The rising possibility of war between major powers 6

So it’s coming – war? The big one?

As the Syrian war rages on – now a religious battle between Sunnis and Shiites as much as an armed rebellion against Bashar Assad’s tyranny – the Russians have offered troops to replace the withdrawing Austrian contingent of the UN’s “peace keeping” force on the Golan border between Syria and Israel. It looks likely that Fijian troops will be preferred by the UN, but Putin is nevertheless going ahead and preparing a Golan brigade. He is committed to helping the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad by supplying advanced weaponry, and he has warships near the Syrian coast.

At this juncture, Obama has decided that the US must send military aid to the rebels, composed of al-Qaeda affiliated and Muslim Brotherhood Sunnis. Assad himself is an Alawite, but his main support comes from Shia Iran and Iran’s Shia proxy, Hezbollah.

We quote from the (British) Mail Online .

The chilling headlines:

Could Syria ignite World War 3? That’s the terrifying question as the hatred between two Muslim ideologies sucks in the worlds superpowers.

  • Syrian conflict could engulf region in struggle between Sunni and Shia
  • Already claimed 93,000 lives and made 1.6million people refugees
  • UK, France and U.S. taken different side to China and Russia

The article proceeds:

The crisis in Syria may appear to be no more or less than a civil war in a country many people would struggle to place on a map.

But it’s much more than that: it is rapidly becoming a sectarian struggle for power that is bleeding across the Middle East, with the potential to engulf the entire region in a deadly power struggle between two bitterly opposed Muslim ideologies, Sunni and Shia.

Already, the war inside Syria has resulted in 93,000 dead and 1.6 million refugees, with millions more displaced internally. And those figures are escalating rapidly amid reports of appalling atrocities on both sides.

Fearing that Syria faced the kind of protests that had toppled the rulers of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya during the “Arab Spring”, Bashar al-Assad’s security forces used tanks and gunfire to crush the demonstrations. But it only stoked the fires.

The opposition developed into an armed insurgency, and now Syria has been engulfed in a civil war which has degenerated into a vicious sectarian conflict.

On one side are those who follow President Assad, who belongs to the Alawites — a splinter sect from Shia Islam.

On the other are a loose affiliation of insurgents drawn from the majority Sunni population, some of whom have close links to the Sunni jihadists of Al Qaeda.

The level of savagery is appalling. This week, up to 60 Shia Muslims were reported to have been slaughtered in an attack by opposition fighters in the eastern Syrian city of Hatla. …

Syria might fragment into three or four pieces on sectarian lines, with anyone marooned in the wrong enclave liable to face vicious ethnic cleansing.

And because the conflict is driven by religion, it could easily leap Syria’s frontiers to draw in regional powers.

So who is aligned with whom? Broadly speaking, Assad is supported by Iran (the main Shia power in the Middle East) and its militant Lebanese ally, the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The latter is Iran’s main weapon in any fight with Israel.

As a result, Assad is advised (and protected) by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and there are also between 5,000 and 8,000 seasoned Hezbollah fighters inside Syria. …

The forces against Assad are joined by thousands of fighters flooding the country every week from across the region.

The rebels have also benefited from the ferocious will-to-die of an Islamist group called Jabhat al-Nusra, which is allied with Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Many more rebels are Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood persuasion.

They are supported with guns and money from Sunni states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Such are the complex connections between modern nations, and the globalised nature of international politics, that repercussions could be felt around the world.

What happens in Syria affects Israel, with which it shares a militarised border on the Golan Heights. …

Although President Obama wants to downgrade America’s involvement in the Middle East now the U.S. can rely on reserves of cheap shale oil and gas at home, his own somewhat ostentatious concern for human rights keeps sucking him back in to side with the rebels.

We would correct that to (newly appointed Ambassador to the UN) Samantha Power’s and (newly appointed National Security Adviser) Susan Rice’s concern to be concerned gives Obama the excuse he needs to side with the rebels.

Why do we say “excuse”? In his role as pacifist and demilitarizer he is reluctant to have the US actively involved in another war so soon after the Iraq war ended and the Afghanistan war started winding down. But he is (we are convinced) on the side of the Arabs in their endless hostility to Israel, and he is a consistent supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood (sending, for instance, lavish aid to the MB government in Egypt). We guess he would not be sorry to see a Sunni victory – or an Israeli defeat. Regardless of his own prejudices, however, the US has commitments to NATO.

That [“concern for human rights”] is also broadly the position of Britain and France, whose leaders seem swayed by lurid and unverified social media footage of atrocities.

But while leading NATO nations line up in sympathy with the rebels, on the other side President Assad is being backed by Russia — a long-time friend of Syria — and by China.

Russia and China feel they were tricked by the West over the way the Libyan regime was overthrown with Western aid two years ago, and are determined Assad won’t be ousted and murdered like Gaddafi.

The war in Syria therefore has had a destabilising effect on the entire region, and could exert a terrifying domino effect as states disintegrate.

Whether such a nightmare scenario can be avoided — and global superpowers can be persuaded to keep their powder dry — we must wait to see with baited breath.

Obama, having said that if Assad used chemical weapons he would be crossing a “red line”, and having now acknowledged that sarin gas has been used, announced that the US will provide military aid to the Syrian rebels.

While there’s nothing new about the US aiding the Muslim Brotherhood (lavish aid to Egypt’s MB government is a case in point), it will be a strange development for the US to be allied with al-Qaeda. (How, we wonder will the survivors and bereft families of 9/11 feel about it?)

The most fearsome fact is that the powers are lined up now as the Mail reports: China and Russia on the side of the Shias,  Britain and France and the US – which is to say NATO – on the side of the Sunnis. And the West cannot allow Russia and China to become dominant powers on the edge of the Mediterranean.

The shaming of America 0

It looks increasingly probable that America’s long military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan are ending in failure and ignominy.

Bush’s surge succeeded. Iraq was won. It seemed at least possible that the country’s experiments with democracy might continue. But Obama has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. His premature withdrawal of American troops is bringing its logical consequence – a resurgence of terrorism and civil strife.

And his announcement that American forces will be withdrawn from Afghanistan next summer works like an instruction to the Taliban merely to have patience and they’ll be left a clear field.

Frank Gaffney writes:

Back in February, Vice President Joseph Biden declared: “I am very optimistic about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration.”  Even for a politician much given to strategic ineptitude compounded by foot-in-mouth disease, that was a doozy.As has been pointed out innumerable times since, if Iraq turns out to be a truly “great achievement” in any ordinary sense of the word, Mr. Biden and Barack Obama – two of the most insistent opponents of George W. Bush’s efforts to consolidate Iraq’s liberation – are among the last people in Washington who should take such credit.

Worse yet, unfortunately for the Iraqi people and others who love freedom, it looks increasingly as though the Obama administration will have the loss of Iraq as one of its most signal accomplishments.

Three murderous suicide bombings in Baghdad over the weekend are but the latest indication of the renewed reality there: Those determined to use violence to destabilize the country, foment sectarian strife and shape Iraq’s destiny can do so with impunity.

The fact that the Iranian embassy was one of the targets suggests Sunni extremist groups – perhaps including the once-defeated al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) – are responsible for this round of attacks. Elsewhere in the country though, Shiite death squads that may or may not have ties to the pro-Iranian factions currently running the country are ruthlessly liquidating prominent tribal leaders and others associated with the movement in Anbar Province known as The Awakening. The latter were instrumental to the success of the U.S. surge and to the opportunity thus created for an Iraqi future vastly superior to its despotic and chaotic past.

Among the objects of the growing violence are individuals who stood for office in the recent parliamentary elections. This amounts to post facto disenfranchisement of the Iraqi voters whose turnout of over 60 percent – in the face of threats by anti-democratic forces that voting would be deemed a capital offense – powerfully testified to their desire to exercise the right enjoyed by no others in the Mideast except Israelis: to have a real say in their government and future.

Sadly, all other things being equal, that popular ambition seems unlikely to be realized. There is an unmistakable vacuum of power being created by President Obama’s determination to withdraw U.S. “combat” forces no matter what, starting with the cities a few months ago and in short order from the rest of the country.

Increasingly, that vacuum is being filled by Iran and its proxies on the one hand and, on the other, insurgent Sunni forces, both those aligned with al Qaeda and those that have, at least until recently, been suppressing the AQI. On what might be called the third hand, Iraqi Kurds are experiencing their own internal problems as well as an increasingly ill-concealed inclination to assert their independence from the rest of the country.

The signal of American abandonment was made the more palpable by Team Obama’s decision to dispatch Christopher Hill as its ambassador to Iraq. Hill is the diplomat best known for his determination during the Bush 43 years to appease, rather than thwart, the despot most closely enabling the realization of Iran’s nuclear ambitions: North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. The unreliability of the United States as an ally – a hallmark of the Obama presidency more generally – is reinforcing the sense that it is every man for himself in Iraq.

The prospects of any “great achievement” in Iraq are being further diminished by the direction to the Pentagon to shift personnel and equipment from Iraq to Afghanistan. The President himself reinforced that commitment during his speech to U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base last week. The detailed planning and ponderous logistics associated with such a transfer increasingly foreclose options to change course. Our commanders will soon be hard pressed to preserve today’s deployments of American forces in Iraq, let alone to have them take up once again the sorts of positions in the urban areas that they held to such therapeutic effect during the surge.

The inadvisability of relocating U.S. forces from the strategically vital Iraqi theater to the marginal Afghan one is made all the greater by another grim prospect: The mounting evidence that our troops will be put in harm’s way in Afghanistan simply to preside over the surrender of that country to one strain of Shariah-adherent Taliban or another. There, too, President Obama has publicly promised to begin reversing his mini-surge by next summer, again irrespective of conditions on the ground. And his insistence on “engaging” at least some of those who allowed the country to be used as a launching pad for al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks augurs ill for the Afghan people (especially the female ones) – and for us. …

The repercussions of the Obama administration losing Iraq will cost us dearly in the future as adherents to Shariah around the world are reinforced in their conviction of that our defeat and submission is preordained. Even if, at the moment, we cannot fully comprehend the implications of such a perception, we will know from here on out whose “great achievement” precipitated the resulting horror for America and the rest of what was once the Free World.