This comment was chosen by moderator HS from the post “Very dangerous escalation in Syria”. Mod-HS found this to be an exceptionally well reasoned and well written summary of Russian / US tactical/strategic maneuvers in the middle east.
As a side note Larchmonter445 ‘Corner’ selection ( http://thesaker.is/two-rules-of-warfare-1-never-march-on-moscow-and-2-never-march-on-moscow/ )was posted on Paul Craig Roberts blog today.  Your comments are getting wide exposure.
Comment by GeorgeG

 

Beginning with a general consideration: words vs. deeds. — We usually say that deeds speak louder than words, but sometimes it is the other way around.

The Russian MoD has been observing very closely. When the SAA was moving to lift the blockade on Dei Ezzor, the SDF decided to “liberate” Deir Ezzor also and started to draw forces away from Raqqah — who needs them there anyway?, the Americans are simply destroying the city– and moved through ISIS-held territory, encountering no resistance. That was the start of what now becomes the US’ open display that it is not only their SDF that works with ISIS, but they do it directly. Thereupon the Russian MoD *said* that it would retaliate against any attack on Syrian forces fighting ISIS in the Deir Ezzor region, no matter who was mixed in with these forces.
Then I, too, observed carefully: there was a report at Sputnik with a photo of Putin and attribution to Putin of a statement that he “agrees with the assessment and statement of the MoD.” No more than that. This weekend Lavrov was on Russian NTV and said that it is not clear what the real intentions of the Americans are in Syria, and that this would only become clear when ISIS is defeated. He expects that all foreign forces that are in Syria without the invitation and consent of the Syrian government will then leave. Now we have a shelling somewhere near Deir Ezzor, killing Lt.-General Asapov, but there was no immediate retaliation — as the MoD had threatened — nor are Sputnik, RT or TASS giving it any big play. Why not? Because, whie he MoD has been doing a lot of talking and Lavrov has been doing a lot of talking, Putin, while agreeing with the MoD, did not give the MoD authorization to carry out the threat.

Some, perhaps many, will say, ‘Aha! The Russian MoD issued a chicken-game threat and the Americans called them on it, and it turned out to be a bluff.’ That may be a general public perception, but public perception does not guide Putin’s decisions, and, on the ground, it means nothing. Putin’s agreement with the MoD does not mean Putin agreed to being trapped in a Zugzwang. CENTCOM may think so, but CENTCOM and the CIA’s troops are not turning the tide of the war.

Lavrov said so, but in a different way. “Deconfliction”, he said, is fine and it is “working” among military professionals, but what is needed is “coordination.” — Lavrov, always simple, always principled, and he manages to have a lot of people, especially the Americans, scratching their heads because they don’t understand what he says. When so-called “professionals” are not acting “professionally”, which they are not doing if they start betting the Russians will not kill them, then either they are fools, and not professionals, or they are the tools of some policy. Lavrov asks, What is American policy, what are the real intentions?

Again, there is public perception, on this matter of policy even several perceptions. “we all know” that the US’ policy is simply to destroy, that the US is incapable of “policy”, that the US always steps on the same rake, that the US can never keep to an agreement.

The current Russian military posture vis a vis the Americans in Syria is based on the “common policy” of fighting to eradicate ISIS. Trump said so. — Ok, we can forget Trump. Nevertheless, Russian policy *and* military posture in Syria are based on the articulated “common policy”. The Russians, contrary to the Americans, will always talk and ask questions first, before they shoot. Below he top of the escalation ladder, there is no military automatic mechanism. Military is always subordinate to policy.

If Russia is *forced* to conclude that there is no “common policy”, or if they are *told* there is no longer a “common policy”, they can change their military posture accordingly. This is far more dangerous for the Americans than the Russians shooting back when they are shot at. For starters, if there is no longer a “common policy,” then “deconfliction” makes no sense. Lavrov said as much, but he did not issue a threat, just food for thought for the Americans. Within a “deconfliction regime” it is possible to show some toleranace for American systemic incompetence, usually termed “mistakes.” Outside that regime, the Americans decide how much they want to bleed. There is no immediate need to rush up the escalation ladder.

The fundamental political question to the US — Donald who? — is whether they want to continue to grant CENTCOM decision-making authority in view of the fact that CENTCOM’s decisions are not turning the tide of the war, will not turn the tide of the war, will accelerate the US’ political departure from the entire region, and will nullify any dreams the US might entertain of sitting at any negotiating table to talk Syrian politics when ISIS is finished. These things, these “high prices” will be exracted, but not simply by Russian military force on a battlefield.

Trump handed over operational decision-making authority to the military. Trump is irrelevant. And it makes increasingly less and less sense to speak about “neo-cons” in control. More appropriate, because it is a matter of command-and-conrol and not ideology and geopolitical “world views,” the CoG (Continuity of Government) apparatus is in power. So we are not talking about civilian constitutional authority versus the military. We are taking about the military as the *political* power and responsible authority, which has to do its own gaming, its own calculations, its own cost-benefit analysis, and decide what its policy is for Syria and whether to allow its “legacy tools” to ruin their political prospects for no better reason than that, apart from these “legacy tools” (Salafist terrorists), they have very little “skin in the game.” The CoG military are, after all, the only “professionals” left.

I surmise from the question Lavrov opened concerning the real intentions of the US, that the Russians have reasons to believe that the CoG does not itself know what its policy is, but they have to decide. In Syria their time is running out fast, whereas in Afghanistan, even in N. Korea, they still have some time left. (Trump’s recent quip was semi-correct even though he doesn’t know what he is talking about: We are doing very little in Syria apart from fighting ISIS. In fact, the Americans are indeed doing very little, and what little they are doing is not fighting ISIS. Maybe Trump wasn’t briefed on that: no “need to know,” he’s not responsible anyway. — CoG. Tillerson calls Lavrov to talk about Syria (“initiated by the US side”), but I have seen no notificaions of Trump-Putin calls.)

The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world