To bring about regime change in Syria, the United States has partnered up with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States to supply rebel groups with ever more sophisticated weapons, ammunition and communication equipment, even though the rebels are a disparate group, probably including some radical anti US so-called terrorist groups. This is a serious mistake.
Eric Margolis explains:
America’s most vital national security concern is to maintain calm, productive relations with Russia.
The reason is obvious: Russia and the United States have thousands of nuclear warheads targeted on each other. Many are ready to launch in minutes. Compared to this threat, all of America’s other security issues are minor.
Avoiding confrontations with a major nuclear power is obvious. Yet the United States and Russia are ignoring such common sense in their increasingly heated war of words over Syria’s civil war.
The US and its allies have been actively trying to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria for over a year. They have been pouring arms, money, communications gear and fighters into Syria to take advantage of a popular Sunni uprising against the Alawite-dominated regime.
Russia and Syria have been allies for many years and last Thursday, according to John Glaser at antiwar.com, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated there would be no UN Security Council mandate for outside intervention in Syria, which means Russia will veto any proposal for the United Nations to intervene in Syria with military action.
Lavrov’s statement reinforces action taken last February by Russia and China vetoing a Security Council resolution to remove President Asaad and commence a transitional government.
Meanwhile, one week ago Russia announced that she is preparing to send two warships (i.e., large landing ships, possibly with marines) to Tartous, a port on Syria’s Mediterranean coast where she maintains a naval facility. The announced purpose of the trip is to protect the naval facility and its personnel in the event of an attack.
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused Russia of fuelling the violence by sending attack helicopters to Syria, which she said were “on the way” and would “escalate the conflict quite dramatically.”
Russia angrily retorted that it was not making any new deliveries and had only carried out repairs of helicopters sent there many years ago.
Eric Margolis explains why the United States and Israel are interested in securing regime change in Syria, a poor country without the usual vast amount of natural resources that U.S. corporations covet.
Washington’s intervention in Syria is driven by its obsession to undermine Iran by bringing down its most important Arab ally. Israel, which exerts enormous political pressure over US Mideast policy in an election year, sees destabilizing Syria as a triple win: a blow to its arch enemy Iran; a blow to Syria’s efforts to regain its strategic Golan Heights that Israel captured in 1967, then annexed; and wrecking the key backer of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinians.
What about Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf States. What’s in it for them?
The new Arab-Iranian cold war has been on for some time now. The Syrian crisis has only made it worse. Led by the Saudis, the Sunnis are determined to do what they can to check what they see as rising Iranian and Shia power. I’m sure the Saudis blame the Americans for the Shia government that now sits in Baghdad and for Bahrain, where Washington pressed for reform of in the early days of the Arab Spring, seemingly inattentive to Saudi concerns.
Iraq may be lost, but the game in Syria is still on and the stakes are high. Turning the Shia-affiliated Alawi regime into a Sunni one that can be influenced would be a tremendous victory for the Gulf Arabs. It would weaken the Iranians and break the exaggerated but still very real threat of Shia encirclement — Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. And that’s why Riyadh is backing the rebels with money and arms and allowing individual Saudi clerics to sermonize about jihad and encourage non-Syrian foreign fighters to carry it out. This, of course has a potential downside. We saw the blowback in Afghanistan, where Saudi-inspired Wahhabi doctrine motivated a cadre of Arabs to fight first against the Russians and then against the West.
Finally, what about Iran? Why is it interested in what happens to Syria?
Tehran, on the other hand, is pushing back: propping up the Assads with concessionary oil, money, arms, and whatever the regime can contribute from its own large bag of repressive techniques. The Iranians may be out of touch on some issues, but it’s hard to believe they don’t sense that the bell is tolling for the Assads and for the four-decade-old strategic relationship with Syria. If and when Assad falls, Iran’s window into Lebanon and the Arab-Israeli conflict is going to be much harder to keep open, particularly its key relationship with Hezbollah. But that doesn’t mean Tehran is going to cooperate on keeping Syria quiet and stable. Indeed, the fear of Sunni encirclement will intensify, and Iran will want to meddle even more to keep the pot boiling (see: Iraq). Iran might even cling tighter to its nuclear program to enhance its leverage and own sense of security.
What happens after the shooting stops? Here is Joshua Landis in Foreign Policy,
Even more pressing will be the need for post-conflict reconstruction. Syria is a nation the size of Iraq whose population has outstripped its water and economic resources. Unlike Iraq, it has insufficient sources of revenue to quickly rebuild its infrastructure. What if there is massive looting and chaos? Syria produces little the world wants to buy. It hardly produces enough electricity for three hours of power a day. The school system is in a shambles. Do Americans want to pay for putting Syria back together? More to the point, should they let Washington start what it would not finish?
Here is Eric Margolis with the last word,
As if Russo-American relations were not bad enough, US Republicans demand President Barack Obama “get tough” with Moscow. Threats fly back and forth over the planned US missile defense shield in Eastern Europe that enrages the Kremlin.
Provoking or antagonizing Russia over areas that are of no vital US strategic interest is dangerous and childish. Moscow
and Washington should be seeking peaceful resolutions in Syria and the Caucasus, not playing silly Cold War games.
Hopefully, Presidents Obama and Vladimir Putin will sit down and talk some grown-up sense when they meet at a summit this week in Mexico.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Syria stands at 13,000 and counting.