On Syria and a No Fly Zone

[This piece was written within the duration of two bottles of red wine, as an exercise in attempting to write more rapidly, and explore a more casual (flippant) voice. It is presented unedited.]

I know a small amount about few things, so it only makes sense a friend would ask for context around today’s exciting rumors that World War has been renewed for a third season.

Saudi Arabia and friends are undertaking a joint military exercise, which if we’re to subscribe unquestioningly to the article’s logic, means that they’re preparing to invade Syria, and (don’t ask questions) Turkey, for some reason, are going to join them. It’s true that the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) have been speaking recently about the possibility of placing “special forces” troops in Syria, but they stress only of the US decide to send troops.

It’s easy and probably correct to claim that of course they’ll rule out the possibility of unilateral deployment, but there are grounds to believe that they won’t move without the US. A few facts:

  1. The finances of the kingdom are under the most pressure they’ve been maybe ever, with oil, that makes up over 70% of their annual budget, at it’s lowest price in a decade.
  2. They’re currently committed to another war, in neighbouring Yemen (coincidentally leading a coalition comprising of the same nations are those involved in the military exercise).
  3. They are not a member of NATO and the US have no obligation to support or defend them — they have no leverage to draw the US into a fight they don’t want to be in.

Now for Turkey, these guys are more active, bombing Syria by air for half a year now, and doing a good enough job to piss off both the Russian’s and the American’s, while consistently pressing for a No Fly Zone™.

What is a No Fly Zone? Air power revolutionised war, letting those who possess it ignore battlelines — it means there is no refuge, that even if your mates hold the line, there is no guarantee of security behind it. A NFZ is an area the bad guys aren’t allowed to fly, and the bad guys listen because the good guys say “we’ll shoot you down”, and they have anti-air armaments and/or their own power flying overhead ready to back that up. And of course the bad guys are ISIL, and the NFZ will successfully stop their total of.. zero warplanes from attacking civilian populations.

Wait, sorry, wrong explanation. A No Fly Zone is something like a de facto NATO / Turkish controlled slice of north west Syria, which is great because it gives those pesky refugees somewhere to take refuge inside of Syria (as opposed to crossing the border into Turkey, who to their credit have taken in more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees), with the added bonus of allowing Turkey to deploy into this area, and wrestle control from their rather persistent Kurdish enemy (from the air, remembering that the No Fly Zone only affects the bad guys), who are currently dominant in the area both ethnically and militarily. Ankara hasn’t been shy about asking Washington to back this NFZ, but Washington continually refuses. Maybe someone explained it to Obama wrong. Maybe they mentioned that the only opponents operating in Syria’s airspace are the Russian and Syrians, and Obama didn’t feel like calling up Putin and telling him to take his jets elsewhere, or else.

Or else what?

“Or else we’ll shoot you down”, which is a kind of like saying “we’ll start a war with you”, which is kind of a laughable thing for a president who wouldn’t go to war with Syria in the middle of their tenure, to say to his most wyle and powerful foe at the end of it. I guess that’s consistent with Trump’s rhetoric that the current administration is “all talk, no action” — not false, if you consider half a dozen bombing runs a day as tantamount to no action, and not paradoxical, unless you ignore the fact that the fault of this administration has been the lack of information about their Syria strategy, that vacuum, the one Trump is happily filling with these comments.