War in Syria: From Then to Now
Syria’s president is a secular dictator named bashar Al-Assad. For reference, he’s a Baathist which is the same political party as Saddam was. In 2010, Arab Spring happened in the Middle Eastern countries of Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Libya, and Egypt. In short, it was a populist movement across the Middle East that would subsequently co-opted by Islamist / Islamic fundamentalist groups to seize power from their secular dictators (Gaddafi in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt). The USA under Obama backed this because they saw it as dictators being removed from power in favor of the people. They didn’t think about who was replacing them. Libya is now in a civil war without a government while Islamist warlords compete for power. Egypt is now under a junta and martial law because the military refuses to let Islamists take control of the country.
In Syria, Assad went to war with the rebels who were mainly comprised of Al-Nusra Front (Syrian chapter of Al-Qaeda) and the Free Syrian Army (who claim to be secular but actively partner with Islamist groups). The USA under Obama and Clinton / Kerry armed, funded, and supported these rebels against the Syrian government. Later we would find out that they were Al-Qaeda members after the CIA did some investigating as to who the rebels actually were. Meanwhile in 2012, ISIS, who were a faction within Al-Nusra Front at the time, made a power play that tried to absorb Al-Nusra into ISIS. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who took over after the death of Osama Bin Laden, said this move was forbidden and he cast ISIS out of Al-Qaeda and Syria. ISIS then become Kharijites, which is the worst thing a Muslim can be. The original Kharijites were extremists who killed the inspiration for the Shi’ite faith Ali, caused chaos in caliphates for centuries and were cast out by their peers. ISIS are then exiled into northern Iraq where they run roughshod against every Kurdish militia they come across as ISIS have brand new American weapons and their opposition have junk Soviet grade weapons. ISIS wins and wins in Iraq, gaining recruits, and then eventually they seize oil fields which produce black market oil and income for the group as well as robbing a bank that netted them 200 million in cash.
ISIS returns to Syria as the monster we know them as today. They declare war on Assad and Al-Nusra at the same time. Obama then begins airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The first week of airstrikes, the USA actually killed the leader of Al-Nusra Front (effectively crippling ISIS’ lead opposition). The Obama administration invented a term called ‘the Khorasan’ and branded them the ‘SEAL Team 6 of Al-Qaeda’ to spin this death as a positive thing.
The Russians got involved in Syria because their only naval outpost in the Mediterranean is in the port of Tartus in Syria. As such, they are allies with Assad. Russia is NOT there for oil (they have one of the biggest oil and natural gas deposits in the world). They are there to retain their strategic position near western Europe.
With respect to chemical weapons, in 2013, sarin gas was released in a battlefield in Syria. Obama said it was Assad, however a UN investigation would find it was actually the rebels we were supporting that used it and not Assad. The USA was a week away from potentially intervening in syria when the Russians offered to collect and decommission the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile to avoid that.
The issue last week was that chemical weapons were released again in a combat area in Syria. The West is saying it was Assad again. The Russians said it was rebels and there is some weight to this argument as the rebels have a prior history of using sarin gas. The original reports came from rebels and amplified by the Turkish government (who are fierce opponents of Assad). Former UK ambassador to Syria Peter Ford explained that we know for sure the rebels have sarin nerve gas (as demonstrated by their 2013 use of it). Ford argues that it’s very possible a Syrian jet used a conventional weapon that hit a rebel stockpile of sarin gas that was released after it was hit. He makes a very good point that Assad is “brutal, cruel, but not mad” and explains that using gas at this stage bears zero incentive for him as it would bring down the ire of the west. He adds that Assad is so close to winning this war that using something like chemical weapons would jeopardize that entire effort.
Trump claims we bombed Syria because of the human rights violation of the gas attack. The problem is that he did not consult Congress, NATO, the UN, or Russia (he notified Russia minutes before but not to consult, just warn them to get their people out of there). The human rights argument is stupid because 1.) refugees from Syria were not allowed to come to the USA per Trump’s edict so why should he care now 2.) the USA killed 200 civilians in Mosul the week before in an airstrike. The entire USA diplomatic brass (Sec State Tillerson, UN Ambassador Haley) have not backed down from the attack and have gone so far as to blame the Russians as “complicit or incompetent” for their part in the 2013 stockpile surrender. This is an incredibly serious charge because top USA diplomats basically accused Russia of aiding in war crimes and/or called them stupid.
Russia responded to the airstrike by sending a warship to the area where the two destroyers who launched the airstrike are, suspending an agreement with Americans that they won’t shoot at their forces as well as ceasing sharing information about where their jets are in the air. Today, Russia and Iran made a joint statement saying that any American forces found in northern Syria will be considered an enemy occupying force which is distressing because there are close to 300 marines in northern Syria right now helping rebels with artillery operations in Raqqa.
Another thing that happened today, in a move that likely delighted Putin, DEMOCRAT Senator Christopher Coons (Delaware) said we should push into Syria and bring NATO along with us. Bringing NATO in is exactly what Putin wants. NATO has it in their charter that declares “if you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us”. If NATO engages Russia in Syria, Putin will have spectrum to invade Poland, the Baltic States, and the other former Soviet states that are now in NATO. The other major consideration is how the Turks play into it because they are actually the second largest standing army in NATO behind the USA. The Turks hate Putin and Assad, but whether or not they’re prepared to fight the Russians with what amounts to just them and an auxiliary American force in Europe is a different matter entirely. Especially because the Russian navy have a ton of vessels in the Black Sea and Istanbul is a port city making it perfect for shelling by naval warships. Not to mention Russia’s tank fleet is the largest in the world and would overrun everything in eastern Europe from Moscow to Berlin.
Basically the USA’s policy has been wrong since day one in Syria. As of today, it is more wrong than it has ever been and, if it continues down this path, will be disastrous for everyone involved and soon we will not be looking at victims of bomb raids in just Syria anymore.