Obscured in all the mainstream news analysis and prevaricating Obama administration talking points is the absurdity of the U.S. position.
The talking points circulated to rebut Putin's defense, that Assad is engaged in an existential battle against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, are found in an unsigned Gray Lady editorial, "Putin and Obama Have Profound Differences on Syria":
Mr. Putin said it was “an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face-to-face,” conveniently ignoring the fact that Mr. Assad’s main target has always been his domestic opposition, not the Islamic State. He portrayed Mr. Assad as a force for stability and said the only solution “is to restore their statehood where it has been destroyed.”
Mr. Obama correctly argued that in 2011 Mr. Assad “reacted to peaceful protests by escalating repression and killing that, in turn, created the environment for the current strife,” which the Islamic State has been able to exploit. He said Mr. Assad and his allies “cannot simply pacify the broad majority of a population who have been brutalized by chemical weapons and indiscriminate bombing,” and Mr. Obama reiterated his call for a “managed transition” away from Mr. Assad to a more inclusive government.This in a nutshell is the U.S. case for prolonging the war in Syria, and it is entirely false.
For starters, the idea that everything -- all the mayhem and violence is Assad's fault; that the Syrian president is constantly engaged in attacking his own peaceful people -- this is pure propaganda discredited years ago; it has been rejected by no less an official authority than vice president Joe Biden. This is from an excellent analysis piece by Robert Parry, "Will US Grasp Putin’s Syria Lifeline?"
On Oct. 2, 2014, Vice President Joe Biden let more of the cat out of the bag when he told an audience at Harvard’s Kennedy School: “our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria … the Saudis, the emirates, etc., what were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” [Quote at 53:20 of clip.]The idea that Assad is not primarily attacking Islamic State fighters but "his domestic opposition" leaves unspecified that the "domestic opposition" is nonetheless Salafist jihadis fighting under one Sunni Islamist banner or another, whether it is Al Qaeda or Ahrar al-Sham. Last year Obama himself refuted this myth of a domestic opposition:
“This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards,” Obama said.Obama was commenting about the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the time of the Arab Spring uprising in 2011. From the outset the decision was made to go with foreign fighters recruited by the Wahhabi networks of the Gulf Cooperation Council. In other words, there is no "domestic opposition" that can project power on the ground in Syria; hence, there are no partners for a transitional phase of government. Salafis only believe in a caliphate. So it is the Syrian Arab Republican or no civil government at all.
Obama's claim of chemical-weapons use by the Syrian government is another widely discredited claim that taps propaganda that has failed to keep up with events reported in even the mainstream press; for instance, that "Islamic State Ordnance Shows Traces of Chemical Agents, U.S. Says."
What is going on here I believe is apparent. In order to win Saudi and Israeli acquiescence to the Iranian nuclear deal, Obama promised not to relent when it came to Assad's ouster. Also, Obama agreed to back to the hilt the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's genocidal war in Yemen.
The Saudis and Israelis agreed to the bargain because they believe that if Syria and Iraq remain broken and plagued by jihadis, eventually Iran will crater. Russia checked the move by positioning heavy weapons and air power in Latakia.
The U.S. response was never seriously in doubt, and that response did not include a peace deal brokered by Russia. Now what we will see is more war and more refugees. The next huge wave of asylum-seekers is likely to come from Iraq, assuming that the promised offensive to re-take Mosul begins in a few months.
The European Union is going to fracture, and so is the United States. Congress will shut down and Donald Trump is on his was to the White House.