Ukraine: War is coming, part 2

Maybe I should have called this post ‘How wars start by accident’

In my last post I made the Afghanistan comparison to show that in the face of a smaller less well equipped enemy the Russians could not win a decisive war. The same for Chechnya, they basically had to destroy the country and even then the Chechen militia were not finished off, in the end the Russians had to change their strategy from direct military intervention in order to bring some form of order to that country.

Ukraine is different, yes her fighting force is smaller but ironically, in many ways is better equipped than their Russian counterparts, Ukraine was until recently an exporter of arms to Russia, but they stopped exports due to the current crisis, in fact it is one of the global leaders of arms exports as its quality control and engineering is seen as being of higher quality that of the same systems which are made in Russia. You can read part 3 of this series here.

I don’t believe Russia really wants to see war in Ukraine and I don’t think the Ukrainians want war either but both sides are playing a game of Chicken, to see who will blink first, the problem with that is the mentality that one can never back down, they are going to stumble into a war that neither side really wants to have. The USA and EU are also partly to blame, they are trying to push Russia into a corner over the situation in Ukraine and that will simply make the situation worse, Putin will feel he has no choice but to come out fighting. I am no fan of Putin but I don’t believe he wants to have a war but he feels that the options left open to him are becoming fewer by the day. This is going to become an accidental war.

Consideration should also be given to the economic consequences of any war between Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine is effectively broke and is only being kept going by foreign loans. How they will ever be paid back is anybodies guess. More dramatically, Russia might also get into serious trouble. There is a huge amount of capital flight, money being withdrawn from Russia, by businesses and individuals alike. Something I heard today that was very interesting is that companies have been using their shares as collateral for bank loans. I hadn’t realized this but apparently it is common practice. The problem is that the value of shares in Russian companies are plummeting due to a lack of business confidence and uncertainty about the future related to the situation between Russia and Ukraine. The banks have made loans against the value of shares and are now well into negative equity territory. The Russian banking sector is now trying to call in these loans but the cash isn’t there as much of it has already been deposited outside the country. Russia is potentially facing a full on banking crisis to rival that of the USA in 2008. Their central bank has been using its huge cash reserve to maintain liquidity in the system but the money is being used up fast. The longer uncertainty and instability continues between Russia and Ukraine, the worse the situation will become. Even if war between the 2 countries is brief, the long term consequences will be felt for a long time. The Russian banking system could effectively be bankrupted. Even without a war between Russia and Ukraine things could be about to become very difficult in the Russian banking system. If that were to happen, what would the political consequences be for Putin? You can read part 3 of this series here.

Russia, Crimea and the Eastern Orthodox Church Lead Way To War

The Crimea region of Ukraine is now under de facto Russian control. It is a simple fact on the ground. The rights and wrongs of this are for others to discuss, I’m more interested in the reasons why and the possible consequences.

As I was going through various news sources over the weekend, what else can I do after a knee operation, I saw a picture that stopped me in my tracks. It shouldn’t surprise me, the role of religion in politics is hardly new. The image I saw, link here, was of Eastern Orthodox priests blessing Russian troops as they take control of Crimea. I have been thinking about this image and what it means.

Outside the Orthodox community many people don’t realize just how powerful the Orthodox church is and how much power and influence it has in Russian politics. Its Patriarch, Kirill Gundyaev and Vladimir Putin have been forging strong links for more than a decade, even though there is an official separation of Church and State in the Russian Constitution. Kirill is a Russian nationalist through and through, believing that Russia should play a major role, even a dominant one, in world affairs as part of his belief in  ‘Russian Civilization’, coincidentally when Putin was campaigning to become Russian President in 2012 he put the idea of ‘Russian Civilization’ at the heart of his campaign, something he was influenced to do by Patriarch Kirill perhaps? Why not, the two men have been close for years and Kirill is very good at influencing political thinking.

As a result, the Orthodox church has tremendous power, so when events erupted in Ukraine one can imagine that Kirill with his very strong nationalistic tendencies would have been eager to use the opportunity to encourage Putin to take back control of the Crimea, historically a part of Russia. Add to this the long term disputes between the Orthodox church and the Vatican over property and influence in Ukraine and you begin to realize how the current situation is playing into the hands of the Orthodox. For a thousand years the Church and State have been different sides of the same coin. Only during the Soviet period was the link broken but after the collapse of The Soviet Union actions were quickly taken to rebuild the power and influence of the Church. Although never proven, as any inquiry has always been blocked, there is strong circumstantial evidence that Patriarch Kirill had very close links to the KGB and Politburo in the days when the Church was heavily controlled. Kirill is known as an astute politician and diplomat, as a very worldly man he knows how to use difficult circumstances to his advantage. The strategic thinking of the Orthodox Church would have had them urgently looking at ways to take advantage of the unrest in Ukraine.

While good for the Orthodox church, the risks to Putin are high. This is one of the clever games of Kirill, influence a leader to take action and if it goes wrong he can come out of the situation looking relatively innocent with the knowledge that a political backlash against him would be difficult to implement because of the Church’s influence over the majority of the Russian population. If on the other hand things go wrong for Putin and his government in their approach to Ukraine then the Russian economy is going to suffer, it will be trusted even less than before and the Cold War could easily return. Putin’s pride would also take a very personal hit as the country would blame him directly if things go wrong.

The situation in Ukraine is still developing, as of time of writing no shots have yet been fired. While Russia has moved troops into the Crimea region there are many questions about overall Russian military readiness, it has an extremely top heavy command structure and the numbers of soldiers ready to fight is less than many suspect. Add to the fact that a lot of Russian military hardware is less than reliable and you begin to understand the gamble that Putin is taking. There is a part of me that wonders if maybe he was encouraged to act against his better judgement by the Orthodox church which supplies him with so much of his popular support through their preaching from the pulpit. Looking at the situation now it would seem that Russia would like to provoke Ukraine into firing the first shot, but whoever fires the first shot the consequences for the Ruble will be dramatic. Ukraine on the other hand is also on the verge of bankruptcy, its options are limited unless the promise of funds made by the West come to fruition. Don’t under estimate the Ukrainians, they have been developing a reputation as an arms exporter. When the Soviet Union collapsed they inherited a lot of factories that make military hardware. A lot of these were closed but what they have done is improved on the designs of Soviet era hardware and then selling it, their quality control is recognized as being better than that of Russia, hence one of the reasons why they have been able to successfully develop their exports. Ukrainians also have a strong backbone and will not give up without a fight if that is what they feel they must do.

The situation is still very fluid, the stakes on both sides are extremely high and the Orthodox Church in Russia is influencing the situation more than most people realize. The next 24-48 hours are going to be interesting.

Let’s talk about Russia and Ukraine

The situation is heating up at the moment. The ethnic Russians of Crimea, which is an autonomous region of Ukraine but until the 1950’s was part of Russia is making a very determined effort to separate itself from the rest of Ukraine. Putin now has approval from the Duma, Russian parliament, to protect Russians in Ukraine, militarily if need be.

So what might happen. Obviously this is a very fluid situation at the moment. We have both Ukraine and Russia saying they want to maintain the geographic integrity of the country. If that will actually happen is another question. There is no denying the fact that eastern Ukraine is inhabited by predominantly ethnic Russians who want to have closer ties to the motherland. The easiest solution would be for Ukraine to split along ethnic lines.

However if there is a fight between the two countries the outcome would not necessarily be guaranteed for Russia. While it does have a very big army it also has a big problem, namely a very top heavy command structure. Officers make a very big proportion of its fighting force and they have spent the last decades working on making themselves richer rather than acting as one would expect them to. They simply are not battle ready for a genuine fight on a large scale. Add to this the fact that when the Soviet Union collapsed a lot of military manufacturing plants that were placed in Ukraine by the Soviet leadership were handed over to Ukraine.

It is true that Ukraine simply didn’t have the funds to keep a lot of these factories going and closed a lot of them. But over the last few years Ukraine has slowly been developing a name for itself as an arms exporter of Russian copy weapons. The reason for this is due to the fact that Ukrainian engineering is seen as being of higher quality than that of Russia. If the two countries do come into combat against each other then Ukraine will have access to higher quality equipment of the same make that Russia also uses.

Then you have to throw into the equation the fact that Ukraine has pretty much run out of money. Unless it can get some financial backing from somewhere it simply wont be able to afford a war to resist Russia if it attacks, at the same time it might feel that desperate times call for desperate measures and throw everything it has at Russia, which I have to say would give Russia something to seriously think about. Russia is not as militarily strong as she portrays herself to be and Putin knows this.

So where does this leave things? For the time being, until things become more apparent, I would say that eastern Ukraine will ultimately return to Russia, and with it very good agricultural land that would be good for Russia as it has very little of its own.

Then of course we have to throw The USA into the pot. These are two countries which thrive on trying to outwit the other. What will USA involvement be, only time will tell, but I can assure you that it wont be able to resist using the situation to try and stir up the Russia/Ukraine situation for its own benefit. I’m not taking sides, Russia also takes every opportunity it can to make life more difficult for the USA. That is the nature of their rivalry.

The next few days will throw more light on the situation. At the end I am trying to get across the fact that if Russia is looking for a war it wont be like taking on Georgia as she did a couple of years ago, admittedly it was Georgia who started that fight. Ukraine might be poor but she also has certain strengths which will give Russia pause for thought. Watch this space.

Situation Ukraine, potential consequence Syria

The situation that is unfolding in Ukraine has unfortunately a very strong chance of becoming a real war, leading to the suffering of many innocent people. If that happens then Russia will be deeply involved. Here is a thought, for Russia, the Ukraine is much more important than Syria. If Russia needs to commit huge military and financial resources into keeping its control of Ukraine then it will not have enough resources to be able to also support the Syrian Regime. Russia is the biggest holder of Ukraine debt and the unfolding situation has had the effect of devaluing the Russian Rouble. If the USA agrees with Russia that it can do as it wants in Ukraine, then the situation will become very interesting. However the fact remains that Russia simply does not have the resources to take on two major situations at the same time. I am saying this with the awareness that I could be totally wrong but could what is happening in Ukraine have been provoked at this time as a way of weakening Russia’s ability to support Bashar al Assad?

Russia is not stupid, she should also realize what is happening, that she is being given the choice between maintaining her gas distribution network in Ukraine that supplies Europe or supporting Bashar al Assad.

Watch this space.

Work in progress

I guess that those who follow my blog realize I have a particular interest in the middle east, I am fascinated by history and world events. Slowly, I’m putting an article together that looks at what is happening in the middle east at the moment, I am consulting many people who are very knowledgeable in their fields regarding what I am writing about. Things are starting to come together. The article, when it comes, is going to address the issues of:

The Iran nuclear deal.

Syria: Al Qaeda, the USA, Iran, Turkey.

Israel and Saudi Arabia attack Iran or not.

The role of Jordan in the Syrian conflict.

Syria talks in Geneva: Should Iran be involved?

How the middle east effects us: The Institutionalization of security and intelligence agencies and why they need the threat of terror and instability to justify their existence.

Finally a look at government in general and why it is all subject to failure.

It might take a couple of weeks or it might be a couple of months to answer the questions above, I already have the outline but now it is a question of the detail. Watch this space.


Interview with Firas Tlass the son of Syrian ex defense minister Mustafa Tlass

I recently had the opportunity to interview Firas Tlass. His father Mustafa Tlass was defense minister for Hafez al Assad the father of Bashar al Assad. The Tlass family was obviously very close to the Syrian regime and one of the most important families in Syria. The Tlass family were also one of the richest in Syria and had a lot of benefit from being so closely linked to the regime. In conjunction with this interview I would suggest that you also read the interview I did with Zaid Tlass, he defected from the Syrian military and gives a very personal insight into the working of the regime. You can find it here

The interview with Firas is below and I write it verbatim.

When the revolution started nearly 3 years ago the first Syrian army officer to defect to the revolution was Abdul Razzak Tlass, which created huge waves. It was considered inconceivable that any of the Tlass family would ever be disloyal to Bashar al Assad. As time went on, more and more of the Tlass family have decided to support the revolution. This is my second interview with a member of the Tlass family. Earlier this year  I had the opportunity to meet and interview Zaid Tlass Now I have had the chance to question Firas Tlass and ask him about the situation and why he defected even though it would cost him a lot of his wealth and business.

My first question was about his reaction to the defection of Abdul Razzak and the effect it had:

Firas: People always ask me about Abdul Razzak, but they don’t know that he was one amongst hundreds of my relatives to have made this decision. Many others, from officers to civilians have defected as well.However,Abdul Razzak became an important symbol because his defection came early, and because of his civilian character(as opposed to the typical military figure) ,which was very effective on the ground in terms of gaining the people’s heart.There are also many more like him who did not get as much attention.

Why did you defect? You had a lot of privilege by being close to the regime

Firas: I did not have a political position to defect from as I am not a politician nor was I involved militarily with the regime.I just decided to take a different course in my life and my conscience was the driver of my decision; for each one of us there will come a moment where we reassess our life, our choices,positions, and probably also affiliations.

For me, this moment came with the start of the Syrian revolution.I still had hope, the first few weeks, that there would be a national solution through a grand national reconciliation initiated by the regime to rebuild Syria on a totally new basis, one that responds to the aspirations of the Syrian people. However,when I lost hope,and that happened quiet early, within the first few weeks of the revolution, I chose to stand on the side of the oppressed,and this was the turning point in my life:I lost my company that I had been building for the past 30 years,my house and properties, but I have gained a consciousness, comfort and the feeling of being part of the people,the real people.

What about the role of Russia, Iran and North Korea in the conflict. What can you say about this?

Firas: Russia is defending itself and its interests through Bashar al Assad. For, as it is commonly known, it has a historic zone of influence in Syria since the Cold War,and within what has happened in the region Russia has lost some partial areas of influence,particularly in Libya and previously in Iraq; Syria remains its major influence in the Middle East. There is also another factor, not less important,and that is the Russian’s recognition of the American lack of enthusiasm to seriously intervene in Syria, and thus they are using this opportunity to fill the American void in the region.  Iran has an ideological project/plan which started with the Islamic revolution in 1979, which is based on exporting/diffusing the Islamic revolution, and imposing itself as a regional power.This ambition increased with the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; Syria, within the Iranian plan, is its arm extended to the West on the shores of the Mediterranean and on the borders of Israel and Lebanon. Iran is also aware that the Assad regime is the only system that could achieve its interests in the Arab region. Any other system, whatever its nature, if it were to govern Syria,would not be able to satisfy its interests in the same way as the Assad regime.That is why they think that the remaining of Bashar al Assad in power is a battle of survival, for their own nationalist goal, and they are ready to go even further than that to reach this goal. As for North Korea, the Syrian military cooperation with them is old; there is even a part of the military system of the Syrian army which depends on Korean technology, especially in the field of advanced missiles and chemical weapons. In case of a Korean commanders presence, they would be there as technical experts.

What about the refugee crisis in Jordan. Do you think it is being used as a tool by Iran and Syria to try and destabilize Jordan? If so will Jordan be drawn into the war?

Firas: Iran could do anything, it has intelligence arms extended as far as Argentina, and it will not hesitate to do anything that serves the survival of its ally, and the refugee crisis in Jordan is certainly one of the potential cards to be used on economical,security/intelligence,and media levels. Bashar al Assad’s regime runs his battle with the mentality of the long-war, so if he were to focus on a specific area or neglect another, he is thinking tactically about it, and considers it a temporary phase. And if this probability occurs, Jordan will be unable to make a big step of this kind because of its internal complications, and its inability to engage in a battle of this kind, which may create further disturbances on the Jordanian side.

So Iran and Russia and working together to create new spheres of influence in the middle east?

Firas: In a sense yes, they are trying to draw a map of new balances but their ability to do so is determined by the American position; for the role of any international or regional player today with regards to Syria is determined by the size of the American vacuum. What is not filled by America will be filled by other players, in particular Russia and Iran Russia and Iran are in agreement on several points; there has been some kind of agreement between them for many years: both have an imperial project, aiming to re-state their influence on an international and regional level,and both now have an interest in the survival of Bashar al Assad, though for different reasons.

How is it that Syria has become little more than a puppet under the control of the Iranians?

Firas: Hafez al Assad,the father of Bashar, understood very well the game of international alliances. He managed to build a strong coalition with Iran but it remained in the framework of an alliance,he  did not allow the Iranians to meddle or enter in the depth of Syrian affairs, because he knew the points of convergence with the Iranians (in Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf and Israel) and refused to let Syria become a card in the hands of Iran’s ideological ambitions. Bashar al Assad did not realize this delicate balance,Bashar al Assad used to think that he owned the country, and he was acting out on this basis.He did not have a roadmap (not bad nor good) and he did not know what to do; he was influenced by the people around him,mostly Al Makhlouf who were driven by their business and financial interests. He did not reach the level of political awareness to manage a complex country like Syria in a troubled region and dangerous phase. and he let Syria turn from a regional player that benefited from its relationship with Iran to a card in the hand of Iran’s imperial project.

What about the Kurds. Do you think they have separatist intentions and will try to divide the country to create an autonomous region?

Firas: The Kurds have proved that they understand the game of politics. They took advantage of every opportunity to install a fait accompli that improves their chances to negotiate in the future. In principle, Syria has mistreated the Kurds (since independence,and not only in the rule of Al Assad) and failed to integrate them into the Syrian social fabric, and deprived them from their basic rights, mainly their cultural rights, that is why they feel alienated from the Syrian society. Today, this opportunity came with the eastern and northern areas falling out of control of the regime, they found themselves to be strong enough and organized to extend their influence over large areas of northern Syria. So they have done so. However, contrary to what is being portrayed by the media, I do not see that what is happening in the north is an introduction to the separation of the Kurds,since the majority of the Kurdish discourse is not separatist, and most of the Kurdish political formations consider themselves to be an integral part of the Syrian homeland; they are only demanding their legitimate rights as being an essential component of the Syrian identity.

Looking to the future. What do you think will happen in Syria?

Firas: History does not go back, there is no turning point,and inevitably there will be a new Syria. The road is long and difficult and there will be great sacrifices, but in the end, there will not be a place for Bashar al Assad in Syria, sooner or later. As for the shape of the end, or what you may call the solution, it is open to many possibilities, but the historical circumstances have paved the way for change,what remains is the endpoint. And this will come, inevitably, as history has taught us. The great challenge that we will face, in my opinion, is the economical and development challenge, which is no less important than the political, security, and social challenge. We have millions of unemployed and millions of Syrians who do not find food to eat; thousands of factories and work-shops have been destroyed. We must start thinking now about the development question, how are we to provide job opportunities for the people, and how are people to resume their lives.

And the extremists. What is the solution to that problem?

Firas: The issue of the jihadists is complex and requires a special body to deal with it. If the regime ends abruptly(Assad’s assassination or escape) then dealing with them should be based on advice- advising them to leave Jihad while providing them with a cash injection to purchase their ammunition and secure their return to their countries. What would be left of them then would be considered against the law and dealt with accordingly. As in the case of the continuation of the conflict and their continuously increasing influence to confront the opponent regime; here we would be entering a long struggle ,which will lead to a more complex regional conflict.

End of interview

Assad just announced he will hand over chemical weapons. What does it mean?

There are 2 ways of looking at this announcement. The first is that he really is going to hand everything over. The second is that he only hand part of his CW stockpile over and save the rest for use another time.

You have to look at the logistics of what he has said he will do. Is he saying that he will allow the CW to be taken out of the country or is he saying that he will allow inspectors to make sure that nobody can take them out of the storage facilities?

Before answering these questions I should tell you what I know about the different factions of the opposition to Assad in Syria, moderate and extremist. When I was in Syria I met everybody from FSA to extreme Islamist group Jabhat al Nusra. I didn’t meet anybody from Al Qaeda because when I was there earlier this year there were so few they were virtually invisible. Of all my conversations with the different factions we always got into conversations about chemical weapons. When I was there back in the spring, everyone told me, from moderate to extreme Islamist that even if they got their hands on these weapons they would never use them. The moderate FSA is no fan of the extremists but they know them well enough to believe them, that they will not use these weapons. If they did the population would destroy them, the extreme Islamists are too small in number to risk provoking the wrath of 25 million Syrians. For now they are only tolerated because they fight against the Syrian regime. The FSA would never consider doing anything that would kill the people it is fighting for.

If Assad is saying he will get the chemical weapons out of Syria it will be a logistical nightmare, moving an enormous stockpile through the middle of a war zone will be difficult to say the least. I’m also suggesting that the announcement made today is simply a game of smoke and mirrors. He has already used CW on Syrian civilians. It is quite possible to imagine he will do it again. Assad has no qualms about killing even those relatively close to him if it will give a propaganda or political gain.

If inspectors are allowed into the country they will only be shown and given control of a part of the stockpile. Then at a time that suits him he will attack an Alawite town with CW, they are the same tribe as him, he will kill thousands more than in the chemical attack in Damascus. Claiming that all his CW is under the control of international inspectors he will try to make it look as if it was the rebels who made the attack. What will probably happen is that Syria, Russian and Iran will say that the USA is supporting terrorists in the use of chemical weapons in Syria. As a result Syria will ask for international intervention, specifically Russia to help it get rid of the ‘terrorists’. Russia would be complicit in this, they have no qualms about using chemical weapons on their own people. When Chechens took hundreds of Russians hostage in a Moscow theater a few years ago the Russian authorities had no problem using gas in the knowledge that many innocent people would die. The Russian government has a very dim view of its subjects, for them it was more important to kill Chechens than save lives of ordinary Russians. So they have no problem with Assad using chemical weapons.

Another possibility is that Assad will make a show of getting the CW out of the country but it will only be a part. International inspectors will have no way of proving otherwise and then any subsequent chemical attack can be blamed on ‘terrorists’ with the same results.

The final question has to be, if Assad doesn’t use chemical weapons again then what else is he planning with Russia and Iran? If that is their strategy then we are moving into a very dangerous yet predictable area. Don’t forget either that the USA want to keep this war going for as long as possible, they see it as the best way to weaken Iran as it will have to keep on committing more resources to this war if it wants to win.

The reason why President Obama is happy the Russians won’t accept the French UN proposal on Syrian chemical weapons

Oh the games that are being played. So Obama jumped at the chance to accept the Russian offer to get Assad to hand over his stockpile of chemical weapons (CW) I actually laughed when I heard that bit of news. Just how do you go about collecting huge stockpiles of CW in the middle of a war zone. Back in the 1990’s it took UN teams 3 years to deal with Iraq’s CW and things were a lot easier there. So how on earth they could do the same in Syria is anybody’s guess. The fact is everybody knows this and it is just words being used to give an impression that something is being done.

Then there is the case of the French UN proposal that Assad must hand everything over in 15 days. The French knew that Russia would object to this. To be honest even the French know it isn’t possible for Assad to do this in 15 days. The French have made this proposal with US backing. So what is the reason? There are 2 possibilities:

The first is that the USA will launch an air strike on targets in Syria and all this talk about going to the UN is just hot air.

The second possibility is that the USA never had any intention of making a direct strike and all this talk about going to the UN is still just hot air. I believe this to be the more likely of the 2

As I have said many times before, the USA want to keep this war going for as long as possible. The reason being, is to get Iran and Hezbollah to commit ever more resources and consequentially become weaker. Bashar al Assad has become little more than a figurehead who is controlled by Iran. The USA helps the Free Syria Army (FSA), not enough to enable them to overthrow Assad but just enough to keep fighting. Saying that, very recently the US supplied the FSA with a large quantity of Chinese ‘Red Arrow’ anti tank/anti aircraft missiles and launchers as well as sniper rifles and several truck loads of ammunition. These were supplied through various Russia region Mafia groups the US uses when it needs to have deniability for certain actions. The intention is to give the FSA a morale boost, nothing more.

Non of the countries that say Assad should be punished care one iota for the ordinary Syrian people. They are using the war there for their own political aims. The USA and her allies know very well that Assad is under the control of Iran. If Iran were to win this war then it would be a big step in its ambitions to dominate the entire middle east. Iran with its business partner Russia are doing all they can to win this war, at the moment they have the upper hand over the USA. I would go as far as saying that the war in Syria is being used as a test of strength, cunning and strategy by the USA, Russia and Iran to see who is the top dog. Syria is being used like a pawn in a game of chess as the ‘superpowers’ battle for supremacy.

The war in Syria is no longer just about revolution, if there were no international interference then the Assad government would have been overthrown a long time ago. You would be amazed at the level of defection that is taking place from the Syrian army to the FSA at the moment. Iran is having to work full time sending its own replacements in to bolster what remains of the Syrian army. Russia is supporting Assad with weapons and new air defense systems and the USA is supporting the FSA in its fight against Assad. What we have happening is a classic proxy war. One false move by the USA or Russia and this conflict will have global consequences. The problem is they are blinded by their own hubris and ideas of how smart they think they are. In the next months events will happen which will take them all by surprise.

To finish, I am posting a link to a video interview I made with Mustafa. He is now back in Syria. The interview gives an insight into the thinking of what the normal Syrian people want. We only hear about extremists but they really are in the minority compared to the 180,000 of the FSA. The Syrian people are by nature moderate. They just want to have a quiet life. Watch the video and see what you think. Also if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment or send me a private message.

Syria: US intervention, Iran and Russia

First there was a lot of talk about the USA and others finally getting directly involved in the Syrian conflict, beyond the help they are already giving to the Sunni rebels with regard to intelligence and satellite imagery. They are only helping in a limited way though, they tell the rebels directly which targets they will help with and which they wont. Now it seems the USA and UK are back-tracking as they realize that the minimum action required to have any sort of effect would actually have to be a major military operation, it would mean having to get into a war that they would not be able to win.

Syrian air defense systems are strong and the Russians are sending some of their navy to the Syrian coastal area and would probably also use these to shoot down any missiles that are targeted at Syria. Then there is Iran, they are pretty much in charge of Syria now and running the show. Assad has become little more than a figurehead, he is paying the price for allowing the Iranians to have so much influence since he came to power. It was the Iranians who were the masterminds of the chemical weapon attack in Syria and have control over the country’s stockpile of CW. I would not be at all surprised if they aren’t also moving some of their long range ballistic missiles into Syria. These have a range of up to 3000km. Strategically and operationally this would open up a lot of new possibilities for them.

What we are seeing now is the development of an axis of power, Russia and Iran are fully prepared to protect their interests in the middle east and have the full capability to resist any efforts by the USA to challenge them. I don’t know if Syria has taken delivery of the S-300 system yet but if it has then this would make any action by the USA much more risky. It is very similar to the Patriot air defense system run by the USA The S-300 missile system is designed to shoot down aircraft and missiles at a range of 5-to-150 kilometers. It can also track and strike multiple targets simultaneously at altitudes ranging from 10 meters to 27,000 meters. It is a serious bit of kit. If the Syrians have got any of these then attack options are going to be limited. The other danger is that if Syria do have this new system then there will be Russian advisers showing the Syrians how to use it, it takes time to learn how to use it and Russia always sends people to the country that has bought it. Imagine what could happen if the USA were to destroy one of these as a prelude to flying its planes over the country. If any Russian advisers were killed then the situation would bring the USA and Russia into a very dangerous place. This is my hypothetical musing but Syria has a contract to buy these things with a delivery of no later than spring 2014 so it is worth asking the question “what if”

Iran has long held hegemonic ambitions, it is in control of large areas of Iraq, President Maliki of Iraq is in the pocket of the Iranians, Lebanon is also ripe for the taking, Hezbollah is a proxy Iranian operation, the country is essentially without government and is seen by the Iranians as a country they should have control over. So what’s next? You need to get inside the heads of the Iranians to understand their ambitions. They really want to re-establish the Persian empire and will work in all sort of cunning ways to achieve their goals. Jordan is one of the countries in its sights.  Let me explain what I believe to be their strategy. This is my personal opinion and I am aware I could be totally wrong so here goes.

First: The war in Syria is creating huge numbers of refugees, many of these are going to Jordan, this is creating a strong destabilizing effect on the country and putting enormous pressure on its resources, economy and population, Jordan is not a rich country. The way the war in Syria is being executed by the Iranians has a deliberate aim of creating as many refugees as possible with the knowledge that many will go to Jordan.

Second: The south of Syria is slowly being abandoned by the Syrian regime and Iranians. They are still fighting the rebels but they are not concentrating their efforts here, they are however creating as much damage as possible which is driving the ordinary Syrians out and toward Jordan. The impression is being given that the only part of Syria that is truely important is the west of the country, from Damascus to Homs, Tartus and Latakia as far as the Turkish border with everything else slowly being abandoned.

Third: This is where I get to what I believe this is all about. In the south of Syria there are huge fresh ground water resources. Jordan under huge strain, politically and economically due to the refugee situation will see, at some point in the not so distant future, that the south of Syria has been abandoned by the Syrians and Iranians and attempt to annex this land. They will do this because of the water that they need and also to repatriate many of the refugees. But this is a trap, when Jordan tries to do this the Iranians will be waiting. I believe that the appearance of giving up on the south of Syria to the rebels is a trap to draw in the Jordanians. Jordan has long been part of an international plan to split Syria into different parts and the Iranians will use this plan against them. There is absolutely no intention of giving up land, it is seen as part of the future Persian empire. So when Jordan makes its move it will be hit very hard by the Iranians, who will also have the support of the Russians. The effect of Jordan having its military destroyed inside Syria as well as its bases attacked inside Jordan will be devastating. And because Jordan made the first move, believing the south of Syria had been abandoned, the Syrian regime and Iranians will be able to say that they were protecting Syrian sovereignty. The Jordanian monarchy will collapse without the use of its military and the country will be thrown into chaos. The monarchy controls pretty much everything in the country, when they go there will be a huge vacuum which the Iranians will use to assert themselves through the figurehead of the Syrian regime. They will have a ‘legitimate’ excuse, Jordan invaded first.

Assuming things happen this way then the entire northern border of Saudi Arabia will be surrounded by countries under the control of Iran, Iraq and Jordan. Iran’s ultimate ambition is to take over the Gulf states, gaining control of Jordan will be the first step in that game. Also Israel will be surrounded to the north and east. We live in interesting times.

For those of you who are new to my blog, I was in Syria for a month back in March/April. I’m very well connected in the country and still have regular contact in order to get updates on what is happening. This blog post is a little different. I have been analyzing the situation for some time and decided to stick my neck out and give my opinion on where I think all of this is going. I know I might be wrong but hopefully I have given you something to think about. If you have any questions, comments or need something clarified then please ask me.