The (very) tangled web in Syria

The convoluted, twisted strands of who’s fighting who, who’s supporting who, and who’s trying to stay relevant in Syria (and with whom) are almost nightmarish in their complexity.  Strategy Page does its best to describe the mess.

Iran, Russia, Turkey, the United States and Israel are all present in Syria along with the Assad government and a considerable number of Syrian rebel groups who are still not united. Everyone has different goals and a different (often constantly shifting) set of allies. Keeping track of who is doing what to whom and why (and for how long) has become increasingly difficult. A current summary of allies, foes, frenemies and chimeras goes like this;

Israel wants to keep Iran out of Syria and Lebanon and avoid a war with Iran. For this Israel has the support of the U.S., Russia and most Gulf Arab states. None of these supporters is willing to provide any military assistance, at least not until Iran actually attacks Israel.

Russia wants to get Turkey out of NATO, to keep the Iranians from starting a war with Israel and make the Americans look bad. At the same time Russia needs to do this on the cheap and make Russia look good, especially to Russians back home. That is proving difficult as most Russians were not enthusiastic about the Syrian operation in the first place and popular support has been declining. Israel sees Russia as being of limited use because of the Russian strategy. Moreover Russia is not as militarily powerful as it pretends to be. Privately the Russians agree with Israel on that and appreciate any help the Israelis can provide in this area.

Turkey wants to create a security zone on the Syrian side of the border that has no Kurds or Islamic terrorists in it. Turkey also wants to show the Sunni Moslem world that it can handle Iranian aggression (without going to war with Iran) and keep the Israelis out of Lebanon and Syria. Turkey is willing to play diplomatic games with Russia and Iran to achieve these goals as well as send troops into Syria to fight, and get killed. Turkey also likes to play (or pretend) tough with Israel. Turkish military experts know better but many Turkish politicians are clueless and that is very dangerous in this part of the world.

The U.S. wants to ensure that ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) does not reestablish itself in Syria. To help with that the American are doing what they can to help the local Kurds maintain autonomy in northeast Syria (east of the Euphrates) where the Kurds have always been dominant. Secondary objectives are keeping Iran, Turley and Russia out of Syria. The U.S. and Israel are allies and any attack on Israel will trigger American intervention on the Israeli side. But short of that the Americans are quite blunt about stating that their troops are in Syria to deal with terrorists, not Iranian preparations for an attack on Israel. The Americans will not stop Kurds in the northeast from going to the aid of Kurds defending Afrin. The Turks asked the Americans to stop the Kurds and the U.S. refused. 

There’s more at the link.

The same article has some interesting insights into the internal situation in Israel, Iran and other Middle Eastern nations.  Recommended reading.



  1. And Israel is taking away Hamas tunnels.

    Iran is still having demonstrations.

    US is attacking herzbollas finances…

    Turkey is becoming more Islamic and anti American.

    Saudi leadership is going against ultra conservative Islam – this is huge.

    Low oil prices are hurting all the right countries.

    Would it be so bad if Turkey left NATO?

    Interesting times!

  2. Arab Muslims are killing other Arab Muslims, with the aid of Turkish Muslim son one side and Persian Muslims on the other.

    This is the definition of a win-win. No matter which side eventually wins, a whole bunch of Muslims die along the way. Then there are fewer of them for us to have to deal with later.

    My solution – Recognize Kurdistan, with new borders drawn to annoy every other player in the region. Build a consulate and send them military aid and advisers. Kick Turkey out of NATO – what have they done for us lately? They can handle the miniscule threat from Russia themselves. I would prefer to give every Syrian city the Dresden treatment, pour encourager les autres, but that would cost money.

  3. It is stupid for us to be involved in Syria. Our fracking revolution has made us energy independent of Middle-eastern crude. The Chinese are now the biggest customer of Middle-eastern crude. If the Russians and Chinese want to piss away their money on this custerf**K of a region of the world, let them as far as I'm concerned.

    Peter Zeihan has the most intelligent comments about the region:

    He says:

    The United States has no meaningful interests in Syria. Israel is safe. Iran is locked into a combat it cannot possibly win. The United States no longer has a stake in the region’s oil. And the newest power player – Turkey – just made an open-ended commitment to a multi-sided land war. There has never been and likely never will be a better time for the Americans to disengage.

    So what’s the problem again?

  4. @McChuck Pray tell, what personal benefit will bring You that pile of dead "sandnaggers"?
    This kind of brilliant strategy ensures that even your supposed European allies will reconsider trusting America with anything. And Russians, Germans and Chinese will just fill that void. The whole Arab Spring mess looks more like an excuse to destabilise region for the sake of Israel and thus has zero advantages for average Europeans.
    Poland is pretty much the most pro-American country in UE, but even here more and more people blame America for ruining Syria and Libya and thus indirectly causing flood of Arab "refugees" to Europe. Believe me, few of us are willing to sacrifice one penny or even a vote to back up either Israel or America during another Middle Eastern war, if you are going to strike there first with some lame excuses. Yeah, yeah, You are self sufficient global superpower, and do not need some silly europoors. I dig that, but maybe stock markets and foreign owners of american debt will not be as understanding.
    And Kurds will not trust you even a bit, when they will realize, what they are – expendable pawns, exactly just like in 1991, after the Gulf War ceasefire. To be frank, we do not want to end like Kurds from Afrin, if you guys, for example, intend to provoke some kind of all out confrontation with Russians, or perhaps win Wowa Putins backing in your confrontation with PRC by turning us over to Russian sphere of influence. Thats what American credibility looks like, when someone is watching news from Syria.

  5. And our commitment to opposing ISIL would be a lot more convincing if we hadn't been arming them (whether inadvertently or by design)in an attempt to oust Assad. And interfering in the attempts by Russia to aid the government in putting down the IS revolt. 'Course, that was under Obama . . .

  6. @Anonymous: Clearly the solution to American debt held by foreign nations is to nuke those nations into oblivion, so there's nobody alive to collect the debt. As an added bonus, eliminating nations that loan the US money may finally force the clowns in Washington to stop spending more money than they take in – or at least have Washington go up in a nuclear blast in retaliation.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *