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.

Larry Martines

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

The Arab Spring is dead–and Syria writing its obituary


One comment

  1. Assad is a dictator: no doubt. But who are the rebelians? Are they all honest and good people? Aren’t the simply a number of different armed groups? If they are, why do not each Syrian citizen support them except a small number of elite Assad’s group? Why there are a huge number of people supporting Assad’s regime?
    What will we get if Assad’s regime fall in terms of human rights and democracy? Will we have democratic government right away or will we have a lot of groups struggling for power years and years after like in Lybia or have destabilization process with radicals infiltrating government like in Egypt?
    Did we get success in Irak after Suddam? Is it stable? Is it safe?
    Only Afganistan became a little better just because there was the worst situation with islamic radicals and they were trying to spread themsleves further – but not I do not see they way out to make it a decent country if American troops leave it – by my opinion it will simply be recaptured by taliban very fast.
    Why everybody think that as soon as a regime of this or that dictator fall down all problems will be solved?
    I think that as long as the mentality of the people will stay the same these people will get a new dictator who will look decent at the beginning and the world soon will have to solve a new problem.
    To make a country good in democratical terms like US, Canada, Germany, UK etc. we need to change people’s mentality, make them ready to accept a new way of living, free living.
    That was if we talk about people, their death in revolutions.
    But most polititions simply talk about deaths of civilians in this or that conflict, while thinking about interests of their country (or their own). Larry Martines is fully correct naming his article The Syrian Domino and naming the forces interested in this conflict: of course Russia, Iran, HizbAllah and HAMAS will keep supporting Assad since they have a lot of interest in “their” Syria. And the tension will keep growing. I will not be surprised if one day Iran will simply help Assad with military forces straight: Turky will not dare to opposite, US and other Western Countries will loose time talking in UN, Russia and China (simply because the do not like US and Western Hemisphere) will block all initiative, Israel will not start a war on its own with Iran since Iran is a pretty competative power. And will everybody will be thinking what to do, Assad and Iran will win.
    And, at the end, I would like to repeat: Assad is a dictator. The regime should be changed. But right now since a good deal of people DO support him he is the legimite power and not the rebelians. Imagine that all American Indians became rebelliance and demanded all their land back and 20 other different countries say that they are sure that Indians have right to demand that and they consider Indians the legimiate power and represenatives of the US – will you give all land to them right away? Not at all. So by my opinian Assad is a dictator, but he HAS the right to defend legimite power from groups of armed gurrilas.

    Viktor Frolov

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