by John Brian Shannon | September 12, 2015
We explore three different scenarios in the fight to defeat ISIS and other terror groups operating in Syria.
Now that Russia has entered the frame, it may change the Syrian crisis for the better, or it may trigger concern by some nations already in the fight, or by regional nations that must deal with the consequences of the Syrian civil war.
What could possibly go wrong?
1. Israel vs. Russia inside Syrian territory
Israel. That’s what could go wrong. It’s not the only thing that could go wrong in this dangerous situation but it would be irresponsible to overlook that particular potential for catastrophe.
The state of Israel could decide that its best interest would be served by inducing the Russian military to leave Syria by bombing the Russian airfield, supply depot, and barracks which are presently under construction near Latakia, Syria.
And to prevent retaliation by Russian naval forces, Israel would need to destroy any Russian Navy vessels in the Mediterranean or tied up at any of Syria’s ports. It would be unthinkable from a military standpoint to neutralize the Russian airfield/barracks and not destroy the Russian naval component.
That would lead to a wider war, one that would have Israel calling the United States instantly. Geopolitics could change in the space of 15 minutes.
If you don’t think that’s very likely, people who know their history will recall how quickly the world changed when Japanese aircraft bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Two hours of bombing that dramatically changed world history.
For its time, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a massive effort and was seen in Japan as a major success against the United States. Indeed, most of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was parked dockside with their sailors enjoying shore leave. Consequently, many ships were either sunk or damaged although few casualties occurred as the dockyards were largely empty at the time of the attack.
Just as few foresaw the attack on Pearl Harbor, few are of the opinion that Israel would launch a preemptive attack against Syria’s ally Russia, taking out the Russian airfield in Latakia, Syria or those Russian vessels docked in Tartus, Syria or sailing in the eastern Mediterranean.
It’s not like Israel hasn’t attacked ships or aircraft from other nations in the past.
The USS Liberty incident stands as proof of Israel’s willingness to attack foreign vessels that might be in a position to attack Israel, regardless of how unlikely an attack may be.
The USS Liberty was a U.S. Navy supply and communications ship of no significant size nor capability, a WWII relic that posed no real threat to Israel. Yet, because it appeared in the sea during a time of conflict between Israel and Egypt, it was neutralized by a combined force of Israeli fighter jets, fighter bomber jets, and torpedo boats on June 8, 1967, because in the opinion of the relevant Israeli military commanders, the Liberty represented a threat.
If you’re of the opinion that Israel won’t act against something they perceive as a threat, then history says you’re wrong.
The opinions of observers who say there’s no threat to Israel posed by the Russian airbase, or of increased Russian Navy activity in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, or of increased Russian troop numbers in Syria, are irrelevant.
The only relevant opinions are those who press bomb-release buttons in Israeli bomber-jets.
2. The U.S. vs. Russia inside Syrian territory
As recently as Friday, the Foreign Minister of Russia, Mr. Sergei Lavrov, asked the U.S. to cooperate with Russia in Syria, saying on Friday that “we are always in favour of military people talking to each other in a professional way” as one-military-to-another operating in the same country it is “important for the avoidance of undesired, unintended incidents”.
Russia called on Friday for military-to-military cooperation with the United States to avert “unintended incidents” as it stages navy exercises off the coast of Syria, where U.S. officials believe Moscow is building up forces to protect President Bashar al-Assad.
The United States is using Syrian air space to lead a campaign of air strikes against Islamic State, and a greater Russian presence raises the prospect of the Cold War superpower foes encountering each other on the battlefield.
John Kerry the U.S. Secretary of State said, “We would welcome constructive efforts by Russia against ISIS, but that cannot be a function of continued support to the Assad regime. The most productive thing that they can do is to stop aiding the Assad regime.” — Reuters
3. The U.S. and Israel vs. Syria and Russia inside Syrian territory
Only a few dedicated think-tank fellows are missing sleep over that one.
But in a war zone, events happen in seconds and then the politicians race to catch up with what has happened during the night.
It’s at least conceivable that the U.S. or Israel decide to show their colours to Syria or Russia and a number of fighter jets are shot down in less than a minute — even before a telephone call can be placed between the various politicians to resolve the issue, and by then the initial attack and the guaranteed-to-be-devastating-counter-attack is already over.
A parallel situation could occur at sea with any number of ships being attacked and counterattacking within seconds of the first shot being fired.
Many ships could be sunk in the space of 15 minutes (which is about the same amount of time it takes to properly brief a decision-maker/politician) on the many events that are occurring simultaneously.
If there aren’t clear communication links between the various forces fighting ISIS in Syria, and if each group follows different rules of engagement, it’s a recipe for disaster
If the ultimate goal is ‘a world war over Syria’ we’re running headlong towards it.
It’s an insult to the intelligence of people everywhere that any nation would refuse to participate in and abide by the standard communications and rules of conduct in conflict zones, especially when so much is at stake.
Secretary of State for the United States, John Kerry, and his State Department spokesman John Kirby, risk far too much for too little. Risking a wider conflict in an attempt to belittle the Russians is feckless at best and criminally irresponsible at worst.
Without a proper communications plan, there’s no doubt that an incident between the various military units operating in Syria will occur at some point.
Lives will be lost. Of that, there’s no doubt. Citizens of one or more countries will become enraged and demand a response, and consequently the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about (a.k.a. the so-called war economy) will be back to full production again!
An astonishing lack of diplomacy enabled the Syrian crisis to occur and now we’re willfully blocking standard communication plans. What next?
Let us hope that superior minds overturn this seemingly deliberate march towards conflict between superpower U.S.A. (perhaps with Israeli involvement) on the one hand, vs. Syria and Russia (a former superpower but still extremely powerful) with Iran and China assisting.
It’s the worst B-movie script that I’ve seen. And we’re on course towards catastrophe if the present script is allowed to continue…
- War has forced half of Syrians from their homes. Here’s where they’ve gone. (CNN) “One of every five displaced persons in the world is Syrian.”
- Should we cry or rejoice as Russia steps up in Syria? (CBC)
- Russia calls on US to co-operate with its military in Syria (Reuters)
- Russia-Israel military coordination talks on Syria to open Tuesday [October 6, 2015] (Reuters)
- After Syria coordination talks with Israel, Russia beckons to Turkey, U.S. (The Star)