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Why is the US retreating from Syria?

This is a discussion on Why is the US retreating from Syria? within the Geo-strategic Issues forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; Originally Posted by Lcf Lack of united resistance? In this moment, that may be so, but I seem to remember ...


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Old January 14th, 2013   #31
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Lack of united resistance? In this moment, that may be so, but I seem to remember time when the rebels practically had the entire city of Aleppo at their disposal and that would be very hard to achieve with fragmented forces. What came after that was lack of aid from the outside and by that I mean intervention that never took place. Don't forget that something similar happened in Libya when the rebels took over Benghazi which would've probably be overrun by gov. forces if hadn't been for the intervention.
As for the government in exile, Yugoslavia had one in UK during WW2 but it meant nothing since the situation on the field was entirely different than the one they had imagined. Same thing applies here.

Germans installing Patriot missile systems in Turkey hardly classifies as unwillingness to provide assistance. Same goes for military and financial aid to rebels which goes over Turkish territory. So let's not fool ourselves, both Turks and Israelis know very well who's the Boss so if the Boss wanted to operate from their soil I don't see a way for them to avoid that. Wouldn't be the first time...

As for the Syrian air defenses which consist of SA-1, SA-2, SA-3, SA-5, SA-6, SA-7 SА-8, SА-9, SА-11, SА-13, SА-14... and approximately 60000 men operating it, now I'm no expert, but I'd say that's a quite serious air defense system.

Now people can talk all they want how this isn't about Russia but let's keep in mind that Syria is Russian last ally, so to speak, in the Middle East and one of the biggest buyers of Russian arms, don't forget the Russian naval facility in Tartus, don't forget that their reputation is at stake here. If they allow Assad to fall like that, who would ever again want to put their trust in Russia? Well, no one. And for a long time I haven't seen Russians defending their positions so harsh like this. And God knows what their response would be to a foreign intervention in Syria.

So yeah, I'd say this is about Russia...

*United* resistance - one forming a coherent government in waiting. In Libya, there was something to negotiate with very early on. In Syria, the uprising has been politically fragmented.

Big dog ? Nope, Israel has never facilitated foreign troops working from it's soil - and in fact, politically, launching a strike from Israeli soil would be disastrous as it'd be seen as a US led Jewish conspiracy. Turkey refused to allow US troops to step off in 2003 against Iraq, so I hope you'll acknowledge that Turkey has in the past declined to assist and has done so against considerable pressure.

There's a huge difference between Turkey requesting Patriot missiles and feeling happy to be complicit in an invasion of Syria.

In terms of air defence, the bulk of your list is obsolescent kit which,in any event is very similar to the list of former soviet client states across the world. They didn't save Iraq either time a Western led coalition went in, neither did they make a dent during Libya's insurrection.

Russia certainly wants to see Assad continue or at the very least, be succeeded by a regime favourable to them but to suggest they're instrumental in keeping other forces at bay is wide of the mark. We're not going in because there's no clear path to a peaceful future in doing so.


Given the opportunity (that access I've referred to many times now) and the motive (a politically unified resistance) I'm sure the means could be supplied. Personally, I hope we're done going in on the ground into middle eastern countries in some misguided attempt to fix the world.

Last edited by StobieWan; January 14th, 2013 at 08:10 PM. Reason: typo
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Old January 15th, 2013   #32
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Thanks for your note, indeed, it was never exported, my mistake...
I don't know NATO designations to the Soviet counter parts off the top of my head, so I didn't check the rest of your list. You're positive everything else on there is both still in service, and is actually relevant to this discussion?

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Though I never said it's the kind of air defense system that can't be outmatched by all the modern wonders of aviation, my point still stands, it's still quite a good system which in no way can be compared to those of Libya.
It can be compared in a few ways, for example the age of the systems in question.

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And I agree with you, much of those systems are outdated, all I wanted to do is to simply stress that even as it is, it's quite a huge system they got out there.
Also agree on Pantsir-S1 and Buk-M2E (which was probably used to down that Turkish jet but then again it might have also been modernized version of Neva that brought it down).
How is this relevant to the ability of the west to pound the Syrian military from the air and sea, with relative impunity? The re-armament of the Syrian IADS only began when the civil war broke out. They've only upgraded and replaced a small portion of their systems. The rest of their IADS just isn't modern. The ease with which Israel penetrated their airspace recently is ample proof.
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Old January 15th, 2013   #33
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*United* resistance - one forming a coherent government in waiting. In Libya, there was something to negotiate with very early on. In Syria, the uprising has been politically fragmented.
The Libyan rebels were also extremely fragmented. I'd argue that they only put up a show of having some form of unity, with the support of the west.

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Big dog ? Nope, Israel has never facilitated foreign troops working from it's soil - and in fact, politically, launching a strike from Israeli soil would be disastrous as it'd be seen as a US led Jewish conspiracy. Turkey refused to allow US troops to step off in 2003 against Iraq, so I hope you'll acknowledge that Turkey has in the past declined to assist and has done so against considerable pressure.
Syria has a coast line...

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In terms of air defence, the bulk of your list is obsolescent kit which,in any event is very similar to the list of former soviet client states across the world. They didn't save Iraq either time a Western led coalition went in, neither did they make a dent during Libya's insurrection.
I would think (though I don't know) that Syria is a tad more competent then Iraq, or Libya. They do also have a small amount of more modern systems. So they're not quite in the same situation (in the sense that it would take more resources to deal with them). But in principle you're right, it's quite doable.

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Russia certainly wants to see Assad continue or at the very least, be succeeded by a regime favourable to them but to suggest they're instrumental in keeping other forces at bay is wide of the mark. We're not going in because there's no clear path to a peaceful future in doing so.
Well you can take the stance that Russia went along with the Libyan intervention with relatively little protest, but took an extremely principled stand on Syria, with the West making very little effort to move on Assad simply because they're somehow smarter then they were when they turned Libya into a total mess, even though they seemed hell bent on taking out Gaddafi despite the extremely questionable nature of the rebels leadership. Or maybe there was a little tit for tat...

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Personally, I hope we're done going in on the ground into middle eastern countries in some misguided attempt to fix the world.
Well there we agree.
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Old January 15th, 2013   #34
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Undated, unsourced report of a sale, & as you say, no mention of delivery.

Sites such as Military Today can't be better than their sources. Other sources say that Syria asked for, & was refused, Iskander missiles. You choose to believe those who say that they've been delivered, & disregard those who say the sale was refused. I ask for evidence.
I too not convinced about the reasons put forward for the West withdrawal in Syria.
Debka is claiming the Iskanders were aboard the Russian ship along with marines and were offloaded and installed on Turkish, Israeli and Jordanian borders. Now if you don’t believe this then come up with evidence which is contrary to Debka's claims. You also chose not to believe Debka, anyway we are all free to believe what we want to believe and dismiss anything we don’t.

Give me that source who claims that Iskanders were refused to Syria.
If NATOs retreat is not about Russia, why make such a fuss about whether or not Russian arms are in Syria. NATO should move in nevertheless if this is not about Russian arms in Syria. NATO sympathisers should not try to come up with half baked untruths as to why NATO is retreating from Syria.

The US and Israel should have not put pressure on Moscow not to deliver S-300 to both Syria and Iran because this is not covered by the scope of UN arms embargo on Iran since S300 is a defensive system not an offensive one, if NATO is not shit scared of Russian made hardware then why exert so much pressure on Moscow? Israel went to an extent of dispatching Russian speaking Liebermann to try and persuade the Russians against Iran sales.
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Old January 15th, 2013   #35
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You're asking me to prove a negative? Err - don't you understand what you're doing?

You're the one making the claim, based on dodgy sources. It's up to you to back it up.

You're extrapolating from that uncertain claim, to an assumption about what looks like me to be fairly routine ship movements, being based on fear of these missiles which you claim, on a flimsy basis, to be installed in Syria. You've not even addressed whether these missiles are actually capable of targeting ships. You've then turned those ship movements into "the West withdrawal in Syria". What withdrawal? "The West" was never in Syria, & NATO has just plonked a load of SAMs capable of shooting down short-range ballistic missiles (& we know Syria has them, regardless of Iskander) into Turkey. How is that a withdrawal?

BTW, do you really take seriously a report which calls the Iskander a "cruise" missile?

FYI, the Russian refusal to supply Iskander to Syria was mentioned in, among other places, an EU report.

Last edited by swerve; January 15th, 2013 at 09:43 AM.
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Old January 15th, 2013   #36
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Yup - I'm not getting the logic behind the claim that on the one hand, Iskander has been delivered (presumably over the strenuous objections of ..well..everyone, but that S300 was denied due to pressure from the US and Israel.

Given Syria has no reliable means to detect and track a carrier group over the horizon (they do move around...) then I don't see Iskander as being a solid threat either - not with a conventional warhead and a CEP of several tens of meters.
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Old January 15th, 2013   #37
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Whole Iskander discussion beside the point, having those or S300 would have made no real difference to supposed international and/or US retreat, that is speculation as well a bit like Iranian propaganda in a very simple form.
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Why is the US retreating from Syria?
Nonsensical headline, discussion has not moved to realistic scenario approval or denial, just waste of a time, that's all.
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Old January 15th, 2013   #38
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You're extrapolating from that uncertain claim, to an assumption about what looks like me to be fairly routine ship movements, being based on fear of these missiles which you claim, on a flimsy basis, to be installed in Syria. You've not even addressed whether these missiles are actually capable of targeting ships. You've then turned those ship movements into "the West withdrawal in Syria". What withdrawal? "The West" was never in Syria, & NATO has just plonked a load of SAMs capable of shooting down short-range ballistic missiles (& we know Syria has them, regardless of Iskander) into Turkey. How is that a withdrawal?
And, fun fact, the coastal ASMs (Bastion-P complex) have already been delivered and deliveries confirmed by both parties. In other words, nothing to do with current naval exercises.

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BTW, do you really take seriously a report which calls the Iskander a "cruise" missile?
There is a cruise missile on the Iskander chassis, it was tested, and is planned for induction at some point. It has not passed state trials and is not current in production. Our own picture gallery has some pics of it. They're labeled Iskander-K. That having been said while it's the same complex, it's not the same missile. And certainly no Iskander-K have been or are ready to be exported anywhere.

Iskander - Military Pictures - Air Force Army Navy Missiles Defense

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FYI, the Russian refusal to supply Iskander to Syria was mentioned in, among other places, an EU report.
Also by Russia itself. Publicly.

There's also the fun fact that Syria had no problems publicly demonstrating all their other new Russian missile complexes, including the Bastion-P, Buk-M2E, etc. If they had Iskanders they probably wouldn't hesitate to show them off.
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Old January 15th, 2013   #39
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If Syria had the same coastline access as Libya
...
Iraq, there was access, enough to stage a sizeable invasion quite successfully.
...
Syria on the other hand ? Not so much - there's a narrow corridor to get into the country direct from the sea, and the rest is land bordering countries that either aren't well placed or are unsympathetic to regime change.
Wait, lack of coast line? One of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard in my life... Iraq has even more narrow corridor and yet they staged that invasion pretty well.
Bordering countries that are unsympathetic to regime change?! Aside from their ally Iran, name me one more serious player in their closer neighborhood that doesn't want to see Assad gone?

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it'd be seen as a US led Jewish conspiracy.
Like they already don't see it as a Jewish conspiracy or a US conspiracy in which Israel plays a significant role...

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so I hope you'll acknowledge that Turkey has in the past declined to assist and has done so against considerable pressure.
With Syria's coast line at their disposal, who said 100% of the operations need to be over Turkish territory? The kind of support US had from Turkey during the Operation Iraqi Freedom would now do just as well.

defenseDOTgov/News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=29175
They declined to assist, right?

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I don't know NATO designations to the Soviet counter parts off the top of my head, so I didn't check the rest of your list. You're positive everything else on there is both still in service
I'm positive. Also, I forgot to add 9K38 Igla (SA-18) and 1225 AA guns to the list. You are free to check for yourself, if you want.

The list I have is provided by this guy: enDOTwikipediaDOTorg/wiki/Miroslav_Lazanski
I find him to be one of the best politico-military commentators out there. Spent quite some time reporting from Syria last year as well.

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Originally Posted by Feanor
, and is actually relevant to this discussion?
...
How is this relevant to the ability of the west to pound the Syrian military from the air and sea, with relative impunity?
Is this a serious question? Since we can agree that Pantsir-S1 and Buk-M2E are the best they have right now, I think we can agree those would be priority one targets in a potential conflict.
And I doubt NATO planers take it so lightly like you and unlike you it's their job to take everything and I mean everything into equation, because believe it or not those aircraft's don't come for free, even when they are as old as those Phantoms, not to mention the potential loss of human lives.
And you said it yourself, this isn't Iraq or Libya.

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All evidence seem to point to the fact that the Turkish Phantom was downed in Syrian airspace. If indeed the jet was downed whilst in Turkish or international airspace, I think we can agree that the response from NATO would have been a wee bit different.
Yeah right, like they need evidence to start and intervention, especially with all the border provocations from Syrian side.
Shoot first, ask questions later. Sadly it has came to that. Remember those WMD's found in Iraq? Neither do I.

Enough said.

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Originally Posted by STURM
Not sure what your personal definition of ''quite capable'' or even with which other military is the Syrian military ''quite capable'' in comparison with? Two years on, the Syrian military has been unable to contain the rebellion and has been losing ground, to the extent that some parts of the outskirts of Damascus are lost to the rebels and you're suggesting that one factor that has prevented foreign countries from intervening is because the Syrian military is ''quite capable''?
In comparison to Iraq or Lybia, for example.
Civil war's a nasty thing. Especially if you find yourself under sanctions and in unofficial war with your neighbors and with a lot of the worlds most powerful countries.

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Originally Posted by STURM
Russia was unhappy with how the West and its Arab allies had their way over Libya
I have reasons to believe Russia also wanted Gaddafi out of the pictures because aside from increased rhetoric that was meant for use at home, they didn't do a single damn thing for him but that's another subject.

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There is a profound difference between having special forces on the ground and actually having regular units engaged in combat operations. The U.K can't and simply will not do more than its presently doing unilaterely, without the support of NATO or the EU.
And still, in my opinion none of you gave me a valid answer why is it like that in this case? Why aren't they acting? You all claim it has nothing to do with Russian presence. You all claim Syria has no means to defend itself successfully from NATO intervention, on which I mostly agree with. So I ask, what's really stopping them? Lack of support from American allies in the region? Oh come on, the guy's (Assad) surrounded by enemies. Literally! By aiding the rebels in money and weapons, not to mention by aiding them with volunteers (or should I say "volunteers"?), they already got their hands dirty, so why not do more than that?

I see a Russian red line here that no one's willing to cross. I say, Russian presence is the main thing stopping the intervention. And I have not one doubt that the original plan was to intervene but only after complete withdrawal of Russian citizens and personnel which they thought would happen when all hell breaks loose. Well they thought wrong, all hell did break loose but obviously not enough to kick out the Russians and no one, at least not anyone normal, has the guts to risk having them as their "collateral damage". We all saw how that type of recklessness ended in Georgia...

So now they're silently backing out of this mess, with no explanations whatsoever...

Have a nice day.

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Old January 16th, 2013   #40
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Yup - I'm not getting the logic behind the claim that on the one hand, Iskander has been delivered (presumably over the strenuous objections of ..well..everyone, but that S300 was denied due to pressure from the US and Israel.
The US-Israeli axis pressure on Russia to refuse sale of S300 to Iran was on the basis of a trade-off between the warring powers that US-Israel will back off from re-arming Georgia and consequently, Russia should back off from arming both Iran and Syria with S300.
The alleged supply of Iskanders to Syria cannot be confused with the refusal of S300 to either Iran or Syria, this is precipitated by a different set of facts altogether. The supply of Iskander is an offset of Patriots installed on Turkey-Syrian border to obviously carve out a no fly zone deep into the Syrian airspace. This in itself is a blatant invasion of Syria under the guise of protecting Turkey from Iranian missiles.
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Old January 16th, 2013   #41
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In comparison to Iraq or Lybia, for example.
Hold on, wait a minute!! You're seriously suggesting that the Syrian military - which is more capable than the Libyan military, is a factor holding back the 'West' from directly intervening in the conflict??

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I have reasons to believe Russia also wanted Gaddafi out of the pictures because aside from increased rhetoric that was meant for use at home, they didn't do a single damn thing for him but that's another subject.
You do realise that in the larger scheme of things that for Russia, Syria is much more important than Libya - both at present and during the Cold War??

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And still, in my opinion none of you gave me a valid answer why is it like that in this case? Why aren't they acting? You all claim it has nothing to do with Russian presence. You all claim Syria has no means to defend itself successfully from NATO intervention, on which I mostly agree with. So I ask, what's really stopping them?
As I've explained twice before, the geo-political situation in Syria is much more complex and risky than it was with Libya [I base my assessements on facts not speculation]. There are more things that can go wrong for the 'West'' and more resources and more lasting presence will be needed if the 'West'' puts boots on the ground.......... With Libya there was no need for a foreign military presence after the fall of Gadaffi, with Syria it could be very, very different. The Americans remember very well the major mistake they made in Iraq, with regards to not paying attention to the fact that they would have to play a role in rebuilding the country and helping ensuring state institutions could get back on their feet again. And look at Afghanistan, all the initial emphasis initially was on defeating AQ, there were very little plans for what came after, with regards to helping the Afghans get back on the feet again - the result was that in the 2002/3 period the Talibs made a comeback. If the strife continues in Syria after Assad's ouster, is the 'West' going to commit itself to staying in Syria? Is the political will, funding and resources even available?

Let me present a scenario. Let's say Western troops do enter Syria to help the 'freedom loving' 'democratic' rebels overthrow the brutal and hated dictator, what happens if the rebels start fighting amongst themselves? One rebel groups announces that it want to establish the Islamic Caliphate of Syria and starts going after the minorities [the Druze, the Christians and off course the Alawites] and the Kurds announce they want a semi-autonomous region with their brethren in Turkey. Are American and British squaddies going to stay on to help sort out the mess and are the 'big powers' going to provide funding for the UN to step in??

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By aiding the rebels in money and weapons, not to mention by aiding them with volunteers (or should I say "volunteers"?), they already got their hands dirty, so why not do more than that?
It should be plainly obvious to you. Providing aid to the rebels - as opposed to actually fighting alongside or for the rebels - entails much less risk, resources and comitment.

Last edited by STURM; January 16th, 2013 at 05:11 AM.
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Old January 16th, 2013   #42
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I'm positive. Also, I forgot to add 9K38 Igla (SA-18) and 1225 AA guns to the list. You are free to check for yourself, if you want.

The list I have is provided by this guy: enDOTwikipediaDOTorg/wiki/Miroslav_Lazanski
I find him to be one of the best politico-military commentators out there. Spent quite some time reporting from Syria last year as well.
Interesting. So you're positive that all the types you listed are still in service? And he's positive? Not that it matters, but the very act of listing randomly a bunch of MANPADS, tac-SAMs, division-SAMs, theater-SAMs, and of different generations at that makes me wonder about what your point here even is. Syria has a large and multi-layered IADS. Mostly outdated.

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Is this a serious question? Since we can agree that Pantsir-S1 and Buk-M2E are the best they have right now, I think we can agree those would be priority one targets in a potential conflict.
And I doubt NATO planers take it so lightly like you and unlike you it's their job to take everything and I mean everything into equation, because believe it or not those aircraft's don't come for free, even when they are as old as those Phantoms, not to mention the potential loss of human lives.
And you said it yourself, this isn't Iraq or Libya.
They won't take it lightly, they'll take it quite seriously, and consequently disassemble the Syrian IADS node by node, and SAM by SAM. Again, what's your point?

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Yeah right, like they need evidence to start and intervention, especially with all the border provocations from Syrian side.
Shoot first, ask questions later. Sadly it has came to that. Remember those WMD's found in Iraq? Neither do I.
Hmm. Well there were those sarine-filled arty shells...

And that's just it. Iraq was pushed through because the US had more credibility, and Iraq had fewer friends. Pushing through a similar move on Syria would be much harder.

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I have reasons to believe Russia also wanted Gaddafi out of the pictures because aside from increased rhetoric that was meant for use at home, they didn't do a single damn thing for him but that's another subject.
Wanted or allowed it in exchange for something else?

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And still, in my opinion none of you gave me a valid answer why is it like that in this case? Why aren't they acting? You all claim it has nothing to do with Russian presence. You all claim Syria has no means to defend itself successfully from NATO intervention, on which I mostly agree with. So I ask, what's really stopping them? Lack of support from American allies in the region? Oh come on, the guy's (Assad) surrounded by enemies. Literally! By aiding the rebels in money and weapons, not to mention by aiding them with volunteers (or should I say "volunteers"?), they already got their hands dirty, so why not do more than that?
It has nothing to do with Russian physical presence, but maybe something to do with their geopolitical presence both in the region, and in the world at large.

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I see a Russian red line here that no one's willing to cross. I say, Russian presence is the main thing stopping the intervention. And I have not one doubt that the original plan was to intervene but only after complete withdrawal of Russian citizens and personnel which they thought would happen when all hell breaks loose. Well they thought wrong, all hell did break loose but obviously not enough to kick out the Russians and no one, at least not anyone normal, has the guts to risk having them as their "collateral damage". We all saw how that type of recklessness ended in Georgia...
Maybe. Or maybe there wasn't much of an intervention plan to begin with, given how little actual pressure was put on Syria. Hell, an Italian telecom company (and Italy's a NATO member state) was delivering comm gear to the Syrians in the middle of the conflict.
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Old January 16th, 2013   #43
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Wait, lack of coast line? One of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard in my life... Iraq has even more narrow corridor and yet they staged that invasion pretty well.
:sigh: GET.A.MAP.


2003, there were bordering countries willing to provide staging points for a land based assault into Iraq so there were plenty of options to work with. Assault could be made from land and sea at will.

Today. the nearest neighbours to Syria are *not* willing to allow any such action. Given that, the only way into Syria is a relatively narrow throat of coastline which is controlled by forces loyal to Assad. I've only stated this about four times so I can see why it's hard to grasp. One more time..yes, there is some coast. There's not a lot of it, and it's all held by the bad guys.

That's *it*...

In 2003, it's worth pointing out that Turkey did not allow land based attacks to stage from her territory and neither as far as I'm aware, did any Coalition air strikes come from Turkish bases. In fact, during the very early hours of the war, Turkey refused flight clearance for missions travelling through her airspace, only relenting for some special forces drops a day or so into the war/

So, no, the US couldn't get into Syria today just relying on the sort of assistance that Turkey gave in 2003 - because there was none..

Without a decent base of support from the neighbours, there's no prospect of international intervention. In addition, I suspect most of the usual Western actors are a bit war weary and less inclined to get into military intervention of any sort in Syria as it'll likely be a decade long struggle to stabilise the aftermath. I don't see fear of Russia as being a major factor here.
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Old January 16th, 2013   #44
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They won't take it lightly, they'll take it quite seriously, and consequently disassemble the Syrian IADS node by node, and SAM by SAM.
Exactly! Like what they did with KARI.

Given the loss of ground and bases to the FSA, the aged Syrian IADS has been further degraded.

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In addition, I suspect most of the usual Western actors are a bit war weary and less inclined to get into military intervention of any sort in Syria as it'll likely be a decade long struggle to stabilise the aftermath. .
The Independent ran an article which mentioned Britain's top brass saying that the British military was over extended and warned against British involvement in Mali.
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Old January 16th, 2013   #45
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The Independent ran an article which mentioned Britain's top brass saying that the British military was over extended and warned against British involvement in Mali.
I should think so - we need to get out Afghanistan, retrain and refocus - ideally, skip any "wars of choice" for a bit. We have some people coming up for their *tenth* active tour of duty in Afghanistan - that's a heck of a career.

So, no ta to Mali and definitely no thanks for Syria.
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