Sunday, February 14, 2016

Just How Many Wars Do We Have Going On in Syria?

Sometimes it's hard to tell how many wars are being waged in Syria. Some of them seem to blur together and then part again. Sometimes the results are counter-intuitive. Sometimes supposed allies aren't really allied at all. It can be like not one but six knife fights underway at the same time in the same phone booth.

There's one war being waged by two nations that aren't even directly engaged in Syria - Saudi Arabia and Iran. That's a theological civil war being waged between Sunni Muslims, the Saudis, and Shia Muslims, Iran. The Sunni/Shia conflict is being played out at varying levels of intensity in different places usually as some sort of proxy war akin to what the Soviets and the West used to do during the Cold War.

When it comes to Iran and the West, they're our informal allies in the battle against ISIS, a decidedly Sunni bunch. Iran is helping Baghdad try to drive ISIS out of Iraq. We don't bomb the Iranians.

When it comes to Saudi Arabia and the West, they're our formal allies because they've got oodles of oil that we want to control, sort of, and we have this murky idea that the Saudis defend us from Iran which we believe is a state sponsor of terrorism even though that's actually the Saudis. We don't bomb the Saudis but we've been wrong before.

On the sidelines but making noise about jumping into the fray are the Turks. They do attack Kurdish forces in Syria. They have given aid and comfort to ISIS forces. They're widely suspected of buying oil from the Islamists. They also can't stand Assad and would like to see the Shia driven out of Syria. The Turks are our allies, NATO says so. We don't bomb the Turks but we might want to rethink that at some point.

The there's the Kurds, a bunch that cross a lot of borders from Iraq to Syria to Turkey. We really like the Kurds but not enough to keep anyone from beating them up. The Kurds want their own country, their old country, back. They want to add their territory in Syria to their territory in Iraq and maybe someday even get their territory in Turkey. We don't bomb the Kurds.

At the heart of it all is Syria. They're not our allies. We wish Assad would leave, just go. We have this belief that would bring peace and joy to Syria. If only. Syria is fighting its homegrown, mainly Sunni rebels. Syria is also fighting Sunni Islamists who call themselves al Nusra or ISIS. Syria is on the verge of a shooting war with Turkey. The Saudis want to fight Syria if they can ever figure out which end the bullets come out of. Russia has come to Syria's aid with the plausible argument that, should Assad fall, the place will go all to hell as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya also known as just about everything we, the West, touch. We don't bomb Syria. The Russians might intervene.

Let's not forget Hezbollah, the bunch from Lebanon. They're pro-Assad Syria, pro-Iran and anti-Sunni. So far they haven't really factored into any of our wars. So far. We currently don't bomb Hezbollah.

Then there's the Islamists, al Nusra and ISIS. Like al Qaeda they're believed to have gotten their start with funds from various Saudi princes and Gulf State sheikhs and emirs. Thank you, allies. They fight just about everybody including Assad's forces, the Syrian rebels and the Kurds. They're threatening to bite the Turkish hand that once helped feed them. Their leadership is rooted in Saddam's old Baathist state which is why they know about things like taking over oil fields and selling the stuff to finance their operations. We do bomb ISIS, at least in Syria and Iraq when we can find something worth hitting.

As mentioned earlier, we also have something of a relationship with Russia which is supposed to be bombing ISIS but mainly seems to bomb the Syrian rebels and their neighbourhoods. Not clear where that is going. We don't bomb the Russians, not yet. They don't shoot down our planes with their magnificent S-400 missile batteries, not yet. Stay tuned.

Oh yeah, true to form for this sort of "new war" fiasco, there are also a variety of quasi-state and non-state actors on the government side including militias and criminal gangs. It just wouldn't be a "new war" without them.


e.a.f. said...

actually that is a very good primer. it ought to be sent to all western politicians so they have a score card to follow along. given you need a score card to follow along in this war it is best the west stay out of it.

I do feel some compassion for the Kurds. I've never forgotten the picture on the front of National Geo. of the father and his small son, dead, after being gassed by Saddam Hussien. I wonder what would have happened if the U.S.A. had "cut him off" at that time.

Syria, who would want it. There really isn't much left. At some level, with all those bulletin and bombs flying around Syria, why hasn't Assad stepped in front of one. Never have figured out what Russia wants with Syria.

I am so glad Canada has gotten out of the bombing business in the middle east. its such a waste of my tax dollars.

Nice article

rumleyfips said...

You left out the US, allied to Saudi Arabia and Isreal. They want Syria parceled out so Isreal gets the Golan heights and |SA gets rid of a Sunni country. Us arms get to ISIS through Saudi Arabia . Us intelligence gets to ISIS through Isreal and Turkey.

One of the best summaries I have seen. Everyone is dishonest and dangerous here.

Steve said...

wow the Turds of Saud lost 28 planes you would think that was a news story. Canada is really supporting the Kurds who are at war with our NATO ally Turkey. Thank you MR Harper for being so American.

Toby said...

e.a.f., I think Russia has, or at least uses, a naval base on the Syrian coast. This provides Russia with strategic placement in the Mediterranean.

I also suspect that Russia's participation in this ridiculous war is simply to tweak the Americans' noses. As we can see from their wholesale bombing the Russians have no love for the Syrians.

Mound, your summary explains why I think Trudeau is wrong to put soldiers on the ground in Syria for any purpose. Trudeau should pull all Canadian personnel and equipment out of the area. There is absolutely nothing that Canada can do to make things better. This is a pot that has been boiling for a long time and will continue until it runs out of fuel. We can wring our hands; we can aid a few refugees but we can't accomplish anything useful in the way of ending the war. Ending the war is an objective, isn't it?