STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Putin is stoking the hellish war in Syria and no one is stopping him

Russia's efforts to sow chaos in the US elections is now well-documented. As is its ability to foment unrest in Ukrai...

Posted: Mar 17, 2018 4:56 PM
Updated: Mar 17, 2018 4:56 PM

Russia's efforts to sow chaos in the US elections is now well-documented. As is its ability to foment unrest in Ukraine. And Estonia. And Western Europe. And to harm people who defy it, whether at home or in the United Kingdom.

But what is less discussed is Russia's role as instigator-in-chief in Syria. Sitting at the center of the "Axis of Mistrust" - Syria's Assad regime, Iran, and, on occasion, Turkey -- Russia is playing all sides of the board and then rearranging the pieces - in its own favor. As one writer on the Middle East recently noted, Turkey, Russia and Iran "do not want to allow potential strains among them to work to the United States' advantage, not only in Syria, but in the region as a whole."

If American policymakers are to focus on Russia's efforts to expand its influence, they will have to engage with what Russia is up to in Syria, and the implications in the country and the region. As Turkey attacks the US-backed Kurdish forces in Afrin, the same forces who led the fight against ISIS, Russia is there, viewing the Turkish operation, as one analyst put it, "as a chance to deepen the wedge between the US and Turkey."

In congressional testimony this week, Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, noted that, "Russia does play a role in here; they are trying to instigate tension among partners in the region and then trying to play a role in trying to be an arbiter in that." He added, "I am concerned about this role that Russia plays in northern Syria and how it impacts all our relationships, especially the relationship between US and Turkey."

Russia has been all-in on the side of the Syrian regime from the start of the conflict and its air campaign in Aleppo reshaped facts on the ground. It has blocked close to a dozen UN resolutions condemning the Syrian regime's crimes against civilians, even blocking resolutions that would have allowed humanitarian relief to reach besieged moms and dads trying to pull their children through this hellish conflict. The latest UN effort to stop the bombardment and poisoning of Syrians in Eastern Ghouta ended in a ceasefire that existed only on paper in New York. It failed entirely to take hold on the ground.

As Votel noted of the ceasefire, Russia's "inability to enforce it means either they lack the ability to do that or they are choosing not to do that ... one of the things we do have to do is hold them accountable for the actions they are taking and the humanitarian disaster they are perpetuating."

Indeed, the White House issued an unusual statement this month noting that "between February 24 and 28, Russian military aircraft conducted at least 20 daily bombing missions in Damascus and Eastern Ghouta. ... Pro-regime forces must immediately cease targeting medical infrastructure and civilians as part of the brutal campaign in Eastern Ghouta."

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned only this week that the United States would "act" against any nation that "is determined to impose its will through chemical attacks and inhuman suffering, most especially the outlaw Syrian regime." Russian military leaders threatened to strike the United States in Syria if the United States launched strikes against Damascus.

Right now there is no accountability. And the deaths of Russian mercenaries who launched attacks on US and US-backed forces February 7 remain shrouded in mystery. US military leaders say they remained in contact with Russia during the attack and received assurances that Russia wouldn't engage with coalition forces in the Deir el-Zour area. Nevertheless, the mercenaries attacked a US-backed coalition position.

Russia's actions in Syria present a challenge to America: How do you rein in a power that feels no check is in the offing? The first step is to encourage America's leaders to pay attention to reality on the ground.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36680

Reported Deaths: 1250
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds304154
DeSoto200920
Madison150839
Jones123149
Harrison118316
Rankin113719
Neshoba104577
Forrest104343
Lauderdale97281
Scott83115
Jackson80419
Washington75313
Copiah67516
Leake63520
Lee63022
Grenada6259
Oktibbeha62328
Warren60021
Holmes59841
Lamar5847
Wayne56819
Yazoo5667
Lowndes54917
Leflore53956
Lincoln53835
Pike51120
Lafayette5094
Sunflower5058
Panola4616
Monroe46036
Simpson4533
Covington4505
Bolivar41618
Tate39513
Attala38624
Newton37710
Adams36720
Pontotoc3636
Marion34912
Claiborne31511
Pearl River30832
Chickasaw30219
Winston30211
Marshall2973
Jasper2826
Noxubee2799
Walthall2748
Clay26211
Smith25612
Union25612
Coahoma2356
Clarke22825
Lawrence2162
Yalobusha2089
Tallahatchie1974
Montgomery1863
Kemper18414
Carroll18311
Humphreys17410
Calhoun1705
Hancock15213
Itawamba1478
Tippah14711
Jefferson1373
Webster13511
Prentiss1274
Tunica1263
George1253
Jefferson Davis1254
Greene11610
Alcorn1112
Amite1113
Tishomingo1091
Quitman1011
Wilkinson1019
Perry914
Stone772
Choctaw764
Franklin572
Sharkey480
Benton470
Issaquena111
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 54768

Reported Deaths: 1096
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7012170
Mobile5061140
Montgomery4599112
Tuscaloosa274353
Madison25359
Marshall205012
Shelby176425
Lee164737
Morgan13975
Baldwin134111
Walker111332
Elmore107622
Etowah106914
Dallas10189
DeKalb10017
Franklin95016
Unassigned77728
Autauga71515
Russell7130
Chambers68530
Cullman6686
Limestone6653
Butler65529
Houston6417
Tallapoosa63069
Lauderdale6006
St. Clair5983
Calhoun5545
Colbert5286
Escambia5128
Lowndes49222
Pike4805
Jackson4422
Coffee4364
Covington43512
Talladega4177
Dale4061
Barbour4022
Bullock37810
Hale36323
Marengo36111
Chilton3452
Blount3311
Clarke3236
Wilcox3158
Marion30914
Winston3095
Sumter29713
Pickens2786
Randolph2759
Monroe2683
Perry2552
Conecuh2388
Bibb2271
Macon2229
Choctaw22012
Greene2009
Henry1573
Washington1529
Lawrence1460
Crenshaw1343
Cherokee1317
Geneva1010
Fayette901
Clay892
Lamar891
Coosa671
Cleburne481
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 73°
Columbus
Few Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 73°
Oxford
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 68°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 68°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather