The Hornet's Nest in the Middle East
Looking at the condition of Syria today, with over 70,000 people dead and millions displaced from their homes, along with the horrors and atrocities associated with war, one wonders how worse it can get. But, the civil war between Syrian President Bashar Assad's brutal regime and the opposition forces which have become just as brutal, is far from over.
Israel and the Western world, along with a defector from the Syrian army, have proof that Assad has been using chemical weapons against his own people, including sarin, mustard gas, and VX gas, in more than 13 locations. Some of the chemicals have come from the former Soviet Union; others have been formulated within Syrian chemical plants. Many of the chemicals have been stored in fortified mountainous regions, while reports indicate that Assad has also been moving the chemicals from their original locations in Damascus, Latakia, Hama, and Aleppo.
Meanwhile, Iranians are working with Syrian officers in a Syrian military airport, putting the chemicals onto warheads and then dropping them from planes onto various cities where the toxic cloud is released. Reportedly, the Syrian regime has between 100 and 200 warheads filled with sarin that fit onto Scud missiles. It also has thousands of bombs filled with sarin and VX gas ready for use.
U.S. President Barack Obama has called on the UN to conduct an investigation in Syria to prove that Assad used these chemicals on his population, especially the use of sarin. But, sarin evaporates quickly. By the time inspectors get permission to go into Syria, the regime will have cleared up any evidence of the use of sarin on the Syrian people.
A great concern has been that rebels associated with Al-Qaeda want to get their hands on one of Syria's main chemical weapons plants located on the edge of Aleppo. Israeli officials have admitted they are worried, not just about whether Assad has used the chemicals on his own people, but whether the chemicals have gotten into the hands of jihadists fighting in the opposition forces against his regime. Israel has already said that if their intelligence agencies find out that the chemicals have been acquired by the rebels, Israeli forces will take action. This also includes any transfer of chemicals to Hezbollah by the Syrian regime.
In the past, Obama stated that the use of chemicals in Syria would be a "game changer". Now, it is obvious that he is stalling for time because his Administration doesn't know what to do about this complicated issue. To go after the chemicals will take thousands of troops on the ground, or a major military operation by air. It puts Western forces in the way of a sectarian war being fought, mainly between factions of Shiites and Sunnis operating in Syria.
A WAR OF PROXIES
What began as a civil war in Syria is now changing because the Syrian regime is being trained, funded and helped by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah, and Iraqi Shia militias who are operating inside the country. This is occurring with Russia's financial assistance and weaponry.
Opposition forces, once small groups of protestors from within Syria, are now being helped by radical Sunni splinter groups associated with Al-Qaeda, Global Jihad, Salafists, and the Moslem Brotherhood. Hamas is also training members of the Free Syrian Army in Damascus. Fighters from throughout the Middle East are coming to fill the vacuum of cities destroyed by the civil war and homes deserted by Syrian citizens. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other Arab states are helping the more moderate rebels in Syria, but they cannot guarantee that if they are supplying them with arms, those arms are not ending up in the hands of more radical elements fighting in the war. The call for "jihad' in Syria has brought in fighters from throughout the Middle East.
The U.S. has hesitated to get involved for fear of igniting a powder keg in the Middle East. Israel has taken a wait and see attitude, watching the development of a Sunni extremist front poised on its border. Knowing that Al-Qaeda is now active on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz has been beefing up Israel's military presence on the Israeli side of the Heights for over a year. Israel’s defense forces are preparing for possible attempts at cross-border infiltrations. The IDF is already contending with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and now is looking at the possibility of chemically laden jihadists trying to fire their weapons at Israeli towns from Syrian outposts.
DIPLOMATIC FALL OUT
Any attempt by Western forces to infiltrate Syria and become a "game changer" in the current civil war would have repercussions. It could result in a direct confrontation with Russia. Russia recently expressed its objection to the UN inquiry into Assad's use of chemical weapons. Russia and China have consistently voted in the UN Security Council against any Western involvement in Syria. Even when NATO sent Patriot missiles to help Turkey defend itself from Syrian fire across its volatile border, there were heavy objections from Russia.
The U.S. has considered sending in a Western coalition to strike at Syrian chemical plants with missiles fired from ships off-shore in the Mediterranean Sea. But, Russia has its only Middle East naval base off the Syrian coast, and guards it heavily as it is Russia's main foothold in the region.
Another problematic issue is Iran's involvement in Syria. America is already on a diplomatic collision course with the Islamic State over its attempts to become a nuclear power in the region. If Western forces tried to set up a no-fly zone in Syria, they would be fighting directly with Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah forces on the ground. Furthermore, any attempts by American and Western forces to provide arms to the rebels would be risky. The arms could end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda, a sworn enemy of the United States.
AVOIDING THE QUAGMIRE
So far, Israel, the U.S., and Europe have avoided serious involvement in Syria's bloodbath over the past two years. The nations have buried their guilt about doing little to help those Syrian families that have suffered torture and death at the hands of Assad's brutal regime. This includes the atrocities committed against the Syrian population associated with ruthless rebels fighting Assad's forces. The battles have spilled over into Lebanon where sectarian clashes have occurred between Sunni forces and Hezbollah's Shia militias. The battles may yet spill over into Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries.
While the explosions are going on in Syria, Western nations remain paralyzed, not knowing what to do to solve this on-going crisis. Even now, as the UN gets involved in trying to get to the truth about Syria's chemical weapons, the proof remains in the pudding, and the pudding is evidence of a Middle East quagmire that nobody wants to get their foot stuck in.
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, 'Destroy!'” Deuteronomy 33:27
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.
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Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.