[P2P-F] Fwd: Why Syria is Such a Quagmire

Michel Bauwens michel at p2pfoundation.net
Sun Dec 13 02:52:24 CET 2015

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bob Reuschlein <bobreuschlein at gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Dec 13, 2015 at 8:03 AM
Subject: Why Syria is Such a Quagmire
To: wnpj-anti-militarism at googlegroups.com

DECEMBER 11, 2015Why Did Turkey Shoot Down That Russian Plane?

by CONN HALLINAN <http://www.counterpunch.org/author/conn-hallinan/>

   - Email


[image: Syrian-warplane]

Why did Turkey shoot down that Russian plane? It was certainly not because
the SU-24 posed any threat. The plane is old and slow, and the Russians
were careful not to arm it with anti-aircraft missiles. And it wasn’t
because the Turks are quick on the trigger, either. Three years ago,
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphatically declared
<http://www.independent.co.uk/author/robert-ellis> that a “short-term
violation of airspace can never be a pretext for an attack.” There are
even some
whether the Russian plane ever crossed into Turkey’s airspace at all.

Indeed, the whole November 24 incident looks increasingly suspicious, and
one doesn’t have to be a paranoid Russian to think the takedown might have
been an ambush. As retired Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, former U.S. Air Force
chief of staff, told Fox News
“This airplane was not making any maneuvers to attack the [Turkish]
territory.” He called the Turkish action “overly aggressive” and concluded
that the incident “had to be preplanned.”

It certainly puzzled the Israeli military
not known for taking a casual approach to military intrusions. Israeli
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon told the press on November 29 that a Russian
warplane had violated the Israeli border over the Golan Heights. “Russian
planes do not intend to attack us, which is why we must not automatically
react and shoot them down when an error occurs.”

So why was the plane downed?

Perhaps because, for the first time in four years, some major players are
tentatively inching toward a settlement of the catastrophic Syrian civil
war, and powerful forces are maneuvering to torpedo that process. If the
Russians hadn’t kept their cool
several nuclear-armed powers could well have found themselves in a scary
faceoff, and any thoughts of ending the war would have gone a-glimmering.

*A Short Score Card*

There are multiple actors on the Syrian stage — and a bewildering number of
crosscurrents and competing agendas that, paradoxically, make it both
easier and harder to find common ground. Easier, because there is no
unified position among the antagonists; harder, because trying to herd
heavily armed cats is a tricky business.

A short score card on the players:

The Russians and the Iranians are supporting Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad and fighting a host of extremist organizations ranging from
al-Qaeda to the Islamic State, or ISIS. But each country has a different
view of what a post-civil war Syria might look like. The Russians want a
centralized and secular state with a big army. The Iranians don’t think
much of “secular,” and they favor militias
not armies.

Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and most the other Gulf monarchies are trying
to overthrow the Assad regime, and are the major supporters of the groups
Russia, Iran, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah are fighting. But while Turkey and
Qatar want to replace Assad with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi
Arabia might just hate the Brotherhood more than it does Assad. And while
the monarchies are not overly concerned with the Kurds, Turkey is bombing
and they’re a major reason why Ankara is so deeply enmeshed in Syria.

The U.S., France, and the United Kingdom are also trying to overthrow
Assad, but are currently focused on fighting ISIS using the Kurds as their
major allies — specifically the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party, an
offshoot of the Turkish Kurdish Workers Party that the U.S. officially
designates as “terrorist.” These are the same Kurds that the Turks are
bombing and who have a friendly alliance with the Russians.

Indeed, Turkey may discover that one of the price tags for shooting down
that SU-24 is the sudden appearance of new Russian weapons for the Kurds,
some of which will be aimed at the Turks.

*A Suspension of Rational Thought*

The Syrian war requires a certain suspension of rational thought.

For instance, the Americans are unhappy with the Russians for bombing the
anti-Assad Army of Conquest, a rebel alliance dominated by the Nusra Front,
al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria. That would be the same al-Qaeda that brought
down the World Trade Center towers and that the U.S. is currently bombing
in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

Suspension of rational thought is not limited to Syria.

A number of Arab countries initially joined the U.S. air war against the
Islamic State and al-Qaeda, because both organizations are pledged to
overthrow the Gulf monarchies. But Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab
Emirates, and Qatar have now dropped out
<http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/11/islamic-state-gulf.html> to
concentrate their air power on bombing the Houthis in Yemen.

The Houthis, however, are by far the most effective force fighting ISIS and
al-Qaeda in Yemen. Both extremist organizations have made major gains in
the last few weeks because the Houthis are too busy defending themselves to
take them on.

*Moves Toward a Settlement*

In spite of all this political derangement, however, there are several
developments that are pushing the sides toward some kind of peaceful
settlement that doesn’t involve regime change in Syria. That is exactly
what the Turks and the Gulf monarchs are worried about, and a major reason
why Ankara shot down that Russian plane.

The first of these developments has been building throughout the summer: a
growing flood of Syrians fleeing the war. There are already almost 2
million in Turkey, over a million each in Jordan and Lebanon, and as many
as 900,000 in Europe. Out of 23 million Syrians, some 11 million have been
displaced by the war, and the Europeans are worried that many of those 11
million people will end up camping out on the banks of the Seine and the
Ruhr. If the war continues into next year, that’s an entirely plausible

Hence, the Europeans have quietly shelved
demand that Assad resign as a prerequisite for a ceasefire and are leaning
on theAmericans
follow suit. The issue is hardly resolved, but there seems to be general
agreement that Assad will at least be part of a transition government. At
this point, the Russians and Iranians are insisting on an election
which Assad would be a candidate because both are wary of anything that
looks like “regime change.” The role Assad might play will be a sticking
point, but probably not an insurmountable one.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are adamant that Assad must go, but neither of them
is in the driver’s seat
days. While NATO supported Turkey in the Russian plane incident, according
to some of the Turkish press, many of its leading officials consider
Erdogan a loose cannon
And Saudi Arabia — whose economy has been hard hit by the worldwide fall in
oil prices — is preoccupied by its Yemen war, which is turning into a very
expensive quagmire.

*Russia’s Role*

The second development is the Russian intervention, which appears to
have changed
<http://nsnbc.me/2015/11/24/why-the-west-wont-hit-isis-where-it-hurts/> on
the ground, at least in the north, where Assad’s forces were being hard
pressed by the Army of Conquest. New weapons and airpower have dented a
rebel offensive and resulted in some gains in the government’s battle for
Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.

Russian bombing also took a heavy toll on the Turkmen
in the Bayir-Bucak region, the border area that Turkey has used toinfiltrate
supplies, and insurgents into Syria.

The appearance of the Russians essentially killed Turkey’s efforts to
create a “no fly zone” on its border with Syria, a proposal that the U.S.
has never been enthusiastic
Washington’s major allies, the Kurds, are strongly opposed to a no fly zone
because they see it as part of Ankara’s efforts to keep the Kurds from
forming an autonomous region in Syria.

The Bayir-Bucak area and the city of Jarabulus are also the exit point for
Turkey’s lucrative oil smuggling operation, apparently overseen by one of
Erdogan’s sons, Bilal. The Russians have embarrassed the Turks by
publishing satellite photos
miles of tanker trucks picking up oil from ISIS-controlled wells and
shipping it through Turkey’s southern border with Syria.

“The oil controlled by the Islamic State militants enters Turkish territory
on an industrial scale,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said November 30
“We have every reason to believe that the decision to down our plane was
guided by a desire to ensure the security of this oil’s delivery routes to

*Erdogan and NATO*

Erdogan didn’t get quite the response he wanted from NATO following the
shooting down of the SU-24. While the military alliance backed Turkey’s
defense of its “sovereignty,” NATO then called for a peaceful resolution
and de-escalation of the whole matter.

At a time when Europe needs a solution to the refugee crisis — and wants to
focus its firepower on the organization that killed 130 people in Paris —
NATO cannot be happy that the Turks are dragging them into a confrontation
with the Russians, making the whole situation a lot more dangerous than it
was before the November 24 incident.

The Russians have now deployed their more modern SU-34 bombers and armed
them with air-to-air missiles
<https://www.rt.com/news/323992-russia-syria-air-missile/>. The bombers
will now also be escorted by SU-35 fighters. The Russians have also fielded
S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft systems
the latter with a range of 250 miles. The Russians say they’re not looking
for trouble, but they’re loaded for bear should it happen.

Would a dustup between Turkish and Russian planes bring NATO — and four
nuclear armed nations — into a confrontation? That possibility ought to
keep people up at night.

*Coming to the Table*

Sometime around the New Year, the countries involved in the Syrian civil
war will come together in Geneva. A number of those will do their level
best to derail the talks, but one hopes there are enough sane — and
desperate — parties on hand to map out a political solution.

It won’t be easy, and who gets to sit at the table has yet to be decided.
The Turks will object to the Kurds; the Russians, Iranians, and Kurds will
object to the Army of Conquest; and the Saudis will object to Assad. In the
end it could all come apart. It’s not hard to torpedo a peace plan in the
Middle East.

But if the problems are great, failure will be catastrophic. That may be
the glue that keeps the parties together long enough to hammer out a
ceasefire, an arms embargo, a new constitution, and internationally
supervised elections.

*Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com
<dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com> *

Check out the Commons Transition Plan here at: http://commonstransition.org

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