With ISIS defeated, is US-Russia War the new Goal in Syria?
By Mark Wachtler
When ISIS is finally vanquished from Syria, will regime and rebel forces agree to split the country? Or will the civil war continue, pitting the US and Russia against each other? Image courtesy of ISW.
June 24, 2017. Raqqa, Syria. (ONN) It’s been 18 years since the last time a US fighter shot down another country’s manned military aircraft. On Sunday, a US Navy FA-18E shot down a Syrian SU-22 over ISIS controlled territory outside of Raqqa. And the following day, another US fighter shot down an unmanned Iranian drone. The US-Russian race for Raqqa, ISIS’ capital, is ominously similar to the Russian-Allied race for Berlin at the close of World War 2.
ISIS is vanquished back into the shadows
ISIS’ territory in Syria is collapsing so fast, the caliphate will vanish within the next few weeks. With the Syrians, Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah pushing in from the west and south, and the US, Kurds, Turks and al Qaeda pushing in from the north and east, the ISIS capital of Raqqa is in its final days. In many areas, the two competing forces are now head-to-head with no remnants of ISIS left to fight. The result has been the recent military action pitting the two alliances against each other.
Initial reports from Syria immediately after Sunday’s downing of the SU-22 by the US said that hours earlier, US-backed Kurdish forces were bombarded by the Syrian military. It was in response to that provocation that the US was alleged to have responded by shooting down the Syrian aircraft.
US officials insist the SU-22 was shot down because it bombed US-backed rebel forces. But after evading the first Sidewinder missile using flares, a second Sidewinder from the F-18 brought down the Syrian warplane…over ISIS territory. Russian officials immediately protested and insist the SU-22 was bombing ISIS positions when it was shot down by the US.
The new Syria
Russia has made its intentions clear. They fully intend to preserve the current Syrian regime, with or without the Assad dynasty, and defend it militarily from ISIS, al Qaeda, Turkey, the US or anyone else who will try to muscle in on Russia’s sphere of influence. One day after the US shot down the Syrian warplane, Russian officials made an ominous statement. They said they would attack any military vehicle or aircraft that strayed west of the Euphrates River, seemingly leaving everything east of the river to the US-backed allies.
But if one looks at a map of Syria, most of the country is west of the Euphrates. In fact, Syria’s five largest cities are now controlled by the Syrian government. The only parts not in control of the Russian-backed government are Idlib province in the northwest, a small tract of land along the Israel border in the south, an area along the Turkish border that Turkey appears to have annexed, Raqqa, and the future Kurdistan in the north. That leaves little territory other than ISIS’ no-man’s land in the southeast for the US-backed rebels to form their own country.
Make no mistake, when the Kurds purge ISIS from their land and then strike a peace with Damascus, they will no longer be in the fight and the US will be left with al Qaeda as its lone Syrian ally. That is ironic in itself considering the entire justification for US forces to be in Syrian in the first place is the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force against al Qaeda.
War with Russia?
Since the stated intention in Syria from both Presidents Obama and Trump is only to fight ISIS and not regime change, will the US pull out of Syria once ISIS and Raqqa fall? Will the alliance continue chasing ISIS over the border into Iraq and destroy them there as well? Or will ISIS in Iraq be ignored while American forces prepare to fight Russia and their allies for Syria? What will US policy be now that the American and Russian militaries are on a collision course?
One can assume Russia does not want a war with NATO over Syria. Ukraine maybe, but not Syria. When Turkey shot down a Russian fighter over Syria, Russia laid waste to Turkish-backed Syrian Turkmen. They didn’t attack Turkey directly for fear of a full-blown NATO response.
We can also assume that someone in Washington will point out that every carrier group in the US Navy is sprinting to North Korea right now. The American military’s immediate priority appears to be dealing with the Kim dynasty once and for all. The US is also in the process of redeploying to Afghanistan – America’s longest-ever war. Troop levels will increase by thousands in Afghanistan over the next few weeks. That leaves little capacity to fight a war with Russian-backed Syria and Iran on top of it all.
Saudi-Iranian proxy war
More likely is that a shadowy assortment of players such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, al Qaeda, and NATO will continue to wage their rebellion against Assad in what may even escalate into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
That would probably satisfy those beating the war drum in both Washington and Moscow – the globalists and Zionists would get their war on Iran, the Generals and Admirals would get to try out their new weapons, the corporations and financiers would get rich supplying and resupplying each country with military weaponry, and the world’s three largest suppliers of oil (Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the US) would see oil prices skyrocket. The ones who will suffer the most are the regular people who will continue dying by the hundreds of thousands.
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