Friday, October 16, 2015

Vladimir Putin's Syrian Strategy: Reducing the Risk of Biological Terrorism in Europe

http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/19-10-2015/132353-syrian_strategy-0/

“There are an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 fighters from Russia and other CIS member states fighting for ISIL,” Putin said referring to IS by its former name.“We certainly cannot allow them to use the experience they are getting in Syria on home soil.” Putin was speaking to leaders of the CIS, a regional union of a dozen former Soviet republics. He reported details of the Russian bombing campaign in Syria targeting the jihadists and assured that there was significant progress in defeating IS. He added that Russia stands for the creation of “as big a coalition to fight the extremists and terrorists as possible and is working with major regional and international partners” like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Israel. Vladimir Putin also reiterated that Russia is acting in compliance with international law in Syria."
“The operation of the Russian Air Forces supported by the ships of the Caspian Fleet are in full compliance with the international law and absolutely legitimate, since we are conducting it at the formal request of [Syrian] President [Bashar] Assad,” he said.
The Russian leader said CIS members should be on guard for possible retaliation from the terrorists and ramp up cooperation between their national counterterrorism and border guard agencies.---For full article see: https://www.rt.com/news/318826-putin-isis-soviet-republics-fighters/

With the exception of Israel, no other state has more experience successfully countering jihadi terrorists operating in their own territory than Russia. Obviously there are numerous countries who struggle with jihadi terrorism and have experience combating it, but their success is debatable. Russia has been highly successful and has a wealth of experience in combating this specific type of terrorism. IS poses a direct threat to the Caucuses, with the leader of Russia's Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, issuing statements reiterating the risk returning fighters pose to his territory. While the West drags its feet, Russia has already made impressive gains in Syria against ISIS targets. The refugee crisis in Europe, which surely will spill over to the United States at some point has hastened the view that we must cooperate with Russia, to end the refugee crisis by ending the encroachment of Islamic State into Syria and Iraq.

"If anything Putin sees the potential threat to Russia from ISIS as bigger and more urgent, because the number of Russians (many of them Chechens) thought to be fighting with ISIS and the threat of jihadism in and around Chechnya. Russia's desire to combat ISIS need not be seen as a pretext for protecting Assad; the converse may rather be true. In Russia's view, as Putin set out at the UN, the Assad government is all that stands in the way of complete victory for ISIS and the de facto disappearance of the Syrian state. For Putin, the priority is the preservation of the Syrian state. He looks at Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and sees western interventions that have resulted in anarchy. He foresees the same for Syria if the west sees toppling Assad, rather than combating ISIS as the priority." See: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/01/putin-syria-russia-us-airstrikes

While the refugee crisis, a humanitarian disaster caused  partially by our failure to intervene in Syria to stop ISIS at a much earlier stage is worrying, IS manufacturing of crude chemical munitions will be a real wake up call should such unconventional warfare munitions be used against European targets. Russia, of all countries, has sadly learned by experience, the devastation Islamic terrorism can bring to the field. They have suffered sustained terrorist attacks in their own country for years from Islamic Chechen terrorists. For more information see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamil_Basayev In contrast to a country like the Netherlands who dip their feet in the water, to look good by sending a couple rusty F16's, Russia has the capability, the resources and the international clout under President Putin to bring ISIS to its knees. Its time we support him and his forces to end the humanitarian crisis brought on by Islamic State's war in Syria and Iraq.

Why do some European states hold back from cooperation with Russia when this would clearly be to their benefit? A few European countries feel they are exempt from Islamic terrorism and think they can naively claim some kind of neutrality. They believe if they are not perceived as a primary force against IS, even though they donate their last F16's to the cause and make a spectacle of themselves by announcing this on national tv to seek attention, they can kind of slide under the radar. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Their countries are at greater risk because they choose not to cooperate to the extent that is needed, lest they be seen to help President Assad stay in power which might pit them against their UK counterparts. Unfortunately such choices, designed purely to be perceived as 'politically correct'  are likely to increase the threat IS poses to them and their allies.

Russia, on the other hand, has consistently offered cooperation, even while being blamed for events they had nothing to do with and threatened with legal procedures. President Putin has over the past four years consistently asked for cooperation and offered olive branches to the West in order to rid the Levant of IS. RT quotes President Putin:

"I don't really understand how our American partners can criticize Russia's counterterrorism effort in Syria while refusing direct dialogue on the all important issue of political settlement," Putin explained. "Putin was commenting on the refusual by the Obama administration to receive a Russian delegation headed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to discuss the differences the two nations have on the Syrian crisis. The US said it would not talk unless Russia followed Washington's lead and stopped helping the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad." "I believe this position to be unconstructive. The weakness of this position is apparently based on a lack of agenda. It seems they have nothing to discuss." Putin said at a meeting with the Kazakhstan president in Astana." See:  https://www.rt.com/news/318727-putin-us-russia-dialogue/

Israel and a handful of other countries, thankfully, understand the practical side of cooperation, beyond  trying to be perceived as politically correct or attempting to garner some kind of international attention. They understand fully the consequences of IS over running Syria and Iraq. At the moment Russia is fighting our war for us. They are literally paying for it and war is expensive. For an analysis of the costs see: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/the-cost-of-russias-war-in-syria/540015.html They will suffer possible loss of life in fighting IS, so that Europe can enjoy peace and security from the threat of IS; a far more serious threat than Syria under Assad ever posed. Additionally, they have suffered criticism for bombing civilian areas, without any mention that IS is using civilians and these areas as human shields. They know very well that Russia will be blamed for collateral damage and any loss of civilian life. Beyond the strategic posturing of some countries, its time for Europe to take a serious look at the consequences, should IS operatives infiltrate refugee camps and or gain access to European immigration routes, which in my opinion has already happened. Coordination with Russia is crucial, not only to prevent mishaps between nations currently engaging IS, but to ensure Syria does not fall to possibly the worst terrorist organization we have ever witnessed.

Why does Western Public Opinion Support Russian ops in Syria? https://www.rt.com/op-edge/318878-us-poll-isis-russia/

ISIS Bio-Chem Capabilities: Targeting Europe

"The use of mustard agent would mark an upgrade in Islamic State's battlefield capabilities, and a worrisome one given U.S. intelligence fears about hidden caches of chemical weapons in Syria, where Islamic State controls wide swaths of territory." See: http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-suspected-of-using-chemical-weapon-u-s-says-1439499549

In terms of biological and chemical capabilities, IS has manufactured and used crude chemical warfare agents against civilians and will likely continue an interest in manufacturing these agents. In August, ISIS is strongly suspected of using mustard agents. See: http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-suspected-of-using-chemical-weapon-u-s-says-1439499549 Confirmation of the use of HD was made a while later. See: http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/2015/08/21/isis-used-mustard-gas-makhmour-against-kurds/32116637/

Its imperative we offer support to secure the SSRC in Damascus to prevent IS from acquiring any kind of biological weapon capability or the ability to spread disease in refugee camps or elsewhere.

"The HD [compound] of mustard is listed as a 'Schedule 1' chemical weapon and is strictly banned under the international treaty known as the Chemical Weapons Convention. When sprayed or released from artillery shells, mustard agents blister skin and can damage lungs if inhaled."
See: http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/2015/08/21/isis-used-mustard-gas-makhmour-against-kurds/32116637/ 

While no one blinks as IS uses sulfur mustard against Kurdish forces, they may blink if they use something like a multi-resistant strain of TB in highly populated refugee camps and if those same refugees travel through the Balkans into Europe. I'm in support of helping resettle refugees and they deserve a safe passage, but their health and the biological threat from IS must be considered a significant public health issue in that resettlement process. In terms of warfare agents, Russian forces, although not yet on the ground, could well face CBW agents if a ground offensive is deemed necessary. IS is considered to be manufacturing its own very crude CW and working to attain a CBW capability and possibly a nuclear capability. While Russian forces are well prepared for unconventional weapon use, we must still consider that they are placing their forces in harms way and the result of this will benefit Europe and the West considerably. If European states are serious about reducing the risk of terrorism in Europe from ISIS, they must coordinate with Russia and provide support for their operations to oust ISIS and end the humanitarian crisis brought on by ISIS solidifying its state across the Levant.

See full article in Pravda: http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/19-10-2015/132353-syrian_strategy-0/#sthash.1SZQhsF2.dpuf


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