By Olivia Pierson
[First Published on Incite Politics 10/4/18]
Syria’s civil war has all the hallmarks of a sustained foreign entanglement that may make Afghanistan look like a kindergarten picnic in contrast.
The catastrophe has been acute for seven years now and is nowhere close to any kind of amelioration – in fact, the malady is really just becoming chronic, for it’s sucking in so many outside actors from some very significant nations.
The crisis started inside Syria in 2011 when Bashar al Assad cracked down on pro-democratic protests and opened up his hellish prisons, like Saidnaya, to unleash the most malevolent of captured Al Qaeda operatives on to his population so that, in the eyes of the world, he would have the resemblance of the indispensable strongman staving off terror in his country. After watching Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi be toppled by western powers, Assad assumed he’d be next on the list (and in an ideal world he should’ve been). By 2013 the fledgling Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (Al Qaeda rebranded) appeared. As cynical as this sounds – and it is diabolically cynical in fact – Assad encouraged and facilitated a full Islamic revolt to stay in power, hence the shockingly rapid expansion of ISIS and other terrorist militias inside Syria.
Iran, always panting to fight Sunni Arabs with their own forces and those of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, support Assad fully; we know he is their proxy puppet guaranteeing them a bridge of land from the Iran-Iraq border all the way through to the Mediterranean Sea and Israel.
Israel, Iran’s greatest foe, the one Iran keeps declaring they’ll wipe off the world map, cannot abide, nor should it have to abide, Iranian drones infiltrating Israeli airspace. In February of this year Israel shot down an Iranian drone before having one of its F-16s shot down by Syrian forces in retaliation. So long as Iran denies Israel’s right to exist, Israel will not suffer an Iranian presence near the Golan Heights.
In the last 24 hours Israel has again conducted missile strikes on the Iranian T4 airbase in Syria, a major airbase near Homs that has a strong Russian military presence.
The United States is in Syria to annihilate the Islamic State using pro-western Syrian Kurds as boots on the ground. But now Turkey is making war on the Kurds in Afrin, Northern Syria, as they will never accept Kurdish efforts for total sovereignty given that Turkey has over 15 million Kurds within its population. So, Kurdish militias are now also fighting a NATO ally, though how long Turkey can be tolerated to remain in NATO is anyone’s guess.
The United States has already unleashed a missile bombardment on Assad’s airforce for their use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians in Khan Shaykhun last year. Now Assad has done it again in a suburb east of Damascus. We are awaiting President Trump’s reaction and that of his hawkish and newly minted National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Russia has thrown its power behind Assad, with the blessing of Iran, of course. Longing to be the lead super-power actor in the Middle East, as Russia was before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Putin uses his regular forces and mercenary troops on the ground, as well as sustained airpower to keep propping up Assad’s despicable regime. Syria protects Putin’s only Mediterranean port in Tartus, which harbours some of his powerful warships and nuclear vessels.
The United States and Russia have already had a vicious clash in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria, where Russian, Syrian and Iranian forces were attacked by US forces and their allies in February this year. The American media were too focused on the bogus story of Trump/Russia collusion to take much notice that America conducted air and drone strikes killing or wounding 300 Russian fighters in a theatre of war. So much for the much-touted Trump–Putin bromance.
This war in Syria has already heavily impacted the West through the refugee crisis, which has seen hundreds of thousands of them seek asylum in Western countries. Over four million have fled and are hosted in Turkey. When Erdogan feels he isn’t getting what he wants from European leaders, he threatens to unleash more refugees into their nations.
I hope I happen to be profoundly wrong, but it looks as though this is all shaping up to be a far more sustained struggle than Afghanistan has proved to be; there are just so many significant outside actors involved. President Trump is on record as saying that he wants American troops to leave Syria as soon as the Islamic State is fully defeated, as Bush Senior withdrew from Kuwait leaving Saddam in place in Iraq after the mission to liberate Kuwait had been achieved. It can easily be argued that America paid a very heavy price for that half measure; the Iraqi Kurds and the Marsh Arabs sure as hell did. Assad is as evil as Saddam was. Scratch a Baathist dictator and find a malignant tyrant.
For now, the war criminal Assad has blatantly used chemical weapons again on women, children and babies, a gross breach of Geneva Protocol. I cannot see President Trump turning his back on a staunch reprisal… so, we wait to see in the coming days what that may look like, if indeed anything happens at all.
[Update: since writing this piece, the U.S, France and Britain conducted targeted strikes on Syria's chemical weapons facilities on April 14th, 2018]
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