Monday, May 20, 2013

US to invade Syria? A cautionary tale.

On May 16, 2013, The New York Times published an op-ed article making an apparently sensible argument for US military intervention in (in English, "invasion of") Syria  The article follows a meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Brak Hussein Obama of the United States.

The author asserts

Only direct American military engagement will rally the disparate parties that want to act against Mr. Assad into unified action.
The author argues. . .
By presenting Moscow with a counter-incentive, threatening to act alone if Moscow does not use its influence to bring an end to the conflict, the United States could demonstrate that it is serious about engagement. This would also lighten the pressure on Turkey, which is hesitant to take further steps in Syria without at least tacit Russian consent. Russia is Turkey’s historic nemesis and the only country in the region with an economy and military larger than Turkey’s. The Turks fear the Russians and will not confront them alone.
Turkey needs US invasion of Syria, says the author, because the 5000,000 Alawites who live in Turkey's southern Hatay province are destabilizing Turkey, as are the "once dormant Marxist militant groups", who have awakened.

The author recommends  that the US invasion consists of arming rebels, creating a no-fly zone, and "creating a buffer zone in northern Syria along the Turkish border to protect rebel-captured areas", with boots on the ground, to insure that Russia knows we are serious.

The article does not mention any possible Russian response.

I note that Turkey is a member of NATO, so direct military action by Russia against Turkey is unlikely  though destabilization should be within Russia's power.

Here's the Turkish province of Hatay, home to 500,0o00 Alawites, said to be destabilizing Turkey:

I could not find images of militancy  nor could I find text or images of the "once dormant Marxist groups said to be destabilizing Turkey.  I did find a recent one from madison, Wisconsin:

Al Monitor, whose provenance is uncertain, has a cautionary tale. After first noting that Erdoğan is more assertive at home than he was in Washington . . .

Erdogan was not as firm as he has been when addressing this issue in Turkey. At the White House, for example, he did not accuse the Syrian regime of using chemical weapons, nor did he express his belief that the US-Russian efforts to hold talks with the Syrian opposition and the regime are futile. To the contrary, Erdogan sounded like he had softened his pessimism about the Geneva talks.
. . . Al Monitor reports:
More importantly, Turkey’s strong support for the Syrian opposition continues to raise eyebrows, even domestically. A former prominent Justice and Development Party member told Al-Monitor, “We have been on the wrong side of the opposition in Syria, and have been unfortunately in a position of inciting sectarian fighting.” Sharing insider knowledge about the radical and extremist elements in Syria, this former prominent AKP deputy said, “There are those radicals, who after freeing a territory from the Syrian regime’s military, ask whether the women that are left behind could be granted to them as a trophy based on the Shariah law. And we support those groups with the  Qataries.  Even the Saudis are reluctant to do so, and they support more secular groups. And Americans are therefore very cautious toward Turkey’s involvement in Syria.” [Emphasis added.]
I note that the "former  prominent Justice and Development Party member" is not named, and if accurate, the Qataries [Qatari] finance Al Gore's Al Jazeera, and that is, indeed, worrisome.

No report of the meeting of the two leaders appears in Today's Zaman, Turkey's primer English language newspaper in Google News, which is curious.  APA, an authoritative newspaper out of Azerbaijan, carried this report. . . 
[ 17 May 2013 00:13 ]
Baku-APA. US President Barack Obama said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad needs to leave power for a political solution in Syria after meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, APA reports quoting Todays Zaman.
. . . which doesn't ad much.

I can find no news from an Egyptian source on US militarty involvment in Syria, also curious.

China Weekly, quoting Gorge Freemen's Startfor, supposes US invasion would be aln exercise in futility:
News Analysis: U.S. military intervention in Syria no easy task   2013-05-01 06:43:00            
by Matthew Rusling 
WASHINGTON, April 30 (Xinhua) -- Reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria have sparked talk of U.S. military intervention, but experts said stopping the bloodshed in the war-torn country could prove a gargantuan task. 
U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said any use of chemical weapons would constitute a "red line" that could spur U. S. military involvement at some level, but Obama urged caution Tuesday, suggesting in a White House press briefing that more proof was needed. 
Some experts said U.S. military invention could prove a long, slogging operation -- a far-cry from the relatively clean, in-and- out 2011 Western-led operation in Libya, and others argued any U.S. intervention is destined to fail.
Global intelligence company Stratfor CEO George Friedman, writing Tuesday on his company's website, contended U.S. intervention would simply amount to another force entering the fray, and would not stop the bloodshed in embattled Syria.
"The United States, with its European allies, does not have the force needed to end Syria's bloodshed," Friedman argued. "If it tried, it would merely be held responsible for the bloodshed without achieving any strategic goal." 
Indeed, the U.S. found through two grueling wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that while destroying a government was relatively easy, imposing Western-style democracy was much harder, if not impossible, he said. 
"Many things are beyond the military power of the United States," Friedman said. "Creating constitutional democracies by invasion is one of those things." 
Halting civil war in Syria would mean the use of "overwhelming power," which also leads to overwhelming casualties, he said. " You cannot transform the political culture of a country from the outside unless you are prepared to devastate it as was done with Germany and Japan."
Nevertheless, the Obama administration is eying the country sharply, prompting talk of a U.S.-backed no-fly zone similar to the one established in Libya before the ouster of strongman Muammar Gaddafi. Options might also include air attacks against chemical weapons storage facilities or strikes against Syrian combat aircraft or heavy artillery positions. 
But Middle East Institute scholar Wayne White told Xinhua that Syria's air defenses are advanced enough to pose a major risk to NATO aircraft and crews. 
He also noted that most targets in Syria are deep inland, increasing the exposure of U.S. or allied pilots to anti- aircraft defenses and increasing the possibility of a pilot crashing in hostile territory. 
Syria's geographic layout stands in sharp contrast to Libya, as the bulk of populated Libya lies along the coast, providing an easier escape route for damaged aircraft to exit the country's airspace. 
Moreover, a no-fly zone would not prevent Syrian ground troops from unleashing lethal attacks with chemical weapons, said White, former deputy director of the U.S. State Department's Middle East Intelligence Office. 
Others options might include joint operations with several partners to provide weaponry for rebels not affiliated with Islamic extremists, but a rash of hurdles come with that choice.
White argued the most effective rebel groups have become Islamic extremists. In some cases over the past 12 to 15 months, they are openly affiliated with al-Qaeda, adding to fears that weaponry could fall into the hands of Islamic militants.

Friedman is usually, I think, in the Neoconic camp, opposed to  all things Russian.

RT, the national Russian newspaper, notes -- perhaps not a non sequitur -- only thus:

Rebels film execution of 11 Syrian soldiers, as Obama continues anti-Assad rhetoric

Wikipedia has a worthwhile history of foreign involvement in at the Syrian civil war, including this useful map:

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