Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Will Trump allow Bibi to take out Assad?

As was expected by observers of the Micheal Cohen saga, the gradual exposure of Russian financial contributions of the Trump Campaign hush money accounts and Giuliani's utter failure to distract from it has led to Trump putting pressure on Iran by withdrawing from JCPOA.

This goes some distance in helping with Bibi's strategy for provoking Iran. IMHO Bibi wants to provoke Iran into saying that it will leave the NPT. This move will allow Israel to conduct exploratory tests of novel physics packages and an end-to-end test of the Popeye Turbo SLCM system. Having conducted such tests, Israel will be in a position of regional military dominance for the next twenty five years or so.

There is a wrinkle in this story - and that has to do with the fact that KRG oil is currently transferred covertly from the Ceyhan port to Ashkelon via small tankers that change their IMS codes mid journey. This allows them to look like they are going to Cyprus but then head largely undetected to Ashkelon. The Israeli navy is too small to protect this lifeline.  I suspect that if you look at the deployment of Allied Naval units - they will be positioned due east of the path of these tankers, i.e. between them and the RuNAV forces sitting in the Syrian ports Latakia and Tartus. As long as the NATO navies remain in such positions, Bibi can do what he wants without fear of a crippling blow to the Israeli economy.

A possible way for Bibi to provoke Iran is to take out Assad. This is an ideal move in some sense as the Alawaites have always had positive relations with Iran and they have used that to leverage against powerful Sunni neighbors that seek to displace them. Extending that alignment with Iran to offend Israeli interests is a natural thing for Assad to do. Taking out Assad would create a post Saddam like climate inside Syria and rival factions within the Alawaite community would vie for power making deals everywhere. That would jam up Iranian plans to position missiles or other anti Israeli assets in Syria. If such assets are positioned inside Syria, the entire sense of security created by the capture of the Golan Heights will evaporate and the mountain country will no longer be a bulwark for the highly populated Israeli coastal belt. It actually makes a lot of sense from the Israeli POV to take out Assad.

Unfortunately taking out Assad will also offend Russian interests in the region. The Russians have cultivated the Alawaites for decades now. It is unlikely that RuAF would commit its expensive assets to combat IDFAF operations over Syria (that is why I suspect this "IDFAF stole NATO IFF codes" story is doing rounds - it is RU excuse for dragging its heels on defending Syrian airspace).  Whatever help is extended to Assad on the ground is done via Russian PMCs (like Wagner) and that help will be of a limited nature. That being said - the Russians don't want to do the work of having to find an Assad replacement. It is too much work and there is no guarantee that the replacement will be as pliable as Assad was.

If Bibi decides to take out Assad - he will be risking Putin's ire. Putin might ask RuNAV to stop the transit of Ashkelon bound tankers from Ceyhan. The only thing deterring this will be NATO naval forces that prevent RuNAV from advancing on the relevant SLOCs.

Even more specifically - RuNAV submarine forces could launch interdiction patrols in the path of the tankers unless there are ASW patrols or other countervailing NATO forces in the region.

The position of these countervailing forces in the region offers NATO (and Trump) a key control lever over Bibi's actions. NATO and Trump might not agree on everything but there is no reason to rule out a convergence of interests*.

So at this point - the question on my mind is - will Trump allow Bibi to take out Assad? 

From Trump's POV this idea has merits, putting RU on the back foot in Syria will go a long way in improving his leverage v/s President Putin. It seems Putin has (quite naturally) lost interest in Trump after the Russian election. And at this point there is little to prevent Putin from tightening the screws on Trump by selectively leaking information about Trump and trying to leverage an end to the sanctions on Russia that way.

There are obvious demerits to Trump confronting Putin's ambitions in Syria. Trump's domestic legal problems will escalate as the RIS reveals its Trump files. Given that Trump has a mediocre legal team (given the scale of the problems facing him) - this new flow of information will not be manageable.

* For example Trump might be able to hold back post JCPOA sanctions if the NATO countries agree to let him have his way in the eastern Mediterranean.


At 9:55 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

some notes about the us withdrawal from the iran nuclear deal.......

1.first let me state that i liked obama personally. i thought he was an up right guy like jimmy carter. but i disagreed with a couple of policies but i'm not an obama hater....

2. the iran nuclear deal was not a formal treaty......for all the bs about how the us doesn't honor its treaties, this as not a treaty. it was an obama executive order.....he didn't have the votes to get it through congress. if it was a treaty it would be highly doubtful that trump could cancel it.

3. it has been noted that india will be sanctioned for trading with iran. that's not necessarily so....what will cause india problems is if indian banks try to use dollars to facilitate trade with iran....there's a difference....use some other currency please.

4. i note with admittedly some amusement that russia is not protecting its iranian allies in syria from israel......what this means is that nukes or no nukes, russia really doesn't want to tangle with a sophisticated, highly technical enemy.......just like the us doesn't want to...grin.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger maverick said...

I too never agreed exactly with what Prez Obama was doing but I liked the JCPOA. Whatever it was, it had strong non-proliferation benefits. Those have been lost after this Trump action.

I guess one can say about most Obama achievements, they will be lost after contact with the Trump freak show. But this isn't surprising the core impulse behind Trump election was the complete destruction of the achievements of America's first black president.

As this racist agenda drives everything Trump does - there is no chance of the outcome being any different than what it currently is.

Regarding India getting jammed in the process, well - that is fine by me. If American Hindus are upset about this, then please talk to the dickheads who told Trump to say "Ab ki baar Trump Sarkar" (which will turn out to be the same guys who told India "Ab ki baar Modi Sarkar").

Russia remains in force conservation mode. It doesn't want to confront Israel and lose. That will damage the prospect of RU arms sales all over the world (especially in India where RU and IL are almost a par right now).

At 12:56 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hey look at that, Bibi and Putin walking shoulder to shoulder in Moscow today. They are at least pretending to be friends.

Looks like Assad will live after all.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Ralphy said...

yup, politics make for strange bed fellows......


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