Keep hearing about Syria and not sure what the fuss is about?
You’re not alone. It’s hard to grasp the complexity of the Syrian civil war which officially began a couple of years back but has been brewing for longer than some of us have been paying attention. And it’s even difficult to understand countries such as Iran, Russia and the USA's desire to intervene, or what role other countries may have played in this conflict.
So is this proxy war becoming the platform for the Third World War? The USA is backing the CIA trained rebels, the Russian's are bombing these rebels and Iran is backing the Syrian regime. Now all three countries are also fighting ISIS in Syria. All pretty convoluted.
A lot is happening, here is a quick run down
ISIS started with a power vacuum, and group of soldiers took a lot of Iraq in a small time. This was possible because of a defection of the Iraqi army. They let them come in. Why? Shunni vs. Shia. ISIS then moved into Syria and took a lot of ground very quickly taking advantages of the ongoing civil war in the country.
So what's really happening?
Money and mercenaries mostly. Various sides want Syrian's government over thrown they just don't want ISIS to do it.
Why does Russia care?
Money and oil and influence. (They say they don't want it coming into Russia, but I don't think anyone really thinks that was about happen anytime soon)
Why does America care?
Money and oil, influence and terrorism.
Why is this bad?
America and Russia are both fighting, and apparently on opposite sides. That's bad. But we have the common enemy ISIS, so we can work around us getting into a fight.
Sanctions againts Russia have worked rather well, though they are boring and make lousy TV. Russia is hovering in recessionary gloom.
Putin needed a tiger to kill or be filmed wrestling with a killer whale or.. something. Aha! Syria is the answer. He looks tough, looks to be standing up to Washington, and in dictatorial Russia the supine media will carry that message home.
Putin already lost an ally in the Middle East when Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi was deposed and he does not want to lose another one. Actually, it is very unfortunate that the Western powers did not intervene in Syria as they did in Libya, not only because doing so would probably have saved thousands of lives, but also because Assad’s removal from power in Syria would have significantly curtailed Russian and Iranian influence in the region. Russia would likely have lost its naval base in Syria and their foothold in the Mediterranean, while Iran would have lost their most important ally in the region, along with much of their ability to support Hezbollah and Hamas in their attacks on Israel. Hence, the Western powers missed a golden opportunity to curtail Russian and Iranian influence in the region.
Russia's move into Syria was great PR and interesting theater. However, when push comes to shove, the US, NATO and Israel cannot allow a major Russian presence. If they did, they would lose their already shaky credibility in the region and even invite greater Russian interventions in the future.
And why is Iran in Syria?
The friendship between Syria and Iran stems from shared enemies. The two countries first signed a military pact over their mutual dislike of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Now, with Saddam out of the way, Tehran sees Syria as a regional counterweight to Israel, Iran's sworn enemy.
There is also a religious aspect, with Iran's Shiite leaders and Syria's Alawites on one side and Sunni Muslims on the other. Involved in that dynamic now is Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Shiite political group that still has a paramilitary wing. Iran and Syria are Hezbollah's biggest military, financial and political supporters, and Syria offers a bridge between Iran and Lebanon.
So, are we facing a Third World War?
The fighting will continue until all three countries intevene for a peaceful solution stabilising the region.
Until then Iran, Russia and the USA will continue to fight in Syria, while all the Syrians run towards Germany.