Putin has checkmated himself into a lose-lose Syrian debacle

There is no way Putin can come out a winner in the situation he has created for himself.

Mark Langfan

OpEds Mark Langfan
Mark Langfan
Mark Langfan
When Putin first teamed up with Iran and Assad, the two greatest state sponsors of terror in the world, to commit unabashed genocide against the Sunnis of Syria, there was breathless talk that “Putin Checkmated Obama.”  It was as if Putin was playing against Obama.  Then, after Turkey shot down Putin’s Mig and the Saudis openly declared that they would continue arming their Syrian proxies, the Syrian ground war got even uglier.  For all Putin’s bluster, the very ugly reality of Syria has begun to set in. 

Putin has never been fighting Obama; he’s been fighting and will have to come to fight hundreds of millions of Sunni Muslims who are coming to see Putin and Russia as the ultimate evil.  What’s worse, whether Putin loses, or Putin “wins,” Putin will ultimately lose, lose big, and lose everything.

Let’s look at Putin’s problem objectively.  On the one hand, if Putin “loses,” it will be clear he will have militarily lost, and it will be a truly ugly military loss like Afghanistan.  If Afghanistan brought down the great and mighty USSR, Syria will bring down little Putin.  For, despite Russia’s virtually infinite raids on the Syrian rebels with no limiting rules of engagement, Russian-Iran ground progress has been, at best, severely challenged.  Additionally, with Iran’s soon-in-coming introduction of its own fighter jet squadrons into the Syrian theater to genocidally massacre even more Sunnis, the Saudis and Turks will be forced to deliver shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to take down the Assad barrel-bombs, and the Iranian fighter jets.  With those anti-aircraft missiles in Rebels’ hands, Russia will start to suffer catastrophic losses.
Now, on the other hand, in the slim chance Putin “wins,” how exactly does Putin still lose?  You have to think backwards from what a Putin end-game “victory” would likely look like.  On the current trajectory, if Putin “wins,” he will have to have bulked up his ground forces and airbase footprint so as to be principally occupying Syria.  Then what?  Whom is Putin going to hand Syria off to after he wins?  Are Russian-Orthodox soldiers going to occupy Syria forever?  No.  The only entity Putin can hand Syria off to is Iran.  So, for all Putin’s losses and future costs in terms of Russian lives and money, Russia will not have “won” Syria, Iran will own Syria at Putin’s cost.  
You can think of Putin’s egregious behavior as the inverse image of Bush’s actions in tearing the Sunni-centric hierarchical government out of Iraq.  Bush destroyed the Sunni power structure in Iraq which ultimately empowered Iran to control Iraq. Putin is saving the Shiite power structure in Syria to ultimately empower Iran to control Syria.  Any way you look at it, Putin comes out of Syria with a terrible, perhaps fatal loss to Russia, and a waxing-hegemonic Iran.  Putin’s Syrian strategy has also incurred the enmity of 800,000,000 Sunnis so as to strengthen the Shiite Islamists who will then pose an existential threat to Russia.  Instead of learning from Bush’s mistake, Putin appears intent on repeating it.
It gets worse.  The greatest lie Putin has propagated to himself is that “Assad and Iran are not “Islamist extremist Jihadis.” Hezbollah, and Iran, the underpinnings of Assad’s existence, are not Islamist Jihadis?  Hezbollah and Iran are the two greatest Islamist Jihadi-states in the world.  The two terrorist States of Hezbollah and Iran have more American and world blood on their hands than anyone else in the world including ISIS.  Putin is fighting small-time terrorists, so he can empower big-time terrorists.  That’s not “playing chess,” that’s playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded revolver.
In conclusion, Putin hasn’t checkmated anyone but himself and Russia with his genocidal killing spree of Sunni civilians in Syria.  Instead, he has insured another Afghanistan.  For, where USSR’s Afghanistan debacle brought about the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, Putin’s Syria debacle will bring the liquidation of Russia.