Monday, August 22, 2016

The Syrian Equation

It used to be that war was a rather simple affair. In the beginning, someone grabbed a big stick or rock and went swinging at the other person. Over time, it got a bit more complicated. A king or other leader would dispatch some knights and occasionally the king would even join them in battle. Then it got to the point where the leaders would stay behind and direct operations through as a series of decreasingly important leaders until you reached the guys doing the actual fighting. Sometimes these individuals would be sent enmasse against a battery of guns or cannons and hence the term "cannon fodder". Despite the changing tools or tactics of war, usually the goal was the same---beat your enemy to a bloody pulp and break their will to fight.
Of course, the objective was also usually the same; capture land, specific resources or assets on behalf of some powerful and greedy individual or group. At first, that might be a king or council of lords or barons. Nowadays, it's corporate powerbrokers working hand in mailed glove with the government. The masses are usually sold the same story--we're in danger of losing something such as national honor or our perceived freedoms or perhaps some territory (which happens to be controlled by some uber-rich individuals) and so, amid catchy music and waving flags, the masses go off to fight and die for "God and Country", while in truth, someone wants control over an oil or gas field, minerals, fresh water, fertile land, seaport or trade route. Seldom do their children venture off to war to fight, suffer, be maimed, or to die. And that brings me to a situation in the Middle East which potentially could affect all of us. I would argue that it already does.

Syria. An ancient country, known primarily in antiquity as the mighty Assyria; a military and economic powerhouse. It was the home of the oldest population of Christians---the Chaldean Christians who, until recently, had lived in basic peace for the last 2000 years. It was also the Yazidis, a Kurdish people, who one of the oldest ethnic groups in the world; possibly going back to old of the most ancient civilizations, Mesopotamia. Their principal religion, Zoroasterism, pre-dates Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It's believed that the concept of cosmic duality---angels and demons---first arose with Zoroasterism. Since 2011, Syria has been engaged in a bloody civil war which, as of now, shows no signs of ending. However, one could argue that Syria's troubles started before then. Some would say it began in 1948 with the creation of Israel, which resulted in five wars initiated by Syria and her regional allies, Jordan, Egypt, plus whoever else wanted a piece of the action. However, none could best Israel and at the end of the Six Day War, Israel had captured Jordan's West Bank including Jerusalem, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, and Syria's Golan Heights. But, one could equally argue that their troubles began earlier, with the fall and breakup of the Ottoman Empire following its defeat at the end of World War I. The Ottomans were allies of the Triple Entente, which included the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Imperial Germany. After the end of war, France and Britain assumed control of former Ottoman territories and, frankly, created countries based on their own national interests with little or no regard for historical or natural boundaries, tribal or religious ties. They even went further by picking who would run these artificial countries on their behalf (such as Saudi family, the Hashemite Clan in Transjordan---later Jordan, and so forth). Regardless, I don't believe there was one single cause which triggered the present situation in Syria. Nevertheless, there was one incident which could be described as the "spark" which ignited the powder keg which had been accumulating for decades, and that was the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring was bound to happen, thanks in large part to the social media which interconnect peoples the world over. It also provided them with access to uncensored history and current events, the free exchange of opinions and information and a link to likeminded people throughout the world and a means to organize. As a result, individuals living under some of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East were faced with a people who now had a means to fight back. Of course, no dictatorship ever willingly gives up power. As a result, various nations shipped in weapons and "military advisors", provided "humanitarian" assistance, and air support which included imposed "no fly zones" over an otherwise sovereign nation. While it worked in a few countries, it either fizzled out (or was violently suppressed by security forces) or backfired in others. Syria was one of the "others".

The US and other coalition nations had previously invaded the big bully on the block, Iraq and its "Hitler wannabe", Saddam Hussein, following his invasion of Kuwait, which he claimed a historical right to (in reality, he wanted the oil fields and access to the gulf). Hussein also claimed that the US was previously aware of his intentions and that he had the green light to proceed based on the promise of favorable deals with US and certain oil companies. At first, Hussein thought the US was bluffing in its announced invasion, however, he soon learned better and quickly defeated. Some whispered that this was more about the "liberation" of Kuwaiti oil and royal family than about the people of Kuwait, and they were likely right. A trade embargo was put in place along with national "no fly zone". Then came 9/11 and America's subsequent invasion of Afghanistan to remove Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Then there was the "great lie" about having weapons of mass destruction (nukes) and a second invasion which resulted in the occupation of Iraq (Hussein did have chemical weapons and showed a willingness to use them such as in 1988 when chemical tipped bombs were used on Kurdish villages, resulting in the deaths of at least 100,000 Kurds. He also had used chemical weapons against the Iranians, resulting in several hundred thousand deaths though the actual number may never be known). Throughout this we continued to fight local terrorists (which, ironically, we helped to create, train, and arm years earlier to fight the Russians after they invaded Afghanistan). These groups, which included Al Qaeda, sought to spread a radical form of Islam throughout the region. When this proved unsuccessful (thanks mostly to successful drone attacks which eliminated their leadership and technical skills personnel plus the death of Bin Laden), more radical groups broke off and began a program of brutal murders coupled with video cameras. Among these included ISIS, whose expressed intent to global conquest and forced imposition of their version of Islam and the establishment of a world Caliphate.

While it's highly unlikely they'll be successful, they have been successful with mass shootings, bombings, and other terrorist's acts outside the region, including Asia, Europe, Russia, and the US. However, most of the "thanks" (note sarcasm) has been due to incompetent "leadership" and flooding of so-called "refugees" whose aim is to disrupt the social and economic system, demanding changes to a country's religious freedoms, values, and traditions, plus the commission of violent crimes including assaults and mass rapes. Embedded with these "refugees" has been trained terrorist cells, whose job includes not just destruction and murders, but also recruiting and training of others. In Libya, ground zero of the Arab Spring, the country has never fully recovered and US involvement (not to mention illegal gun running, which resulted in the burning of the embassy plus the death of the ambassador and three security personnel) has proven to be a fertile recruiting ground for radical Islam. Meanwhile, military occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to struggle along in Iraq and Afghanistan along with continuing global terrorism while the Obama Regime has made several attempts to convince the American People that we need boots on the ground in Syria for the usual excuses---to promote democracy, potential weapons of mass destruction, prevent expanding Russian influence ( however, Russia has been a close ally since the 1950's), and probably denying air space access to Santa Claus. This now brings us to the present day.

The Assad Government has been under attack since around 2011/2012. Their enemy has been various groups of rebel fighters; mostly radical Muslims, including Al Qaeda, intent on imposing mandatory Sharia law, of which ISIS is the prime player. They have been guilty of the mass murders of Christians, Kurds, Yazidis, and Muslims who are secular or not of the same sect (some Kurds, Christians and Yazidi women and young girls have been sold into slavery, including sex slavery where they daily endure mass rapes). They have also been beating and murdering women who fail to follow their definition of Sharia as well as gays, agnostics, atheists as well as anyone who fought for Assad. Typically they are beheaded enmasse, burned or buried alive, stoned, shot, drowned in cages, crucified, throw off roofs, hanged, beaten to death, or skinned alive(at least they're creative. You've got to give them that at least). There are a few very small groups who which to implement some form of democratic republic, but they're pretty much small fry. On Assad's side is the military and a few pro-government guerilla groups who have been promised various reforms. Many of these groups are from outside the country and came to Syria as something of a Islamic mercenary.

As an ally of Assad and Syria for close to 60 years, Russia has been providing military hardware, medical supplies (including medivac to hospitals in Russia), food, clean water, sanitation supplies, and so forth. Recently, however, Russia has announced that it intended to provide air support for Assad's troops which includes bombing of enemy targets (supply depots, military caravans and transportation routes, troop clusters, etc). They have also introduced low level air cover through the use of various fighters and helicopters. In addition, Russia has provided heavy artillery, tanks, trucks, and other vehicles along with military advisors. On the other side, the US has been supplying arms, ammo, as well as other equipment along with medical equipment. Recently though, the situation has changed with US aircraft providing air support in the form of bombs, air cover, as well as technical assistance which includes reports on Syrian military and auxiliary troop movements, etc. This is in part why Russia stepped up its involvement. Now bear in mind that Russia is supporting a long standing ally, and their focus has been on groups like ISIS while are support is not based on any long standing connection with Assad or Syria, plus our aid has been going to the rebel groups which includes Al Qaeda and ISIS---yes, that ISIS. So, on one hand we are fighting ISIS here in the US and elsewhere while at the same time we are providing them with hard and soft support. I believe the proper response would be "WTF?".

Now, to raise the ante in this global poker match, Russia has announced that it intends to introduce troops to provide backup support for Assad's troops (one has to wonder if this includes Russia's famous Spetsnaz special forces units. They are among the very best in the world). Meanwhile, Iran has offered Russia the use of one of their northern airbases in which to launch its bombing operations and supply support in Syria. Iran is already active in the area, and has been for decades. Iran trains and supplies the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon with everything from small arms to heavy artillery and some rather powerful intermediate range missiles capable of hitting almost anywhere in northern and central Israel, including Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. Hezbollah also exerts a rather powerful influence on the Lebanese government. In addition, Iran provides similar equipment to the terrorist group Hamas who are located in and control Gaza. Lastly, Iran has been working overtime to undermine US efforts in Iraq in order to create a Tehran friendly government in Bagdad.

Now, to makes things a bit more interesting, China, also an ally of Iran and its chief arms provider, has agreed to introduce soldiers and military equipment on the ground in Syria (China is having its own problem with a rising radical Islam in its western provinces). Not only does this include fighting troops (about 40,000), but tanks, trucks, artillery, and air support. Air support you say? How is that possible? China is thousands of miles away. Well, those questions are quite simple to answer. You see, China has an operational aircraft carrier. The US Pentagon and the CIA as well as some European intelligence agencies said it would take years for China to develop an aircraft carrier and years longer to develop aircraft capable of operating from an aircraft carrier as well as properly trained pilots. Well, in short, they were wrong. Wildly wrong. China was years ahead in their development of not only an aircraft carrier, but both the planes and pilots, and the supporting ships needed for a task force. Now do you want to guess where that task force is headed? If you guess the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Lebanon, you'd be right.

Meanwhile, little ole Israel is sitting there between not just a few million Arabs who despise them, not to mention several well armed terrorist groups, an Iran which is intent of developing nuclear tipped missiles capable of reaching Israel, a serious civil war on its northern border, an unstable Egypt on its southern border (thankfully the Egyptian military just ousted the terrorist umbrella organization, the Muslim Brotherhood who had hijacked the pro-democracy movement during Egypt's "Arab Spring"). Plus you have a growing ISIS presence in Libya thanks to Hillary Clinton's misadventures there. Then there is Turkey, a traditionally secular nation, which is inching more and more to radical Islam. Lastly, but surely the most important, you have three of the four global superpowers (the forth being India) with an active military presence amid active terrorist groups.

Then there is a intellectually and morally weak US president with questionable loyalties to Israel, America's allies, and even the American People. My oh my. I see nothing about this situation which makes me feel comfortable. But this is the situation that we find ourselves. For the first time ever, more Americans trust the Russian president, Putin, than the American president. We have a president supporting the very terrorists who are murdering Christians, Jews, gays, women, and just about everyone else not just in the Middle East, but in Europe, Asia, Russia, and the US while at the same time supporting them against Assad while Putin is trying to stop them while they're still mostly in the Middle East. The same US president who is determined to bring these "refugees" to the US just as Europe did; much to their regret and in defiance of the majority of the American People or discussion with Congress.
So, there you go. Now it's up to you to come to your own decision about what's happening and what can or should be done about it. One thing for sure though---the system is broken beyond repair.

We are a defacto Oligarchy; a neo fascist nation complete with a spreading surveillance apparatus and a growing militarized police state. This Oligarchy lives under one set of laws while we live under another. They work hand in mailed glove with the government (with the government being the junior partner here). They control the media. There is only six companies which own 96% of all media--radio, TV, internet/social media, newspapers and magazines. That means they control what we hear and see. They try to control events though spin. They try to manipulate public opinion and direct issues. They own the banks and financial institutions. They own the oil and gas companies. They own the defense industries. They, in effect, own us too. We are their economic serf. Our debt is our chains. Our credit rating is the lock. This isn't about wealth. They already own 96% of that. Their aim is control. Control is power. The next question is really simple actually. What do you want to do about it?

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