Posts Tagged ‘Syria’

Check and Checkmate in Syria

Posted: October 1, 2015 in Iran, Russia, Syria
Tags: , , ,


Our Daily Challenge: Checkered I too went with the obvious choice.


Today it was reported that Russian aircraft targeted sites outside of Homs which contained no ISIS elements but rather CIA funded rebels fighting the Assad regime.


Any hope that Russia is in Syria to take on ISIS is held only by the White House and its supporters. Vladimir Putin has no track record of being on “the right side of history” (as the White House has a proclivity to say).  To believe Russia would be an honest broker and a credible actor is nothing short of naive.

What is shocking is how bewildered this White House is in its reaction to Putin’s successful gambit of aiding President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the eleventh hour. From Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s remarks of “this is like pouring gasoline onto the fire” to John Kerry’s joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov following the announcement of Russia’s unilateral military action — this administration’s actions defy logic or explanation.

The Kremlin, in cooperation with Iran, has made an obvious promise to the Assad regime.  The Russians and the Iranians have promised to see the Assad regime through the present crisis. Russian airpower is the first strike in this promise. It has been reported in the UK press that Iranian and Hizbollah forces have entered the northwest area of Syria (targeted by Russian aircraft) in preparation for a ground attack on Syrian rebel forces holding that territory.

Inaction by the US has now brought on a wider conflict, leading to the real possibility of greater lethal complexity in Syria.  The White House has been checkmated but the true losers in this fiasco are the Syrian people themselves.




In the study of calculus, math students develop the art of natural deduction. This allows logical reasoning to take a rational course of reflection in order to reach  a solution. Perhaps this is why the term calculus has crept into the lexicon of politics as political leaders constantly wrestle with disparate dynamics in an attempt to weave them into a series of solutions.

The past six (6) months has seen perhaps the greatest challenge that Western leaders have faced in half a century as insurgencies in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Gaza step up to challenge the rule of law and current power structures.

Western capitals have looked to the US to take the lead in strategic intervention with these challenges yet the White House has been reluctant to move forward with decisive action, instead deferring to local solutions to solve local problems.  This strategy, although effective when employed in community based issues, does not work on the global stage.

Reluctance to take the lead on Libya, Syria, Iraq and Ukraine has left the US in an unenviable position within the community of nations. The global “public square” looks for the lead in confronting the rise of non-state actors who look not to shift the current political paradigm but rather to supplant it.

The hesitancy of intervening has, unfortunately, led to further tentative policies in other Western capitals. London is being criticized at home for what is seen as a failure of consistency in its policy toward Iraq, among other areas. In reality No. 10 is not engaging in anything that the White House has not licensed by its own inactions.

All this points to a new calculus, a new math when computing the pluses and minus of engaging in global challenges. The danger with employing this “new math” is developing an inadvertent new normal, one of deadlock diplomacy rather than targeted purposes with clear lines of deduction.  Perhaps leading the free world to a new reality of replacing the calculus of intervention for non-intervention.



The question is not is there a new map of the Middle East but, rather, are maps any longer relevant?

Over the weekend the insurgent group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) made further gains in Iraq pushing down from Mosul presumably on their way to Baghdad. Western leaders are making bold statements and admonishments to the Maliki government in Baghdad for drifting into sectarian rule since the departure of US troops in 2011 but so far have made no binding commitment to assist in stemming this flood of violence sweeping south.

Some quarters of the Iranian government are now calling on the the US to take action to stop ISIS’s seemingly unconstrained success in routing Iraqi security forces. Although the US moved a carrier, destroyer and a cruiser from the Arabian Sea into the Persian (Arabian) Gulf no further evidence is visible of US involvement in this crisis.

This returns us to the question, are maps of the Middle East more relevant for the West than they are for those that live in the region? As ISIS carves out its new sphere of influence extending from Aleppo, Syria past Mosul, Iraq a new way of viewing the region has been introduced to the West.

We in the West see borders as inviolate “firebreaks” containing conflicts within that respective country.  ISIS and groups simpler to it see maps as limiting in nature — separating those who share a faith, ideology or common vision.  If the events of the past weeks have taught us anything it is that the existing political order is a construct not always accepted by those in the region and in fact is seen as shackles.

The crisis unfolding in Iraq has been called a warning to the West as to how we respond to a regional events. Unfortunately, we are still looking at conflict through the prism of a Westphalian nation-state model and are seemingly unable to view events through the prism of our adversaries. As long as we look at this and every other crisis through a traditional map we will continue to be confounded by events that don’t unfold under the parameters which we have constructed.