2013-09-04 by Robbin Laird
A key consideration for building any post-strike policy in Syria in the region clearly is working with key allies in sorting out the new power balance.
The President has made it clear in recent comments that the strike is part of a broader strategy for regime change and shaping a different kind of Syria.
But of course, the US does not live in the neighborhood and the attitude and approach of key allies is part of the solution set.
But even a cursory look at the statement of allied and key stakeholders opinion and plausible actions suggest an uneven picture at best.
First, the Russian patron of Assad clearly opposes action and Putin is making it clear that he fully intends to exploit the situation to his benefit, in terms of strategic interests.
He has even made it clear that he views any potential US actions as grounds for expanding his arms transfer policy in the region and beyond.
According to Putin, If Western powers go ahead, “we [Russia] shall think how we should act in the future, in particular regarding supplies of … sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world.”
Second, the Russian-Cyprus relationship has led as well to Cyprus taking their territory off of the map in terms of basing for Syrian strikes.
Third, Turkey has a key stake in the crisis and is the NATO member most directly affected by any Syrian strike. Here the US action would enter within Turkish domestic politics with an uncertain outcome.
But in any case, the Patriot missiles on Turkish soil would be part of the offensive and defensive calculations against Syria, even if they are not used.
Fourth, Italy has made it clear that without a UN mandate, any military actions against Syria would be “Illegal” and clearly at stake is the question of the use of Italian bases in an “illegal” action.
The Italians also have made it clear that any military strikes would worsen the refugee problem which is a key concern for Italy.
“I do expect the Syrian crisis can lead to the worsening of the refugee problem,” Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta told journalists after meeting his Slovenian counterpart Alenka Bratusek at the lake resort of Bled.
He added the European Union “still hasn’t adopted an adequate approach that would be able to cope with this challenge.”
“As always, Italy will do its share but there is a structural problem,” Letta added and announced in the second half of 2014, when Italy assumes the EU’s rotation presidency, Rome would try to establish a common EU approach to the problem.
The conflicts in north Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, in particular Egypt and Syria, have caused a surge in boat landings in Italy, the EU country first in line for asylum seekers.
The Italian interior ministry estimates that 3,000 Syrian migrants have arrived in Italy from the beginning of this year up until the end of August.
Asked about the determination of the United States and France to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for alleged chemical weapons on August 21, Letta said he understood their position.
But he added: “Italy will not participate in any intervention until the UN’s Security Council confirms that use (of chemical weapons).”
Fifth, it appears that Iran and the Hezbollah are moving their people out of Syria in anticipation of a strike, but the con-ops of these two stakeholders is to avoid destruction and re-engage for another day.
Sixth, we come to a key player affecting military action, namely Egypt.
The very ambivalent approach which the Administration has taken with regard to the new Egyptian government, although understandable, does not make sense if Syria is a priority. Not the least of which the Suez canal needs to be secured for the passage of US warships.
And it is the Egyptian military, the very folks you have criticized, who are crucial for the defense of the canal.
Seventh, the Israelis are less than enthusiastic about a limited strike that leaves them exposed to the post-strike Syria, an animal wounded but not killed. The Israelis are voting with their feet and gas masks have been widely distributed in Israel.
Clearly, for the Israelis, a regime change might be welcome, but it is the outcome that matters not simply a cosmetic or symbolic strike. And interestingly, it is a Israeli military analyst Amir Oren who has raised the question of whether the US is ready for such a strike, rather than the US mainstream media.
Oren cited the USAF Chief of Staff as suggesting it was not.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to delay a planned military operation against Syria until the end of the congressional debates was preceded by a warning from the commander of the United States Air Force that a budget cutback in the Pentagon had severely affected the Air Force’s combat preparedness….
For the Israelis, the USAF is the key US military force.
Its state of health is a key indicator of the probability of mission success so crucial to the survival of Israel.
Eight, the Jordanians are under severe pressure with regard to Syrian refugees and the Jordanian government sees a strike as a certain way to open the floodgates of refugees. And by so doing, dramatically affect negatively Jordanian security.
Clearly, Jordan is not eager to have its territory as a base from which strikes might occur and there is clear concern with horizontal escalation.
Officials in Jordan have expressed their concerns about Iran’s response to any attack on Syria which might be launched from the kingdom’s territory. They believe that if Jordan is used as the base for such an attack, Iran will target Israel and its eastern neighbor in retaliatory moves.
The details of Jordanian concerns were revealed at an emergency meeting of senior army officers held in Amman on Sunday. Various scenarios for military intervention in the Syrian conflict were on the agenda. Countries involved in the talks included the US, Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Jordan.
As the main ally of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Iran is expected to react to any military strike following the Damascus regime’s use of chemical weapons last week.
In short, key stakeholders and allies will be shapers of the reality of the post-strike Syria.
It is crucial to more closely examine the map and its likely shape after an initial US strike
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