Looking Westward: Syria
Bordering Iraq is Syria, led by Bashar Assad of the Alawite branch of Shia Islam. Assad is currently receiving financial and military support from Iran to fight the civil war. “Assad is now benefiting from the deployment by Tehran of hundreds more military specialists to Syria, according to Iranian sources familiar with deployments of military personnel, Syrian opposition sources, and security experts. These include senior commanders from the elite Quds Force, the external and secretive arm of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as IRGC members.”
With continued Iranian support, Assad can bide his time for a weakened ISIS to re-establish dominance. His commanders are holding the current lines and letting their adversaries fight. When ISIS is weakened, the Syrian Army will have enough momentum taking back the majority of the country effectively end the Syrian Civil War. America is unaware of how much events have been set in motion and out of our hands. We are distracted by ISIS, a regional boogeyman that masks the scary monster under the bed.
So what is next after ISIS? Confronting the monster: a Shia caliphate led by Iran holding Iraq as a client state, Syria led by Bashar Assad, and Lebanon with Hezbollah actively operating there.
To anticipate what is next for the Shia caliphate a recent look at recent history is crucial. In August, 2013 President Obama sent the Navy in preparation to attack Syria. The President looked for support from Congress and Europe to attack Syria. By early September, Iran said that they would retaliate by primarily attacking the American embassy in Baghdad, among other targets. President Vladimir Putin was vague about either helping Syria or directly defending Syria. “Ruslan Pukhov, Director of “The Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies,” said that “the Mediterranean force is part the biggest deployment of Russian ships worldwide in the post-Soviet era.” This strategy by Russia to reinforce Syria with naval support psychologically intimidated President Obama. Syria was Kennedy vs. Khrushchev with roles reversed. President Obama was able to save face by going to Congress and the overwhelming lack of support by the American people. I believe Putin was willing to go to war on behalf of Syria because of the unusually large Russian naval force heading for the Russian leased port of Tartus on the coast of Syria.
The intimidation worked and a compromise was reached. Syria agreed to hand over all declared chemical weapons to be transferred onto a container ship capable of disposing of the weapons. By June of 2014, all of Syria’s declared chemical weapons were claimed to be destroyed. A recent report published on October 8, 2014 stated that Syria did not reveal four chemical weapons manufacturing or storage sites. To still assume all of Syria’s chemical weapons were destroyed still is naïve at best. This new information sends two messages: It is too late for the international community to take serious action, and Israel should think twice about an attack on Syria.
Recent history will repeat itself once again except it will not be with the United States. We can safely conclude Syria’s chemical weapons are not completely destroyed. I see three different scenarios possible: In a chaotic civil war there is an opportunity that weapons could fall into the hands of a small independent group hostile to Israel that is waiting for the right opportunity. Second scenario: “The Red Rug”- Hezbollah is tasked to use them under the guise that while being transported to be destroyed Syria lost control of a shipment. This would give Syria and Iran plausible deniability that they were behind an attack. Third scenario: in an artillery exchange between Syria and Israel, a Syrian officer gains access to artillery shells containing chemical weapons to use on Israel. Regardless of what specifically happens, I believe the use of chemical weapons on Israel is plausible, possible and ultimately- inevitable.
An attack would bring the fury and full force of the Israeli Defense Forces squarely upon the supplier living in Damascus- Bashar Assad. The consequences of using chemical weapons would unleash events unseen since the American and British bombing of Hamburg during World War Two. An Israeli attack on Damascus would repeat recent history bringing together Iran, and Syria’s ally-Russia. Iran’s reach into Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon has shown their ultimate goal is unifying and expanding Islam. By defeating Israel, The Muslim world would unify and fall in line with Iran. During the 1967 Six Day War, Syria had a 10 to 1 advantage and still was unable to defeat Israel. Russian assistance provides the strong partner necessary to overwhelm Israel’s northern defenses on the Golan Heights. Russia in its resurgence has competed with America for strong ties to the Egyptian military. Russia and Iran’s military’s together provide overwhelming numbers to attack Israel would convince Egypt to help Russia and Iran in an attack. Egypt also has strong relationships with groups in Libya who could assist forming a southern front against Israel.
A resurgent Russia will gain confidence projecting power lost after the Cold War. The airfields on the recently annexed Crimean Peninsula give Russia the ability to have air support arriving over Israel in 3 ½ hours. Israel has close ties with America and other nations, yet no formal defense treaties which make an attack on Israel possible. I do not see Europe coming to Israel’s aid when facing a coalition of Russian, Arab, and Iranian forces…
Israel will be on her own. In our short term strategy against ISIS: America is being used to create an only more dangerous Muslim caliphate being led by Iran that will border with Israel. We should be concerned, Israel should be concerned, and so should our leaders.