Attack on Syria: The Regional Implications

As the Alice in Wonderland process continues in Washington with clueless  John Kerry insisting to congress that the  Syrian rebels are a bunch of Jeffersonian democrats, and the out-of touch political class seemingly ready to vote for a war no one has been able to justify, one can only wonder what comes next! No one knows the answer.. certainly not the Obama administration..

Probably the saddest spectacle is the hapless CJCS, General Dempsey, after terming any attack of Syria as stupid  for months, now  foaming at the mouth for action.

Very sad and embarrassing as hell for the American people who care about how their nation is viewed by the outside world. We constantly hear the word ” credibility” thrown about as the prime reason for an attack. The question is whose credibility? Obama, after a tumultuous reception of his speech and “rock star” persona in  Cairo in 2009,  had long ago squandered any credibility he had.

This Syrian adventure can only be explained as simply an act of pique…an affront to the president’s  massive  megalomania.  Having been trapped by his own loose lips  and ill-considered , prompterless  words, he  now feels compelled to bring the nations power to bear on a tin horn dictator who exhibits no real threat to the US.  Some, of course see this as a way to indirectly attack Iran. How I ask? Will Iran stop its path to nuclear weaponry if we attack? Or will they accelerate it  knowing that the possession of nuclear capability will shortstop any US military action against them?

I am not in my element in domestic politics. No doubt if Obama gets the leaderless republicans to go along with this adventure, the eastern establishment papers will trumpet it as a major Obama victory. Politically it will be. But will it be a victory for the United States?

I am in my element though writing about the history and cultural attributes of the Arabs and Middle East. There is no doubt the attack will have major adverse implications for the region and our interests. To what extent will these adverse reactions affect our interests? Like everyone else I cannot forecast it in detail but I can…based on about 40 years study of the region…..advance some likely reactions.

1. As usual any American attack, however popular it may be with the Gulf rulers, will not be acclaimed by the Arab public. It will band together the mutual rivals to blame the great satan (us). Assad, like Saddam, before him, will be viewed as a hero who stood against the evil empire.

However battered the infrastructure of Syria may be following the attack,  the essential rebuilding will be effected by Iran and Russia who will concentrate on the Syrian armed forces, ensuring that their proteges and all those watching from afar know that Russia and Iran do not abandon their allies.

The mischief of Hezbollah in lebanon will be expanded as the Shi’a of Lebanon, like their Alawi cousins in Syria see this as an existentialist conflict. They cannot allow the Sunni radical Muslims to take over Syria. Unlike Kerry they understand that a radical Islamic regime after Assad is highly likely.

The fragmentation of Lebanon will continue with the polarization among the sects being made more visible with few bridges to span the gaps. This will particularly affect the Shi’a -sunni conflict, but also the conflict within the Christian community. The Greek orthodox of Syria are being preyed upon by the Islamist radicals, and are pro Assad, while the Maronites of Lebanon, with a defacto alliance with the Sunni of Lebanon are violently anti -Assad and Hezbollah.

In Iraq, the mounting terror being unleashed by the Sunni radicals  will be accelerated as the always myopic Sunni population of Iraq, still in disbelief that they no longer rule Iraq, will be encouraged to step-up their campaign of violence. The long-suffering  Shi’a population, will as they did in 2007, finally mount a counterattack with Iranian assistance, allowing Iranians to further insinuate themselves into the fabric of Iraqi society.

In Jordan, the massive refugee problem will only increase with people fleeing US missile attacks which will invariably inflict suffering in the Syrian people in terms of power, water, law enforcement.  The growing Muslim brotherhood membership in Jordan will be emboldened by the anticipation of Muslim radical gains in Syria.

The Kurds of Syria will not accept a radical Muslim presence in their area and this will spillover into Iraq as well as Turkey. This will impact the on-going peace process between the Turks and Kurds in Turkey. The Kurds, already largely independent in Iraq, will look to expand into Syria, and the Kurds of Turkey are unlikely to accept their continued second class citizenship status in Turkey.

Also in Turkey the Alevi minority, about 25 % of the population and sympathetic to their near cousins of Syria, the Alawis. are very unhappy with the Sunni fundamentalist regime of Erdogan and his support of the Rebels in Syria, and especially with the mostly Sunni refugee population residing in their homelands in south  Turkey

The Egyptian population, once firmly pro rebel have been turned off by the excesses of the Muslim brotherhood in their country and are universally against an American strike…as is the government of General Al-Sisi. Given the delicate stage of American-Egyptian relations and the distaste for Obama personally, the outlook for the relationship , at least in the short run, is not good.

Israel will not stand by and do nothing as they did when hit by  Saddam’s  rockets in  2003. If Assad opts for a cheap ploy to gain Arab approval, launching missiles at Israel, the implications are anyone’s guess.  A wider conflict is always possible.

Finally, once again we will be seen attacking an Islamic country. Be prepared for demonstrations from Indonesia to Mauretania.

So these are the probabilities….is it worth the gamble?

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About Tex

Retired artillery colonel, many years in a number of positions in the Arab world. Graduate of the US Military Academy and the American University of Beirut. MA in Arab studies from the American University in Beirut along with 18 years as Middle East Seminar Director at the JFK Special Warfare Center and School, Served in Vietnam with 1st Inf Division, Assignments in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, plus service with Trucial Oman Scouts in the Persian Gulf. Traveled to every Arab country on the map including Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
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