.
…Russia’s sole military installation outside the borders of the former Soviet Union is a Cold War-era naval base in the Syrian city of Tartus.
With the buildup, the Russians could be looking to increase their ability to resupply Assad’s forces … The Russians also could help guard the Alawite home territory ….
Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, a steady stream of Russian weapons and resupply shipments have entered Syria to help Assad’s forces.
“Russia is one of Syria’s most important allies and has supplied military and political support to the Assad regime since the beginning of this crisis,” a U.S. intelligence official said.
Or, to condense it down into the lede that the article ought to have had:
Russia has been Syria’s close military ally for over 50 years. US support for terrorist groups has destabilized Syria. Russia is sending a few BTR-82A armored personnel carriers and four trucks on a
landing craft barge as part of its long-standing arms transfers to Syria. There are (very unsurprisingly) Russian-built planes and drones in the one part of the country that hasn’t been overrun by terrorists, the Alawite homeland. Also, unsurprisingly, a few Russian troops who the Kremlin will call “trainers” are being sent, probably to guard the Russian port and any other installations they have there.
Now put the rest of the facts in subsequent paragraphs, and you have journalis,
There is no story here. Yes, because the Americans have failed to counter ISIS and continue to try to overthrow Russia’s ally, the Russians are taking cautious steps to support him. I think they’ll fail, and that the consequences of Assad falling will be catastrophic, potentially destabilizing Egypt and Turkey.
But this is not a Russian D-Day landing in the Middle East.