By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, September 15, US Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) warned about reports of a growing Russian military presence in war-torn Syria.
Congresswoman Roby wrote in a statement, “Remember our supposed ‘reset’ with Russia? Remember that ‘red line’ with Assad in Syria? Now Russia is moving in to set up bases in Syria to lend support to Assad, or perhaps to be in a position to exert greater influence if the regime falls.”
Rep. Roby said, “This is what happens when we fail to project strength abroad. The continued aggression of Russian forces is no accident. The rise and spread of ISIS and Islamic fascism are not coincidences. Rather, they are the result of the inconsistent, incoherent messages we’ve been sending abroad, the latest being the capitulation-filled nuclear deal with Iran.”
Rep. Roby warned, “The decision our country makes on how we fund our military is the next big message we will send abroad. I’m fighting to increase military funding after years of devastating cuts and to do away with military sequestration once and for all. We have to project strength in the face of aggressive adversaries, and it starts by properly funding our military.”
The conservative congresswoman referenced a Fox News report by Lucas Tomlinson about Russia shipping tanks into Syria and the Assad regime’s granting the Russians basing rights there.
According to the Fox News report the a U.S. mil source says that the Russian military has moved a half-dozen highly sophisticated battle tanks and more troops into Syria in what the defense official told Fox News is, “first clear sign of offensive weapons arriving in Syria.”
The Pentagon claims that two cargo ships and a total of 15 Russian Antonov-124 Condor flights into Syria have moved military cargo into Syria. The source claims that Russian forces could be building up for possible offensive operations from Bassel Al-Assad International Airport “very soon.”
Condor flights are occurring at the rate of twice a day. The defense official, briefed on the latest satellite photos of the Syrian coastline, said: “This is the largest deployment of Russian forces outside the former Soviet Union since the collapse of the USSR.”
The two additional Russian ships arrived over the weekend in Tartus, which is a Syrian port used by the Russian Navy since the 1970s. The ships offloaded additional troops and armor and, for the first time, a half-dozen third-generation T-90 main battle tanks, 35 armored personnel carriers and 15 artillery pieces. Dozens of Russian armored personnel carriers have arrived in prior weeks and the Russians have built additional troop housing at their base.
The Pentagon would not confirm the arrival of the Russian tanks, but Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters on Monday that the activities “suggest the establishment of a forward air operating base.”
When the United States invaded Iraq, US armed forces defeated the armed forces of Saddam Hussein relatively quickly. The Sunni terrorist group Al Qaeda (then headed by Osama Bin Laden) urged Islamist fighters from around the world to come to Iraq and fight the American forces as well as Shiites and Kurds. Al Qaeda of Iraq was eventually defeated by the US military and they retreated across the border to Syria, where a despised Alawite religious minority under the Assad family ruled over a largely Sunni populace.
In 2012, the “Arab Spring” led to the overthrow of military dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, and (with considerable American and European air support) in Libya. A loose coalition of Sunni groups from across the political spectrum revolted against Assad (with considerable international support). The Obama Administration threatened to intervene in Syria to help the rebels (like the US and its allies intervened to help Libyan rebels overthrow their government). Massacres of Christians and others by the Syrian rebels eventually led to Congress questioning the wisdom of that strategy. Eventually the Free Syria Army was largely routed and the group of former Al Qaeda fighters from Iraq (who declared their independence from their parent group) emerged as the strongest of the Syrian rebel groups. President Obama once dismissed the group, now calling themselves the Islamic State of Syria, as the “Al Qaeda JV team.”
In 2014, the Islamic State of Syria invaded western Iraq. The largely Shiite government was widely unpopular with the Sunnis in western Iraq and several Iraqi Sunni tribes went over to the side of the invaders. The Shia army fled or surrendered. Vast stockpiles of weaponry supplied by the US fell to the rebels. The group renamed itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The second largest city in Iraq, Mosul, fell to ISIS. Religious and ethnic minorities including Christians and Yazidis across Syria and Iraq were executed and brutalized if they would not convert. Numerous women have been taken as sex slaves. Women who refused to have sex with ISIS fighters have been publicly executed. The violence has often been posted on the internet and serves to recruit more fighters from across the globe. An estimated 20,000 fighter from over 90 countries including the United States have served in ISIS’s army and millions of Syrians have fled the country for Turkey and Western Europe.
The United States has been flying air sorties against ISIS for a year; but the fighters blend in with the civilian populace and to this point the US has been loathed to create mass civilian casualties thus our attacks have not freed Mosul or changed the stalemate on the ground in the middle of Iraq, much less dislodged ISIS from Syria. The Obama Administration is still committed to the overthrow of the Assad regime; but the Free Syria forces totally collapsed or went over to ISIS. There is presently no viable third combat force capable of taking down both ISIS and Assad, even with US aid.
The Vladimir Putin led government has increasingly taken a much more aggressive foreign policy. Russian conquests in the Ukraine have led to more fears by Eastern European countries. Meanwhile the US has downsized our military capabilities substantially. The US has the smallest Army and Navy it has had since before World War II and there seems to be no movement to reverse these declines even in the face of Russian military aggression and growing threats from radical Islam in the Middle East and Africa.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.