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Dan Gilmore / September 30, 2015

Russia Authorizes Boots on the Ground in Syria

Obama lost; Putin has won.

Russia’s parliament Wednesday unanimously gave Russian President Vladimir Putin the authority to use military force in Syria. Perhaps it was just a formality, as we’ve known since Sept. 1 that Russia has been moving into the country. Unlike the United States, Russia has committed to the conflict, which will result in the defeat of the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels — a Pax Russiana through Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship — and less American influence in the Middle East.

While the Obama administration hoped that moderate Syrian rebels would topple the Assad regime and defeat the Islamic State, Obama lacks the fortitude to play Putin’s diplomacy game. Two years ago, Obama drew his red line over Assad’s chemical weapons. He was looking to a reluctant Congress to give him authorization to use the U.S. military in Syria. But before the political discussion in Washington could really heat up, Putin stepped in with a plan of his own, causing the Obama administration to breath a sigh of relief. Now, Russia has turned the tables on Obama’s foreign policy and Obama is none too happy. He said Monday, “As I’ve said before, we are prepared to work with all countries, including Russia and Iran, to find a political mechanism in which it is possible to begin a transition process. … Ultimately, however, it is not going to be enough to defeat ISIL on the battlefield.”

While Russia wants the defeat of the Islamic State, Putin told “60 Minutes” last Sunday the only way peace can come to the country is through the Kremlin-backed Assad regime. Russia is using Syria as an opportunity to forge alliances with Middle Eastern countries, to expand its reach just like it had in Ukraine. For instance, Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran agreed to share intelligence for the purpose of defeating the Islamic State, essentially cutting the U.S. out of the fight. Furthermore, The Washington Post reports that Russian troops may carry anti-aircraft ordinances — curious, because the Islamic State is not airborne.

As commentator Charles Krauthammer said, “This isn’t about the Russians taking on ISIS; this is about the Russians taking over Syria and keeping Assad as a client in place. That’s what happened even as the administration sputters because it has no idea what to do.”

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