Saturday January 9, 2016
The Russian air campaign in Syria is netting some impressive gains – for Russia, Syria, and – although many of us are loath to admit it – the West: Russian air power, working closely with the Syrian Arab Army, has stymied the efforts of ISIS and other violent extremists to overthrow the secular, religiously tolerant, multi-confessional government of Syria. Gains have been made on the ground in and around Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Latakia. And there is evidence the Russian campaign was instrumental in the victory of US ally Iraq in Ramadi. That’s good (but then I speak as a Christian who believes the moderate, secular government of Assad is better for Christians than the horrendous US-backed jihadis who would replace it).
Not least among the happy consequences of Russia’s intervention has been its impact on US politics: recent polls reveal that close to 60 percent of Republican voters support candidates (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee) who think Assad should stay. The latest Reuters’ rolling 5-day poll (January 4, 2016) gives Trump (41.7 percent), Cruz, (13.2 percent), Paul (2.6 percent), and Huckabee (2.4 percent) for a combined 59.3 percent.
This represents an increase over other recent Reuters polls. A CNN/ORC poll published December 23rd gave Trump and Cruz alone a combined 57 percent of the poll (39 percent and 18 percent, respectively). Both candidates forthrightly expressed their support for Assad in the most recent Republican presidential debate (December 15th).