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Arnold Ahlert / November 25, 2015

Turkey-Russia Turmoil

The deadly consequences of America “leading from behind” in the fight against ISIS.

Leading from behind, or more accurately, failing to lead at all, has its consequences. Turkish jets shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter jet Turkey claimed was over its airspace, and both pilots were reportedly killed. In addition, American-backed Syrian rebels shot down a Russian rescue helicopter, killing one crew member. Russian guided missile cruiser Moskva will now be deployed off the Syrian coast, with Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoi warning that “every target posing a potential threat will be destroyed,” and all military contacts with Turkey “will be suspended.” As PJ Media’s Richard Fernandez deftly explains, the latest turn of events is “a clear sign of how dangerous Obama’s Syria policy has become. The vacuum left by his policy has not only engendered a chaos which has destroyed whole countries, but it has drawn in great powers whose armed forces are operating in dangerously close proximity.” In short, this is how wars begin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Turkey there will be “significant consequences” for what he characterized as a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists.” The Turkish military insists that two jets approached their border and were warned “10 times” before one of the planes was shot down. Putin disagreed. “The Russian bomber was shot down over Syria by an air-to-air surface fired from a Turkish F-16 plane when the bomber was at an altitude of 6,000 meters at a distance of 1 km from the Turkish bomber,” he stated.

Army Col. Steve Warren, the top military spokesman in Baghdad, backed Turkey’s version of the event, but hedged in the process of doing so. “The incident happened at the border,” Warren said. “These things are not as clean as they are in the movies.” He further explained command was studying radio chatter, radar images and other data before making a definitive conclusion. Later, however, a U.S. official reported to Reuters that the Russian jet did appear to have been shot down over Syrian airspace after briefly entering into Turkey.

Regardless, this is the first time a NATO member’s military has shot down a Russian or Soviet aircraft since the 1950s.

Putin is hardly blameless. He has spent considerable effort testing American, British and other NATO nations’ airspace in recent years. Unfortunately for the Russians, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was less accommodating than Obama and Cameron. Erdogan insisted level-headedness had prevented even graver incidents at the border, and that the fighter was shot down in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement.

Erdogen further maintained he bore no “enmity” toward Russia or any other nation, but criticized Moscow for its incursion in the Turkmen regions where there were no ISIS fighters. He also indicated he would continue to support the Turkmen community in Syria. Thus, we have a confrontation between a megalomaniac with dreams of restoring the Ottoman empire versus an ex-KGB thug who dreams of a Soviet Union revival. And because Turkey is a member of NATO, whose members are bound to defend each other, the risk of escalation, while improbable, cannot be ignored.

President Obama, no doubt sensing an opportunity to tweak his foremost adversary, insisted the incident might not have occurred if the Russians were more interested in targeting ISIS than the so-called Syrian moderates who opposed President Bashar Assad. “I do think that this points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations,” Obama said. “In the sense that they are operating very close to a Turkish border, and they are going after moderate opposition that are supported by not only Turkey but a wide range of countries.” He further insisted “some of those conflicts, or potentials for mistakes or escalation, are less likely to occur” if Russia focuses on ISIS, and that Turkey “has a right to defend its territory and its airspace.”

Obama made his remarks while standing next to French President Francois Hollande, who was in Washington. Ironically Hollande was there in part to urge Obama to work with Russia towards building a coalition to fight ISIS. Apparently the French President is insufficiently impressed by what Obama referred to as a “robust” coalition of 65 countries fighting against ISIS, up from 62 in 2014.

Yet as Foreign Policy Magazine revealed last year “robust’ is a slippery term. "Although many countries have pledged military or humanitarian support, the State Department indicates that simply ‘exposing ISIL’s true nature’ can qualify a nation for the coalition,” it stated.

Nonetheless both presidents agreed to carry on with Obama, stating the U.S. and France “stand united,” and that ISIS “cannot be tolerated” and “must be destroyed.” In the meantime, Hollande intends to admit 30,000 Syrian “refugees” into France, while Obama remains committed to taking in 10,000, despite the House passing a bill aimed as halting the settling of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and overhauling a screening process. Forty-seven Democrats joined their GOP colleagues in favor of the measure.

Regardless, Obama remained defiant. “Nobody who sets foot in America goes through more screening than refugees,” he insisted. If that sounds familiar, maybe it’s because Hollande also insisted France will continue to “do the necessary checking before accepting refugees on [its] territory,” five days after the second terror attack against his nation this year. He also doubled-down on the same maddening denial of reality that afflicts Obama. “Some want to establish a link between the influx of refugees coming from the Middle East and the terrorist threat,” he stated.

Apparently the reality that a link was established is irrelevant.

As for Obama, it would appear his administration is dedicated to denying reality. In a bombshell admission made Monday, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), one of the ranking Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, said it was likely administration officials doctored the intel on ISIS to make it seem as if more progress was being made than had actually occurred. While she believes the intelligence community has provided more accurate assessments recently, “CENTCOM, which is the area that is responsible for the Middle East … has dumbed down the intelligence, has sweetened it, has made it seem like we are being more successful there than we are … ”

​Add the power vacuum engendered in the Middle East by our see-no-Islamic-evil president, and the lack of anything resembling a coherent strategy is a recipe for disaster. Putin is a small enough man that he will likely exact revenge from the Turks, and Erdogan might just well be willing to return the favor. All while Obama dithers and promises us — yet again — that he will degrade and destroy ISIS with a strategy that includes dropping leaflets on Syrian drivers before bombing ISIS oil tanker trucks “to kind of shoo people away without harming them,” according to Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Steve Warren. “We have not struck these trucks before,” Warren revealed. “We assessed that these trucks, while although they are being used for operations that support ISIL, the truck drivers, themselves, [are] probably not members of ISIL; they’re probably just civilians. So we had to figure out a way around that. We’re not in this business to kill civilians, we’re in this business to stop ISIL — to defeat ISIL.”

Perhaps someone should have asked Warren how many civilians will be exterminated by ISIS while they remain viable entity — because the Obama administration cannot abide an iota of collateral damage.

“History teaches that wars frequently start by accident,” Fernandez warns. “Otto von Bismarck who understood that accidental discharge can kill a man just as surely as an aimed shot, observed more than a century ago that ‘Europe today is a powder keg and the leaders are like men smoking in an arsenal …’”

Obama is just such a “leader,” a man who actually declared that the climate change summit in Paris beginning next week would constitute a “powerful rebuke” to terrorists, “when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children.” The American public must understand there is no cure for ideologically-inspired insanity. It must be voted out of office — or there may be no future for our children at all.

Originally published at FrontPage Magazine.

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