The recent announcement by the Obama administration that it will send 50 U.S. military advisers into Syria apparently adds another layer of complexity to an already viciously complex and violent war in Syria, however in this analysis I will argue that this U.S. announcement simply attempts to legitimise what already exists on the ground.
Some media have portrayed this “civil war’ as a sectarian one. However the sectarianism is a one-side affair in this instance. Those who play the sectarian card are invariably those of an extremist Sunni Wahhabi and takfiri persuasion – ie they wish to ensure that Syria becomes a completely Sunni wahhabi dominated society where other Syrian religions and Muslim sects are either eliminated or marginally tolerated. Those who fund and support these extremist doctrines are primarily those in the Gulf dictatorships- the Saudi and Qatar governments, and the increasingly sectarian government of Turkish president Erdogan (particularly after his most suspiciously positive and unexpected electorate win a few days ago).
In part this takfiri response can be explained as a fear of Shi-ite Iran, and to a smaller degree, Shi-ite Iraq, reasserting their influence and non Western-government alignment in the Middle East. In part it also symbolises the hold that the bigots of the Wahhabi sect have over the Gulf regimes. In tandem with this approach we have the United States ( and the U.K. France and Italy) actively supporting these extremist regimes in the vain hope that destabilisation and balkanisation of the Middle East will serve their economic interests ( more weapons sales) and preserve the increasingly fragile Israeli occupying power in Palestine. The United States has been actively supporting destabilisation of the Syrian Assad government since at least 2004, with supposedly non-lethal military hardware and ‘advisors’ to what are described by the U.S. as “moderate’ anti-Assad groups, on the ground in Syria.
The resultant avalanche of Syrian refugees into Eastern Europe and beyond, is perhaps an unanticipated impact on already vulnerable European economies. However, in all of this, the U.S. remains largely immune to the horrendous human impacts and geopolitical disaster its support for extremism has incurred across the Middle East and now, to a vastly smaller degree, to Europe.
On the other “side” we have the SAA, the Syrian government army; which despite the hype from the opposition, is largely composed of non-Allawite and non-Shi-ite troops, but is increasingly supported by Shi-ite Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon and Iranian “advisers” from their irregular army, the IRGC, the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. The decision of Russia to escalate its support for the Assad regime; (it has had a naval base at Tartus on the Syrian coast for many years, and provided some military resources and advisors to the SAA since the start of the war) and begin bombing all of the groups opposing the SAA, has shifted the military balance on the ground significantly in favour of the Assad government. The fiction that the Russians are in fact only bombing the ‘nice guys’ opposing the Assad regime, belies the fact that all of the opposition groups’ key aim is to topple the secular Assad government and establish a Sunni Wahhabi state or caliphate . While the opposition groups fight amongst each other for dominance, and disagree on the level of intolerance and extremism required to achieve this goal, they also increasingly collaborate on the ground in the face of threats of potential extinction by the resurgent Assad government forces and their allies.
As Wikipedia notes here, the number of factions fighting in Syria is already in the forties and the “civil war” environment is growing increasingly complex day by day. What the proportion of foreign fighters (whether mercenaries or jihadists) in the anti-Assad camp is impossible to verify at this point; but the reports of deaths caused by the recent SAA resurgence, indicate a substantial proportion are non-Syrian.
As the U.S. knows well, a victory for the anti-Assad (anti-Syrian government) forces, will result in the total breakdown of Syrian infrastructure, the destruction of Damascus, the creation of a multitude of states within states in Syria and Iraq, a bloodbath for those remaining non-Sunni sects in Syria and a greater avalanche of refugees into Europe. One can only assume that this is what the United States and its Western allies want.
Yet, when we look at mainstream Western media, the Russian intervention is portrayed as being caused by Putin’s megalomania, Russian attempts to reinstate themselves as a global power or an attempt to re-live the old glories of the Soviet empire , rather than a fearful response to Western destabilisation. Russia Iran and Hizbollah are only too familiar with the ongoing destabilisation of their countries by Western intelligence agencies and their proxies, to not see the export of Wahhabi extremism to Syria as a serious threat to their own long-term viability.
The announcement by Obama of 50 U.S. “Special Forces” troops to be deployed to Syria, is therefore simply smoke and mirrors. In all likelihood, those same 50 special forces have been on the ground (along with other Western intelligence officers and advisors from the Gulf states, for at least the past 5 years in Syria; advising, training and channelling weapons to their “moderate” jihadists. The announcement is an attempt to somehow legitimise the status quo, when in fact those men are operating illegally inside a sovereign state with the sole purpose of destabilising that state.
The other often mentioned U.S. response of a ‘no-fly zone’ in Syria, is another rather transparent attempt to ensure that the Syrian air-force and helicopters cannot engage the jihadists; with the inevitable outcome being a full collapse of the Damascus government and infrastructure and a massive increase in human suffering and refugees..
The recent flurry of diplomatic manoeuvering in Vienna between some, but not all of the key players, reflects in part the concerns in Washington about the impacts of the recent active bombing of ISIS and other Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria by the Russian airforce, and the consequent apparently significant military successes on the ground by the SAA and its allies.