Say Hello To My Cruise Missiles
By Pepe Escobar
October 13, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - "
- The New Great Game in Eurasia advanced in leaps and bounds last
week after Russia fired 26 cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea
against 11 ISIS/ISIL/Daesh targets across Syria, destroying all of
them. These naval strikes were the first known operational use
of state-of-the-art SSN-30A Kalibr cruise missiles.
All it took for the Pentagon was a backward look
over the shoulder at the flight path of those Kalibr missiles –
capable of striking targets 1,500 km away. Talk about a crisp,
clear, succinct message from Moscow to the Pentagon and NATO. Wanna
mess with us, boy? With your big, bulging aircraft carriers, maybe?
Moreover, on top of the creation of what is a de
facto no-fly zone over Syria and southern Turkey, the Russian Navy
cruiser Moskva, carrying 64 S-300 ship-to-air missiles is now docked
The proverbial anonymous US sources could not but
go on overdrive, spinning the Russians had four wayward missiles
that landed in Iran. The Russian High Command ridiculed them; all
missiles landed within eight feet of their targets.
The Pentagon didn’t even know the Kalibr could be
fired from small ships — as Tomahawks require much larger ships.
The best the Pentagon could muster, apart from
widespread apoplexy, was NORAD commander Adm. William Gortney
telling the Atlantic Council Russian long-range aviation and
long-range cruise missiles present a new “threat” for US strategic
The Russian cruise missile threat is a “particular
challenge for NORAD and for Northern Command.” Oh, really?
Talk about a New Great Game-wide understatement. A
case can be made that Russia’s military development over the past
few years has put Moscow generations ahead of the US. In case of a
Hot World War 3.0 – and nobody, apart from the usual Dr.
Strangeloves, could possibly want that — missiles and submarines
will be the key weapons, not US-style monster aircraft carriers.
The Pentagon is apoplectic because this display of
Russian technology revealed the end of the American monopoly over
long-range cruise missiles. Pentagon analysts were still working
under the assumption their range was around 300 kilometers.
Moreover, NATO has been warned; Russia can crush
them, in a flash — as I witnessed in conversations in Germany last
week. Fiery rhetoric of the “you’re violating my air space!” variety
also won’t cut it.
Once again, assuming the Dr. Strangelove scenario,
the only possible US response if the going gets tough would be to
launch nuclear ICBMs; but then Russia’s air space will be sealed by
S-500 anti-missile missiles, carrying ten inceptor missiles each and
unable to miss on any American ICBM.
Dumb and moderately dumber
So, after the initial shock, the Pentagon reverted
to … inanity, complementing the jolly mood of these dumb and dumber
Pentagon supremo Ash Carter swore Washington would
not cooperate with Moscow in Syria because the Kremlin’s strategy is
“tragically flawed.” We should read “flawed” as Russia in a few days
killing more assorted Salafi-jihadi goons than the US-led Coalition
of the Dodgy Opportunists (CDO) in over a year. Does anybody
remember the CDO is officially called Operation Inherent Resolve?
And then there’s an additional problem with the
Pentagon’s “I don’t want to play in the same garden with you”
so-called “strategy”; the Russian Defense Ministry explained it was
actually the Pentagon that requested to coordinate actions in Syria
in the first place.
To add irrelevancy to inanity, the Pentagon
announced it was shelving its latest spectacular fail; the $500
million program to “train and equip” Syrian “moderate” rebels, which
yielded a whopping “four or five” diehards ready to fight
So there will be no more “training”; rather the
molding of “enablers” — code for local intel — with a mission to
identify fake “Caliphate” targets for CDO strikes. They will be
“advised” on how to interact with the Pentagon “at a distance.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
“Equipping,” for its part, will be vastly
downgraded; what’s left will be a bunch of assault rifles to be
handed out to some 5,000 “moderate” rebels, which will be, of
course, instantly seized by Jabhat al-Nusra, a.k.a. al-Qaeda in
Syria, or “Caliphate” goons.
Ash Carter was very pleased with his new
masterfully conceived strategy, which is bound to help “increase the
combat power” of those elusive “moderate” rebels. And he swears
Washington “remains committed” to training those “moderate” rebels,
now on “different ways to achieve basically the same kind of
strategic objective” mode.
It fell to the astonishingly mediocre Ben Rhodes,
US deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, to
expand on the new focus of the masterfully conceived “strategy”;
“developing relationships with leaders and units [among Syrian armed
groups], and being able to get them supplies and equipment.” Why not
develop these “relationships” via a Facebook page? It’s cheap and
way more effective.
Deconflict me, babe
Even though “deconflicting” between Washington and
Moscow remains as conflicted as ever, there’s at least one issue
where they may converge; working with the Kurds in northeast Syria,
as admitted by members of the PYD (Democratic Union Party). PYD
co-chair Salih Muslim is adamant that “we will fight alongside
whoever fights Daesh.”
The PYD analysis though remains anathema to the
Pentagon and the White House. And the PYD does know one or two
things about fighting jihadis/”moderate” rebels on the ground. PYD
considers ISIS/ISIL/Daesh, Jabhat al-Nusra or Ahrar a-Sham “no
different” from one another. Translation: “moderate” rebels are
non-existent. PYD also accepts Bashar al-Assad staying in power for
a while, but only during a “transitional” period.
The PYD has perfectly read the meaning of Russia’s
Syria offensive. They fiercely oppose a Turkish-controlled no-fly
zone and now rest assured there will never be one. They are also
perfectly aware of a Turkmen “Sultan” brigade, trained by Ankara –
Turkish-style “moderate” rebels — which defected, en masse, to ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.
Meanwhile, in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir
Putin met — again — with Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister Prince
Mohammed bin Salman, as in the warrior prince who’s smashing
civilians in Yemen. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Energy
Minister Alexander Novak were also there.
Diplomatically, this was all about Moscow and
Riyadh agreeing ISIS/ISIL/Daesh cannot be allowed to take over
Syria. The devil is in the details. Much spin centered on a
“political solution.” Putin once again could not be sharper; the
current offensive is meant to “stabilize the legitimate authorities
and create conditions for finding a political compromise.” The House
of Saud got the message; it’s the Russian way or the highway.
They still flirt with the highway though — as in
the proverbial unnamed “Saudi officials” confirming those working
under Putin-friendly Prince Salman delivered 500 TOW antitank
missiles to the “moderate” rebels of the former Free Syrian Army
(FSA). Bets can be made these TOWs will be captured by assorted
Salafi-jihadis in no time.
All this frenzied action was taking place in
parallel to the freshly operational Russia-Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah
intel coordination center in Baghdad showing it means business.
This is how you run on the ground intel. A strike may have
missed “Caliph” Ibrahim but sent to paradise a few other “Caliphate”
notables. The bottom line: the Pentagon was not invited and knew
about the Iraqi strike by watching CNN. After all, the record shows
the Pentagon does not exactly excel in on the ground Iraq intel.
Baghdad Shi’ite sources confirmed to me once again
that the talk of the town is the Pentagon and the Obama
administration not only being not interested in really fighting
ISIS/ISIL/Daesh but at best dragging their feet in a sort of
“reluctant support” mode. And this because the Obama
administration’s “strategy” – ask pitiful Ben Rhodes – remains
hooked on “Assad must go,” whatever semantic variations about it.
And what about Turkey? Here’s the short answer.
Sultan Erdogan simply can’t handle the Kurds — either in Syria or in
Turkey. He can’t handle Syria. Not to mention he can’t handle
Moscow. There’s a running joke from Syria to Iraq and Iran that one
does not need to attack Turkey; you just let it fall apart by
itself. Sultan Erdogan is making sure that happens.
The Sultan’s myriad impasses explain why Turkish
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu – he of the former “zero problems
with our neighbors” doctrine — is now saying Ankara is ready to talk
to Moscow and Tehran about Syria, as long as that does not mean
“legitimizing” Assad. Davutoglu is also developing the warped logic
that Russian airstrikes increase the flow of Syrian refugees into
Turkey. So expect Ankara to release another wave of refugees kept on
“holding camps” all the way to Fortress Europe. And then blame it on
Putin. And Putin’s missiles.
Copyright 2015 Asia Times Holdings Limited.