Everyone around President Obama, the Pentagon, State Department and anywhere else that the news of the horrors taking place in Syria and the neighboring nations has reached are seeking desperately to find anything positive, anything the slightest bit positive. The main root of the difficulty is that any hope of something positive that might be salvaged from the Syrian Civil War disappeared once it ceased being solely a Syrian conflict and became a regional conflict which threatens to spread and engulf the entire Middle East. Since the Syrian Civil War morphed into a greater struggle for preeminence of the Muslim World between the Shiites and Sunnis, there has raised growing demonstrations throughout Turkey demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Erdogan. These are not the typical demonstrations that have been witnessed in the past where the Kurds were demanding human rights and independence. These demonstrators are mostly Shiites and there have been reports that they are receiving instructions, encouragement and possibly support from the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), very possibly specialists from the Quds Force, a special unit of Iran’s Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. These potentially riotous demonstrations are a problem which the Turkish government does not need, especially on top of the influx of thousands upon thousands of refugees fleeing the carnage and their destroyed homes and lives in Syria.
Jordan has also taken in a great number of Syrian refugees sufficient to virtually exhaust their ability to provide adequate care for these unfortunate victims. There is some hope in Jordan as the United States has deployed F-16s, Patriot Missile Batteries and the Headquarters Unit of the 1st Armored Division along with combat and armor units sufficient for large scale exercises. There have also been rumors that much of the military hardware will remain in Jordan for presumably as long as the situation demands. On another front, reports have surfaced that there are Iranian military trainers working with Shiites in Yemen looking to establish a foothold in the peninsula by attacking the weakest link. Should Iran have sufficient success in establishing a base of operations within the war-torn nation of Yemen they would have placed a second front to the south of Saudi Arabia and be able to exert control over the southern mouth of the Red Sea much as they threaten the shipping lanes through the Straits of Hormuz.
It does appear that Iran is working to expand their circle of influence and not just defend their client state of Syria. With IRGC troops along with Hezballah supplementing the Syrian military all being backed up by the Russians, the future does not look too promising for the rebels. Of course the fact that President Obama has approved sending actual military aid, though he has limited the aid to small arms and ammunition, is supposed to tilt the balance of the fighting in their favor but is actually too little, too late. In President Obama’s defense, he has apparently authorized the Saudis to supply the Rebels with anti-tank weapons. The rebels have some crew-served weapons systems which they have liberated from Syrian military bases they captured. The rebels’ main concern, protection from air attacks, is still unaddressed. Despite this obvious inadequacy and the demands from numerous sources for the imposition of a no fly zone, President Obama is want to make such a move after the warnings from Russian President Putin. The possibility of President Obama getting further involved in Syria remains highly unlikely largely due to the threat of a Russian response waiting in the wings. In one way President Obama’s reluctance to act more definitively in Syria might turn out to be a positive as the Syrian conflict has only escalated since its inception and at some point one side will need to refuse to raise the ante before it truly escalates well beyond the Syrian border. But this can only happen should some path be found and be supported by President Putin to contain the Syrian violence, otherwise the war could spill over the borders into Turkey, Jordan or Israel. The main aim which Presidents Obama and Putin should be working towards instead of exchanging threats over Syria is finding a solution that will end the carnage before it escalates further. The question that remains is can two egocentric mutually suspicious world leaders place their distrusts and egos aside long enough to actually accomplish a peace which would not serve to either President’s immediate benefit and would require them to put their history aside. While thinking of any cooperative effort by Presidents Obama and Putin simply does not fill one with confidence, the real problem is such an effort is the sole potential positive in the entire Syrian conflagration.
Beyond the Cusp