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Obama White House Reeling from Putin’s Flank into Syria; NATO Reported as ‘Surprised’ and ‘Divided’

Sept. 11, 2015 (EIRNS)—Reports are coming out over the past two days, on how the Putin initiative in Syria has blindsided Obama Administration officials, and how the White House is in turmoil over how to react.

Officials at an event in Washington, D.C. yesterday admitted they were caught with their pants down. U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Brett Heimbigner, NATO’s intelligence director, told the audience, NATO was caught by surprise on Russia’s move in Syria. "Are we keeping up with threats? ...Absolutely not," he said. "The demands for intelligence to accurately deal with some of these crises is clearly insufficient." Heimbigner’s latest frustration:

"From an alliance perspective, what Russia is doing and the ability of Russia to surprise us [happens] on a very consistent basis,"

he said.

"We were able to get some warning, but did not see from a strategic perspective that one, necessarily, [was] coming until just a couple days ago."

Heimbigner was addressing a conference hosted in part by Defense One, whose publication covered the proceedings in a Sept. 10 round-up by Kevin Baron, titled, "NATO Caught ‘Surprised’ By Russia’s Move Into Syria."

Baron also reported that Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart confirmed the media reports on Russian military activities in Syria, but volunteered that he and CIA director John Brennan had no idea of the makeup of those Russian forces or their purpose.

Heimbigner said that NATO is completely divided on which is the bigger threat, Russia or ISIS, and that Russia’s move into Syria against ISIS makes that question even more complicated. "In fact, we are now in a situation where, as an alliance, we can’t even come up with a coordinated threat assessment overall," because both groups want their concerns to take priority, he said.

In the midst of this, the White House is reeling. A Sept. 10 article, "Russia’s Syrian Air Base Has U.S. Scrambling for a Plan" by Josh Rogin (www.bloombergview.com), gives reports from unnamed government staff, about the "disagreement inside the U.S. government on what to do..." There was a high level White House meeting yesterday. It came out that Obama was in the dark about the State Department having pressured Greece and Bulgaria to deny Russia permission to use their airspace to reach Syria. Rogin wrote,

"the President didn’t know about these moves in advance, two officials said; and when he found out, he was upset with the Department for not having a more complete and vetted process to respond to the crisis."

The question is: How to respond?

Rogin reports that some in the White House want to cooperate with whatever Russia plans to do, because in their view, the more countries involved in the fight against ISIS, the better. According to Rogin’s sources, this faction is seriously considering accepting the Russian buildup as a fait accompli, and then wants to work with Moscow to coordinate U.S. and Russian strikes in Northern Syria, where the U.S.-led coalition operates every day.

On the other side are those for whom "the idea of acquiescing to Russian participation in the fighting is akin to admitting that the drive to oust Assad has failed." The problem on this side, is that the U.S. has no leverage. Sanctions on Russia won’t help. All such options have "drawbacks or limitations."

If the White House would cooperate "with Russian forces on the ground or in the air, [this] would undermine whatever remaining credibility the U.S. has with Syrian opposition and the Gulf States that support it...."

Rogin reports that intelligence indicates Russia plans to deploy Mig-31 and Su-25 aircraft to Latakia in the coming days.