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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)
by John Brian Shannon | 21/09/14
In the past 2 days, more than 100,000 refugees have crossed the border into Turkey to escape renewed attacks by ISIS fighters — leading to unprecedented strains on the ability of the UNHCR and the Turkish government to cope with the mass influx
NATO member Turkey, having declined to participate in military missions inside Iraq or Syria, is now facing one of the largest humanitarian crises in years. Due to the the Iraq War and other regional conflicts over the past 20 years Turkey is now home to more than 1.37 million refugees in a country of 75 million.
Although Turkey is a developed country and blessed with a robust economy growing at 4% annually, taking in 1.37 million refugees is beginning to take its toll on the economy and Turkish residents. Unemployment has rocketed past 8% and inflation is now affecting the disposable income of Turkish families.
Turkey has the world’s 17th largest nominal GDP, and 15th largest GDP by PPP. The country is a founding member of the OECD (1961) and the G-20 (1999). Since December 31, 1995, Turkey is also a part of the EU Customs Union. Turkey is the world’s 15th largest economy and 6th overall in Europe. — Wikipedia
As good as all that sounds, cracks are beginning to show as citizens are being asked to shoulder a rapidly growing burden in the form of hundreds of thousands fleeing violence and death in their homelands.
To put it in perspective, what would happen if 1 million refugees suddenly showed up in your country and your citizens had to foot the bill?
In addition to higher taxes, Turkish citizens have had to contend with a doubling of the inflation rate and a doubling of the unemployment rate. Neither stat is improving as hundreds of thousands more refugees stream across the Turkish border.
Of course the Turks want to help the refugees, but not to the point of economic collapse.
Which is why the international community must begin sending billions of dollars to Turkey
If not, Turkey can simply close off its borders — and Europe, North America, and the Middle East will be forced to accept the terrified families fleeing the atrocities they’ve witnessed, and keep them in good health until the whole ISIS debacle is over. Which might take a decade or two.
World leaders should hold a conference as soon as possible for the purposes of establishing an ongoing, per capita donation amount to defray Turkey’s refugee expenditures until the crisis is over
When you host 1 million people fleeing war, and have 100,000 arriving every few days, no amount really can really cover it. But some help is better than none. Soon it will be 2 million refugees.
Donations from other nations of 5,000 tents, and food for 5,000 people for one month, don’t even begin to make a dent in the overall situation. Let alone trying to arrange transport and set-up facilities on such short notice and provide responsible people to oversee the whole operation.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cannot be expected to handle such overwhelming numbers on its own without a major increase in funding.
The sheer magnitude of the problem is affecting the economy of Turkey, a nation of 75 million people. How can the UNHCR with 8,600 staff operating in 126 countries — and an insufficient budget to start with — be expected to care for hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into Turkey each week? And no end in sight.
Why should nations generously donate to the UNHCR effort in Turkey?
One, it’s the right thing to do.
Two, if they don’t, they’ll end up receiving their fair share of refugees, which will cost them many times more to house, clothe and feed until the crisis is over.
Three, the UNHCR mission in Turkey can massively ramp-up operations with the right amount of funding, and certain economies of scale will kick-in allowing more aid to be given for the same total amount of dollars.
Four, each refugee turned away, or who believes he will not be helped, may well wind up in the hands of ISIS — who will make a willing terrorist out of him after the right motivation has been applied.
How many thousands of fit and angry young men do we want to fight?
If they hear that help is unavailable to them in Turkey due to insufficient UNHCR funding, to ISIS they will go. Food and shelter, is food and shelter. Only the ‘work’ is different…
Let the developed world show that they can rise to meet the demands placed on Turkey and give the terrified and malnourished refugees fleeing death and destruction all the hope and care that is required.
Let us not fail the victims of our mutual enemy.
In the case of refugees fleeing to Turkey, the rewards will be greater and the karmic punishments far fewer, if we employ the moral imperative to the situation simply by applying the principle of the Golden Rule.
- Turkey hosts 1.37 million Syrian refugees (Turkish Weekly)
- UNHCR Turkey Syrian SitRep for September 12, 2014 (UNHCR)
- ISIS Forces 100,000 Syrian Refugees to Turkey (GuardianLV.com)
- 200,000 flee in biggest displacement of Syrian conflict, monitor says (Reuters/CNN)
- Islamic State closes in on Syrian town, refugees flood into Turkey (Reuters)
- Turkey’s Syrian Refugee Dilemma: From Hospitality to Xenophobia (Turkish Weekly)
- 2014 UNHCR country operations profile – Turkey (UNHCR Turkey profile)
*NOTE* These numbers and budget estimates are current as of January 2014