Did Russia just pull a fast one on the US by withdrawing military forces from Syria?

Well, before we get to that — do you remember when President Obama shared his plan to “Degrade and destroy” Islamic State (or ISIL or ISIS)?

You know — the group that talked about establishing a brutal,  medieval-era caliphate; paraded around Iraq and Syria in their fancy military uniforms and new Toyota pickup trucks; created a theme song; kept bragging about the scores of people they killed or plan to kill along the way?

ISIL not only defeated Team Obama’s “Degrade and destroy” plan — um, perhaps — but the jihadists also continued to take territory and approached an objective that Obama wouldn’t have beef with: the disposal of Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria.

That is, until Vladimir Putin and Russia upsetted the regime change game by bombing the mess out of ISIL and freed hundreds of towns from under the rogue state’s control. The so-called moderate rebels — who we now know are so ridiculously not moderate — were also trounced by Russian fighter jets.

With ISIL’s supply lines from NATO ally Turkey all but disintegrated, most strategic Syrian cities largely rid of terrorists and significant chunks of territory returned to the Syrian regime’s control, Russia announced that it will withdraw its troops.

Breaking this down even further to make sure the point has been made annoyingly clear, Russia has accomplished much of the US’s “Degrade and destroy” mission in a third of the time it took the US.

In fact, the US would still be on the battlefield “Degrading and Destroying” if it weren’t for the Russians!

And to break this down even further, the highly effective Russian mission helped to save the tunnel-visioned US from itself.

Don’t believe that last point? US-advocated “Syrian regime change” is a sad misnomer since most rational people would reason that “change” implies replacing an existing leader with a new one who would be friendly to US interests — except the US never identified what that a replacement regime would look like.

In fact, the only strong replacements to Assad — should he, hypothetically, be removed — are the transplant jihadist groups who brought most of the muscle and on-the-ground leadership to Syria’s so-called civil war.

Still find any of this hard to believe? Ask any State Department official to coherently explain the US’s leadership transition plan after a Syria regime change and you’ll hear some grandiose statesperson’s response like “Well, that will be left for the Syrian people to decide.”

That’s when you’ll remember what I just said two paragraphs ago and realize that we were on our way to witnessing Syria reenact the nightmarishly bloody events from previous US regime change experiments in today’s Libya or 1990’s Afghanistan.

Before Russian bombs fell, the US — even in the face of a growing jihadist threat in Syria — viewed the overthrow of Syria President Bashar al-Assad as a top priority. The US also considered a safe corridor along the Turkey/Syria border — where Turkey would have surely protected its supply lines to ISIL while further degrading Assad’s rule. The US also considered a no-fly zone across all of Syria to stifle the Assad regime’s ability to fight all enemies, including terrorists, from the air.

This means Russia’s intervention likely saved US taxpayers plenty of money — and likely, American blood and more colllapsing skyscrapers.

The work Russia’s military put into Syria didn’t go unnoticed by the US and NATO. According to this German language newspaper, a NATO analysis of Russia’s operation notes being impressed with the Russian military’s efficiency and professionalism.

And unlike the US model of occupying a territory until the end of time, Russia’s troops are now pulling out of Syria.

(Laughing) I’m sure the US and allies didn’t see that coming. After all, “Game Thinks it Knows Game,” right?

I can’t imagine Russia leaving Syria in the hands of the same US administration that was behind much of the mayhem we’ve seen during the past five years, so my guess is that Russia walked away with some agreement of next steps with the US.

It also appears inconceivable that Russia would leave leave Syria in the hands of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — the chief instigators, financiers, logistics supporters and weapons suppliers behind this regime change adventure.

The next few weeks will reveal a clearer story, but it appears that Russia did what it promised to do back in September: clear the terrorists from significant parts of Syria.

We’ll now see if Obama and friends will allow for peace talks and rebuilding, or will find another reason to light a fuse …

song currently stuck in my head: “samba do avião” – gilberto gil

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