Syria deteriorates rapidly, threatens wider conflict

Over the past several weeks, the situation in Syria has become more and more grave. The deteriorating conditions are having ramifications at the national, regional, and global levels.

Syrian factions

Since the massacre of civilians in the towns of Houla and Al-Kubeir several weeks ago, the conflict between Syrian government forces and the Syrian rebels has been escalating. Each side is arming itself and turning to a “no holds barred” strategy.

The ruling Assad regime has decided it will not compromise. It is determined to crush the uprising. The Syrian army is using heavy weapons, including tanks and helicopters, against rebel strongholds. It has employed a pro-government militia to execute the worst atrocities.

The rebels’ Free Syrian Army has renounced the UN-sponsored peace plan and is improving its capability. Terrorist elements are executing suicide attacks.

As the UN peace process fails, the level of violence is rapidly increasing. Because of the growing danger, the UN observer mission, sent to Syria to monitor the implementation of the plan, has decided to suspend its activities.

Regional interests

The Syrian conflict is becoming a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran for influence across the wider Middle East. With major stakes for all sides, each is supporting their respective factions within the country.

For Iran, the Assad regime is its closest ally; both are ruled by a Shiite leadership. Syria is a key element in extending Iran’s influence across the Middle East. Iran is heavily supporting the Assad regime with troops, weapons, and money.

Sunni-led Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, is supporting the rebels who are largely drawn from the majority Sunni in the country. Saudi Arabia’s goal is to reduce Iranian influence in the Middle East, which will allow Saudi Arabia to be dominant in the region.

Sunni Turkey has also sided with the rebels, who are largely drawn from the Sunni majority. Its goal is to stabilize its southern border and ensure that the outcome will be favorable to Turkey’s stability and security.

Lebanon has been drawn into the conflict as Iranian-supporting Shiite factions battle with Sunni factions within Lebanon.

Global actors

The international community is split into two camps. Over the last several weeks their respective positions and rhetoric have hardened, leaving little ground for compromise.

The US and EU nations support the Syrian rebels. Their position is that the Assad regime has to go, and that the rebellion is a legitimate response to a brutal and repressive dictator. More practically, Iran is seen as threat to Middle East stability. Removing the Assad regime, which is allied with Iran, reduces Iran’s influence.

Russia and China support the Assad regime, claiming that the government is implementing the necessary reforms and that the rebels are dominated by terrorists. More practically, Russia’s goal is to preserve its influence in the Middle East, as the Assad regime is Russia’s last ally in the region.


With the pullout of UN observers, the UN-sponsored peace plan is essentially dead. There is no “Plan B” waiting in the wings. Violence in Syria is escalating rapidly as government and rebel forces revert to a no holds barred strategy. With huge stakes for both sides, regional and global actors are supporting their chosen faction.

The US and EU nations are considering their next moves, as likely are Russia and China. But with incompatible positions (US’s , Russia’s) staked out, they are unlikely to agree to a plan that will de-escalate the conflict. There is now a strong possibility that the conflict will evolve into a sectarian, proxy supported, civil war. It will become increasingly messy and bloody, and the final outcome is unpredictable.

Exit music.

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  • mike merlo says:

    This isn’t grave. This is just the inevitable result of an ongoing process. Unfortunately this Syrian sideshow has served as a diversion to two more pressing issues. The Iranian nuclear weapons program & the spread of the AQ & its umbrella organization the Islamic Internationale.

  • Will Fenwick says:

    If Syria did indeed shoot down a Turkish F-4 as news reports state, it provides casus belli for Nato Article 5 invocation if Nato wants to intervene (which is unlikely at this time regardless).

  • gerald says:

    Sad to say but at least it will give all those crazy Jihadis something to occupy themselves with when we are gone from the ME!!

  • James says:

    As I’ve mentioned before, with Afghanistan, the ‘big guy’ on the block (whose help we really need) is India.
    In the case of Syria, the ‘big guy’ on the block (whose help we really need) is Turkey.
    Turkey is a traditional NATO ally. Turkey is a democracy, may be not arguably all the way in the Middle East, but is certainly at the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East. Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation.
    Therefore, I say that the ‘key’ to end the carnage and slaughter in Syria is Turkey.

  • Tony Buzan says:

    Not to change the subject from this important article, but why were the F-4s flying so low and so fast directly into/towards Turkish territory?
    How is this different from Johnny von Neumann and Herman Kahn and Henry Kissinger gaming for those B-52 fleets to head directly towards Moscow, flying low at top speed.
    Some interpreted such conduct differently than one dove alighting on the most beautiful lady in the land, yea
    In the age of Henry IV, is that not so much of what happened upon his return to his beloved England after that Irish adventure of Richard II.

  • Setrak says:

    Long War Journal posts the news before it happens. A post on the deteriorating situation in Syria is later followed the same day by Syria shooting down a Turkish military plane over the Meditteranean. Both pilots missing.

  • Tony Buzan says:

    Just because the Turks killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians and the military never apologized does not make them angels to be worshipped as our Savior.
    That history is not pure.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    How is it not grave? There is an average of about 80 people dying a day now… a Turkish jet was even shot down in Syrian territory today.
    There are massacres happening all the time. This is indeed a grave situation. It’s kinda easy to say it’s not grave when you’re tapping away on your keyboard, and when you don’t have to worry about your village being bombed while you sleep at night.

  • James says:

    To Tony Buzan,
    Tony, with all due respects to your position, that was then and this is now.
    That happened like maybe a 100 years ago, right?
    Look what we did to the Indians. Look how long it took US to take down the [so-called] “Custer Memorial.” (I believe it was Nixon that finally did that.]
    We can apologize all we want but those people are still dead.
    Only God has the power now to hold those accountable responsible.
    Turkey is a totally different country now than it was then.
    We need as many friends over there as we can get.
    Now is not the time to bring up all those age old grievances.

  • Charu says:

    Is there no one who can think long term strategy and consequences at the Pentagon and at Foggy Bottom? Our policies around the world appear to ensure a major blowback to our interests in the years to come. From China to Iraq, Egypt, Libya, AfPak, the record is dismal.
    The Syrian civil war pits Sunni Islamic extremists, backed by the Saudis and the Turks who ally with us out of convenience and not from shared values of democracy and secular humanism, against a brutal dictatorship albeit more secular and less world threatening than Al Qaeda and their Sunni sympathizers. The Alawites and other minorities will fight back because they stand to be wiped out if the Sunni islamists win. Iran and Iraq will be drawn in because this is a proxy for the Sunni-Shia battle for ascedency; one were we have clearly weighed in for the former despite their support for worldwide jihadi terrorism aimed against democratic freedoms.
    And it is the Christians throughout the Middle East who stand to bear the brunt of our ham handed attempts to shake the status quo to promote democracy where there are only 2 alternatives Sunni fundamentalism and Shia fundamentalism. The Chinese curse – may you live in interesting times – seems to be the operative principle in our global strategy.

  • James says:

    And Tony, where did I say that (the Turks could ever be) “angels to be worshipped as our Savior”?
    The WOT is a global problem. It’s going to mandate a global response.
    We here in the US just don’t have the resources to do it on our own.
    We led the world during the Cold War in finally bringing down the Iron Curtain. We’re going to have to do the same in the WOT.
    It’s going to take an international effort.
    I’m not calling for direct US military involvement in Syria. But it may just require everything we’ve got just short of direct US military involvement.
    We should know from recent history that whenever anarchy and chaos reign supreme in a nation like Syria, the Al Queda element will take advantage of it to the fullest.
    It will be only a matter of time (in short order) that there will be a spillover to Iraq and then even beyond.
    Let’s just hope that the ‘powers that be’ [in DC, Ankarra, and beyond] are well aware of this and are both ready and willing to respond both decisively and effectively.

  • carl says:

    “For Iran, the Assad regime is its closest ally; both are ruled by a Shiite leadership.”
    I think a lot of Muslims would beg to differ that Nusayris are Shii. Excepting that Musa al-Sadr declared them Shii there are not a lot of mainstream Muslims who consider them such. It’s sort of like syaing that Baptists are a branch of Catholicism.

  • Tunde says:

    The US continues to overestimate the extent of its own power and leverage.  People who are faced with a future in which they will live in what would essentially be a medieval society or as dhimmis will not be pushed to jump off the cliff.   The conflict between semi-modernity and Salafi Islamism and its MB variant is very clear to those who stand to lose all if the Islamists win.  They have the example of what has happened in countries where the modernists were foolish enough to listen to us.
    Our obsession with this kind of historic meddling is leading us down some dark paths.  In Egypt we are pressing for the resumption of a democratic process that will create a government of our enemies.  In Syria we are aligning ourselves with a medieval plutocracy (Saudi Arabia) and our Al-Qa’ida enemies.
    Women in Syria and in pre-2003 Iraq have or had a great deal of freedom within the context of their societies.  Now we are seeking to advance the interests of those who will put women back into the kennel of their kitchens and purdah.
    The die has been cast.  The US Government is now firmly behind the propaganda drivel generated by the insignificant liberal minorities , neo-Wilsonian Beltway foreign policy experts and the lying spokesmen of the Islamists.
    We HAVE met the enemy, and it is us.
    What is the overiding US strategic interest in Syria ?

  • Tunde says:

     The revolt in syria is a Sunni Islamist revolt intended to bring to power a sharia law dominated government run by “friends” of the Wahhabi government of Saudi Arabia. The Islam of the Saudis has little in common with the Hanafi dominated Islam of Turkey.
    The US has already declared regime change to be the goal in Syria.  Turkey is “on board” for that.  Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing money for the effort.  All the talk of “agreements” is just a ruse.
    Bashar Assad knows that if he makes an agreement with the Sunni insurgents he gives them legitimacy far beyond the description of them as “armed gangs” that his government has insisted on until now.  What are his options ? He can fight through to a total defeat of the rebels, 2- He can surrender to US demands for the end of his government.  Arrest, trial and death will surely follow for him and his. 3- He can flee into exile where he can brood until brought back for trial and death.
    Throughout the Bush ’43 era and into the BHO period the neocons pushed the idea that Westernised “liberals”: and ethno-religious minorities should be brought to power in the region believing that as minorities they were willing to make nice with Israel.  An unendingsearch for “good” Islamists took place over the last five years. Discreet contacts were made to encourage  them against the “old bulls” like Mubarak.  The Arab spring was a direct product of this neocon and academic fathead meddling in the Arab and Islamic worlds.
    The Syrian Sunni Islamist revolt is a direct result of that effort.  What you have in Syria is a civil war between the forces of semi-westernization on the government’s side and the forces of Sunni Islamism backed by Saudi Arabia on the other.  In this struggle, the lefty media (and Fox) have never seen or heard Rebel BS that they did not really love.
    Syria has a large population that will not accept Sunni Triumphalism.  The country will have to be occupied for quite a while to make that “stick.”  The US will not occupy Syria.  The Arab states lack the capability.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    Yes, I noticed that Tunde. Why is it that all of a sudden, Islamists are “good”? I thought we were supposed to be at war with these people…
    As I’ve said on here before, the chaos in the region will give Islamists a chance to put up a nice happy face to the west – meanwhile, their armed wings are still busy planting IED’s, ramming suicide car bombs into checkpoints, plotting attacks against the west, and committing subversive acts against anybody that does not support their agendas. It’s a win-win situation for the Islamists.
    What surprises me even more is that the so called “liberals” in the west now find it trendy to accept Islamism and think it’s a good thing. The irony is that Islamism is the total opposite of liberalism, and the liberals can’t seem to see that they are being used by the Islamists for their own goals. Anybody who supports a theocratic state that suppresses minorities and women can NOT in any sense of the word be a true “liberal”.
    The powers that be just don’t seem to understand that while rogue states are dangerous, they will look like angels compared to Islamist rogue states that harbor internationally wanted terrorists that will use all this new friendly land to find shelter, solace, and time to plan for what they will do next. I mean look at Egypt, thousands of known terrorists escaped from prison and only a pathetically small fraction were arrested again.
    Now Tunde, you ask why is this is all happening? Well, I haven’t really found an answer as to why the western powers are unwavering in their support of the rebels (short a direct intervention) while the Syrian Government is being demonized every single day. Of course the Syrian Government has committed atrocities against humanity that must be punished – but various groups inside Syria have attacked soldiers and civilians that support the government, executing them in mass or ramming cars packed with bombs into populated areas.
    There’s not much left to say at this point but this – just like Libya is slowly becoming a haven for violent Salafists, so is Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. It’s only a matter of time before the tribal belt in Pakistan is no longer known as the ‘hub of terror’ – the entire Arab world will be known as that.
    And, the irony of it all, is that even though we are supposed to be fighting a global war against these guys, WE put them into power. Thanks Mr. Obama!!

  • Akbar says:

    We are about to witness what we long anticipated, to wit: a Turkish-led NATO attack on Syria to remove the present Syrian regime and replace it, Libyan-style, with another so-called Islamic regime. How else will Israel be able to claim that a ‘rising Islam’ now menaces that country, and that Israel is being surrounded by that menacing Islam and must wage pre-emptive war in order to survive? How else will Israel be able to replace USA as the next ruling State in the world unless she wages great wars – particularly against her Arab neighbors who surround the Zionist State?
    Turkey’s pro-NATO and hence pro-Zionist Government seems about to commit the ultimate act of foolishness in claiming the shooting-down of a Turkish warplane by Syria as causus bellum that justifies a Turkish military invasion of Syria. Such a Turkish military invasion of Syria would of course, have nothing to do with avenging the loss of an airplane and two pilots. Rather, it would have nothing less than Syrian regime-change as its primary objective.
    That military adventure would be an act of supreme foolishness for the following reasons:
    Syria has been on a high alert for some time now expecting external intervention (Libyan-style) in support of a Zionist-engineered armed insurrection that has so far failed to take-over the country. A Turkish warplane that enters into Syrian airspace cannot expect, in such circumstances, to be treated as an innocent intruder.
    If Russia and China respond to a Turkish military invasion of Syria by coming to the support of that country, that will eventually provoke the Malhama (great war) prophesied by Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). That Malhama will be so great that it will make the first and second world-wars look like a fight over peanuts.
    The Turkish government should remember that the Prophet (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) also prophesied that the Malhama or great war will lead to the conquest of Constantinople. It should not take Turkish Muslims long to realize that the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Muhammad Fatih had nothing to do with the prophecy. Turkish Muslims will then wake up to the monstrous betrayal of their pro-Zionist government and prepare for the civil war that will fulfill the prophecy.
    Thus a Turkish military invasion of Syria will eventually lead to Turkish civil war and to the liberation of the city of Constantinople from NATO’s venomous control.


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