Can Russia Make Peace as Well as War?

Vladimir Putin may look like a master tactician now for his role in the Syrian truce, but issues that derailed past cease-fires remain unresolved.

Comments: 200

  1. Russia working with Turkey and Iran, but not inviting the USA may be a snub, but it is a good snub to receive. Syria is in ruins; her people are devastated and/or scattered. Thousands are homeless with no neighborhoods to return to. ISIS is sitting on her doorstep and will likely partner with the more extremist elements among the Syrian rebels, i.e., the "bad" rebels.

    It will take billions of dollars and many, many years to restore any semblance of normal to what was a beautiful country. While the US can and should help in any way it can, if true peace is achieved and Assad gives up his power, there is no way we need to be pouring money or American lives into that mess while a brutal dictator is in charge. We must do what we can for refugees by helping Turkey care for them as well as receiving well vetted refugees here.

    Syria is devastated because of the behavior of Assad who was willing to destroy his own people and country in order to maintain his power. Mr. Putin also used Syria to enhance is own power and to boost national pride at home. Neither man cares a jot for the people they bomb and starve so long as they "win."

  2. If the war is over, they can go home. Sending refugees home is the ultimate solution to refugees.

    The problem is what was being done to their homes, these refugees and so many more. For all of those refugees, the solution begins with not doing that to their homes anymore.

  3. "While the US can and should help in any way it can,"

    The US has no intention of helping. In case you have not realized this, the US, including Mr. Obama, and Mrs. Clinton (and George W) are obeying the Military Wall Street complex.

    That complex is a danger not only to the US, it is a danger to the entire world.

    Mr. Obama is putting every obstacle possible in the path of peace with Russia. Democrats, please stop him, I beg you!

  4. For Russia, Turkey was just a weapons test. Remember Spain prior to World War II. That is what happened, and it will continue until Putin is out of power, or a larger war begins.

  5. Wait a minute! People complain when President Obama refused to get involved in Syria-- but man, the sound of screaming would have burst everybody's ear-drums had he intervened.

    Talk about wanting to eat cake while keeping it! Mr. trump ran as an isolationist (except for crushing ISIS) and an America Firster. So now to please with his new bestie Putin, he'll put up troops in Syria to help him?

    That should go over real big with his supporters, as well as Putin. I hardly think the jobs they believed Trump would create at home would end up being servants of Uncles Sam and Vlad in Syria.

  6. No, they complained that Obama spoke loudly, stirred the pot enough to get more folks killed and then did nothing. They complained that this along with his part in destabilizing Libya helped give the world the current mess in the Middle East.

    One thing Obama should have learned from his community organizing days in Chicago is that one thing worse than doing nothing about a bully is threatening to do something and then doing nothing.

  7. @Jp: this president was damned if he did, damned if he didn't. While I agree that setting up a "red line" he ultimately didn't respect, I also believe (because it's true) that no matter what he did, his critics would have been merciless on him. Americans then, and now, are tired of war and "boots on the ground" And yet, they want the results of war. It's a no-win situation for any president, and I will be very interested to see how Mr. Trump handles it.

  8. Christine McM - "So now to please with his new bestie Putin, he'll put up troops in Syria to help him?"

    Do you know that President elect Trump made that a policy decision for his new administration? Has he tweeted that "fact"? Has that news been reported?

  9. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/world/middleeast/us-to-focus-on-forcib...

    July 22, 2012

    American and other Western intelligence officials have expressed concern that some of the more than 100 rebel formations fighting inside Syria may have ties to Al Qaeda that they could exploit as security worsens in the country or after the collapse of the government.... A small number of C.I.A. officers have been operating secretly in southern Turkey for several weeks, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive weapons to fight the government....

    [ The United States was supporting a violent insurgency in Syria from at least the summer of 2012. Can the US then make peace as well as war? ]

  10. The west has bloody hands in the Syrian conflict by harming opposition to violently take on the government. The rebels are no saints. The Syria regime knows it is either kill or be killed. The west play this game often to a devastating consequences on civilians in many parts of the world. They worry about civilian deaths only when it is not their ally doing most of the slaughter.
    In Yemen where western ally Saudi Arabia has been doing most of the slaughter there is less sympathy for the civilians killed.

  11. There are two sides to a war, at least two.

    If the Russians had just surrendered to regime change by insurgency, then most of those people would not have died.

    Then again, if Western powers had not sponsored an insurgency that ran out of their control even more than in Afghanistan, most of those people would not have died. It was not Russia that ended up backing al Qaeda (the same al Qaeda as in Afghanistan), or that ended up arming ISIS at one remove from untrustworthy weak proxies.

    When Putin "dabbled" with US ceasefires, each was trying to bget the other to give up and accept defeat. That was not ceasefire, that was surrender, and neither side was willing.

    Now the Western side is surrendering. Its proxies are defeated, and moving out into empty country. The forward base areas of the West are trying to make deals with the other side, in Turkey and Jordan and Lebanon.

    The US was not "staying out." The US was following an operational plan, the same one as won twice in Afghanistan, once against the USSR, and once to install the Northern Alliance in Kabul in place of the Taliban. This time, it did not work.

    Yes, when one side gives up, the Civil War will end, and Syria will begin the post-War period, which will include rebuilding, but also their version of what the US called Reconstruction after our Civil War.

  12. If only it would be that simple. Don't forget about the Kurds, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. For the first people, it is a fight for a Nation. For Erdogan and Saudi Arabia it's fight for survival. It is very likely that there will be a next chapter, this time around local powers fighting independently from the United States, something the US fought a very long time to prevent (it's for all matters and purposes a doctrine).

  13. Americans!! Once and forever remember, Russia has never attacked no one. Gorbachev and Yeltsin the drunk and the USSR collapsed. Putin is now acting in the interests of his country and not dance to the tune of Europe.America acts only in its own interests, as soon as he sees that the country begins to develop, America immediately inhibits the development of any country. Russia is not a threat to Europe! You are brainwashed

  14. The force that built post WWII America was a 'progressive' force dedicated to openness, human progress, equality, and "free" enterprise.

    The force that ended (or is threatening to end it) is dedicated to monopoly, autocratic control, and classism. Mammon and status has defeated hope and change.

    Historically, this is not unusual, it just seems sad that the balance of progress and prosperity can be so easily tipped and inverted by the paranoia and insecurity of its most successful beneficiaries. Nature as a whole, and particularly 'human nature' is indeed a persistent, tricky adversary to the hope change that drives human civilization forward. Who woulda thunk that it could be so easy to slip out of drive and into reverse.

  15. Gorbachev was a Russian. Gorbachev knew how to make peace.

    Does anybody think that we are better off with Putin than we would have been with Gorbachev?

    Does anybody think that the cold warriors were right to undermine Gorbachev and throw the Soviet Union into disruption and war?

  16. For all the flack President Obama caught for not getting involved in Syria, staying out was still the right course. There is no outcome we can procure there, just like in Iraq.
    One of the dangers of Trump's presidency is that he will, under Putin's sway, pull us into a quagmire in Syria and elsewhere. With Trump, Putin has a more powerful client in the United States than he had with Assad in Syria.

  17. It was not the right course. We will regret this, perhaps not now, but soon.

  18. Putin has no interest in pulling us into Syria. On the contrary, he will us Trump to make sure we stay out thus giving Russia a free hand.

  19. The Times could perform a useful service by explaining why Russia cares what happens in Syria. What are its interests, what does it hope to gain by an alliance with Assad?

  20. Naval base on the Med since the early 1970s. Remember Gallipoli and the domination of the straits by Turkish guns! Exiting the Black Sea to the Med has advantages for a Russian fleet over being locked in the icy Baltic.

  21. It is obvious that the plan to destroy Russia is still the cornerstone of any foreign policy decisions and actions of the United States. For several years, as States are trying to clear a path under the pipeline that they were going to spend from Qatar to Europe. Of course, the pipeline will be built by an American company. But not in the sense of ideas. The aim is to put Europe on its gas and cut off from Russia, as an exporter of natural gas, thus depriving him of one of the major revenue sources and carry on with the plan DULLES, Brzezinski, in the destruction of our state. Now you understand why Obama wants to remove Assad??? What you think and who is sponsoring ISIS?Why the prisoner took the US instructors, who was on the side of ISIS? You in the media did not show probably.

  22. A warm water port, regional influence. Iran and Russia are major allies, iran is Shiite, Assad is Alawite Shia, Hezbullah in Lebanon is Shia. The existential enemies of iran are the Saudi's who are Sunni and of course ISIS which is Sunni.

  23. As long as Trump is willing to essentially gut NATO, to leave the Middle East stage to Putin, to allow Putin;s extension of his Greater Russia realm, I think Trump and Putin can indeed be buddies.

    There is one aspect of Trump living in the White House I find interesting. He seems willing to help accomplishing the GOP dream of upsetting the Federal apple cart up to this point but given that he has no basic belief and no principle in term of governance the consequence of his action and inaction is unpredictable. So as long as he does not blow up the world by playing with the nuclear code maybe the world does indeed need some dosage of his unpredictable "medicine".

    As the Taoist said: A calamity is what a blessing leans on, and hidden in a blessing is a calamity". So is Trump living a White House a blessing or a calamity? We will find out, I suspect, in two years assuming he does not blow up the world by then.

  24. Cost America influence and prestige? How many lives were saved? That is the only thing that matters.

  25. Clarity from Canada; always refreshing.

  26. @Welcome Canada
    In addition to what you mentioned, I'd say a warm water port in the Med (no more Bosphorus chokepoint), probably a ground base or two, and the regional leverage all these things provide.

  27. Just wait. We'v seen this picture before.

  28. Under the changed circumstances like a power shift in the US or the EU unravelling, winning this round of battle in Syria through the allies backed ceasefire- outmanoevering the West- is not necessarily winning the ongoing war in Syria, which might prove as messy a quagmire for Russia as Afghanistan was to the US that no external power could get out of such violent mess without incurring heavy cost to its lives and the treasury. However, from the common Syrian people's angle since the ceasefire would provide some relief to the war ravaged civilians the ceasefire is to be welcomed and supported.

  29. Terrified men running with babies in their arms--others standing in the rubble, I weep looking at the horror. Aleppo, an Iraqi market, the Turkey nightclub, Somalia, and other terror spots; tragedies beyond measure. People pleading for their children and their own lives, devastated--it doesn't matter. Whether state-sanctioned or home-grown--isn't violence all the same? Acts of impotence and cowardice. Only the power to stop it has any meaning.

  30. Don't get fooled into seeing a terrorist behind every lamp post. Terrorism is the 'rightist, righteous wing' of conservatism. Joining that wing is not going to end terrorism, it's just going to move it closer to home...........or perhaps at this stage of the conservative cycle, it might be more appropriate to say 'increase it's intensity and call to action here at home'.

    As with the "illegal immigrants", if we have more terrorism here, it will likely be because some self serving element within our society lured it here to serve its need for instant gratification. If history is any guide, that momentary gratification will inevitably be at the expense of most everyone else.

  31. Assad and Putin now own what they wrought. They destroyed Syria. They now own it. It's their asset and their liability. Now, let them fix it themselves, monetarily and otherwise.

  32. Good sound bite, lousy idea.

    Syria, Iraq, and Iran now fall under Russian influence, and become dominant, despot force over the Middle Eastern oil wealth. Throw in Libya, Russian oil, the un-drilled Arctic, US oil, and new shale discovery in West Texas, and you've got 'a corner' (aka, a virtual strangle hold) on the world's oil supply. This wont produce jobs, but it could produce lots of wealth and power for Trump, Putin, and any others that have signed on to the idea.

    There are also some potential positive outcomes, but Trump, Putin, and our Republican friends don't have a track record that inspires hope for anyone that is not them, one of their relatives, or 'a friend' within their circle of currently necessary 'pay-to-play' friends.

  33. In 2012, Putin offered a three step program. He would set up talks between the Syrian government and rebels, ease Assad out, and hold general elections. That offer was ignored and essentially turned down by Washington. Now we have a hopeful truce being developed and we aren't even at the table. Is this unique. When a cease fire was arranged between the Palestinians and Israel, who wasn't invited to the negotiation table? The United States. When Merkle and Hollande went to the Ukraine to see if peace could be arranged, who wasn't even informed they were going. The U.S. When the U.S. turned our back on el- Sisi and Egypt,refusing to deliver the helicopters we promised, who brought him to Russia to view the weapons and helicopters they would gladly sell to Egypt? Putin was waiting at the airport. Putin has become a major Power in the region and sent a strong signal that if your on his side, he will be on your side in a conflict. This is the situation Trump will inherit. Libya is in turmoil. Europe is pocodoted with terrorist attacks and Russia is threatening to withdraw from the nuclear security pack because of the hostility between Washington and Moscow. Trump can't continue along the same dangerous path. He will have to adjust our policy. We can hope he will succeed in reducing the danger and reasserting our influence.

  34. And you think Trump will "help"? Do you mean like Russia helped destroy Syria with Assad before they "saved" it?

  35. The deeper Putin gets embedded, the bigger the problem he will have. Problem is, he controls Trump and we have to wait to see how he uses Trump.

  36. In 2012 Putin could have gotten Assad to step aside. He said he was not tied to Assad staying in power. About 10,000 had lost their lives. He wasn't given a chance to work on a solution. Would he have succeeded? We will never know. What we do know is that in the next four years approximately 400,000 were killed and on million lost their homes. This time he isn't asking for Washington's approval. Too bad he wasn't given a chance four years ago.

  37. If they do have a ceasefire, then great. Does that means someone has won? If so, who? And to the victor, what spoils? Aleppo looks like Berlin, 1945, and as far as I can tell, no one is interested in a Syrian Marshall plan. We grumble that we have no influence, but we had no interest in influencing. Thus, we can't really complain when Russia and others move into the vacuum.
    I guess, call me confused. Half of me wants to be the America of the past 70 years, where we were the worlds policeman-slash-white knight , and the other half wants nothing to do with the place.

  38. All these years, Russia held the key to peace in Syria. It chose to finally unlock it because it sees an ally in Trump. Trump would not oppose Assad retaining power nor would he oppose Russia violating the territories of the former Soviet republics and East Bloc countries. Indeed, if Putin plays his cards well (i.e. with Trump's help), NATO would exist only on paper. Hopefully, the bloodshed in Syria will come to an end. But, in its place, a dangerous alliance involving Putin and Trump takes shape.

  39. I fail to understand why Putin is getting so much credit for brokering a cease fire or peace deal. He subdued the opposition to the murderous Assad regime by committing war crimes, including bombing hospitals and relief convoys. Now he's being lauded as some kind of savior??! He's a war criminal. How meaningful is a peace deal after he's helped reduce a part of civilization to rubble? He may enjoy swaggering into the wasteland he helped create as if he's some kind of hero who can save the day, but he is only a destroyer.

  40. How can we look on V. Putin (Russia) and even think to legitimize what he and Assad have done by dropping Barrel Bombs, using Chemical weapons, demolishing cities and lord knows what other atrocities and call him a "Master Tactician". Hardly. Crazed mad men, yes.

    These are war crimes, plain and simple and we need to keep reminding ourselves and the world of this.

    Kudos to Obama resisting the urge to get sucked into yet another situation out of our ability to help, let alone to control. I have no problem not having a seat at that table with Russia, Syria and Iran.

  41. Russia owns the problem indeed (and don't forget Turkey). The issues that divide Syria are not going to be solved by any cease fire agreement, or any outside strong arm tactics. How many times does that lesson need to be learned in the Middle East? Turkey and Russia, your problems with Syrian unrest have only just begun.

  42. I don't know much about Syria, and I'm finding it challenging to learn, but I don't agree with the idea of the "master tactician." Taking advantage of the leadership void we've created doesn't really seem "masterful" to me, and I don't feel like someone who has authorized the bombing of schools deserves to be characterized as a "tactician." Bombing a school or bakery is not a tactic. It's a war crime, so why not just call it one, now, because how could any court ever rule otherwise? It seems to me that no one has the leverage to end the war, which may continue, diminished, for quite some time.

  43. Give me a break. The question should be whether the US can make peace as well as war.

    Ever since the Soviet Union ended, the US has been after Russia, relentlessly extending NATO right to Russia's border.

    And Mr. Obama has done one better - or is it one worse - arranging for the overthrow of pro-Russian Yanukovych and insisting about Russia's ally, "Assad must go."

    Any aggressiveness we see from Russia is little more than fighting back.

    America wants to be the boss of the whole world and it is upset that Russia is out of its reach.

    For God's sake, Russia has 1900 nuclear weapons. America, for the sake of the world, lay off! Not only will New York and Moscow cease to exist, a lot of other nations will be severely harmed by the fallout.

    Finally we have an incoming president who wants peace rather than war, and Mr. Obama is doing everything possible to put hurdles in the path for peace.

    Why did I ever think of voting for that man? Obama is a nice and polite man, holding out his right hand in friendship, while his left, behind his back, holds a dagger.

  44. Seems I recall that Russia tried to have a ceasefire and negotiations between the Syrian Government and the rebels in 2012 but the U.S. pre-conditions were essentially no negotiations unless Assad is removed. So this war could have ended much sooner if the U.S. through Saudi Arabia/Qatar, etc. didn't fund and arm the rebels with Pres. Obama stating Assad must go.
    I don't know who writes for the Editorial Board but it appears they are playing fast and loose with the facts.

  45. Of course, the war could have ended sooner and perhaps in a much better fashion (I.e. Less deadly) had Assad been removed from power in 2012 with the help of our new pal Putin.

    Seems to me, a good many red blooded Americans have found warm and tender feelings for a collection of brutal dictators and murderers.

  46. It's easy for poseur Putin to look like a master tactician and for him to humbly accept the accolades of the press as long as one is willing to overlook the ruthless disregard for innocent civilian life that has put him in a position to dictate the terms of his latest never mind how fleeting iteration of a Syrian ceasefire.

  47. Reading some of these comments is like searching the internet for cancer cures. As a result we can see there are no experts on Syria, only speculation. The one thing we know is that Putin is a reincarnation of Stalin. His approval of the bombing of Aleppo shows that the only thing he respects is absolute power at any cost. Therefore, we can only hope that Trump listens to the intelligence community, regarding Syria and the escalation of the nuclear arms race; and that he doesn't make rash decisions. I'm not optimistic.

  48. It's obvious that there will be peace only if and when the rebels who want to oust Assad surrender. Putin and Russia ensured that this would be the conditions to stop the fighting.

  49. Can the United States make peace as well as war?

    The fantasy our so-called progressive or liberal media lives in is both outright laughable and incredibly disheartening. And it offers little hope for our citizenry.

    Where are the reports of outright, continuing devastation in Iraq and Libya along with neighboring, migratory, and abusive human suffering (not to mention that of ecosystems)? All results of United States wars and sheer incompetence.

    Day after day, it's simply stunning to witness the ignorance or indifference of U.S. editors, reporters, and columnists.

    As each of these days pass, I more firmly believe Democrats are on the fast track to being the next Tea Party -- the ignorant flag-waving is out there as Russia is repeatedly vilified with little if any attention paid to cleaning up our (or "their" as I continue to distance myself from Democrats) own house.

    Perhaps Decaf Tea Party applies; maybe simple differentiation is needed.

  50. Makaio, there is certainly enough blame to go around , Democrats and the press included, but let's get back to the original sins. Bush started the "good war" against Afghanistan because a group of Saudis, led by an Egyptian, operating from Germany and then the the US, with funding from sources in Saudi Arabia, perpetrated 9/11. At the time Afghanistan was a safe haven for al Qaeda, but there is no evidence that it played a role in 9/11. The Taliban (and some parties in Pakistan) became our enemy of convenience, and we're still involved in some fashion fifteen years later.

    In the case of Iraq, the Bush administration had almost a sensual desire to invade and occupy the country, The pumped up rationale was WMD, everywhere you look. When the UN inspectors visited the sites the CIA had identified as key WMD locations, absolutely no WMD were found. Day by day the WMD rationale was slipping away, In response Bush threw the inspectors out of Iraq and invaded.

    Add one more sin. The GOP voluntarily allowed itself to be eaten alive by the No Decaf Tea Party.

  51. (The former) Libya was entirely avoided in your reply. A United States intervention and catastrophe easily on par with Iraq, barring the presence of regular allied ground forces and perhaps, as of yet, a smaller albeit still quite large impacted population.

    A debacle led by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who as evidence indicates learned nothing or cared nothing for what transpired under Iraq's power vacuum.

    Oil and power. Same drivers, different party.

    Along with willful ignorance or indifference.

  52. Recent decades' suffering at the hands of United States' overseas debacles is at least one order of magnitude greater than that of Russia's moves -- millions of victims versus hundreds of thousands.

    And to boot we "win" hands down on fomenting new terrorists.

    It'd be nice if the Times and other outlets possessed the integrity and capacity to put such things into perspective.

  53. What's in it for Putin? Some men have compassion and care about others; some are just obsessed by the size of their digits. In the meantime, millions are killed. "Can Russia Make Peace as Well as War?" Not as long as (rich) roosters are in control.

  54. No.

    The Assad regime coupled with Russian military "interventions" have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and the expulsion of millions from their homes. And it shows no signs of stopping.

    Add in the negligence of the Obama administration and the apathy of the American people, among other western nations, and you have the perfect genocide.

    Stalin said it best, one death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic.

  55. Several years ago the Guggenheim Museum had an exhibit of Russian art spiraling the walls as would be there, painting after painting, covering centuries of Russian history.

    An amateur conclusion: Russia is a nation of strife. Either created by themselves or created by others.

    We have to ask ourselves - why would they change now? Seems they have to include themselves in conflict to just exist in their sense of their world.

    Surely this does not speak for all Russians, but it sure speaks for their leaders.

    But you know, like Trump's opinion of art and creativity, as exposed by his comments (tweets) about "Hamilton" - he probably stays away from museums, too.

  56. President Obama kept us at arms length from this conflict, and though painful to watch, it is a god send that he did. We could not have interfered effectively in the outcome of the uprising, and the President's decision saved thousands of American lives. Will Mr. Trump's advisors be as stingy with out troops and power? From the sounds of the saber rattling, not so much. I fear for our future with this new administration. I don't think Trump knows what he is doing, or where his dealing with Putin will lead. I don't think ha has the intellect to weigh his decisions. I don't think his advisers care a bit about the loss of a few thousand American lives if it gains them or their wealthy friends a little more wealth. I worry about that.

  57. Putin now has positioned another marker on Trump. First it was the non-expulsion of American diplomats, now it is temporary cessation of the bombing in Syria. Trump will know that he must concede to Putin's demands or these two axes will fall. It's like losing a chess game; Trump is out-maneuvered at the outset.
    Obama should pull the diplomats from Russia, and send aircraft carriers into the Mediterranean off the Syrian coast to make sure that this "peace" is honored, and Syria is not rebuilt as a Russian province.

  58. Oh my, John. You must have rocks in your head. Putin does two things to decrease hostility between Russian and the U.S. --not bombing and not expelling our diplomats-- and you put a negative spin on both.

    We should bring our carriers home and stop trying to be the world's policeman.

  59. Premature claims that diminish Trump sound like sour grapes. So far only Obama has actually been outmaneuvered by Putin. Trump simply refuses to engage in democrats' conspiracy theories about "election hacking", which he correctly assumes democrats will use to delegitimize his win, and he refuses to save Obama's hide with Putin.

  60. Russia in cooperation with the US under the new President Trump will be able to help bring about a lasting solution for Syrian problem, and too peace to the region if treated with respect and as equal partner in the effort. The signs are that Putin and Trump can get along well to bring about this change. Putin has the stamina and Trump the skill.

  61. One of the previous comments states that Trump has taken an intelligence briefing where definitive proof of his collusion with Russia was presented. Before the election. Are these the values we want to see in our leaders? Are they really working for the greater good? Putin, the wealthiest man in the world, Russian citizens not so much. Trump who was brought up from babyhood to worship the art of any deal made for his own self gain?

  62. In theory, the Syrians can begin to rebuild their lives? Has someone found a way to reverse the worst drought in the last millennium there? Why ignore what scientists and military analysts know? Drought and attendant hunger sparked internal migration, which, in turn, led to civil war. This doesn't excuse the butchery of Assad or Putin, nor does it nullify the proxy war of Sunni (Saudi Arabia) versus Shia (Iran), but every conflagration starts with a spark.

  63. Russia holds the Trump card. Literally and figuratively.
    Maggie Haberman quotes Putin's pal, Donald, “I don’t care what they say, no computer is safe,” he added. “I have a boy who’s 10 years old; he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.” Oh, the good ol' days!
    Trump watches his alienated son play Minecraft and his bewilderment and awe of "what these kids these days can do with their computers" will be the basis of his defense. The same team he sent to search for Obama's birth certificate may be the ones preparing for his great revelation on "Tuesday or Wednesday".
    It is likely that Trump has taken an intelligence briefing where definitive proof of his collusion with Russia was presented. It's why he's been avoiding these briefings, and Tweeting seeds of doubt. Maybe he's scrambling for something he can use to keep the true believers at arms length and their pitchforks out of his rallies.
    Meanwhile, Putin has impunity. He has a window while we come to terms with the discord in our governance and civil society. Right out of the gate Putin will begin to test the waters, to see if his investment (and those of his wealthy oligarch friends, let us not forget) has been worthy. The testing will begin on January 21st, and continue through Trump's impeachment.
    Maybe Trump has tasked his young son with building a virtual world, where he can go hide with his fantasies and build walls.

  64. The next few weeks will be very interesting. To be a fly on the wall in Trump Tower!

  65. I hope this works. I am not concerned if the US was sidelined or not. Makes no difference except for someone's ego. We had no control over events on the ground (which is a good thing) except for going through the Saudis and Qatar, both supporters of extremist.
    Would love to see Jubair now say "Assad must go or he will be removed by force". How are things going in Yemen? The rag tag flip flop wearing Houthis have put a stop to the Saudis. So much for MBS and his war strategy!

  66. Can Russia, i.e. Putin, make peace? Depends on how you define peace, doesn't it.

    It is certainly not beyond Putin, or Donald Trump, that these two have already been engaged in covert communications. In my estimation, it's a foregone conclusion.

    Trump will jump through the flaming hoop, then do a couple of back-flips and sit up for his treat from the master's goody pouch, then race off to perform the next trick, rolling over and playing dead while Putin re-annexes Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary and Poland. Good Boy!!!

    Trump is correct: Putin is smart. Donald doesn't know the half of it.

  67. Obama was right in not intervening in Syria. Remember the "Powell’s Pottery Barn rule—“you break it, you own it”— in reference to Irak? If you depose a government, now you are responsible of solving the problem created, which can be worse than the dictatorship. It would have taken 100 000 troops and the bombing an killing of thousands.
    Irak and Syria should be a lesson to the neocons and their arrogant policy of "regime change". Please leave Iran alone.
    Syria should be a lesson to rebel movements that take up arms to overthrow a dictator, no matter how bad it is. They are extremists that cause more harm than good. The millions of refugees and the victims of this war, only wish to go back to the lives they had, even under the dictatorship.
    I hope peace is achieved , the country is rebuilt and the refugees can return.

  68. This is a clear instance where Russian interests were so entrenched that it was either a full out proxy war or what we wound up with. Syria was and is an atrocity that we need to cede this was not a place for us. We cannot fix the world nor help everyone.

    There are too many factions, players, governments, sides for us to deal with. Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Isis, Al Queda, multiple Syria liberation nonsense, Kurds, Lebanon and every Arab nation, I know there must be more, And we have proven that nation building is futile.

    Move on, this is the Russian win, in a Russian territory,and until the Syrian people want a change there cannot be any.

    Next up we trade Crimea to Russia for the West Bank... peace in our time.

  69. The only problems with this opinion are:
    * It was the Bush/Cheney notion of "regime change" that really initiated/influenced much of the overly optimistic "Arab Spring"... Something that we couldn't back up. After all, we have yet to win the peace in either Afghanistan or Iraq...so you think we should have been involved in Syria too?
    * Syrian involvement would have meant more trillions $ lost in war as our infrastructure crumbles?
    * It was entirely unclear as to which of the opposition groups were Muslim fundamentalists. What we should train them up as we did the Taliban?
    * Sadly Syria was and is a client state of Russia and has been for decades (just as we have client states in C. and S. America in whose politics we regularly have intervened over the years). A war against Assad would have been a war against Russia. Sadly, again, Russia always was the "dominant international player in Syria". Why do you think this would have changed when the Soviets became the Russians? Ready to spend a few more hundreds of billions in a war with Russia, which could go nuclear?

    So as tragic and inhumane as the war in Syria has been, our strategic interests in Syria have never been defined other than to simply oppose Russia and Assad.
    War (both cold and hot) is bankrupting us yet you seem to be suggesting that we should have been involved in yet another one?

  70. Assad, with Putin's dead-eyed help, will be merciless in going after the remaining Syrian resistance. Of course under the cover of a 'ceasefire' and 'peace' process. The Turks will be allowed to go after the Syrian Kurds, and Trump will get to blow up Raqqa and a few other ISIS strongholds, probably killing thousands of civilians in the process.

    If Trump is smart, and he's not, he'll declare victory and stop there. More likely he'll put a large contingent of troops in the worst locations so we can battle Sunni extremists for decades while sparing Assad and the Russians from much of that dirty work.

    Just based on events to date, the leaders of Syria, Russia, and Iran should face war crimes trials, with Trump and Erdogan likely to deserve joining them. Unfortunately we let the Bush regime off the hook for Mideast war crimes, and might usually makes right, so I doubt we'll ever see justice here. Just lots more dead and displaced Syrians.

  71. I'm pretty sure USA can play both sides of current middle east dynamic, ie suddenly being pro Russia but anti Iran

  72. Folks if you want real insight go to today's Wall Street journal. A vultures peace. Then see what the US and its allies have lost.

  73. “We are in the home stretch Putin heads into 2017 on a strong note
    Putin is as popular as ever. The CIA says it just tempting to look
    at the list of victories in Putin’s ledger over the past 12 months
    and assume that nothing can stop the Kremlin.

  74. Obama was never passive in this conflict. He had divided roles with Syria's neighbors: The Saudi's and the Qatari's provided money for the uprising and bought the arms. Turkey and Jordan provided access and training and the US provided the legal and propagandistic cover for this (under international law) illegal "regime change" operation.

  75. Obama has strongly shown his total lack of diplomacy and lack of skill set when dealing with foreign policy. Only a few more weeks of this socialist.

  76. I pity Estonians they are in for at least a four year white knuckle ride.

  77. There's Trump coming down one road in 2017 and North Korea threatening an ICBM coming down the other. This doesn't look as though it will end well. It is just possible that V. Putin is not the worst thing this country faces in the coming year.

  78. The answer is no.
    The better question is why on earth is the US still bogged down in the Middle East? Come back in a hundred years, there will still be wars and deaths and most likely Israeli apartheid.
    There is no reason for America to spend billions of dollars and offer the lives of thousands of her troops to try to bring democracy or peace to that insane region of the world. I suspect we can help the peace effort in the Middle East best by leaving, as we helped bring peace to Southeast Asia, long ago, by leaving and letting them sort things out.
    But then, I am a nobody from the hinterlands, I am not paid millions to further the interests of Big Oil or papa Putin. Special interests are ruining America.
    Hugh Massengill, Eugene Oregon

  79. Of course Russia can't make peace as well as war. No more than Germany or Japan could in the 1930s. Russia is run by a virtual ruthless dictator. The country wants respect in a world that considers it, rightly so, a second world power. It supports genocidal dictators in other countries such as Syria. It has lost its conquests after its breakup and wants them back. How do you think? Peace or war? It is interfering with, in all places, US elections for God's sake
    which is itself considered an act of war.
    The only way they can achieve much by means other than war is to continue to play our unqualified new president as a useful idiot. This is their peaceful way.

  80. Your headline should read: "Can the U.S. Make Peace as Well as War?"

    Name all of the wars Russia is involved in--Syria. Name all of the wars the U.S. is fighting--Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, drones strikes in Pakistan and Somalia. http://www.politifact.com/texas/article/2016/dec/31/jill-stein-us-bomb-7...

    The truth is we don't even discuss the possibility of stopping our never ending wars. Why not?

    Peace & Happy New Year.

  81. Money, amassed by an insatiable military industrial complex, with the full support of our corporate owned, and operated, government, visiting mass murder, mayhem, destruction, pestilence, and disease, on innocents, everywhere on the planet

    http://time.com/4161613/us-arms-sales-exports-weapons/

  82. Maybe we should let Russia get stuck with Syria as payback for them sticking us with Afghanistan. We got fooled once by thinking we knew better there, let's not let in happen again with Syria. Maybe the world needs a new policeman on the block and our feet are tired and our shoes worn out.

  83. The narrative here is a bit "post-truth".

    "This is a conflict that wouldn’t have happened, or lasted so long, save for the cynical brutality of President Bashar al-Assad and his chief allies, Russia and Iran."

    It wouldn't have started had not the US and its Gulf Allies armed violent groups, many with obvious jihadi links, in an attempt to overthrow yet another secular ME regime in pursuit of geopolitical goals.

    The notion that had Assad fallen Syria would be a liberal democracy is, frankly, the sort of spin that has the Western MSM as lacking in credibility as it currently is.

  84. Can Russia Make Peace as Well as War?

    Nice question. One might want to ask that question of the USA. Despite some 60 tries at war since the Second world war the US has just one win and that is against tiny Grenada,( a country with a population the size of a mid sized American town) which had no armed forces of any kind. Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea all losses with one draw, Korea. Still bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the feeble attempt at regieme change in Syriai a total defeat.
    But the Editorial Board wants to look at Russia´s record. Well they defeated ISIS in Syria in less than one year, previous to that the US tried without success to defeat ISIS for four years and ISIS only became stronger over that period of time. Georgia was over in less than two weeks. And The Ukraine will at some point in the near future be in the Russian win column. And the USA? bombing campaigns all over the planet, invasions all over the planet, occupations all over the planet, ( some 800 military bases in 160 countries) and where are the wins? Where is the peace?

    First look to plank in your own eye, before going after the splinter in your neighbour´s. Thats still good advice. The Editorial Board would be wise to try it for once.

  85. Irony of ironies, given how Republicans have excoriated President Obama. Perhaps Mr. Trump will play Chamberlain to Putin in the interest of peace and cede the Baltic states to Russia.

  86. Why not? Russia was once at war with Napoléon, but at peace with its traditional enemy in the south, Turkey. During World War II, until August 1945, Russia fought Germany but was at peace with the third member of the Axis, Japan.

  87. "They made a desert, and called it peace."

    --Tacitus

    The Syrian War reminds me of the Spanish Civil War. Nazi Germany and fascist Italy supplied General Franco's insurgents with guns, tanks, and airplanes. England and the United States piously embargoed aid and munitions to both sides.

    After Franco won in 1939, his government executed more than 100,000 Spaniards. Germany and Italy were emboldened to attack the democracies within a year.

  88. Russia has been Syria's friend for over 50 years. Why should the US be involved? Oil? Is that it?

    Otherwise, who cares.

  89. Er guys...in a simple answer....no...history has proven it...

    I do respect you guys but you did not learn the simple lessen that Lincoln taught us...

    Do no get involved in a war unless your country is attacked or about to be attacked...

    One can update Lincoln in the modern world to intervene on a multi lateral basis to prevent agreed upon atrocities in a conflict and only to protect the innocent and not take sides.

    Russia did not learn the lesson....ie taking sides with the brutal dictator Assad, not that the other sides are any better.

    Their amb. to Turkey killed, plane crash supplying troops, history has taught us that is the beginning....

    Learn from history and Lincoln.......nyt editorial board and everybody else or forever be condemned to repeat history's worst examples...

  90. It's hard to believe the NYT Editorial Board is still claiming 400,000 Syrians would not have been slaughtered, nor entire Syrian cities devastated, "save for the cynical brutality of President Bashar al-Assad and his chief allies, Russia and Iran."

    What. Utter. Hogwash.

    For the past five years, Syrians have been fighting for their country and their popular, democratically elected president, as hard as any American soldier would fight for the United States if it too were invaded by foreign jihadi mercenary terrorists.

    According to a recent German study, between 30,000-40,000 foreign mercenaries, from 88 different countries, have invaded Syria.

    Syria was next on the regime-change hit list only China and Russia vetoed the U.S. request to "intervene" in Syria for "humanitarian reasons" at the U.N. After Kuwait (babies in incubators), Iraq (weapons of mass destruction) and Libya (Gaddafi was going to murder his own people), Russia and China had had enough.

    Gaddafi was violently sodomized with a sword. Hillary Clinton laughed about it. Libya, like Iraq, is now a mess.

    Libyans loved Gaddafi. Libya oil wealth was shared. Libyans received free health care, higher education, and business loans. When a couple married they received a down payment for a home.

    President Assad is not "killing his own people." U.S.-led, NATO, and the GCC are killing Syrians. This despicable Dirty War on Syria is a lie. See: Vanessa Beeley, Tim Anderson, Eva Bartlett, U.S. Peace Council Syria.

  91. So, in Syria we see a ceasefire and a plan forward promoted and enabled by Russia, Iran and Turkey, yet the NYT sounds rather melancholy reporting on it. And, of course, though the US was not party to these negotiations, the NYT fails to fully explain why. The US never wanted a brokered Syria peace deal that included the current Syrian government, as regime change has always been the US position. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have needlessly died on account of US, Saudi and others' backing of the largely foreign mercenaries fighting to overthrow President Assad's government.

  92. Unfortunately, again, more drip feed of the neocon agenda by the Editorial Board, just like with the invasion of Iraq and WMDs.
    The Assad government is not a "brutal regime", it's a 'government'. When you use loaded language like this, you disclose your real agenda.
    This was not a civil war, this was a foreign attack undertaken by 'responsible' brokers and backed by a small number of violent Sunni extremists and faux expat Liberals.
    Various amorphous and foreign-backed groups are inside Syria causing trouble, piggy-backing on the so-called, CIA and Mossad instigated faux Arab spring.
    War is money and Syria is a bonanza and nobody sells more arms than the US.
    It's easy to keep spouting the old trope that Putin and Assad are evil and the US is the 'exceptional' saviour, but that is utterly ridiculous and you know it.
    Russia has acted in response to a request by the elected government of Syria to rid that country of the terrorists unleashed by the US in its quest for regime change.
    The US in particular merely pays lip service to the threat of Islamic terror - they are their biggest enablers and weapons suppliers.
    These deranged Wahhabi terrorist fighters will almost entirely disappear when/if their funding (Saudi Arabia and Qatar) and support (US/CIA, Israel/Mossad) ends.
    The US trains these militias to be unleashed on countries that don't play ball like Syria and Libya in Amman, Jordan at the moment.

    Please at least pretend to do adhere to facts when writing Editorials.
    Thanks

  93. Calibrated success in Syria by the Russians. The end game is in sight. The final picture is taking shape. It took them less than a year.

    Compare that to Iraq and Afghanistan -- why do our wars seem to go on for ever ?

    Is this why Trump admires Putin ?

  94. One does not have to agree with someone's policies to recognize his leadership policies.

    Putin's regime has done well with his leadership in protecting and advancing the interests of his nation.

    On reflection, it seems that the Obama regime has been mired in narcissism and and fantasy, two traits that have not been kind to our future.

  95. I note - with some amusement - the international headlines:
    "An incredible chess move: Putin checkmates Obama after symbolic sanctions manoeuvre"
    Obama may be too much of a sensitive soul to effectively deal with real life in the rest of the world - where folks simply don't want to 'get along' and actually want to slaughter each other.
    The Israelis know this from first hand experience.
    Alas I fear Trump may be no better.

  96. NYT is STILL trying to pick a fight with Russia? You are leading us into WW3? U. S. behavior, in Ukraine, i. e., and at Russian borders otherwise, helps explain Russian behavior in Syria. LISTEN, youreditorialists, to Stephen Cohen on relations with Russia. YOU are not the experts -- HE is!

  97. "This is a conflict that wouldn't have happened...save for the cynical brutality of President Bashir al-Assad...Russia and Iran".

    And the stand by the side do nothing approach of the US and Obama administration.

    Whether peace or "peace" comes out of this is still be be determined, but what has been determined is who is the power that calls the shots in the Middle East and it is not what is left of the Obama Administration.

    Previous US administrations worked hard to get the USSR - Russia out of the Middle East.

    Mr. Obama let them in. This too is the Obama legacy.

  98. The Middle East is a real Powder-Keg about to explode into a much bigger regional war. There are too many players with too many high stakes. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, the Kurds. Then there is Israel, about to permanently institutionalize a one-state Apartheid solution, with the full support of the Trump administration. Where is the common interest here? There is no common interest. We are looking at Austria-Hungary just before the Archduke Ferdinand gets assassinated.

  99. Ah yes, Obama was outwitted because his decision not to get Americans killed or inadvertently support ISIS or Al Qaeda-affiliated groups hurt the United States's "prestige." Typical empty, bloodthirsty logic from the armchair generals. This paper has consistently run op-eds arguing that the United States can't just "sit back" with respect to Syria -- as if our other options were better.

    And I'd love to know how Putin "won" by gaining power in Syria. How exactly does this help Russian interests, other than by helping him to bolster his image at home?

  100. Russia will fail in Syria the way they failed in Afghanistan. The way that we failed in Iraq. Syria will not tolerate a foreign occupier. Obama was wise to keep us out of an arena where we could do no good.

  101. This is a stunning headline from a paper based in a country that has known just a few years of peace in its 241 years and is currently bombing at least 7 countries.

    What business did the United States have in backing the overthrow of an elected government? The "moderate rebels" that we gave weapons to ended up being not so moderate after all and were, actually, terrorists with ties to larger terror organizations all over the Middle East. The question, for us, should be "Can the United States make peace as well as war?" I'd like to see that question asked in pages of the New York Times.

  102. Thank you for this comment!! This editorial piece is not only bias, but it beats the drums of war! No more proxy wars!

  103. Iainnj, you put quotation marks around the words, moderate rebels, but you neglected to show the same skepticism with the term, elected government. To describe Assad's government as elected, while factually correct, obscures the substantive reality of Syrian politics. Most dictators in our Orwellian age rely on the shriveled fig leaf of a formal election to lend some democratic legitimacy to their power grabs. To suggest that Assad enjoys a genuine mandate from his people reflects either naivete or cynicism.

  104. Syria has an elected government? Seriously? Assad is an honestly elected president? Seriously? I suppose that in that they had an election, he was actually elected but it was an election in name only. He won 88.7% of the vote against 2 others who were not allowed to campaign in any serious way.

  105. Russia and Syria first established agreements in 1946 and their relationship has only continued to strengthen over the years. It's not much different than the U.S. relationship with Israel. Assad is not unlike the other autocrats who have ruled tribal countries in the Middle East. His family is Alawite, different than Sunni and Shiite. They have all committed atrocities against each other - Assad hasn't done anything different than what has been going on there for centuries. Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting over the years....millions have died. We really don't understand the dynamics of Middle East rule, religion and culture. I don't believe there will ever be peace among Arab nations, nor Arab nations and Israel. I have thousands of years of precedent to base my opinion. Putin, the U.S., Turkey....we're all irrelevant over the long term. It's much more complex than we all realize.

  106. They don't matter. Profits and sucking up to Putin do..

  107. Are the Editors of the Times trying to goad the American People into another senseless war? Didn't you people learn anything from your support of the Iraq War?

  108. After reading about the latest terrorist attack in a fancy Istanbul nightclub last night, with terrorists dressed as Santas, I had a quick succession of nightmare thoughts. First is that these attacks are destabilizing Erdogan, second was the thought of a coup ... like the coup that led to this big crackdown in Turkey, which was blamed on the US, and now creates speculation that Turkey will leave NATO. But this time I imagine a successful coup with a Russian puppet in place. And I imagine the reaction of President Trump ... very little check on Russian power as Trump works to cripple NATO as well. Not a time for disunity in Europe, as Russian misinformation works to create frexit and reduce the already weak power of Brussels. The right could use a few strategic thinkers, and not just about breaking up the strong alliances.

  109. More appropriate would have been the title: "Can the U.S.A. make Peace as well as War?"

    Did Russia invade Iraq?

    Did Russia bomb Libya and Syria in pursuit of 'Regime Change'?

    Did Russia finance and arm ISIS?

    The annexation of Crimea (with an 80 % Russian population) seems tame in comparison with the U.S.A.'s criminal invasions and encouragement of Islamic Extremism throughout the Middle East and across the globe.

    A little less self-righteousness would be in order.

  110. As far as this Editorial is concerned, here is an appropriate and absolutely mind-boggling video in which an ex-U.S. marine explains why he renounced U.S. citizenship. Yes, the video was aired on RT (Russian Television), but that doesn't make it any less relevant to the Editorial that seeks to place the blame for global conflagrations on Russia:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEhoHcQ2cPQ

    If this post is published it will prove that the NYT is interested in free debate.

  111. The question still remains: Can we TRUST a world being run mainly by Oligarchs and Kleptocrats who punish their own people? Trusting Putin, Assad and now Trump does not exist for the most part. Who will be making the best decisions for the well-being of planet earth? That is the other question? Watch Erdogan now. Watching narcissist Trump is a given. Release your taxes con-man Trump!

  112. "This is a conflict that wouldn’t have happened, or lasted so long, save for the cynical brutality of President Bashar al-Assad and his chief allies, Russia and Iran."

    Who else, besides the NYT Editorial Board, believes this?

    It was the "Divide and Rule" strategy of U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, not Russia or Iran, that turned the Middle East into a quagmire.

    It was the former 3 that created, financed and weaponized A l Qaeda and then ISIS. Learning from one's mistakes? What a joke!

    Thank God for the existence of numerous blogs that explain and graphically detail the criminal behaviour of those that profess to be working for peace in the region.

    If Russia and Iran are committing crimes it is in reaction to, not a cause of, U.S.-Israeli-Saudi War Crimes.

    And if the U.S. ceased its warmongering, what would happen to poor old Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE, Raytheon, Northrop and General Dynamics that account for more weapons sales than the rest of the world combined?

    Appeasing the Neocon-Zionist war lobby is so crucial to the U.S.'s goals that you even protect the Saudi criminals who destroyed your Twin Towers. The U.S. adherence to 'Basic Human Principles' died in the early Eighties.

  113. "Six years of fighting" in Syria is peanuts compared with our efforts in the Middle East.

    "...Mr. Putin has effectively marginalized the United States and maneuvered into position as the dominant international player in Syria." --- Pearl clutching, envy, or what?

  114. The answer is no. Read "Winter is Coming" by Kasparov to see how outclassed our new commander in chief really is.

  115. Can Russia Make Peace as Well as War?
    By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
    Vladimir Putin may look like a master tactician now for his role in the Syrian truce, but issues that derailed past cease-fires remain unresolved.

    EDITORIAL BOARD, are you out of your minds?

    This invites the bear in the woods comment or the one about asparagus.

    Vladimir Putin is a war criminal. Beyond that, for you people to imagine that the two monsters Assad and Putin could ever put together a meaningful peace after destroying most of the country, killing or displacing most of the population? What are you guys smoking? You call that a peace. Good grief have you no historic or political perspective what so ever? Stupid question, we just watched you totally mess up a presidential election. You got rid of Chira and now Dean Baquet has another clown running the front page.

    We don't hate Russia or Russians ,there is only the small matter that the country is being run by a mid nineteenth century madman. Can we even call it a country?

    Seriously, you would sell more papers playing it straight this stupidity has gone far enough.

  116. My point of concern: after Iraq and Libya.. would Syria really be better without Assad? Recent history suggests it would be worse.

  117. Much of the US electorate, and certainly the GOP and Trump supporters, rail against US intervention in the Middle East and nation building, mostly because of Bush's abject failure in Iraq. So Obama headed their warning and stayed clear -- aside from tepid support for some rebels (probably a mistake if they weren't willing to provide all out support.) So the consequences is that the US was left out of this "truce" and eventual "peace" negotiations. A snub, yes. But exactly the consequences for keeping our distance.

    The problem is not that the US is left out. The problem now is who is left in: Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Each a nation whose political interests far exceeds the interests of the Syrian people or the interest of Middle East peace. Putin is driven to re-create the greater Soviet sphere of influence at any opportunity. Erdogan is driven to destroy the Kurds--a campaign that will end up destroying Turkey. And Iran is transparently moving the Shiite/Sunni chess pieces and is only doing what anyone would expect--helping their Shiite client Assad hold onto power.

    This has been the way much of the world, and certainly the Middle East, has been put together to begin with. Why should it be any different now.

  118. The last sentence says it all about the President's "failure" to intervene in Syria: "Russia now owns that problem." We all know what it is like to own a problem in that region.

  119. ...after a massacre, there is peace...

    Sad.

    And you know what? I am glad the US is not leading in Syria. There are other rich countries who can but would rather spend money and people on warmongering.

  120. Not to fret. Sure, the situation is very messy, even by Middle Eastern standards.

    Turkey hates the Kurds and Bashar al-Assad. The Kurds hate Turkey, ISIS and Bashar al-Assad. The US hates Bashar al-Assad but loves the Kurds and despises Russia until January 20th. Russia despises the US, at least for two more weeks, but loves Bashar al-Assad, as does Iran. After two weeks, Iran will still hate the US, probably even more than it does now.

    Israel hates everybody, including its American banker but will fall in love with the US all over again on January 20th for a short but steamy affair. Iraq hates Turkey and ISIS but tolerates the US as its military lifeline and plays Russia to its ad hoc advantage. Nobody has a clue about what's best for them.

    Into this toxic mess comes the naughty boy prince with the orange comb-over. He's, like, smart. The boy prince knows stuff about Russian hacking that nobody else knows. He'll tell us all about it on Tuesday or Wednesday.

    Don't worry; be happy.

    www.endthemadnessnow.org

  121. I do worry.

  122. He might do a fair degree better than the man with the permanent tan and big ears has done for the past eight years.

  123. "Mr. Putin...maneuvered into position as the dominant international player in Syria".
    And the problem for the United States is?
    Humanitarian concerns aside (We seem to always forget that people are starving, being shot to death and not receiving adequate care in our own country), what's to be gained by being embroiled in yet another Mid-East disaster in which ANY outsider, including the "born again Orthodox Mr. Putin", will be viewed as an "infidel" by virtually all sides of the Muslim/sectarian conflict?
    Is this unsolvable mess worth even one more American life?
    Let Mr. Putin play all he wants to, the memory of the Russian adventure in Afghanistan should echo loudly in the space between his ears. Indeed, WE should listen to those same echoes as, guess what, the Taliban and Al-Qeada are both back and alive in THAT woe begone experiment after, well, how many lives and years?
    Since we seem to need less and less of their oil, let's let whoever wants to try and, as the NYT so caustically put it, "play as an international player" in the area and let the U.S. does what it does best, sell arms to ALL buyers.
    For, as history tells me, "ceasefires" in this region are as tenuous as the ammunition supplies for the region's AK-47's; whoever has the most ammo speaks the loudest.

  124. Would you care to remark, Mr. Petro, on Bill Clinton's policies in Rwanda and Bosnia?

    It would seem to me that President Obama either forgot or ignored some of the lessons learned from those tragedies.

  125. This is all Oabama's legacy, the anti Bush president, who inherited a quiescent battle field lull in the region, declared peace, evacuated, and let the forces of chaos and carnage fill the American-created vacuum

    I hope history condemns this man, the locals certainly ought to, except for those who benefit from his Olympian cruelty

    Trump's bro-mance with Putin is all Obama's legacy,

  126. Russia will do whatever Russia thinks is in its best interest.
    It always has, it always will.

  127. It's a rule that we should remember ourselves.

    Our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights are not a suicide pact.

  128. As opposed to...who, what?

  129. Just like us.

  130. Unless it is on their terms, 100%, the answer is no.

  131. I am not an admirer of Vladimir Putin. I am an admirer of Barack Obama. I am contemptuous of the republican party's politicians and find their democratic counterparts woefully out of touch with everyday Americans. I loathe theocracies, especially those that deny the humanity in non-believers.

    The civil war in Syria was caused by Sunni Islamists determined to overthrow Assad. Until Saudi Arabia started to spread the word of Wahhabism as a mainstay of its foreign policy, the schism between Sunni and Shiite wasn't noticed much in the rest of the world. With the rise of the Taliban and the sects that have followed, any non Sunni, let alone Christian, Jewish or Shiite people are targets for Wahhabist retribution.

    Unlike the civil war in the US which is being fought with propaganda and ballots, the civil war in Syria is being fought with bullets and bombs. People die and property is destroyed in wars. Just as they did when the US conquered Iraq during GWB's war of ambition and they did when the US defeated Japan and, in conjunction with Russia and Britain, defeated Germany in WWII.

    Only time will tell whether Syria becomes an update on the Russian experience in Afghanistan, and the Islamic regions of Russia (nearly 13% of the country, by the way).

    At this point in time, the Islamic terrorists who oppose Assad are the enemy. Just as Stalin made for an effective ally in WWII, so too does Putin make for a useful ally against Islamic terrorism today.

  132. If the Ruskies can make after war, they'll be outperforming US and its endless wars and regime changes, and still no peace

  133. When your side is winning you can dictate a ceasefire to meet your needs. As with most places in the world, Russia has been playing chess while Obama and Kerry play checkers, Putin's reaction to the ridiculous "sanctions" put on the Russians for the email hacks points once again to the ineptness of the current administration. Syria is just one of the most obvious failures of the current administration - thank goodness we can have a fresh start in 3 weeks.

  134. This is a conflict that wouldn’t have happened, or lasted so long, save for the cynical brutality of the United States and her chief Sunni secterian allies, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in fomenting and supporting rebellion against a pluralistic , albeit Shiite led, and prosperous society that Syria had been. The US has blood on its hands for supporting from the beginning regime change in Syria to support its geo political ambitions

  135. Please talk to me when the United States of America ceases to be the top arms seller / dealer, on the planet.

    A nation that markets, and delivers, instruments of mayhem, destruction, and death, to anyone and everyone, worldwide, has no right whatsoever, to sully the meaning of the word, Peace.

    See Time report -

    "The United States remains the world’s preeminent exporter of arms, with more than 50 percent of the global weaponry market controlled by the United States as of 2014."

    http://time.com/4161613/us-arms-sales-exports-weapons/

  136. Mel,
    the president has actually sold 60% more arms than Dubya.
    The difference, being, that our arms are only being sold to upstanding democracies...??

  137. Actually, "this is a conflict that wouldn’t have happened, or lasted so long, save for the cynical brutality of" the US government and CIA, and its Sunni state partners Saudi Arabia, Qatar, et al.

    The underlying premise of this column by the neocon editorial board is that:

    1. Assad has no right to defend his country and should have handed ovrr the secular Syrian goverment to foreign Islamic jihadis, comprised of remnants of al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, ISIL and various Salafists and Wahabis from around the world -- rebels who were trained, funded and armed by the CIA and its Sunni partners.

    2. That these Islamic insurgents bent on the violent overthrow of a soveign nation weren't a brutal killing machine responsible for killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians.

    3. It is illegitimate for the soveirgn state of Syria, a UN member, to have allies like Russia and Iran, willing to come to its aid when it's attacked by foreign financed and armed Islamic jihadis.

    Fact is Obama could have stopped the killing in Syria, and stemmed the tide of refugees into Europe, at any time by simply shutting off its support of the insurgents and demand its partners do the same. But, it was more important to Obama and the neocons to overthrow Assad. Indeed, overthrowing Assad was more important to them than even fighting ISIL.

  138. Mr. Stewart: Can't imagine why your commentary didn't get a NYT Picks award?
    Thank you for posting.

  139. The Russian incursion into Syria should be the showcase of why countries like America should stay out of these mid-Eastern sectarian conflicts. Syria will be more economically damaging to Russia than either Afghanistan or Reagan's Star Wars programs were.

    The fall of Aleppo is hardly the end of the war. It merely marks a phase of ostensible peace, when all sides can recoop and rebuild their capabilities to wage more war, and more war is clearly in the offing. No level of Russian intervention can mitigate the centuries-old struggles between the various religious factions in the region. Turkey has had an increasingly fractious relationship with Syria in recent years, and won't rest until Assad is gone. Iran is the major regional force, and tolerates Russian backing only so long as their arms and nuclear expertise keep flowing to them. The Kurds remain resolute about independence. The ancient conflict between Shiite and Sunni flames on. ISIS still slaughters innocents by the hundreds and refuses to recede. And an increasingly conservative and extremist Israel continues to pour fuel on these fires.

    President Obama did well to keep America as far away from these conflicts as possible. Yes, fight ISIS, but the rest is up to the regional actors to resolve, even when they have been unable to after centuries of war. There is no good outcome possible for America in this. Let Putin own it, as this article says. And it will be his downfall.

  140. Putin now invites the USA to participate in the peace process. Translation...they hope and want the USA to rebuild Syria off the backs of the US taxpayers, while Russia walks away from the financial burdens. Iran and Russia created the Syrian refugee crisis. Let them pay to rebuild Syria and settle Syrian refugees in Russia and Iran, and the wealthier Mideastern countries.

  141. Some excerpts and comments.
    Syria will be more economically damaging to Russia than either Afghanistan or Reagan's Star Wars programs were.
    Russia has no interest in producing any outcome, just
    preventing some outcomes - achievement of peace, ouster
    of Assad and his clique, ... Why will this be very expensive?

    The fall of Aleppo ... merely marks a phase of ostensible peace, when all sides can recoop and rebuild their capabilities to wage more war... No level of Russian intervention can mitigate the centuries-old struggles between the various religious factions in the region.
    Nor is Russia interested in mitigating these struggles. They
    produce the instability that makes Russia a player in the area.

    Let Putin own it, as this article says. And it will be his downfall.
    Putin doesn't own the resolution of the conflict. Just his
    benefits from the conflict.

  142. The only reason Russia is in Syria is to defend its ally Syris after the United States and it's Sunni Salafist partners, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, fomented civil war there and armed and funded Islamic jihadis is to violently overthrow the legitimate Assad government.

  143. This thing is so far from over. There are 20 million Sunnis in Syria, 3 million Alawites. Only the Iranians, Hezbollah and Russians are keeping Assad in power, and that's for access to the Med. Turkey, Kurds, Jordians, Egypt, Saudis all Sunni, they're not going to stop.

  144. The math only confirms that appeal of Assad in Syria goes beyond sectarian lines, and many Sunnis prefer him to Islamic Sunnis. Alawites were in power in Syria for quite while despite Sunni countries around it. Why would it be different now?

  145. I am more concerned about the regime change agenda by the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia/Qatar, etc. Many of the Sunnis in the former stable and secular Syrian government supported, to some extent, the Assad governance.

  146. They'd stop if the US demand it to stop. Which of the countries you named would persist in defiance of US opposition? Turkey, our NATO partner? Kurds, whose only allies in the region are the US and Israel (lol)? Egypt, the second largest recipient of US foreign aid? Jordan (SMH)?

    The US fomented the Syrian civil war. It and its Wahhabi state partners, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, finance and arm the Islamic jihadis fighting there. And it can end it at any time. But, the neocons in the Obama administration and CIA would rather have hundreds of thousands of dead civilians, and millions of refugees flowing into Europe, than have what once was a stable and secular Assad government remain power.

  147. War crimes have been committed in Syria, that's a fact. But, really, will a new Trump "administration" have any part in pursuing those crimes in an international judicial forum? Of course not. I imagine that Trump wants to retain all his options in avoiding the realities of Putin's role in Syria and Ukraine, where his allies murdered hundreds when shooting down a Malaysian Air jetliner. This shapes up as a new axis: Trump, Putin, Erdogan, Duarte and the entire cast of deplorables.

  148. Hate to tell you, SJM, but Duarte has done his own Asia Pivot to align with the Middle Kingdom.

  149. Russia never seems to learn it's lesson from it's own history. Afghanistan was Russia's Vietnam. And the terrorist blow back from their time there lasted many years. Putin seems to have forgotten that part of his history. Utterly destroying Aleppo and whichever city is next in Syria is only going to inspire new radicals to attack Russia. He may have stuck it to the US temporarily but he has doomed his own country to attacks. Radical extremists don't only come from the Middle East.

  150. Jaqueline, read the NYT article dated March of 2015 titled "The ruins of Aleppo" It is accompanied by photos of the destroyed city. Then, you may want to ask yourself "When did the Russians enter the fray"?

  151. Although no fan of Russia, Putin has clearly marginalized Obama and has once again shown the utter weaknesses and failures of Obama's foreign policy during the past 8 years. Obama should have focused more attention on these issues, rather than stabbing Israel in the back. Good riddance.

  152. Save some of your spite for the repub toadies in Congress, pretty much a do nothing lot.

  153. Stabbing Israel in the back? Obama should have put UN troops on the 67 border!

  154. Not that he would, anyway, but Obama does not have the authority to put UN troops anywhere.

  155. What is troubling bout this editorial is more what it doesn't say than what it does. I understand the language of "brutal Assad regime." There's amble evidence that despite running a generally efficient non-sectarian government, Assad's security police would indeed be quite brutal when there was political opposition. It's also clear that once the civil war accelerated it became quite sectarian and the Syrian society has broken down into its various ethnic and religious enclaves.

    But all this is merely evidence that the toppling the the Assad government would simply recreate the madness we produced in Iraq. Why would the Times continue to support the degeneration of another Arab state when we know from concrete experience that these conditions are the breeding ground for Islamic extremism?

    These are simple facts the no Times editorial has addressed. But the only plausible answer is that the editorial board is determined to provide the justification for the current US policy of endless war.

    To have a war on terrorism, which is itself a ridiculous phrase, you must have terrorists. And contrary to what is said, this constant bombing and troop deployment on Muslim countries will lead many to believe that these wars are indeed against Islam itself and react just as ISIS has in Iraq.

    The readers deserve better than this, as do the American people. Sadly it has been Assad and the Russians that have at least momentarily pulled us away from another abyss.

  156. How come the editors at the NY Times never demanded that President Obama punish anyone who was involved with the massive death and destruction caused by the WMD lies in Iraq. Nobody ever got punished where in fact they all got promoted. Thank you President Obama my faith in you for that omission has completed disappeared.

  157. Your well written editorial contains a glaring omission, that the US, by reneging on its pledge to conduct surgical air strikes on Syrian Air Force, by drawing a red line and not enforcing it, resulted in allowing Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies to slaughter inhabitants of Aleppo and other areas under rebel control.World leaders lost respect for us. Henceforth our word as a world power meant nothing, Perhaps it was a move to propitiate Iran, whom we sought as a signatory to a nuclear deal, but whatever Obama's motives,we have gone down in the esteem of other players on the world stage as a result.Obama has that on his conscience, as well as the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al Walaki and his son,both put to death by drones w/o due process.That is a heavy weight for our c-in-c to carry into retirement.

  158. The red line was about Assad gassing civilians. The gas was removed, because of the threat on strikes. It was a specific, limited objective and it was met.

  159. "Although Mr. Obama provided modest support for some rebel groups, he was determined to stay out of another Middle East conflict that neither the American people nor Congress wanted."

    The Editorial Board provides air cover for Obama's reneging on his "red line" threat.

  160. What happend to those surgical strike? We were going to make them in response to Syria's use of chemical weapons. Kerry made an off hand remark that we wouldn't need to if Assad quit using them. In stepped Putin who said, "I'll ask him." He did, Assad sad ok. Goodby surgical strikes. Would they have done anything? Our continuous surgical bombing of ISIS did little to stop them and they didn't have Russia on their side..

  161. The Obama administration could have stopped the killing at any time. All it had to do was shut off the flow of CIA money and arms to the Islamic jidadis and demand that its Sunni state partners (e.g., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, et al) do the same.

    Why was it so important to the Obama administration and the neocons at CIA to violently overthrow the Assad government? -- so much so that is even had priority to them over defeating ISIS.

    Have we learned nothing from our failed strategy of violently overthrowing Arab leaders in the Middle East?

    Have we learned nothing from our failed strategy of fomenting Islamic jihad and arming Islamic jihadis?

    For some inexplicable reason the Obama administration, in defiance of history and common sense, placed so much import on overthrowing the Assad government that it was willing to start a bloody civil war in otherwise stable and secular Syria, knowing it would cause the death of tens of thousands of innocent Syrians and send millions of refugees into Europe.

    I guess to the neocons in the Obama administration (and to the Times editorial board) it was -- to steal a phrase from Madeleine Albright -- it was worth it.

  162. Gee I didn't realize that Syria was a stable gov't before Obama somehow orchestrated the Sunni protests during the Arab Spring. I also didn't realize that the US had such clout with the Saudis that they would not fund rebels of all stripes in Syria.

    Now I do. And after Obama is out of office, Assad, together with the Russians and Iranians will certainly re-institue a stable Syria.

  163. Can the United States???

    Since the United States was founded in 1776, it has been at war during 223 out of its 240 calendar years of existence – 93% of its history spent warring. In other words, there were only 17 calendar years in which the U.S. did not wage any wars.

    To put this in perspective:

    * Pick any year since 1776 and there is about a 93% chance that America was involved in some war during that calendar year.

    * No U.S. president truly qualifies as a peacetime president. Instead, all U.S. presidents can technically be considered “war presidents.”

    * The U.S. has never gone a decade without war.

    * The only time the U.S. went five years without war (1935-40) was during the isolationist period of the Great Depression.

    “Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.” ~ EDWARD ABBEY

  164. Indeed, the US is a warring nation. We revere and glorify war and militarism. War is at the center of our culture, our values, and our national identity.

    And, as such, the US has killed more people on foreign soil, including innocent women and children, than any other nation in the post-world War II era.

  165. The same can be said about every major player on the world stage since the invention of the ship of war. the spear and the dagger, or even the blunt object.

  166. In all of the warring you chronicle, were there never any peace settlements? Did no "war president" ever preside over the end of hostilities? Did the US ever join with allies to combat a common enemy? Did the US always initiate the warring? How does the US stack up against other countries in the last 240 years - does it have the highest War Coefficient among peers, the lowest, average?

    "Better a balanced critique than a one-sided indictment". ~ ALBERT EBMUD

  167. Which is true?

    "This is a conflict that wouldn’t have happened, or lasted so long, save for the cynical brutality of President Bashar al-Assad and his chief allies, Russia and Iran."

    or

    This is a conflict that wouldn't have happened, or lasted so long, save for the massive bombardment, invasion and devastation of neighboring Iraq by Bush/Cheney and the utterly foolish policies of Obama/Clinton arming and training "vetted moderate" Islamist rebels in Syria.

    Syrian tanks were destroyed by US supplied TOW missiles fired by rebels shouting allah is great. Their ability to kill government troops using US, Turkish, Gulf States and Saudi supplied weapons is what kept the rebels fighting for so long.

    Any mention of "war crimes" without mention of the monstrously fraudulent casus belli of Bush/Cheney is sheer hypocrisy.

  168. This battle would have been fought absent all of those.

    This is a religious war between Sunni and Shiite Arabs and, like most fights of this sort, it is a fight to the death and/or destruction of the other side.

    It is naive to think that the US or Russia or any other non-Arab state played any role in its initiation or continuance. Neither can the US or Russia or any other non-Arab state be anything other than a sideline player in its resolution.

  169. Or

    This is a conflict which would not have existed had the opposition to President Assad not felt that violent revolution was the answer to their political issues.

    If we are going for first causes, a revolution never happens without revolutionaries.

  170. The United States has played a role in Syria, a shifting, unfortunate role that has prolonged the war and enabled Russia to enter into the war on behalf of Assad. The United States could not decide which factions to support decisively. And there were no good choices, only worse and less worse choices. The one policy that would have doomed Assad and arguably shortened the horror of Syria's multi-faceted civil war was to designate Syria a no-fly zone years ago. Russia entered Syria by first bringing in a robust anti-aircraft defense system and landing its own aircraft on Syrian runways. A US no-fly zone would kept Russia and its aircraft out. A no-fly zone would have prevented the targeting of civilians, doctors and hospitals.

    In truth it is impossible to conclude that a no-fly zone would have produced a democratic government in Syria. There is substantial doubt that anybody other than the segment of Syrian people who support various rebel factions really wanted to stop the destruction of the long civil war and bring the Assad era to an end. They left Syria when they realized that a Russia-backed Assad could bomb Aleppo and other cities at will. The Syrians that remain support the Assad regime. We'll see how that plays out during the next four years.

  171. Of course, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry shoulder no blame fo the mess that is being left. Nope, none at all.

  172. Putin as the savvy Russian bear and 10 feet tall — pretty much hogwash.

    Thanks be to Obama for not arrogantly stumbling headlong into the Syrian hornets nest with a flourish of American direct military intervention. That would have made the Iraq debacle seem like a cake walk.

  173. We are doing so well a peacemaking that, maybe, Vlad should stifle his pride and approach our nearly retired "progressive, inspirational leader" for some thoughtful pointers.
    BTW: There is absolutely nothing that could be termed "sanctimonious" in the title of this editorial.

  174. Maybe I'm off base, but the person who really worries me is Erdogan, our alleged partner in NATO. He has used this syrian tragedy entirely for his own domestic purposes, though he has allowed Syrian regugess to live in squalor on the border. Obama's restraint in Syria, hard though it may have been to watch, was the right call; while Assad on his own may have been ripe for a fall, with iran and Russia in his corner, the war would have been, or will be, endless. But if Erdogan now sets his sights on the Syrian Kurds, which would seem to be vengeful genocide, the U.S. cannot simply protest feebly. The Kurds have done the heavy lifting in the ISIS fight,and are the single beacon of hope in Iraq, and they deserve protection from a newly minted tyrant.

  175. Like the Palestinians refugees before them, the Syrian refugees are welcome in no Arab nation. That is a reality that must be faced.

    This is a religious war far more than a civil one, and religious wars have the tendency to get very ugly.

    And while I may be quietly grateful that the US has not been dragged into another Middle-Eastern conflict, I cannot accept that our nation has stood by and allowed this all to happen.

    Had Obama understood the arts of war and the application of military power as a political force, we might not be faced with the unfortunate choices that President Trump will need to make.

  176. Russia is not responsible for the peaceful "miracles" in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Gaza, West Bank, Pakistan, Nigeria and Somalia. America annually spends 8x Russia on a military that since 9/11/01 a mere 0.75% of Americans have volunteered to join.

    America had a chance for making peace in Syria but overestimating the strength and dedication of the military of it's Iraqi ally let a bunch of thug barbarians wreak havoc. Foolishly drawing red lines and threatening regime change were the actions of a novice with no stone cold streetwise sense.

    Russia can hardly do worse than America in making peace. Moreover, let the Russian bear take sides with Shia Muslim Arabs and Persians, the Sunni Muslim Kurds and Turks against the Sunni Muslim Arab likes of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, al Qaeda, ISIS and al Nusrah. Better the stumbling Russian bear led by Russian Czar wannabe Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin than the soaring hurt wing American eagle in their jihadist cross-hairs.

    Then again Vladimir is much beloved and worshipped by Donald Trump, Rex Tillerson and Mike Flynin who can't wait to join Putin in a sauna soiree of male towel slapping branch whipping steamy bonding. Vladimir is their masterful ventriloquist. Uncle Sam will become a Russian puppet at noon on 1/20/17.

  177. Russia's brutal campaign included killing women and children even as they tried to flee Aleppo.
    This use of terror may severe as warning to those considering going up against Putin in future, but it also brands him a war criminal to be brought before the international court at The Hague.
    If the deliberate bombing of hospitals is allowed to stand, then the brave new world we enter will inevitably be a dumbed down, not so brave world.

  178. Aleppo fell notwithstanding the awesome Obama Line. Under obvious conditions it was hardly an effective deterrent or sign of determination by the president to avoid conflict. On the contrary, like most other flexible, milquetoast international initiatives by this administration, a sure sign of hesitation. No different than if a bulls-eye label had been applied in the final stages before announcement. So far as leadership goes on the battlefield, if the effects of a tactician can be empirically measured then perhaps we should simply call it a duck when one is quacking.

  179. Please. Please. You have a legacy of NYT to honor. Stop being the state department. Be a newspaper. Do the analysis without seeming like a nationalist.

  180. "This is a conflict that wouldn’t have happened, or lasted so long, save for the cynical brutality of President Bashar al-Assad and his chief allies, Russia and Iran."

    CORRECTION: This is a conflict that wouldn't have happened, or lasted so long, save for the cynical opportunism and brutality of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey -- who unleashed and sponsored the demons of sectarian Wahhabi fascism against Syria with the wink, nod, and even endorsement of their chief ally, the United States of America.

    This includes the US-sponsored "moderate" rebels, who have beheaded children such as an 11-year old Palestinian boy a few months ago in East Aleppo; who imposed a reign of terror upon the residents of East Aleppo; who have, among their innumerable crimes, beheaded journalists, Christians, Shi'is, and even Sunnis who disagree with them; yet, whose countless fabrications to the Western media have been accepted as gospel.

    And this includes al-Nusra and Daesh (ISIS), both of whose open-door relationships with Turkey (in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Qatar) -- including the purchase of plundered oil -- until this past summer are an open secret.

    Prior to the civil war, Iran and Russia each had separate defense treaties with Syria. NATO can come to the defense of a member under attack, yet it is "cynical" for Russia or Iran to honor their treaty commitments to defend the internationally recognized government of Syria against attack by Saudi- and Qatari-sponsored mercenaries?

  181. Arming people to oppose governments is just leading them to suicide.

  182. Thank you for accurate commentary on Syria, perspective one won't find in Times editorial columns.

    Two points to add:

    1. The Obama administration can end the killing at any time by simply shutting off it's flow of arms and money to the Islamic jihadist insurgency and demanding that its Sunni Salifist partners, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, do the same.

    2. If the cease fire fails and the Syrian allied forces continue to rack up gains against the Islamic jihadist insurgency, watch for the remaining remnants of the jidadist forces to move east and fold into ISIS -- that will confirm just how "moderate" the forces the United States has been supporting aLL along.

  183. Any fool can win by disregarding the law, international norms of morality and common decency. Very smart!

  184. Such tactics didn't pan out for Hillary Clinton.

  185. The law, here in the US, says that only the Congress has the power to declare war. This was one of the few instances in the past 75 years where a president has not disregarded the law by not committing troops when the Congress did not act.

    International norms of morality? What are they? The way the Sudanese treat the South Sudanese? The way the Israelis and the Palestineans treat each other? Define your terms, please.

    Common Decency? I think keeping US troops alive and not dying to settle another country's internal problems is quite decent.

    Was it "disregarding the law, international norms of morality and common decency" when Great Britain kept out of our little spat in 1861?

  186. Perhaps the era of instability in the Middle East fostered by the Bush-Obama administrations will be replaced by Putin fostered stability.

  187. Hate to break this to you, Marty, but the Middle East has been frightfully unstable since the creation of Israel in 1948.

    It has also had the inherent instability of religious civil war ever since the formation of the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam.

    Any period of "stability" is a shimmering mirage hiding the violent undercurrents that have been this regions history.

  188. Obama's 'legacy": the U. S. shut out of a key Mideast reset by Iran and Russia!

  189. BEAKING NEWS: The US and its Wahhabi partners Saudi Arabia and Qatar fomented the civil war in Syria. To this very day they recruit, train, finance and arm the Islamic jihadis trying to overthrow the (legitimate) Assad government in what was once a stable and secular Syria.

    We can only hope the US, which is nothing but an incompetent and destabilizing force, is shut out of the Middle East for decades. Russia and Iran are doing a fine job without the US.

  190. Bush broke it. Stop weaseling out of Republican responsibility for abject idiocy.

  191. Yes, President Obama kept us out of war, which, of course, garners him many supporters, especially here; however, it was his lecturing of Putin, implying he knew best and Russia could never succeed, that got him sidelined. He even went as far as claiming that Putin was operating from a position of weakness, having to bring in Russia's military in to do the job the Syrian Army could not.

    Obama's lecturing was ill-advised for a state leader. That may play to domestic audiences, who enjoy his pontificating, but it was a seriously miscalculation diplomatically. It was as though Obama felt he had to defend his lack of involvement and diminish Putin's.

    Lecturing others is the style of this Administration and perhaps why its foreign policy has been so unsuccessful.

  192. You and your pals did nothing but undermine Obama. There is nothing loyal about any of your opposition.

  193. Very disappointed by this view of the Syrian conflict. It echoes back to how NYT covered Vietnam: the u.s. Is a victim. Why are there 200 American special forces in Jordan? The United States played a murderous and inhibiting role in this terrible conflict.

  194. "Can USA Make Peace as well as War?" In the next issue of NYT?

  195. Certainly Putin has a proven vicious side. But the disaster in Syria was largely because the US misjudged the Russian response to the US and others efforts to up the ante in the civil war by sending in foreign fighters. This proved the turning point pushing Syria into a human disaster. If the US had kept its efforts based on diplomacy and humanitarian aid they could claim a major part in the peaceful settlement of the war. Now Turkey which is a major player in the disaster is trying to place itself in the center of peace negotiations with Russia and Syria. Iran and Russia weren't playing games in this war. Syria was a major strategic ally of these powers. The US was meddling in a place trying to effect regime change.

  196. Putin, unlike the USA, "...maneuvered into position as the dominant international player in Syria" by bombing 100's of thousands of innocent civilians into oblivion and millions into refugees.

    All Syrian refugees should have been encouraged to go to Russia - through Turkey on well built seaworthy European boats across the Black Sea - instead of to Europe. Russians hold the most responsibility (with Assad) of the humanitarian and refugee crisis and should have the obligation to feed, house, heal and make reparations to all these people. Instead, Russia's goal seems more to destabilize Europe by creating millions of refugees that obviously prefer Europe to Russia.

    What are the chances the first tower to be built on the ruins of Aleppo will be a Trump building? Russia, obviously, cannot afford to make peace and rebuild. They can only afford to destroy - that is a whole lot easier and cheaper. Putin will need Trump's help in to rebuild Syria in Putin-Trump image.

  197. Another one-sided, anti-Russian, commentary in the NYT.
    Strange that in August, 2016, the NYT did not cover the "Not Guilty" decision at the Hague of our former bad guy, Slobodan Milosevic, where Clinton carried out a war in the 1990s. That would have had an impact on the election.

  198. Thank you e.s. So true.

  199. Let Russia own Syria. Whatever our shortcomings (and some have been massive) there, Iraq has shown we cannot own Middle Eastern countries. I am happy to step off that stage.