The recent decision by Turkey and Saudi Arabia to agree on joint military operations within Syria with the aim of toppling President Assad, has considerably upped the ante of the possibility of a major war between forces with significant military assets, including nuclear ones.
One might argue that things were going swimmingly for President Erdogan and the Saudi’s support for ISIS and other wahhabist terrorist groups in Syria, until Russia (with the approval of the Assad regime/government) began an unexpectedly successful (to Assad’s opponents) air campaign against ISIS, Al Nusra and the rest of the ‘moderate’ Al Qaeda affiliated opposition in Syria six months ago. Erdogan’s dream of a new Turkic empire extending far into what is now Syria (but which was once part of the huge Ottoman Turkic Empire), while also enriching his family with income received from Syrian oil transported across the Turkish border by ISIS, looked an incipient possibility – dreams now shattered.
For the Saudi dictatorship, their ongoing goal has always been to break the power (and if possible, exterminate) the Shi-ite ‘heretics’ of Syria and Iran and Iraq, in line with the primitive vision of the Wahhabi clerics that has underpinned the Saudi claim to Mecca for the past 200 years.
And in tandem with these dreams of power and riches and glory, add into the mix, the duplicitous influence of U.K, (think Lawrence of Arabia) and U.S. intelligence agencies, determined to create a power vacuum in the Middle East that only ‘their man’ (Israel) can fill; on the somewhat dubious assumption that the crazies in the Israeli Knesset and Army -let alone the settlers – are in fact controllable), whilst at the same time, maintaining their oil lines and profits for posterity. Now with the added bonus of taking a swipe at any Russian attempt to re-establish itself as an international player of any significance, and simultaneously keeping Iran in ‘check’.
While the Assad regime at the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring”, apparently did respond in a brutal fashion to some of the peaceful demonstrations calling for its overthrow, there is mounting evidence of considerable “investment’ by foreign powers and ‘human rights’ agencies in that not so peaceful uprising. Syrian government forces continue to hold much of the populated areas of Syria, while most of the country-side and desert (with a section of industrial Aleppo and parts of Damascus) has, until now, been held by the rebels. And in fact, where there is Syrian support for the rebels, it largely comes from the Sunni rural areas who have long held sectarian views about their Kurdish, Christian, Alawite or Shi-ite neighbours.
The cosmopolitan citizens of Damascus and Aleppo in the main, have little sympathy and much fear of those religious extremists. So, despite the Assad regime’s many failings and its historical brutality, Assad would undoubtedly be elected overwhelmingly as president in a free and fair election. (not something that the US , UK France and Turkey and the Gulf States would want to see!) Additionally, as rebel supply lines are cut and their troop gathering and command centres targeted, the option of ‘guerrilla tactics” and melting into the local population will be denied to them. Much of the Syrian population will have little sympathy for their cause and their ignorance and brutality.
Things have seriously gone awry for the Syrian destabilisation project. Along with Russian bombing of rebel /terrorist command centres and communication lines, has gone the bombing of the oil supply route into Turkey and now, working in tandem with Syrian ground and air forces, the destruction of rebel military positions. Both Kurds and Syrian ground forces are steadily closing the Turkish /Syrian border to rebel supply and support; something that Turkey is desperate to prevent.
The House of Saud is desperate also to re-establish some credibility as a significant Middle East player. Their genocidal war in Yemen (with the full support of the United States and innumerable mercenary groups including Blackwater) is going disastrously wrong against Houthi and ex-Yemen government troops; despite their overwhelming superiority in equipment and resources. Playing the ‘Iran card’ in the Yemen is increasingly visibly obvious to the international sector as one more act of dishonesty by the House of Saud, and the incompetence of their military leadership is plain to see. U.K. involvement in Saudi Arabia , Qatar and Bahrein, and UK not-so-tacit support of Saudi Wahhabi extremism as a “useful tool” to promote arm sales and extend UK military and oil supply influence in the Gulf, goes right back in an unbroken line of command to the British Foreign Office’s decision in 1917 to destabilise the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the Arabian Peninsula, by supporting Saudi tribesmen through the liaisons of T.E. Lawrence.
Shi-ite Iran too, has much to lose if the tide turns again in the Wahhabist groups’ favour. Wahhabi extremism is anathema to Iran’s religious and political movement. A Wahhabi victory could potentially lead to genocide against Shi-ites throughout the Middle East. (note that Shi-ite ‘sects” do not share a similar prejudice against Sunni ‘sects’) Iran has therefore invested heavily in supporting the Assad regime ( popularly known in the West, but inaccurately, as a Shi-ite Alawite regime, but in fact largely secular) with a large number of military advisors and now Hezbollah troops from Lebanon.
As “The Saker” notes, the Russians are currently spread thin on the ground in Syria. The Turkish military is well equipped with NATO and locally produced hardware and has been actively fighting their Kurdish “terrorists” (read; a community which wants its own autonomy) for many years now – not however with a great deal of success. A full-scale invasion across the Turkish border would not be able to be contained by the Syrians or the Russians and Iran/Hezbollah. The problem would however be maintaining Turkish supply lines once the invasion is complete and the possibility of Russia either upscaling its support for the Kurds inside Turkey, or delivering an invasion across the Black Sea border with Russia into Turkey. Such an invasion would likely lead to military involvement from Turkey’s NATO allies- something that Erdogan is counting on in his brinkmanship style. It is unlikely that Russia would risk such a n invasion, although Russia has been strongly signalling Turkey that its airborne divisions are ready to go in such an event.
And where does China sit with all of this? Syrian pro-government analysts have long been signalling China’s intent to become involved in the conflict, but current Chinese official media responses suggest otherwise. The Chinese government tends to hold a very pragmatic trade-based view of international conflicts. However, should Turkey’s invasion into Syria increase the boldness of the Turkish supported Uighur nationalist movement in Xinyang province in China- then all bets are off.
Then there is the complete unpredictability and schizophrenic approach of the United States to the whole war. On the one hand its intelligence forces have been supplying training and funding terrorists in Syria or in their training stations in Turkey and Jordan, for at least five years, and actively supporting the overthrow of the Assad regime; while knowing full well, that the only Assad opponents with the capacity to take the place of the Assad military and government institutions, are the jihadists – al Nusra and ISIS- a recipe for hell on earth in Syria; while on the other hand, talking about democracy and freedom and a secular state. One can only assume that the United States policy and intelligence arms are not completely stupid or crazy, and have assessed that this state of absolute chaos and terror is the scenario they have been aiming for in their years of support for Assad’s overthrow. One can assume this from the responses of U.S. politicians like Senator “Mad Dog” John McCain and psychopathic U.S. politicians like ‘we came, we saw, we brutally murdered Ghaddafi’, Hilary Clinton- but is this really mainstream U.S. policy?
Let us hope some sanity prevails
The answer , as noted in Moon of Alabama’s commentary on the Syrian ‘peace’ talks, is clearly no; sanity is not going to prevail. The United States and U.K. official policies are to support Al Qaeda affiliates like Al Nusra in the Syrian war. Clearly there are significant strategic gains for the U.K. and the U.S. in supporting terrorists over the Assad government. Perhaps, as with their unique efforts in Afghanistan , Iraq and Libya, it is simply the creation of complete murderous chaos in the whole of the Middle East.