He can see the picture, but cannot come anywhere close to grasping why it looks like it does
Eliot Higgins, AKA Bellingcat, is back at it again, scouring the Russian Defense Ministry's webpages to show the world that Russia's Syria campaign to date has mostly been against various rebel groups and not ISIS. In and of itself, that's fair enough. Less fair - both to his audience as well as to himself - is the manner in which he presents his findings.
Higgins correctly finds that the clear majority of Russia's strikes so far have been on the rebel-held lands bordering Assad's regime-controlled territory, while a clear minority of the strikes have been inflicted on ISIS. Unfortunately, this is all he finds.
After a tedious presentation on the process he used to arrive at his findings, Higgins sums up as follows:
'Based upon the evidence provided by the Russian Defence Ministry itself, it is clear that the bulk of the air strikes undertaken by the Russian Air Force have consistently targeted areas where non-ISIS, anti-regime armed groups operate.'
You see the entire point of Bellingcat's endeavor here is to try to expose Putin as a dishonest and disingenuous charlatan whose sole goal is to prop up a wicked dictator by attacking certain of his enemies under the false pretext of attacking certain of his others. However, this is nowhere close to the case. In fact, the only thing that Higgins really accomplishes by this approach is to reveal that he is a half-witted moron, utterly void of the slightest ability for critical thought and analysis. Or so it would seem.
Let us examine the map, as it were, and see if we can't use a bit of cold logic to figure why this campaign is unfolding like it is.
What Higgins is clearly missing here - intentionally or not - is that taking out the so-called ‘moderate rebels’ and their Jabhat An-Nusra terrorist cohorts is a prerequisite to destroying ISIS. It’s something that has to be done at the initial phase of the operation. This is called strategy, and strategy is something that this Bellingcat character clearly does not understand in any meaningful way whatsoever.
Looking at the map, it's perfectly clear that in order to destroy ISIS, you first have to eliminate the the stronger and more immediate fronts (the rebel groups and Nusra). Only after these collective forces have been successfully neutralized can the full brunt of the attack be focused on ISIS.
A likely scenario here is that the intense bombing campaign will continue until ground forces of the Syrian army, Iranian army, Hezbollah, and the Kurds can clear the areas north and south of current regime territory and establish full control on the ground. This is what's known as 'draining the swamp'.
Once accomplished, the allied forces could focus all their attention and resources on destroying ISIS. They would be free to advance through the regime-controlled corridor leading to Palmyra under Russian air cover. That city - relatively isolated - would surely fall fairly quickly, which then opens the path to Deir al-Zour, which would most likely be even less of a problem.
With rebel groups and Nusra no longer an issue and Palmyra and Deir al-Zour rolled up, where on the map do you see ISIS? You see them trapped like rats in their Raqqa nest waiting to be finished off. Surrounded on all sides and cut off from their Iraqi contingent, they are utterly doomed. What's left is little more than a cakewalk in Syria. Simultaneously, with Syria and Iraq effectively cut off from one another, the path is open for a large ground force of Shi'ah militias, Kurds, and the Iranian army to focus on ISIS' Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.
All of this appears to be lost on Eliot Higgins. For him, analyzing the locations of Russia's initial bombing runs is rather like a mule gazing at the Mona Lisa. The beast sees the masterpiece; he sees it. He's knows it's there and he knows it's something. But that's all he sees and knows. He cannot grasp the method of its creation or any kind of meaning behind it.
The same goes for Bellingcat. He sees the maps. He sees the sites and their numbers and can make basic deductions therefrom. But that's where it stops. And while comparing Mr. Higgins to a mule is admittedly unkind, it is nevertheless and entirely apt; for he works within the greater corporate media apparatus in a very mule-like manner. He performs certain tasks that achieve certain ends for certain others while bringing little to no benefit to himself. That being said, he is still at the same time quite distinct from the more traditional beast of burden in that he gets to choose to do what he does. His unhappy counterpart should be so lucky.
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