Beyond the Cusp

May 29, 2015

Syrian War Winner and Losers

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The Syrian war is about to finally enter its terminal stage. This is not something to be celebrated as there is only one winner and a ton of losers. Without any doubt the largest losers are the Syrian people who now have no country. Syria will be a nation in ruin for as far as the mind can see. Once the Assad government final is completely destroyed and the Alawites have paid the price for the Assad families’ decades of ruthless leadership where millions died just because the Assad family feared they might turn against their governing, then the Syrian fighting will simply be every factions, tribe and even clan contesting land until eternity. The war will rage on ravaging what is already a nation in ruin even further down the scale of civil rule. It is highly likely that Syria will never emerge from the ashes and the Syrian people will inherit a nation at war with itself with no relief from the horrors similarly to what is still ravaging Libya long after their dictator paid the price for his savagery. Bashir al-Assad will probably be more fortunate as he will probably take refuge in Iran, Russia or somewhere in Europe where he and his family will live quietly and under an assumed identity spending what is likely to be billions of Euros they have stashed in numbered Swiss accounts. Some might see this as their having come out as winning but they will also be living that life or relative luxury constantly looking over their shoulder checking for an inevitable assassination of Bashir al-Assad if not a slaughter of his entire family some night when something went bump in the night and their house was transformed into their tomb.

 

There will be numerous leaders of different factions of the groups fighting against Assad who will claim to have won and may even spend a few hours in celebration of the final end of Assad family rule before the next stage of the fighting begins to determine who will be the final winner. Unfortunately for the people of the Arab and soon greater Muslim worlds, when the entirety becomes a contest to determine who gets to form the next Caliphate then everyone loses as the fighting envelops a larger and larger area with numerous factions fighting against each other and eventually factions melding to be stronger and fighting to be the final victor as there can be only one Caliph and soon there may be countless contesters for that throne. This fighting promises to eventually cut the Muslim world into large factions with regular breaking down between allies just making the fighting even more destructive. The initial fighting will continue across Syria, Libya and Iraq for the foreseeable future with a few contesters being the forces to watch. The most obvious element is ISIS which claims to have their tentacles reaching across the different areas where fighting is active, even in Yemen. The news has reported of ISIS factions beheading some twenty Egyptian Coptic Christians which garnered them some attention from Egypt which carried out a series of airstrikes. This provides the simple truth of what it will take for ISIS to actually be capable of successfully claiming the leadership and establishing the next Caliphate, air-power. So far ISIS has not given even a tentative sign that they have any air capabilities. There was mention after ISIS captured an airbase in Syria of their intending to train pilots for the establishing of an ISIS air force. They managed to get a few jets into the sky which were immediately shot down by actual fighters from the Syrian Air Force. The next step was the destruction of every aircraft on the ground by two or three days of airstrikes rendering the airfield useless and destroying every aircraft they could target. So much for an ISIS air force.

 

ISIS will be a terrorist organization, though a powerful one for now, until they somehow manage to garner air-power in the form of aircraft and fully trained pilots to fly them. There will be only one way for this to occur, and that would be for a number of flight squadrons to take to the air and land on an airstrip already within ISIS controlled area bringing as much weaponry for their aircraft as they are able to carry. If such defections are well planned before their execution these pilots and some ground crews for servicing their aircraft, as such will be vital, will also have some cargo aircraft loaded with munitions, spare parts and everything necessary to sustain an active air force no matter how small. Obviously this would require either an entire nation’s air crews or a number of squadrons following suit in rapid succession thus forming not only the beginning core of an air force but instead a complete and functioning air force capable of defending their airfields as well as providing ground support and other missions. Anything less and ISIS will remain a terrorist group even if a powerful terrorist entity, but not yet the nation or even contender for the title of Caliphate. So, who are the real qualifiers for the title of leaders of the Caliphate?

 

Unfortunately ISIS is still the number one contender as they have the appearance as the strong horse with the plans and the fire to get the Caliphate started and lead the fighting forces to eventual victory and the unification of the entirety of the Ummah (Arabic: أمة‎‎). As pointed out, if ISIS is to eventually prove the leadership of the new Caliphate they will require a real air force which has thus far eluded them. That leads us to the more obvious candidates but first let’s list some of the non-state actors who will eventually play a role in the determining the next Caliphate. The first one to come to mind is the father of so many of the Arab and Islamist terrorist and non-state actors across the expanse of the Muslim world, the Muslim Brotherhood. Another entity with the structures in place for making a claim is al-Qaeda. A third would have to be the Taliban though their reach is limited; they do have well trained fighters who are highly motivated. Despite the Muslim Brotherhood, Taliban and al-Qaeda having extensive ties and supporters, they have the same problems as does ISIS, no air power. For this reason, none of these groups have much of a chance of defeating an actual state whose military is well formed and capable of fighting a modern war against what would have to be viewed as a terrorist entity in the eyes of the national leadership and armed forces. The main duty beyond holding the line against the terror entity would be keeping control through the ranks, especially the air force, to prevent defections to the other side, something which occurred with some of the Sunni military and security forces in Iraq and Syria. There were even a few pilots who defected over to ISIS but not in sufficient numbers to even form a single squadron of fighter air corps.

 

There are currently four nations which might be considered capable of eventually forming the next Caliphate if such is what is fated. These are in no particular order, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt. A fifth possible nation would have to be Pakistan if for no other reason than their being a nuclear armed nation. The nations who currently are allied in the fight against the Iranian proxy Houthis fighting for control of Yemen and most importantly, the Bab-el-Mandeb narrows at the southern end of the Red Sea and controlling access from the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden and onto the Arabian Sea and beyond, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This is a perfect alliance as Saudi Arabia has the oil wealth while Egypt has a strong, well-armed and well-trained military which has proven their unity and discipline over the trying period of two changes in governance over the past three years which the military retained its ranks and officer corps and structure throughout. The greatest threat to the Saudi-Egyptian alliance is obviously Iran which could become favored to gain the upper hand in this contest once they attain their own production of nuclear weapons, a structure that is greatly formed already and presumably not producing such weapons due to their negotiating with the P5+1 and possibly fearing actions by the United States should they actually proceed and build a nuclear weapons stockpile. This likely means that Iran is doing exactly that, as they have no respect, let alone fear, of any threat the United States might currently make. Once it becomes obvious that Iran has produced nuclear weapons, it is expected and been confirmed unofficially that Saudi Arabia will be exercising their agreement to purchase, most likely at wholesale, a dozen, or a few dozen, nuclear devices and the delivery system to go with them in the case they are warheads rather than bombs. This would allow for the Saudis to develop, which means build the facilities, their own nuclear program. The Saudi Arabian scientists and necessary technicians are already trained and ready to take up the challenge of producing nuclear weapons as they have received such plans from Pakistan in exchange for their subsidizing the Pakistani drive to produce their own nuclear weapons in response to India having done so. The Saudi access to nuclear weapons production will serve to perpetuate into perpetuity the alliance between Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

 

With the establishment of an alliance between Saudi Arabia and Egypt one side and Iran and whatever remnants of Iraq, Syria and probably Lebanon as ISIS and the other rebel groups who will have brought down Bashir al-Assad will still have numerous scores to settle with Hezballah which any international borders will not be capable of standing in the way preventing this vengeance from being extracted. The above alliance leaves such powers as Turkey and Pakistan on the outside in the cold, so to speak. Pakistan is most likely to remain on the outside simply observing as a mostly disinterested spectator who if forced to choose would most likely ally with the Saudis and company as they have had a mutually advantageous relationship over the decades, despite Pakistan receiving much of their oil from Iran, it is likely that the Saudis could take care of any need in that area. That leaves Turkey to figure on which direction they are most likely to take. The direction Turkey would take depends on who is in power. Currently their leader for as long as most can remember has been Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Should Erdogan remain in power, which way he would choose would be in question. President Erdogan has over the years shown to side with the Iranians, Saudis and even Egypt alternately. Currently there is a significant rift between Turkey and Egypt over the ouster of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood governance and replacing it with the chosen General of the Army President Sisi. The Turkish government, which is to say Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has held fast demanding that President Sisi step down as President and place Morsi back on his Presidential pedestal along with the entirety of the Muslim Brotherhood government the last elections replaced. As doing so would most definitely lead to the loss of the lives of most of the upper echelons of the Egyptian military, this scenario is highly unlikely. If sentences are to be carried out swiftly there may no longer be a former President Morsi to return to the position as he and hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been sentenced to death recently by the Egyptian courts. Meanwhile, Erdogan has alternately shown affinity for Iran though currently has remained surprisingly neutral and silent reserving his vitriol for Israel, always the default position one can take to insulate themselves from outside harms. Determining which direction Turkey might take under Erdogan is a guessing game and probably will remain that way until one side or the other proves the victor and then Erdogan would ingratiate himself to the victor. If he were to choose, he appears to favor Iran possibly due to their presence in Syria and thus along his southern border. Without Erdogan Turkey would naturally side with Saudi Arabia and Egypt as they would no longer be seen as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

The question as to which side would prove victorious between a Saudi Arabian led coalition or Iran is a tougher call. It might all depend on which side was willing to use their ultimate weapon with sufficient deployment so as to end the ability of the other side to resist. Where I have some doubts that the Saudis would be the first to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East, I have no doubts that such would be the primary first strike or response to hostilities in order to simply end any contest and declare their victory. Should such an event ever be presented to the world, their answer should be carefully decided and decisively delivered. Should Iran use nuclear weapons against her adversaries on the Middle East and willingly bring such devastation to fellow Muslims, even if they were predominantly Sunni and not Shiite, then the rest of the world had best believe they would receive nothing less. Should Iran launch such a barrage, it would be surprising if they did not at the same time launch attacks by multiple means on Europe and the United States as well as any other nation they might perceive to be capable of mounting a credible resistance to their eventual world-wide victory. But even Iran does not appear to be quite that ruthless or willing to wreak such devastation on such a scale.

 

Should they prove to be that hardhearted and coldblooded as to end civilization as we know it, then it would prove a suspicion I had way back when a cursory review of the predictions of Nostradamus was in vogue and fascinated one youth after viewing a special on television where they gave lengthy coverage to his future vision of the world falling to a man from the Middle East wearing a blue turban. Despite every publication and prediction claiming that this meant Iraq I held stubbornly to my feelings that it signified Iran, and I do mean stubbornly. Often I was dismissed as a lost cause incapable of listening to reason but I had my faith that Persia would rise again and not Babylonia. Historically the Babylonians surrendered to the Persians almost joyously as their ruler had lost his mind after burning three Israelites (Jews) for not bowing before him and they somehow proved to be fireproof, well, at least for that moment as they cried out to G0d and were saved from a fiery death. This proved a bit much for the mind of King Nebuchadnezzar II who lost his mind unable to believe or understand that such a miracle was possible and that he was not the most powerful even in his own kingdom, his capital city even.

 

As is often the case, the eventual end to this will entail a fair degree of insanity, a touch of the impossible, room for a number of miracles, even more so should Israel somehow become involved. Perhaps this might be the place to end with a final word on the probable path Hezballah may be about to tread. Once the remaining forces, the few, the perplexed, the Syrian remnants; then Hezballah will find themselves pretty much alone as the IRGC forces will stake out a radius around Damascus and wherever else they determine is vital to Iran such as the port where the Russian fleet is docked, Latakia, and perhaps a few places in Lebanon as well. Should Iranian plans not include providing safety for the last remnants of the Syrian military, they certainly will not be protecting Hezballah. The Iranians may well understand that should they not side with the remnants of the defenders of Assad that their retaining the choice areas they believe essential to their requirements will be more readily accepted and produce minimal resistance. That leaves Hezballah pretty much out in the cold and in need of some reinforcement to their devotion to Allah and commitment to the perpetual cause, the eradication of the Zionist entity, Israel. The end result will be the same and Hezballah should prove to be better served for survival by fighting Israel than fighting ISIS. It needs to be remembered that Hezballah, just like ISIS, has no air force. This deficiency will prove fatal for them in either battle, against Israel it is obvious, they will have little recourse against Israeli air power, and against ISIS it places them on an even playing field with ISIS currently being the more motivated and Hezballah having superior training and better knowledge of the terrain as well as having heavily fortified bunker and tunnel system in southern Lebanon, their home turf. Either path will probably be the final battles Hezballah will ever engage in. Even should they start a war with Israel, that does not necessarily rule out a final settling of grievances with ISIS, it would just mean that final reckoning coming after Israel had smashed their bunkers and tunnels and decimated their rocket and other heavy weaponry. Anyway one slices it, there is a better than average probability that we will have seen the last of Hezballah by Summer’s end. That may be the cherry atop the ice cream Sunday and a gift to the civilized world out of the ashes of Syria.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

March 31, 2015

The Hidden Secret Weapon of Iran

It is well known that Iran is behind the Houthis in Yemen, Hezballah have virtual control over the Baca Valley, South Beirut and the lands south of the Litani River giving Iran control over Lebanon and Iran had taken command of the forces against ISIS in Iraq officially claiming the lands in the southern and eventually central areas of Iraq ceding the northern areas to Kurdish rule allowing the formation of Kurdistan with their accepting that Iran was the Islamic nation which saved them from ISIS and thus being indebted to Iran. Assad will prove victorious winning a Pyrrhic victory allowing him to rule over a shell of a nation. Things will be in such complete ruin that Assad will even need to relocate the capital as Damascus (Arabic: دمشق ‎) will have become uninhabitable. The reason for this sorry situation will be due to Assad having fled the Capital, Damascus, for the Alawite, also known as Alawis (Arabic: علوية ‎), regions after baiting his enemies by stating that he was determined to join the fighting, if that proved necessary, making all the forces against Assad to gather and unite to make that final push into the heart of Damascus for the final battle for Syria. Almost all of the troops will be involved in this assault and they will meet with strong resistance but inevitably they will appear to be mere moments from winning their final victory over Assad when the trap will be sprung and a series of prepositioned substantial nuclear weapons will end all resistance in a matter of seconds and turning Damascus into a radioactive wastelands. This will force Assad in his Alawite enclave to be setting up the new Capital City from which to declare his victory and naming the new Capital City of Syria most likely the home city of the Assad family, Qardaha (Arabic: قرداحة‎), or possible Idlib or Aleppo if Shiite forces can become predominant in either of those two cities. While this definitive ending of the war in Syria will be followed by the defeat of the remnants of ISIS in Iraq as ISIS forces from Iraq will have been pulled to assist in the final assault into Damascus as victory there will be determined by all forces fighting Assad to be of sufficient importance that they lay aside their differences and for that one time fighting together with each group retaining command of their forces thus making taking the government stronghold in central Damascus a race to see whose flag will be raised over the Syrian capital city. The resulting truth will prove to be that nobody’s flag will be raised over the city as Damascus will have been made inhabitable.

After the detonation of the nuclear weapons and the dropping of a series of tactical nuclear weapons around the suburbs of Damascus taking out the command and control centers and the leadership which inhabited them monitoring the progress of the many varied forces who had just been eliminated in a singularly greatest conflagration in the history of the Middle East, there will follow a series of condemnations from numerous nations as well as the alphabet soup of alliances such as EU and NATO as well as by the United Nations and its numerous individual fiefdoms and especially by the Security Council. Amazingly, despite the carnage resulting from the second tactical use of a series of nuclear weapons being detonated in the ending a conflict, the first being the United States use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the War with Japan and with that the end of World War II, there will result no denunciation of Iran or Syrian Dictator Bashir Assad by the General Assembly. It will seemingly be a reaction by the majority of the member states of the General Assembly to the drastic measures utilized in Syria and the devastating results that they will shrink before such a complete breakdown of normative thought that there will be no need for any condemnation plus with Iran along with their allies and made clear their intentions to vote against any resolution feeling none was necessary due to their having learned and knowing there was a hard and difficult road ahead, they will decide to decline to support any condemnation in the General Assembly.

Most of the world and almost all in the western world will depict this fairly extensive use of nuclear weapons as being a one-time event not ever likely to be repeated. It will be then that the unseen weapon, the Iranian secret weapon, will begin to assert itself. It will begin in Egypt where the Shiite candidates win a fairly significant number of parliamentary seats. Many of these victories will prove to be the forewarning of coming changes in the distribution as slowly at first and then with less excuses and more bravado individuals, then families and lastly entire clans or towns were trading in their long histories with Sunni religious branch of Islam and starting to freely claim their allegiance to Shiite branch of Islam. As this phenomenon starts in the Sunni majority areas, the initial reactions will be complete surprise followed by denial and even violence against those announcing their intention in some locations. With time the numbers of Sunni adopting Shiite Islamic practice will become more accepted and even anticipated. What no one expected would be the result starts to creep into the consciousness of some Imams and leaders as they realize their nations or those attending their mosques had become sufficiently Shia that they demanded that Shia services be provided. This will lead to the next stage where many Imams along with their congregations announce or simply quietly adopt the Shia form of Islam. This will be true whenever the majority of the congregants and the neighborhoods they serve were becoming Shiite and it became the only manner for them to continue to serve their communities providing them with the leadership they were seeking. Currently, according to some, there is a core of people in Muslim nations across MENA (Middle East and Northern Africa) which is gaining momentum of Muslims privately practicing Shia Islam while continuing to appear to be actively practicing Sunni Islam. This shift of the balance of power from Sunni Islam being predominant to Shia Islam and it is uncertain as to how far this change has progressed.

There is already a pushback against the overt Iranian backed effort to encircle Saudi Arabia as the Saudis have intervened against the Houthis and are attempting to place the government back in Sana’a (Arabic: صنعاء) after it was forced to flee this past week. There are some worried over whether this assault by the Saudi forces will result in their supporting the al-Qaeda forces which are also vying for control in the same area. The problem in Yemen is that there has not been stable governance for quite a while. There is a history of rebellions in the north by the Houthis while al-Qaeda has occupied the southern area with the government sandwiched inbetween the two forces. President Obama had recently pointed to Yemen as a place which represented the outreach and working to support stable governance in the Middle East. Perhaps this was not the best call for him to make. What makes that even more ridiculous a mention is that currently he is doing absolutely nothing to restore the Yemeni government he was so proudly using as the bases of his efforts for stability in the Middle East. If one were to attempt to place President Obama into the Middle East formula it becomes an odd thing to do. President Obama is responsible for the lack of order in Libya after removing the government forces of Gaddafi. The President supported and even touted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and wasted no time condemning the removal of that government by the Egyptian military when the people began an uprising against the implementation of Sharia Law in Egypt. The President originally supported the rebels in Syria but while he spent precious time seeking the perfect faction to support, the radicalized forces had replaced or defeated most of such forces. This was now an international fight between the two extremist forces, those favoring al-Qaeda and other Sunni terrorist factions such as ISIS, while the other group consists of a Houthis supported by Iran. The real victims in the fighting in Yemen are going to be the people just as was the case in Syria. How far the Iranians are prepared to back the Houthis against the government and the al-Qaeda forces not to mention the United States has a refueling center in Yemen where ships from the fleet could refuel and which is now in the hands of the Iranian backed forces. There has also been an exchange of words between Turkey and Iran. Where such animosity might lead is impossible to predict but animosity between the two nations are high. Saudi Arabia and Egypt recently called for a Sunni Arab International force and the Arab League appears to be ready for the implementation of an all Sunni NATO style alliance of the Sunni nations, largely Saudi Arabia and Egypt as these two nations are the most stable and have the largest armies in the Middle East. Also joining this alliance will be the GCC members plus Jordan. Appearances are that the Middle East is breaking into three main camps, first is the Iranian forces which include Iraq, Hezballah and what remains of Assad in Syria and the Houthis, then there are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf States and probably any Sunni elements which are not aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, and thirdly we have the terror forces such as ISIS, al-Qaeda and the tribal forces in Libya which are interested in destabilizing governments and then taking control after compromising the government. The Middle East is becoming more dangerous place than it usually is, and it is well known for its intricate and complex interactions, and on the other hand, Israel has begun to look like the safest and most stable government within the borders of the Arab world surrounding her. That may be the strangest thing of all.

Beyond the Cusp

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