Reports coming out of Syria this past week demonstrate just how much of a powder keg the country really is:
To break it down, Syria is in the midst of a civil war. Bashar Assad virtually lost control of the country several years ago when the civil war erupted. The rise of ISIS only compounded the issue for Assad – and the region. ISIS has earned the wrath of most every country in the world. Since this is first and foremost a regional threat, those neighboring countries that are able, have taken the fight to ISIS: Syria (obviously), Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and a few of the Gulf states. Each of these countries has contributed in some way to the fight against ISIS over the past several years. Then, you have the non-regional players, which adds another dimension to the mix: Russia, the US and several of our European allies have joined the fight as well.
Russia, and the former Soviet Union, have been ardent supporters of the Assads in Syria for many, many years. Recently, Vladimir Putin established one of the few, if not the only, Russian naval base outside of Russia at Latakia, Syria. At virtually the same time, the Russian Air Force took residence here as well. Clearly, Putin has dramatically increased his stake in the Syrian caldron.
The US, and our European allies are involved for several disparate reasons: Turkey is a NATO ally, the terror and security threat posed by ISIS, to a few lofty – and very noble – humanitarian and cultural reasons.
Then there are the Kurds – the only major group fighting ISIS that does not have a state of its own. The Kurds can easily be seen as a lit match ready ready to be thrown into this exposed powder keg. Over the last few years, the Kurds have emerged as the only real effective fighting force against ISIS–and the US has steadily supported them for the duration of the fight. However, no one in the region wants to see an independent Kurdish state–especially Turkey as a segment of the Kurds has been involved in an insurgency in Eastern Turkey for many years. So, here we have NATO allies at direct logger-heads: the US continues to aid and militarily support the Kurds in northeastern Syria while the Turks are openly fighting them in northwestern Syria.
As part of Russia’s involvement, Putin has apparently introduced an outfit called “Wagner”, a private company that on the surface might resemble Blackwater, though Wagner appears to resemble more of a mercenary outfit than anything, and possibly a state sanctioned private army. Recently, as in last week, about 550 Russian/Syrian troops and Wagner private contractors decided to take on a Kurdish/American unit outside of Deir al-Zor. The American advisers, most likely Special Forces, immediately called in massive amounts of fire power on the attacking force. Bits and pieces of this confrontation hit the news the next day, but the mainstream media didn’t really pick up on it–or its significance. Now, it is coming out that of the 550 troops involved in the attack, roughly 350 of them were either killed or wounded, including the outright destruction of two Wagner “tactical units.” Whatever the situation, this is clearly the most significant incident involving American and Russian forces in direct combat.
At about the same time that the Russian and Kurdish/American forces were getting it on in NE Syria, Iran decided to take advantage of the situation and launched a drone over northern Israel. Israel not only shot the drone out of the sky but they proceeded to take out the Iranian control vehicle operating the drone. The Israelis then followed up with a massive response of their own in what is described as the most devastating attack on Syria since 1982! in this attack, Israel also lost one of its vaunted F-16I Fighters, which, on the surface was bound to happen eventually. However, Tyler Rogoway offers a unique view in that Israel might have been baited into this attack as Iran may have possibly introduced a new highly mobile SA-17 surface-to-air missile which is independent of any Air Defense Network. Supposedly, there are reports out there that Iran has supplied these to Hezbollah as well–which if true, is definitely very bad news for Israel.
The bottom line: Everyone is fighting ISIS; the Syrians, Russians and Turks are fighting the Kurds and Americans; Iran is fighting Israel; and, Bashar Assad – and Syria – is fighting for their life – what could possibly go wrong?