Fanning the flames in Syria

The ramping up of military confrontation in Syria is rapidly increasing. If reports are correct, the US, with the possible assistance of European Allies (Britain and France), are about to attack Syrian and Iranian forces as punishment for the chemicals weapons attack on the population in the Syrian town of Douma.

This attack has been signaled ahead of time to allow Russian personal and fighters to evacuate the danger zones, in order not to draw the Russians into another military confrontation against the US within the Syrian quagmire.

Recall that only a few months ago the US struck Syrian forces in the Eastern border region of Syria, with 100 or more Russian and Syrian military personnel killed. We know of this battle and the casualty number because the Russian media reported of the deaths of tens of Russian “mercenaries”. When body bags are lined up at airports within the eyes of the media, there is little room to hide.

More informed reports are stating that the US may be inflicting a more sustained strike against the Syrians, occurring over a number of days, and not just a one-off missile strike. If this is true, be prepared for a series of messy encounters that may escalate very quickly.

The troubling question is what escalation may look like and where will it lead.

But even before this can be properly assessed, Israel launched a surprise strike against an Iranian military base inside Syria, which threw all calculations into a tizz. There are several threads to this attack that are worth noting:

  • The Iranian Guards mouthpiece, the Tasnim News Agency, ran a story on the strike and, for the very first time covering Iranian involvement in Syria, included pictures and the names of those killed. One of those was a high ranking Colonel. This may mean that the Iranians are stating their soldiers did not die in vain and are seeking a verifiable reason to hit back at Israel directly.
  • The Israelis informed the Americans before the attack and not the Russians. The Russians, in turn, showed their displeasure by condemning Israel at the UN Security Council when discussion turned to Gaza (coming from the slaughterers of Chechnya and Syria, and invaders of Ukraine, we know this is truly chutzpah, but that’s how the game works). And there have been a number of high-level Russian-Iranian meetings mentioned publicly as well.
  • Israel attacked knowing full well that plans are afoot for a US+Allies attack on Syria. So was their strike an opening salvo? If the US+Allies do attack, it may provide cover for the Iranians to attack Israel and drag them into the Syrian quagmire, or even begin a Hizbullah-Israel confrontation from the Lebanese border. So did Israel’s attack on the Iranian T4 military base remove a particular chess piece from the board?

The calculus of escalating confrontation is gyrating wildly over Syria, and through all this, the Syrian population suffers the most. They have been tortured, bombed and gassed mercilessly by the Syrian regime, with direct help of Russian, Hizbullah and Iranian forces; made slaves by Islamic State (when they were operative); and buthered by countless other rebel and splinter groups. Even the Turks are taking the opportunity and frenziedly bombing the Kurdish towns of northern Syria and Iraq.

Millions of Syrians have made refugees, millions more made homeless, and somewhere between 500,000 and a million (or even maybe more) killed outright. Doctors and aid groups have been uniquely targeted for death by the Syrian regime.

The UN is hostage to the Russian veto so it can do nothing. The UN Secretary-General himself has said virtually nothing. It is left to Israel to treat some fleeing civilians who make it across the Golan border, Jordan hosting refugee camps, and the Americans to at least punish the Syrians for using chemical weapons.

I don’t see anybody demonstrating in the streets about this. Just endless comments in the media from within the Arab world decrying the conspiracy of Israel and America, and as I read today, “The WEST”, in attacking Muslims in Syria. It’s a sickening realisation that until the region wakes up from its culture of victimisation, things will probably only get worse.

With war or unrest abounding in nearly every state in the region, it

About the Author
Co-convenor of the Australia-Israel Labor Dialogue. Director of Blended Learning Group (Emotional Intelligence and Leadership training) Director of Bowerbase (IT start-up) Director of Soldales Pacific (Water technology start-up linking Israel and Australia).