The Syrian Civil War presents Western nations with an opportunity to redress the balance within tribal Muslim nations in favor of tolerance and also to show their rejection of religious extremism in all its disguises.
But in order for this to happen, world powers will need to recognize the special instability of the region and to take steps to reduce its potency.
Russia will not willingly discard its $10 billion investment (allegedly the cost of construction of its naval base) in Tartus. It is Russia’s only Black Sea Group naval port in the Mediterranean Sea. To lose its base and any of its most modern weapons is a serious issue for Russia and one that will be handled with critical care. Syria received new defense systems from Russia after Israel bombed Syria’s nuclear reactor. It received Russian S300 missiles which are allegedly not yet operational. After the defection of a Syrian pilot with his plane, to Jordan, it is doubtful that Russia will permit Syria to operate any of its most sophisticated military hardware.
So Russia needs President Assad to protect its strategic naval interests. Russia will have to decide whether the conflict (as it extends into the decade) causes greater damage to its regional interests by maintaining support for Alawite control of Syria. This may mean it has to settle for the dismemberment of the Syrian nation and a tribal enclave that maintains Alawite territorial integrity within a diminished Russian protectorate. But even that is not guaranteed because Russia is pursuing its strategic interest in mutually hostile nations. Cyprus, Turkey, Israel and Syria are all focus of long term interest by Russia.
Russia has always supported Nicosia’s claims against the TurkishRepublic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). This slab of land taken by force from Cyprus by Turkey is recognized by no-one, save Turkey. Cyprus is being courted by Russia both for its newly discovered energy resources and for the strategic possibility that Russia, if it loses its base at Tartus could replace it with one on Cyprus. According to Stratfor (http://www.stratfor.com/) Russia is trying to woo Cyprus and this complicates bilateral relationships because of the extensive ties that Turkey also has with Russia.
Turkey is known to be actively interfering in Syrian affairs in order to encourage the kind of activist resistance that is more in line with its own Sunni theology.
This is an area where America has failed to grasp an historic opportunity to create a strategic partnership with Russia to jointly manage naval facilities. Cooperation rather than competition (between the USA and Russia) is the only way to defuse tension in the Mediterranean Basin. It is the next stage in Détente between the two great nations.
Big Power cooperation would cause others to pause before interfering militarily, and may even constrain Muslim colonial ambitions. With 46,000 km of coastline and as a destination for over one third of the world’s tourists it is in the interest of everyone to de-escalate the potential for strategic conflict.
What complicates the picture further is the unnatural relationship that the United States has with Turkey, an imperialist nation swept up in its own hubris, nourished by its vainglorious, malevolent past. Turkey’s eagerness to play out past glories makes it untrustworthy as an ally. But the US has a radar base in Turkey which for now gives it a seven minute window on the Iranian missile threat towards Europe from Iran.
And we have the added dimension of America arming anti-Assad rebel forces. CNN reported United States military support for Syrian rebels to include small arms, ammunition and possibly anti-tank weapons, according to two officials familiar with the matter. The weapons would be provided by the CIA, the officials said.
Israel is strengthening its military, economic and political ties with Greece and Cyprus. The discovery of huge reserves of oil and natural gas around Cyprus has whet a Turkish appetite for territorial aggrandizement. Turkey’s bellicosity towards Israel, Cyprus and Greece is indicative of its inability to let go of its belligerent nationalism, its need to dominate. Turkey’s fearless Islamic Imperial past, its bloody history of oppression towards both nations has endowed it with the false certainty that it has rights of precedence. Repeated threats that clearly deny Cyprus its rightful territorial sovereignty are indications that Turkeys’ colonial avarice makes for aggressive intemperance in national policy.
Israel’s fraught relationship with Greece is complicated by the antisemitism of both the extreme left-wing and the extreme right in Greece. Eastern Orthodoxy has not had reason to undergo the kind of spiritual reflection and upheaval that was created by the Second Vatican Council (Nostra Aetate). This leaves the Greek Orthodox Church with an unreconstructed anti-Jewish legacy that it is incapable of leaving behind.
So the recent news story that Israel had signed with Cyprus for the construction of natural gas facilities when Turkey was the natural choice may be both recognition that Turkey is a lost cause but Turkey’s fellow former colonies are not.
In the 1950’s Arab scholars referred to Israel as “Syrian Soil.” Syria fought four wars against Israel and after the Yom Kippur War in 1973 it agreed that there would be no future attacks on sovereign Israeli territory that emanated from Syrian territory. In the 40 years that passed since then – there has been no infiltration by terrorists through the Golan Heights. The Syrians kept their word because it was in their interest to do so. The activity of Syria’s proxies was another issue entirely.
Israel’s unfortunate reality is that it has no friends in the Near East – it only has interests. Its strategic (long term) decision making must be based on historical perspective, the likelihood for positive change, and not short or medium term political or monetary benefit. Whoever wins in Syria will make little if any difference to Israel’s threat assessment.
As a non-Arab, non-Muslim nation, the overthrow of one government for another cannot replace enemies with friends. Israel and Russia are not on the same page but they can talk to each other. Russia and Israel both act in accordance with their perceived strategic interests. The USA does not. This has been its greatest failure in the foreign policy arena. Islam will remain an enemy of Western civilization because it has never had to confront its global subservience to religious bigotry. No amount of ingratiation with theologically hostile regimes (and this does include Turkey) will change that.
Al-Nusr and the FSA are fighting a war that pits brother against brother and communities against each other. The Vietnam War was a fratricidal war, Iraq and Afghanistan are similar. And now we have the use of chemical weapons by either the opposition or by Assad’s regime. Timing is everything. That this atrocity has allegedly taken place at a time when UN weapons inspectors are visiting in order to investigate a previous chemical weapons attack is suspicious and it highlights the terror that opponents are willing to employ against civilians in Syria in order to win.
There is no end in sight to either of these latter, national, fraternal theological battles. And so with Syria, no-one has discussed, at least publicly, how, we may defang the militants on both sides.
The one surprise to have emerged from the Syrian debacle was the Russian announcement that it had withdrawn all of its military personnel from Syria (RT.com 27th June 2013). If this is true it indicates that it is abandoning its Alawite ally to its fate. The pessimistic view would be that Syria may have sought an escalation which would damage the Sunni cause in Arab eyes. Russia would not want to put itself into the firing line because it would complicate its relationship with Israel. Or it may have decided to write off its Syrian investment and to look elsewhere.
If Syria was an opportunity for us to demonstrate our wisdom, there has been none shown to date. We have left the battleground to Islamic terrorists whose destabilizing influence will spread past the borders of whichever country they infest.
Russia and the USA hold the keys to a secure, placated region but only if they are willing to exercise military restraint and police the borders. It would also send a message to other colonial aspirants in the region.
And it would demonstrate why our vision is better than anyone else’s. If this means that we reject the failed multicultural model of current Western inclination then we must demonstrate why we reject it and why, what we offer in its place is so demonstrably superior.
It is sadly true that we no longer fight for our shared values and this is causing us incalculable damage. I am not calling for misinformed jingoism or nativist militancy but for calm reflection about what choices we, as a civilization, are making. Arming the barbarians at our gates is the wholly illogical reflex of a less dangerous age.