How much has happened since Putin and Obama gave their UN addresses on Monday. But nothing that should not have been expected. Though he had practically said everything but ‘when’, Russia’s airstrikes against Syrian rebel positions on Wednesday “shocked”, “surprised” and “outraged” the US. It took Israeli defense specialists also by surprise, as had Russia’s buildup of aircraft and munitions over the last weeks. Who ever thought he might use them! Thursday Ash Carter and John McCain heaved their chests and waved their fingers and said, “this is only going to de-stabilize the situation”, and then, contradictorily, “you are supporting Assad!”. They are particularly outraged because Russia’s attacks weren’t just on ISIS but hit some of “our moderates”, as well as Turkmen “moderates”, Chechnyan “moderates”, and Uyghur “moderates”, if you believe all the complaints of offended proxies to their protectors.
The 20 or so strikes hit perhaps a dozen sites around and between Hama and Homs, the two major cities between Aleppo in the north and Damascus in the south. They continued on Thursday, also near Idlib. The Homs-Hama route is a critical crossroads from Lebanon and the coast, and a north-south lifeline that rebels and regime have long struggled over. Russia initially said the strikes were against ISIS positions, but it seems many were against Jubhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham. Some were ISIS, despite the contrary charges by the US. The photographic footage released confirms the precise nature of the hits. Most of these sites were training camps and equipment depots, not the Syrian oil industry infrastructure that the US, in a policy too-clever-for-its-own good, highlights in its ho-hum once-a-month or so strike against “ISIS” targets. No civilians were killed in the Russian raids, it seems, despite the contrary reports of the Western press.
This is where Putin’s sleight of hand caught out the Western press. By announcing the airstrikes before actually carrying them out, Western “humanitarians” were duped. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of these events is neither that the airstrikes were carried out, nor that the West feigned surprise and outrage, but that it was so easy for Putin to catch the Western propaganda machine red-handed. This is precisely the kind of “active measure” that he had scorned when Charlie Rose brought up Assad’s “barrel bombs” and “chemical weapons”.
“33 civilians killed in Russian airstrikes” cried the White Helmets, otherwise known as Syrian Civil Defense, a propaganda organ funded by the US State Department. This was picked up by numerous Western news agencies. Only problem is that the tweet was made before the strikes occurred and were accompanied by a picture five years old.
Russian officials, including Putin, reacted with bemusement and chagrin. Putin himself announced ” The first reports about civilian casualties emerged even before our planes got in the air.” The Russian press has been surprisingly kind to their colleagues in the West.
Ron Paul, among the handful of sane people on the foreign affairs front in American politics, and always admirable for his non-interventionist stance (abandoned by his son) also noted the propaganda farce, and the hypocrisy of the US position. Paul also brings up US double standards with Syria and Saudi Arabia, which in fact is killing thousands of Yemeni civilians, but this is placed into the back pages of NYTimes and other State Department “organs” of dissemination. Our allies, who are about to crucify a boy, are granted chairmanship of the Human Rights Council without so much as a hint of embarrassment on the part of the US. But Assad must be taken down. Right.