Two weeks ago, standing on the Syria-Israel border in the Golan Heights, I wrote a column positing that this frontier was the “second most dangerous” war zone in the world today — after the Korean Peninsula. Your honor, I’d like to revise and amend that column.
Having watched the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, where North and South Korean athletes marched last week into the stadium together in a love fest; and having also watched Israel shoot down an Iranian drone from Syria, bomb an Iranian base in Syria and lose one of its own F-16s to a Syrian missile; and after U.S. jets killed a bunch of Russian “contractors” who got too close to our forces in Syria, I now think the Syria-Israel-Lebanon front is the most dangerous corner in the world.
Where else can you find Syrian, Russian, American, Iranian and Turkish troops or advisers squaring off on the ground and in the air — along with pro-Iranian Shiite mercenaries from Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan; pro-U.S. Kurdish fighters from northern Syria; ISIS remnants; various pro-Saudi and pro-Jordanian anti-Syrian regime Sunni rebels and — I am not making this up — pro-Syrian regime Russian Orthodox Cossack “contractors” who went to Syria to defend Mother Russia from “crazy barbarians” — all rubbing against one another?
As The Washington Post pointed out, “In the space of a single week last week, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel lost aircraft to hostile fire” in Syria.
The term “powder keg” was invented for this place. And the term “3-D battlefield” doesn’t even begin to capture its complexity. It is a multidimensional battlefield that requires a quantum computer to sort out the myriad number of actors, shifting alliances and lines of conflict.”
Good article, but this top comment raised some issures.
“the Russians just want to siphon off as much oil as they can from Syria, and use it as a base and an ego booster, without clashing with anyone”
That completely misunderstands the Russians. Syria has very little oil, less than it consumes itself, while Russia is one of the world’s major producers that is short of markets more than oil. There is no oil to siphon off, nor any need for Russia to do so.
Russia is not fixated on a base in Syria. That is projecting American ideas and priorities onto the Russians. They have always had a “base” in Syria, that they neglected, made no investment in, and allowed to silt up and rust. They’ve never used any bases in Syria except to do what they are now doing in Syria.
Ego boost? Russia got that from Crimea. They get none from Syria. The Russian public fears such a war.
So why is Russia there? Because the jihadi war is just a few hundred miles overland from their own restive Muslim regions in which they recently fought difficult wars. They are containing it there, so they don’t have to contain it at home (again).
Such a total misread of a major player like Russia suggests this column is not entirely reliable. It projects American ideas as if others think like us. They don’t.
The conclusion is also wrong. Syria is very unlikely to reach a power sharing accord like Lebanon did. Lebanon had a long history of power sharing among three major groups, while Syria has always been a top down very heavy handed dictatorship.