Robert Fisk's short bio on The Independent site tells that about him:
Robert Fisk is the multi-award winning Middle East correspondent of The Independent, based in Beirut. He has lived in the Arab world for more than 40 years, covering Lebanon, five Israeli invasions, the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Algerian civil war, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the 2011 Arab revolutions. Occasionally describing himself as an ‘Ottoman correspondent’ because of the huge area he covers, Fisk joined The Independent in 1989. He has written best-selling books on the Middle East, including Pity the Nation and The Great War for Civilization. He was born in Kent in 1946 and gained his BA in English and Classics at Lancaster University. He holds a PhD in politics from Trinity College, Dublin.
As many of you may have noticed, my public activity which manifests itself in writing is dedicated to issuing warnings about a systemic and dangerous inadequacy of most Western so called Russian "scholars", who have no military background whatsoever, when writing about Russia and her wars. Robert Fisk may be a good connoisseur of Middle East, an Arabic language speaker and even some kind of war correspondent, but professional military man he is not and he is certainly clueless on Russia. It is expected from people who have their degrees in English and so called Political pseudo-science. Let's face it—it is difficult to explain to the so called "humanities"-trained journo how physical properties of modern weapons influence tactical, operational and strategic considerations even on a single (forget global) theater of operations. It is even more difficult to explain it to a "products" of largely Anglo-Saxon "school of thought" (in reality ideological cliché generating machine) on Russia.
Fisk demonstrates his absolute cluelessness on real war and application of serious military power (yes, one needs serious military academic background or vast military service experience, or both, to grasp that) within the framework of the peer-to-peer competition between military superpowers in his newest piece in his native news outlet. In his "analysis" titled for some reason In the Middle East, Putin has a lot to thank Trump for right now, Fisk comes up with ridiculously shallow rationalization of why, indeed, Putin has to thank Trump and in doing so exhibits a complete lack of historic memory and understanding of the dynamics of Russia's involvement in Syria which was done completely on Russia's own volition and happened on Obama's watch in September 2015. Needless to say, operational and strategic benefits of Russians initially providing serious air power to Assad's troops became evident almost immediately, in the time when no one even seriously thought that Donald Trump would run for the office and win. But for Fisk those "little" details mean absolutely nothing against the background of some trivia which one inevitably gets in operational zones by talking to different people. But, obviously, the fact of Russians having a tactical, operational and strategic agency when dealing with the US in Syria is not known to Fisk.
Fisk shocks his readers with some rather startling "revelation" about Putin and the reasons General Asapov was killed.
Twelve months ago, Putin’s top artillery technicians were searching through the rubble of eastern Aleppo to draw up painstaking maps of the fall of shot – the exact bomb crater and blast effects of air-dropped Russian munitions. I met one of their teams. Its reports were circulated, of course, to Russian military intelligence. But they first go directly to the Kremlin. Putin reads them. He is a micro-manager. There will be no Brezhnev-style Afghanistan disasters in Syria – or so the Russians pray – no slovenly retreats across the Amu Darya by political generals, no Kremlin lethargy. Russian officers speak good Arabic (and quite good English) – products of the Moscow School of Foreign Languages – and, like the Syrian army, their officers go to the front lines.
I don't know how to comment on that gibberish which references Soviet Afghan War's "political generals" or "disasters" (well established Western propaganda clichés) but somehow, I think, that "team" of Russians Fisk allegedly met and which supposedly told him that what is known in US as Battle Damage Assessment reports go directly to Kremlin, may have been pulling one on him, a simple joke on Russians' part. Putin may have been a serious intelligence professional but field military officer who would have no problems to easily navigate between imagery, ballistics and types of explosives he was not—it is a field which is covered in military, not intelligence, academies. So why would such reports go "directly" to Kremlin bypassing appropriate structures in General Staff remains a complete mystery to me. Does Putin, who is an extremely busy man, have the time to dwell over such data without appropriate professional military comments and briefings? I doubt it very much, but what do I really know.
But Fisk doesn't stop here with dubious claims. He does insist that Trump's exit from Iran's nuclear deal is what made Russian success in Syria possible.
As for what the “experts” like to call geopolitics, Putin immediately understood the need to uphold the Iranian nuclear accord when Trump tore it up. At one stroke, he became a closer ally of Iran, he could sympathize with Europe and he was able to present himself as steadfast in a treaty he signed with China. But he is entering a potential market war with the US – a dollar war – alongside a Europe whose governments may be prepared to stand up to Washington (some of them, at least), but whose big businessmen are already showing their usual cowardice in the face of American profit and loss. There is something scornful about all this. Putin is not going to worry about Russian mercenary deaths in Syria; their activities are intended to test American military willpower in Syria. Nor does America weep for its Kurdish mercenaries, or protect them in Afrin. Putin is not going to scream about human rights abuses in Gaza – the shooting down of unarmed demonstrators or the Israeli destruction of clinics or hospitals – when his own jets have been destroying clinics and hospitals in Syria. He sticks to the “war on terror” – and being an ally of all. The children may rattle their toys, but the tsar has the keys to the nursery. The crackpot in the White House neither knows nor cares nor, one suspects, understands. He long ago opened the door for Putin – and Putin walked straight through it.
One can sense both desperation and sour grapes, not to mention reading direct propaganda BS about Russian "mercenaries" willing "to test American military willpower" (why? And how?), in this admission of Russian and Syrian success in war unleashed by the US, Saudis and Israel. To "test" American military willpower Russia doesn't need "mercenaries", but Fisk doesn't know this, since he doesn't have any awareness of what was really happening on April 13 with Gerasimov conveying to Dunford all possible outcomes of US TLAM salvo hitting anything related to Russian forces in Syria. After all, the warning from Gerasimov (in Russian) that Russian forces will shoot down not only missiles but their carriers, including sinking surface targets, was not just some posturing. The warning was heeded, thankfully. As we all know—all those TLAMs "reached targets" and not a single one of those was shot down. But the truth is--it wasn't Trump's "door opening" for Putin which expanded the field for Russia's diplomatic maneuvering in Syria. It was Russia's military power applied professionally which made it possible but as I stated so many times West's political and media class has no clue about the nature and application of military power and what consequences it produces—Fisk is no exception, he is the rule, in a sense of having no clue. In general, as I am being a public persona for 4 years the main motif of my writing is that West in general has some gigantic issues with causality, which means it is incapable of observing the cause and effect properly, whenever dealing with Russia.
Here comes this issue of military power and strategy—Russians fight war in Syria not to "defeat" the US per se, albeit this defeat is a direct byproduct (intended or not is a matter for further discussion, but I state that it is intentional) of Russian activity in Syria. Nor Russians fight the war there to reestablish themselves as a major player in the Middle East—this too is a byproduct, however important, in Russia's war there. The main political objective of Russia, who fights jihadists for centuries is to draw the line for a very real Caliphate whose existence is clear and present danger to Russia's Southern underbelly. Fighting such a war with clearly defined objective is something unknown to Anglosphere "strategists" who used to live in a bubble of own delusions and who sure as hell should be aware of the role of the US and her "allies" in unleashing a horror of Islamism on the world. As mounting empirical evidence shows—Russians know damn well how to fight this kind of war and were doing this well before Trump allegedly "opened the door" to Putin. Truth is, once in Syria, one with even a modicum of military background or understanding of military affairs could see where this whole Russian war was going. Bibi flying to Moscow as if going to regular work should have given some clue about not necessarily hidden dynamics of that conflict.
The foundation of this Russian success was Russian military power, whose application created most of the conditions and impetuses for a very effective diplomacy. Without Russia's cutting edge arsenal and military training of SAA no diplomacy or any other purely political action would have had any effect, as it never did in the last 20+ years with the "exceptional" and "indispensable" nation. Power matters and Russia demonstrated it starting from 2015 to a full extent, from an impressive operational tempo of her VKS forces, to a whole range of stand-off weapons and precision-guided munitions, to state-of-the-art C4ISR complex, to, finally, ability to control most of Mediterranean and Persian Gulf if push would come to shove. Surely, Mr. Fisk, being a connoisseur of the Middle East should know what such power demonstration means there, nor should he be oblivious to the fact that Syrian AD shooting down a bulk of US and NATO missiles on April 13 has already come down in Arab world as a gigantic victory, the stuff of legends to be remembered proudly for generations. At the center of all that is Russia, or, if Fisk prefers, Putin and surely Iran knew this all along, as well as everyone knew that Trump will inevitably exit Iran Nuclear Deal—so, what door then did DJT "open" for Russia, when Russian-Iranian, initially tacit, geopolitical pact was in works a moment Russia deployed her force to Syria? If Mr. Fisk doesn't remember I may remind him, again, this was on Obama's, not Trump's, watch, a precise watch on which war on Syria was unleashed by Obama's operatives and DJT and his exiting Iran Nuclear Deal wasn't even in plans.
Donald Trump may well be clueless and a "crackpot" but it was not on his but Obama's watch that atrocity in Libya happened, these were Obama's people who unleashed Nazi coup in Ukraine, in the end it was Obama who couldn't forgive Russia for playing a crucial role in eliminating Syria's chemical weapons. It was Obama who "opened the door" to Putin, or, more generally, Russia, which finally shed the last illusions about American benevolence and decidedly got to the real business of defending her national interests. Doing so, Russia's geopolitical weight and scale considered, not to mention her military history, she initiated massive tectonic geopolitical shifts going from strength to strength and that is what makes this piece by Fisk not only filled with many lies and propaganda (what's new?), but makes it into lament for already massive losses by Anglo-American conglomerate. Against these events, Trump's exiting Iran's Nuclear Deal is just an episode, however important, in a long and arduous process of American military and economic decline which only accelerated now. In the end, not even Obama or Bush the lesser, who is directly responsible for a mayhem in the ME, but American foreign policy consensus and a cabal of "experts" who serve it (Fisk will fit right in there) "long ago opened the door for Putin – and Putin walked straight through it."
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