Syria crisis snowballs -- and where is Trump?

Perhaps you didn't hear that, a few weeks ago, Americans were involved in a fierce battle in Syria involving, among o...

Posted: Mar 2, 2018 5:36 AM
Updated: Mar 2, 2018 5:36 AM

Perhaps you didn't hear that, a few weeks ago, Americans were involved in a fierce battle in Syria involving, among others, Russians contractors and American forces. Many of the Russians -- the exact number is unknown -- were killed after a force made up of hundreds of Russian contractors and a militia allied with the Syrian regime attacked the Americans and their allies. When the US side came under fire, it responded with airstrikes, killing the Russians.

During normal times, the deadly incident would have topped the news, but we're not living in normal times. This major event got lost in the swirl of domestic news that is understandably consuming the American public.

Not only was there an attack on American forces and their Kurdish allies by men suspected to be among the hundreds of Russian mercenaries with close ties to the Russian military, but many other disturbing events have been occurring in Syria, and much worse could follow.

This is the worst possible time to have a President Donald Trump, who is mysteriously reluctant to criticize Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin.

This is the worst possible time for the US Congress -- for Republicans who control Congress -- to abdicate their mandate to act as a check on the President, often using their position to defend him from his accusers rather than the country from its enemies.

It is the worst possible time to have a presidency in chaos, where a respected national security adviser is openly criticized by the President and could soon be leaving the administration -- part of a dizzying, record-setting pace of personnel turnover that makes it more difficult for the United States to develop and maintain a coherent foreign policy in the face of increasingly daunting challenges on the global stage.

Americans' attention is focused on all the urgent news at home, but it is vital to note what is happening in Syria. What used to be a civil war there has now become a battleground for half a dozen countries, with forces hostile to the United States and its allies fortifying their positions and slaughtering civilians, and the prospects for a much larger and deadlier war growing as neighboring countries prepare to defend their interests in post-ISIS Syria.

If you think a battle between Russians and Americans -- one that, by some accounts, left some 300 Russians dead -- is alarming, consider an even more extraordinary detail: The man reportedly controlling the Kremlin-linked mercenary force that was allegedly involved in the attack on the Americans in Syria is the same man who allegedly played an instrumental role in the Russian interference operation against US democracy in the 2016 election, according to his recent indictment in the Mueller investigation. The indictment listed him as a key player in an operation to help Trump and hurt Clinton in the 2016 elections.

His name is Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as "Putin's chef," an oligarch with close ties to Russian President Putin.

Prigozhin has denied controlling the mercenaries of Wagner, the Russian firm that has allegedly worked in shadowy Kremlin operations in Crimea and elsewhere, wearing unmarked uniforms, and doing Moscow's bidding while giving Putin a shield of deniability.

Late on February 7, the Russian mercenaries attacked the US troops, who responded with such fury that they decimated the attackers. Russia has admitted some of its citizens were killed.

The clash came as Russian-backed Syrian forces have launched a brutal campaign against rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, killing hundreds of civilians -- including scores of children -- in just the last week.

It came in the midst of a huge military campaign by Turkey, whose forces have taken on America's Kurdish allies in and around the city of Afrin, putting the United States in a position to choose between betraying its closest allies in Syria and taking on Turkey, a NATO member.

Now the Kurds, disheartened by the US failure to support them in Afrin, have turned to the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad for support. That's one of the most head-spinning turns in what has been one of the most complex conflicts in recent memory.

But perhaps the most ominous development came just after the Russian attack on Americans, when Iran -- a close ally of Assad's, operating on the same side as Russia -- sent a drone flying into Israeli-controlled territory. Israelis, conscious of Iran's repeated threats against their country, have vowed that they will not allow Iran and its allied Lebanese militia, Hezbollah, to take threatening positions near the Syria-Israel border. In response to the drone incursion, Israel bombed the Iranian sites inside Syria believed to have controlled the drone incursion.

The possibility of direct warfare between Iran and Israel is growing. Turkey is attacking America's allies, and Russian militias have fired on American troops.

During normal times, the President of the United States would take a clear stance against America's foes. But when the foe is Russia and the President is Trump, that is curiously not happening. During normal times, the United States would have a leadership not roiled by a multitude of scandals, and a stable staff of foreign policy professionals fully backed -- rather than attacked -- by the President. During normal times, the Congress would be watching, and doing whatever is needed to protect the country.

But these, these are perilous times.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530988

Reported Deaths: 10978
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765291522
Mobile40971804
Madison34751503
Tuscaloosa25775452
Montgomery24329589
Shelby23431249
Baldwin21131308
Lee15884171
Calhoun14501314
Morgan14293279
Etowah13831353
Marshall12222223
Houston10567281
Elmore10061205
Limestone9960151
Cullman9664193
St. Clair9655243
Lauderdale9424241
DeKalb8830186
Talladega8223176
Walker7235277
Autauga6920108
Jackson6810112
Blount6660137
Colbert6298134
Coffee5511119
Dale4831111
Russell441138
Chilton4290112
Franklin425782
Covington4121118
Tallapoosa4027152
Escambia393376
Chambers3563123
Dallas3551151
Clarke351061
Marion3118101
Pike310877
Lawrence300298
Winston274472
Bibb260764
Geneva249977
Marengo249764
Pickens234461
Barbour230857
Hale222977
Butler215969
Fayette212362
Henry188744
Cherokee184845
Randolph180241
Monroe177440
Washington167339
Macon159150
Clay156256
Crenshaw152257
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock123041
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107228
Sumter104532
Greene92334
Choctaw60624
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