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Syria: The Next Phase

The war in Syria and Iraq continues. Our press continues to report it very badly, never providing any context whatsoever. How can anyone make sense of what’s going on or the likely conquest of Da’esh/ISIS which is in the works?

This is a brief update on the situation which is strangely not provided in any other outlet. Keep in mind, however, the essential truths about the ongoing battle with Da’esh:

  1. They pose no significant threat to the United States.
  2. In fact, the entire region is largely irrelevant to the US.
  3. The lack of relevance is not going to stop us from blundering remarkably close to a global conflict.

With all of this in mind, let’s look at the reality of this situation which is generally ignored.

Da'ish on the march.  Yes, these monsters must be stopped.

Da’esh on the march. Yes, these monsters must be stopped.

Barataria has worked to make sense of this complicated mess in the past. Since that summary article was written, it’s only gotten messier. The Syrian Kurdish SDF was warned by Turkey to not proceed westward across the Euphrates River. They did anyway, capturing the town of Manbij. Turkey responded by invading, and now has about 20,000 troops and heavy armor ostensibly marching all the way to the Da’esh capital of Raqqa. They have become horribly bogged down and are in the process of being surrounded by the Syrian Army, who they are nominally allied with in the fight against Da’esh despite Turkey’s call for the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

If none of this makes sense, you are far from alone. The best place to find updates is at this site, the live map.  I’ve come to rely on it.

A map of the SDF Offensive on Raqqa this year.

A map of the SDF Offensive on Raqqa this year.

Meanwhile, blocking the SDF from going West has only turned their attention to the South and a more direct assault on the Da’esh capitol of Raqqah. This year they have captured a lot of ground and essentially cut off Da’esh from any hope of reinforcement or supply. It’s worth noting that the battle for Mosul has been in that state for 5 months and is only now starting to resolve itself, but the trend is still clear. Da’esh is on the ropes.

What will this mean for anyone?

If Da’esh is finally defeated, or at least reduced to a landless guerrilla force, the situation changes dramatically. Turkey’s main reason for invading Syria is removed, as is any peace between the SDF and both Turkey and Syria. How long will it take the many sides to turn on each other?

What we can be sure of is that the 13.5 million Syrian refugees, including 4.8 million outside the nation, will not see their torment end any time soon. The number of players in this conflict is still very large and the conflict will necessarily continue.

You're not as clever as you think, Vlad.

You’re not as clever as you think, Vlad.

The role for both Russia and the United States should obviously change after Da’esh is reduced or eliminated. I would suggest not holding your breath, however. The US never had any reason to care about this situation other than the refugee crisis and nothing will actually change. This position may seem controversial, given the single organizing cell in France that was able to create so much mayhem for a while. But it was only one cell, and it was only in France. Da’esh / ISIS has never mounted any attack against the US and has only had limited action against US citizens in the region. They have never posed any threat to the nation at all.

Similarly, with the growing energy independence of the US, there is little reason for us to be involved in the region at all. What oil we do import usually comes from Venezuela, a nation with its own problems which should reasonably command far more attention from us.

Given that we have absolutely no interest in the nation or the region, what will we do in Syria? A lot depends on Russia and Turkey, the other nations which have brazenly intervened in this conflict.

A potential conflict with Russia remains the biggest concern if we choose to stay in Syria for the purpose of … whatever strange purpose we invent. Without the common enemy of Da’esh we can’t even say what either side will do if we both remain engaged.

Recep Erdogan of Turkey

Recep Erdogan of Turkey

Turkey, for its part, is in very deep and cannot extract itself. The primary reason they sent in troops, no matter what they say, was to stop the Kurdish SDF from gaining more ground and thus more power. Turkey fears a Kurdish uprising more than anything else and would like to stay engaged in Syria largely to block the SDF.

Why would anyone do that? Europe is going to have to rely on Turkey, whether they like it or not, which is why a deal on Cyprus is being pushed so very hard. Part of that deal may well be allowing Turkey a free hand in Syria as well as support for a pipeline from Iran for the sole purpose of undercutting Russian natural gas and further isolating Putin.

This makes the Russian role in the US election seem a lot more reasonable, but let’s not digress that far.

The bottom line is that a very high stakes game in Syria is about to mark the next level once a major player is dealt out. The stated reason for everyone to be at the table is even in question. This is exactly the kind of poorly defined standing-around situation which leads to an open war between nations that are eager to start one.

What’s going on in Syria? It’s all about to change. A wise US policy would be to get out because we have no interest at all in being there. Given that we never had any interest in being there this is unlikely, so the situation will likely only become more dangerous.

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17 thoughts on “Syria: The Next Phase

  1. It might not be too much of a digression to point out that the Syrian refugees would mostly not have to be refugees had the US stayed out of Syria, and the only “solution” is domestic peace in Syria.

    • The only solution is peace, yes. How much was the US involved? I don’t mean to argue too much here, but there is a chance we weren’t that involved – because we didn’t have to be. Saudi Arabia and the gulf states did all the arming here, and I’m not sure we were involved in any way other than to let it happen. They do have the resources to do that. But if we were involved in the early arming we are indeed responsible and that was indeed the original sin that started all of this, yes.

      • Whether the US was directly involved or working through proxy states may not matter too much. We keep that part of the world in turmoil, originally to steal the oil but that motivation lacks power these days. But now we have Trump openly fomenting wars of religion…..

      • Absolutely. The reason I want to be precise about this is that I fear that our “allies” in the region are capable of creating an awful lot of mayhem on their own and that we have trained them to do so. Even if we started being more constructive and/or largely withdrew from the region I think our legacy is one of constant turmoil.

  2. I learned long ago that it is much easier to destroy political institutions than to rebuild them. Thus, many places are still struggling to rebuild from the effects of colonialism that formally ended decades ago. How long will it take for Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the Middle East to build stable political institutions? One can say the same for many places in Latin America and other parts of the world. The US has meddled, often very violently,all over the world, while not keeping its internal affairs in order. And now we have Trump (#45) whose judgement is what it is.

  3. Pingback: Syria Degenerates | Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

  4. Pingback: Stumbling Into War? | Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

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