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Through the Cold War / Soviet Era, the boundaries and mischief provided by Soviet –> Syrian –> Iranian bonds and similar arrangements produced both enmity with the west and a bulwark against it even though the basis for, say, Soviet and Iranian existence would be wildly different (but not so different with the Soviet : Baathist relationship elsewhere). The ghosts of the Soviet Era have play in Syria’s disaster today: in essence, post-Soviet, post-KGB Russia seems to have maintained its business and military relationships with Syria without influencing or updating the political and social arrangements of the earlier state of affairs, except to better enable the capital interests of a ruling class. Enter Colonel President King and Stakeholder Putin today: how would you have him now address the Assad family (keep in mind he has his own “kleptocratic” track record within key Russian industries), Maher Al-Assad (who has launched jets against the innocents of whole communities and rather only haphazardly found the armed elements arrayed against the family), and fend off the de facto acquisition of another Chechnya?

I happen to think, perhaps alone in this, that Obama has been trying to goad Putin into intervening in Russia’s client state, but neither Obama or the U.S. have “true interest” in Syria: the focus of activity in Syria is (Shiite) Iran, and into that space KSA, with ample investment in U.S. capitalism (with Big Defense contracts, it’s we who are working for them), has handily played its rivalry with Iran for regional influence.

From both humanist and political perspectives, no one knows how to “sort” the collection of civil and religious interests engaged in conflict within Syria, and no one from outside, including bordering state armies like Suleiman’s wishes to step into the furnace (not the best analogy coming from a Jew, but it seems to work). Instead, we would rather have UNHCR beg for $1 billion through the end of the year to address the civilian tragedy attending Syria’s civil war and unresolved hatreds and threats attending western identity and interests.

Syria is Putin’s problem, and while he can and has, I think, embarrassed Obama with it, he hasn’t rolled out a good strategy yet for his modern, post-Soviet state.

One more thing: Putin may have himself for a problem as regards his own narcissistic universe and the at least partial detachment of that from human suffering within his reach. Syria is a hard problem for him, and it’s important the unfolding story of the state’s themes do not serve to dishonor or embarrass him in history.


Some interests are known: Obama’s mom-and-apple-pie bid for a new Syrian secular democracy; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s interest in establishing greater autocratic Sunni-based influence in the region; Israeli reduction in Iranian-backed capability and hostility in general.

What we do not know are post-Soviet Russian interests in Syria today beyond continuing the archaic economic system chaining funding from Iran –> Syria –> Russia.

That system is up and running.

The old motivations are down and the current set are plainly absurd.

Russia, wary of its experience with Chechnya, has zero interest in otherwise supporting or strengthening Ayatollah Khamenei.  In essence, President Putin and the Russians have come to a crossroads in Syria, and they can’t go back, unless perhaps to the age of the czars minus the validation of religion for doing so (but mountains of cold hard cash may suffice for validation these days), and going forward, they’re a bit uncomfortable with us Yanks and perhaps lots of others on the Continent.

The longer Putin peers down the new routes available to him without stepping forward, the more he may contribute to the New World Disorder so signaled by the failure of the Assad family’s Syria to secure their citizens lives (casualties so far: 82,000; combined IDP and refugee figures: 3.4 million homeless).

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