Colleagues: The situation in Syria continues to worsen, giving rise to calls for the US to intervene in some fashion. Two excellent pieces today on Syria. First, our own Larry Martines provides an incisive analysis of the state of play between the rebel forces and the Assad government, and the involvement by foreign entities. Secondly, we provide a link to an excellent in-depth analysis of Syria in the context of the collapsing “Arab Spring” written by NBC News’ Richard Engel. The overview provides an examination of the calculations of the various powers involved, the deterioration of the Arab Spring and its relevance for Syria, and what might happen should the US intervene–or not.
The Syrian Domino
By Larry Martines
“When you suppress the impossible, what stays, even unbelievable, must be the truth.” –Sherlock Holmes (reported by Conan Doyle)
Civil wars are the worst type of warfare. However, I am not implying that there is such a thing as “good warfare.” There are only good causes. In the case involving Syria we have a situation much like the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). As the fighting continues between the combat wing of the United Revolutionary Council and the despotic Assad regime, foreign players have begun entering the struggle. Backing Assad, you have the Iranians, Russia and HizbAllah. Backing the revolutionaries we have the Saudis, the Emirates, and to a limited degree, Turkey and Jordan. The USA has sent aid, but at this point it has been, we are told, only humanitarian assistance. In the meantime the body count grows and is now over 30,000 Syrian lives lost.
Intervening on our part, at this time, is not an option. Nor would I support it. But this could change in the near future should the Iranian military add more forces on the ground, including additional battalions of HizbAllah. This Iranian proxy, it should be noted, has a full time militia of 6,000 men, supported by a part time armed force of 15,000. Plus they have the ability to attack a target internationally, giving Iran plausible deniability. The Iranians also claim to have armed and created a 50,000 strong Syrian militia called the Jish Shaabi (People’s Army) to fight the rebels, along with hundreds of al Quds “advisers”. Further, Russia is not going to stand by and watch itself lose its only major naval base in the Mediterranean at Tartus, should the rebels win.
The London Sunday Times has claimed that the “Russians had their finger on the button” that destroyed a Turkish jet. The Free Syrian Army has claimed that they killed a Russian general inside Syria (8-8-12) for “humanitarian crimes against Syrians.” Months ago the international media reported the Russians were deploying “elite antiterrorism troops” into Tartus. “Elite antiterrorism troops” to guard a naval base? I think not. More likely these troops were either the violent and aggressive “Vympal” or “Alpha” groups! These groups honed their skills fighting Chechen rebels, not standing guard duty.
Should the rebels depose the Assad dynasty, the major HizbAllah/Iranian base in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, becomes isolated. This is both a significant training ground for HizbAllah and HAMAS terrorists and maintains a site for over 3,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Equally important is that the Bekaa is a major heroin producing region. This is a virtual no-go area for the Lebanese government, the media and international anti-drug personnel. Back in the late 1980’s this location was labeled “the most dangerous place in the world” by the Washington Post’s writer, Jack Anderson. This heavily armed site now has a missile umbrella and provides hundreds of millions of dollars of drug money for the Assad regime. Further it is a convenient staging area for attacks against Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
With the fall of Assad the Bekaa would be isolated. Will the Iranians tolerate this? Will they air lift the current Revolutionary Guards out, or will they air lift reinforcements in? Will HizbAllah stand by and watch its main source of weapons and protection collapse, or will they strike out at all perceived enemies? Will Putin watch one of his most prized naval bases slip out of his hands, or will he send more “elite” troops to Syria? How many more Jihadist groups will infiltrate the Free Syrian Army?
The bottom line is that the longer this civil war drags on, the more foreign players will become involved. Destabilization of the region on a major scale will occur, to say nothing of the possibility of the US/EU and the Russians having a face off! The clock is ticking.
International Police Association
Association of Former Intelligence Officers
Former USG contractor – foreign ops
Click the link below for Richard Engel’s piece at NBC News