Beyond the Cusp

May 19, 2013

Who Gets to Pick the Winner in Syria?

As the civil war continues to murder innocents with the latest estimate approaching one-hundred-thousand murdered civilians and over one and a half million refugees fled to neighboring Turkey and Jordan there is a group of nations attempting to influence who wins. The problem is that many of these outsiders are backing different forces which serve to extend the fighting possibly endlessly producing no winners, just increasing casualties in an endless procession. First we need to define the disparate groups and then find who is backing whom. The supposed home team definition would likely have to go the current President for life Bashir al-Assad and the Alawite tribe from which he comes. There are two sets that are considered rebel forces which sometimes cooperate and at other periods work either independently or actually impede each other. One rebel group consists mostly of members from the Muslim Brotherhood while the other consists of forces aligned with Jabhat al-Nusra which is the al-Qaeda terror group. Then there are two other groups which currently support Syrian President Bashir Assad but actually represent the Iranian interests and are likely to continue to engage in the war even after Assad collapses or is killed. These two groups are Hezballah, the terrorist group whose political wing currently leads the ruling coalition in Lebanon, and the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, a group of fighters which make up a second military force roughly equivalent in size, equipment, training and capabilities to the Iranian Armed Forces used mostly to assist in foreign interventions, terrorist training internationally and domestically as required, and any other clandestine operations which may be assigned by the leadership of Iran. So, generally speaking there exist five groups vying to take control over all of Syria.

 

Oddly enough getting the teams all figured out who are operating within Syria is difficult enough, but trying to untangle the external interests and influences is far more complicated especially when dissecting their various motives. Let us first address the most up front, above board and obvious of the external influences. The most obvious is Turkey who is steadily supplying arms to both rebel forces for the most selfish of reasons, assuring their continued preeminence as the only stable rout for oil and gas pipelines. There is a further reason driving Turkey in providing arms for the rebel groups which is that there is no love lost between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syria President Bashir Assad as both view themselves as a leader in some future Muslim Caliphate, Assad as leader of the Arab nations in an Iranian Caliphate and Erdogan as leader of a reborn Ottoman Caliphate. Add to this that as long as there exists some sustained level of violence which would discourage construction of new oil and gas routes through Syria then Turkey, with its already existent pipelines, would remain the uncontested and sole route of pipelines for oil and gas from the Arabian Peninsula and related reserves.

 

Another supplier of arms to one of the rebel forces is Saudi Arabia who is backing the Muslim Brotherhood aligned rebels. The Saudi interest is the opposite of Turkey as the Saudis would very much like to have an additional player supplying pipelines to the Mediterranean Sea and into Europe as competition would result in lower prices for them in transporting their oil and gas. Furthermore, the Saudis are rivals of the Iranians and thus would love to see Bashir Assad removed from ruling Syria thus breaking the Iranian crescent in which Syria is a vital link connecting Iran and Iraq through to Lebanon and the ports of the Mediterranean Sea. The Saudi Arabians are supported by the rest of the members of the GCC, Gulf Cooperation Council; whose members are of far less military capabilities thus the Saudis make all the decisions. The Saudis are also counting on support by the United States but they may run into some surprises in that relationship which we will cover later.

 

Then there are those exterior forces supporting the Syrian military and Syrian President Bashir Assad and at the same time defending the Iranian interests. These two groups are the IRGC and the Hezballah terror group. Should Bashir Assad fall either by fearing being taken by the rebel groups who would likely give him treatment similar to that used to dispatch Libyan Dictator Muammar Gaddafi, a rather unpleasant death, these two groups would simply continue the fight in support of their true masters, the Iranians. To either of these forces the continuance of Bashir Assad as the President of Syria is simply something that makes their presence in the fight more readily explainable. Remove Assad and their real motivations are revealed and Iran would be uncovered as the true force behind Assad remaining in power. Another nation supporting Bashir Assad, even if in a somewhat limited manner, is Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. Russia has thus far limited their support to continuing to fill all past weapons orders they have agreed to with Syria and are preventing any overt support for the rebels such as interventions or establishment of a no-fly zone by the United States or NATO. The most disturbing participation by the Russians is their intent to follow through with the sale and supply of their S-300 Anti-Aircraft Missile Systems which would make any Israeli strikes to prevent chemical weapons or other game-changing weapons from being transferred to the Hezballah forces in Lebanon for use against Israel in the future more hazardous. There is one potential future situation which would prove most intriguing, if President Assad should be killed or otherwise removed from the situation, would Russia continue their support giving the future weapons shipments to the IRGC and Hezballah or would their interest in the situation in Syria be terminated.

 

And then there is the most troubling foreign influence, and that is the United States and President Obama. The obvious interpretation of the United States interests is that they are aligned with Saudi Arabia and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and against the entirety of other forces. This façade also has another participant, Turkey, who also appears to work with the Saudis while also passing weapons to their intended recipient without question. Some of these weapons are intended for Jabhat al-Nusra as they are supplied from the al-Qaeda forces and influences who were involved in Libya. There have been rumors that the truth behind the catastrophe in Benghazi may have been related to attempts to prevent powerful and game-changing weapons, possibly stinger missiles, from being sent from Libya to undesirable recipients. Even if such a proposition were true, that is one truth that will never see the light of day. As is said, some secrets are secrets for a very good reason and as such must remain nothing more than a rumor, a whisper in the tempest and nothing more.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 23, 2013

Which Faction in Syria Fielding Terrorist Soldiers?

We hear claims about the existence of terrorist fighters fighting alongside of others in the multiple-front battles going on in the Syrian civil war. Spokespeople for President Obama, the European Union and other Western sources of aid to the Syrian rebels are making statements that their aid is intended and funneled solely to the secular rebel forces and are not going to any terrorist interests. Then there is Syrian President Bashir al-Assad who has claimed from the outset that he is fighting against terrorists who are attempting to conquer Syria and impose Islamist governance. Before we can determine which sides might be fielding terrorist forces and which might be truly supporting what could be classified as free and democratic governance we must recognize all the disparate forces fighting to take control of Syria. There is the Syrian army which has remained largely loyal to President Bashir al-Assad who has some so-called volunteer forces also fighting alongside the regulars of the Syrian armed forces. These would be forces best described as loyal to the Syrian Ba’ath Party government and the Alawite tribal preeminence. Among the groups who are collectively described as the rebel forces there are the Syrian National Coalition; the groups allied with the Al-Nusra Front which include for argument’s sake the Ghuraba al-Sham and the Syrian Islamic Front; and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party. So, let’s take them one at a time and inspect who exactly make up these groups.

The Syrian Military which has remained loyal to President Bashir al-Assad is made up largely, especially the officers corps, of Alawite Tribal members and some Bedouin tribal members from within Syria. Fighting alongside the Syrian Military are Iranian Military units from the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) who are an arm of the Iranian government which are a secondary military force which is largely responsible for training terrorists forces and carrying out enforcement and other missions beyond the Iranian border. A number of countries have classified at least parts of the IRGC to be a terrorist group or tied to terror operations. Additionally fighting to keep President al-Assad in power are fighters from Lebanon who belong to Hezballah, an almost universally recognized terrorist entity. At best one would have to conclude that a goodly portion of the forces defending the al-Assad regime are composed of actual terrorists and some terror related groups such as the IRGC and likely the al-Quds forces which are an elite corps from within the IRGC assigned almost exclusively to carry out terror operations often in collaboration of Hezballah and similar terrorist groups.

The Al-Nusra Front is a declared al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group by their own admission and by declaration of al-Qaeda sources. They are allied with two other terrorist groups, Ghuraba al-Sham and the Syrian Islamic Front. These terrorist groups have imported Mujahedeen fighters and other related terrorist entities. There is no disagreement that this sector of the rebel forces are strongly terror related. They have also been the beneficiaries of arms shipments from fellow terrorist groups in Libya who have a large cache of arms consisting of those inherited from the overthrown Gadhafi dictatorship as well as arms provided the rebels by NATO in the Western support of their revolt. There have been reports of other Muslim countries providing these terror forces with arms as well with most of them flowing into Syria from Turkey.

The Syrian National Coalition is supported by the Western powers who claim thus far to only supplying non-arms related support including food, medical supplies and other such provisions. If one desires to simply take the government’s word at face value, then the Syrian National Coalition is a terrorist free organization. The troubling part in simply believing the government position is it is based on the definition of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the government admits is the organizing and financial force behind the Syrian National Coalition, as a purely secular organization which has eschewed violence and represents a democratic movement within the Muslim world. This definition does run into some troubling complications once one considers any of the groups which have been spawned from and supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. The likely most well-known of these groups would be Hamas which is a recognized terrorist entity which currently rules the Palestinians of Gaza and regularly has launched rockets and mortars into Israel aimed at civilian targets.

If you take a relatively uncomplicated and simple approach to the Syrian civil war one could easily claim that all the three factions mentioned above are all in some form or another terrorist groups or supported by terrorist groups. So, if you wish not to risk supporting any form of terror groups, who can one support. There is the Kurdish Democratic Union Party which for the most part is taking a purely defensive approach to the entire conflict and merely attempting to protect the Kurdish community within Syria or in the refugee camps where millions of Syrians have sought safety. There are similar groups doing much the same with the Christians who remain in Syria or have fled over the borders. Both of these groups, the Kurds and the Christians, realize that they are not going to be winners no matter which groups prevails in this three way civil war. For those who will claim the struggle in Syria is not a three way affair, all I ask is wait and should al-Assad be dethroned see if the war does not continue with the groups supporting the al-Nusra Front continue the fight against the Syrian National Coalition for control over Syria. Simply put, this conflict must have but one result, terrorists of some degree will control Syria and as is the way with terrorist groups, there can be only one reigning supreme in the end.

Beyond the Cusp

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