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The Balkanization of Syria
Articles on Syria before 2017

  • (march 2017) The Balkanization of Syria.
    Assad has a ridiculous army of about 6,000 soldiers. Assad's regime would have collapsed long ago without the help of Lebanon's Shiites (the Hezbollah party and militia), the help of Iran (the main Shiite state) and the help of Russia (that has always maintained a strategic military base and port in Syria). The real army of Assad is a mixture of Lebanese and Iranian-run militias and Russian soldiers. Russia is helping Assad fight the moderate Sunni rebels that originally represented his main enemies. Thus Russia has focused on regaining Aleppo for Assad instead of focusing on expelling ISIS from Syria. The USA is not doing much, mostly avoiding that Kurds and Sunni rebels (both US allies) start fighting each other. The Kurds have created their own state in Syria, just like they have de-facto done in Iraq and like the PKK would like to do in Turkey.
    ISIS, a Sunni group, is being defeated by the Iraqi army in Iraq (which is mostly Shiite) and bombed by the USA in Syria. ISIS is not going anywhere any time soon if Russia and especially Turkey keep tolerating it. From the beginning Turkey has supported, funded, and armed ISIS until ISIS started causing trouble in Turkey itself. Now Turkey's Sunni quasi-dictator Erdogan is more cautious towards supporting ISIS, but, mostly, Turkey is fighting the Kurds, which Erdogan perceives as a longer-term threat to its territorial integrity (Turkey is correct in claiming that the Kurdish fighters in Syria are an emanation of its own Kurdish separatists of the PKK). Turkey's quasi-dictator Erdogan viscerally hates Syria's dictator Assad (an Alawite close to the Shiites) and, if you don't trust the Kurdish fighters, you are left with ISIS as the only serious alternative to Assad.
    Turkey now seems to be getting friendlier towards Russia because that could be the final Balkanization of Syria: let Assad continue to run a Russian protectorate in the areas that Russia has reconquered from the moderate Sunni rebels, let ISIS run its own statelet at the border with Iraq, annihilate the Kurds (like Turkey has been doing for a century), and slowly turn ISIS into a Turkish protectorate. That would de-facto partition Syria into a Russian protectorate and a Turkish protectorate plus a plethora of autonomous regions run by warlords allied with Lebanon and Iran.
    Syria is a colossal tragedy for the Syrian people but not a bad outcome for the West. Russia is getting itself into a big ethnic-military mess that will hardly end any time soon. After the inept Bush wars, the USA was widely considered the main cause of Middle Eastern trouble. From now on Russia will replace the USA as the natural scapegoal of all evils in the region. Not a bad outcome for the West. Syria has (unfortunately for the Syrian people) very little economic value for the West. Losing Iraq would be a catastrophe for the West (especially for Europe) but losing Syria does not even register on the economies of the West. If, as a counterbalance to increased Russian influence in the region, Iran pivots towards the West, as it was doing during the Obama era, the West would actually gain enormously in both strategic and economic terms. As cruel and cynical as it was, Obama's strategy was smart: let the Russians get all the blame and all the blood for taking Syria, while the USA slowly and peacefully gains Iran. Iran has a strategic reason to realign itself: it doesn't want to become a Russian satellite and it knows that Russia's presence in Syria outweighs its own presence in Syria, i.e. Russia will eventually marginalize Iran. When your ally is ten times stronger than you, you are no longer an ally, you are a puppet. It made a lot of sense that Iran was moving towards the West in order to increase its bargaining power with Russia. Now that US foreign policy is run by a Russian stooge like Trump, who is determined to isolate Iran again, Russia might end up getting more in Syria and Iran might shift again towards an anti-Western policy, but the result would still be a Syria split in two: Russian-occupied Alawite Syria and Turkey-occupied ISIS.
    This also suits Israel, which is much more worried about Iran than about Russia. If the price for isolating Iran is to have Russia in Syria, so be it: Israel does not fear Russian-sponsored "terrorism" the way it fears Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah. Israel does not fear Russian's nuclear weapons the way it fears a future Iranian nuclear weapon.
    Again, Europe has very little to gain or lose in poor (and now destroyed) Syria other than the refugee crisis. Basically, only the Syrian people lose.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2017 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.