British investigators have now joined multiple Western sources in suspecting that Metrojet Flight 9268, which crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on October 31, killing all 224 on board, was brought down by an ISIS terror attack. The doomed flight bound for St. Petersburg, Russia left the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, shortly after which it experienced a catastrophic and instantaneous failure. Intelligence reports note the presence of an explosive flash, indicative of a bomb blast, before the plane cracked apart and descended to the ground in pieces. Speculation now points to the presence of a bomb in the cargo hold, detonating mid-air.
If, indeed, this is an ISIS bombing, not only is it one of the most devastating attacks since 9/11, it is also evidence that ISIS has placed Russia in its cross-hairs. If a terrorist attack, it would appear to be ISIS retaliation for Putin’s intervention in Syria and, more particularly, his direction of at least some bombardment against ISIS forces in that country.
ISIS is endeavoring to secure as much territory as it can in Syria. It aims to overthrow Assad and replace him as the country’s ruling power. Putin’s hasty intervention into Syria appears to have been a miscalculation on the order of Russia’s ill-fated intervention into Afghanistan. Putin has failed to appreciate that his efforts to reinforce Assad’s regime has not only offended the small group of anti-Assad forces supported by the U.S. but also ISIS. As in Afghanistan, so too here, Russia may have become mired in a geopolitical quagmire with severe long-term consequences that bode ill for Russian expansionism.
In Afghanistan, Russia endeavored to wage a conventional war against tribal peoples and to prop up a puppet regime in Kabul. Its intervention cost Russia dearly as it soon discovered it could nowhere find a reliable base of popular or political support. As is so common in the Middle East, regions are under the control of local warlords who jealously guard their power and despise foreign influence peddlers. These warlords subscribe to predominantly Shi’ite or Sunni Muslim faiths and believe in the Sharia law. They are intensely xenophobic and despise Christians as well as secularists and foreigners of all kinds except those who are close neighbors; indeed, many harbor animus toward any who do not hail from their own families and regions. Misunderstanding that dynamic, Russia came to realize in Afghanistan that small bands led by local Mujahideens with little more than rocket propelled grenades and rocket launchers could bring down its Army and Air Force, albeit with clandestine support from the United States. Guerilla tactics by zealous local fighters resulted in defeat after defeat for the Russians in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was Russia’s Vietnam.
Likewise in Syria, Russia has entered a new hornet’s nest, again largely clueless as to the presence and relative lethality of the hornets. Putin is coming to the realization that he has no sure footing in Syria; his apparent ally today could well slit his military advisors’ throats tomorrow. ISIS terrorists are among those who seek to topple Assad and despise Russia’s involvement. They hate Russians as much as they do invaders from the West. Indeed, there is no popular support for either within Syria, and locals are far more apt to curry favor with enemies of Russia and the United States than they are to ally themselves with foreign powers. Xenophobia is an old and commonly held characteristic of people in the Middle East, particularly those whose religious scruples lead them to view Russians and Americans as infidel invaders occupying holy lands and deserving of expulsion at all cost (including double crossing and suicide bombing).
By boldly entering Syria, Putin has put Russia on the ISIS hit list. Unwittingly, Russia has now become another attractive target for terror, reducing, to a degree, the terror focus on and resources spent to cultivate Western targets. If Russia escalates its offensive in support of Assad, likely it will experience even more acts of terror against its civilian population at home and abroad. If Russia lessens its involvement, it will be viewed as an act of betrayal by Assad and will invite swift ISIS gains against the regime. It is distinctly possible that Russia will become bogged down in Syria without any ability to effectuate its goal of rebuilding and controlling Assad’s regime while simultaneously inspiring ever more acts of terror against Russian people.
Assad has no love of Russia beyond its immediate aid, and Assad’s enemies are numerous and likely never to be subdued; they too hate Russia. Among the enemies of Assad, ISIS considers Syria central to its expansionist plans for establishing a global caliphate.
For every terrorist Russia kills in Syria, likely more will come from the region to replace them. Guerilla warfare in Syria will likely prove Russian efforts ultimately ineffectual, as in Afghanistan, but the more troubling prospect, for Putin, is the direction of far more ISIS energy than ever before at acts of terror against Russian civilians wherever they can be found around the world. That is particularly troubling because Russia has no substantial terrorist detection means in place within its country and is largely vulnerable in light of a very substantial Muslim population within its borders.
Russia could withdraw from Syria, as it did from Afghanistan, in ignominious defeat. A defeat of that sort, combined with a perpetual threat of terrorist attacks against its civilian population could prove Putin’s adventure into Syria one of the worst and costliest political blunders in history. Were Obama a savvy global politician, he would capitalize on that dynamic, but he is not. Nevertheless, unaided, the quagmire that is Syria offers to complicate the lives of Russian leaders and add considerably to the costs Russia must pay for Putin’s expansionism.
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© 2015 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved
Jonathan W. Emord is an attorney who practices constitutional and administrative law before the federal courts and agencies. Ron Paul calls Jonathan “a hero of the health freedom revolution” and says “all freedom-loving Americans are in [his] debt . . . for his courtroom [victories] on behalf of health freedom.” He has defeated the FDA in federal court a remarkable eight times, seven on First Amendment grounds, and is the author of the Amazon bestsellers The Rise of Tyranny, Global Censorship of Health Information, and Restore the Republic. He is the American Justice columnist for U.S.A. Today Magazine and joins Robert Scott Bell weekly for “Jonathan Emord’s Sacred Fire of Liberty,” an hour long radio program on government threats to individual liberty. For more info visit Emord.com, join the Emord FDA/FTC Law Group on Linkedin, and follow Jonathan on twitter (@jonathanwemord).
If, indeed, this is an ISIS bombing, not only is it one of the most devastating attacks since 9/11, it is also evidence that ISIS has placed Russia in its cross-hairs.