Sunday, April 16, 2017

A new, worthy, analysis of Syrian contenders, focusing on Iran

Read Syria: The Hidden Power of Iran | by Joost Hiltermann | The New York Review of Books,an intricate, fact-laden review of various factions in Syria, focusing on Iranian involvement.

There are three missing or under-emphasised Syrian issues: 

(l) The article reduces the Iranian interest in a n gas pipeline from the Pars Natural Gas field through Syria to European markets to a mere parenthetical comment, and the Iranian delivery of gas to Europe, along with Qatar’s competing interest in a gas pipeline from that same field, is central to Russia’s involvement in the war. (see, e.g, Refugee Crisis & Syria War Fueled By Competing Gas Pipelines.

( 2) Saudi Arabia’s effort to use the Civil War disruption as an opportunity to create a first new Wahhabist State is hardly mentioned.  See, e.g, FPI Bulletin: Saudi Arabia and the Syrian Civil War.

(3)  The Syrian Kurds are the only egalitarian, non-sectarian, feminist force in the Middle East and a formidable fighting force, and its role is denigrated in the article.  The UN and all nations should support the Syrian Kurds.  That includes Turkey.See, e.g., A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard - The New York Times.

In all other respects the Review gives valuable, useful information on the Civil War.  It is the best of he recent articles on Syria.  Consider these provacative paragraphs:

These local conflicts are cross-cut by the standoff, mainly rhetorical but fought by proxy, and involving nuclear politics, between Israel and Iran. “It’s like a game of Risk,” an academic and political go-between in northern Syria told my colleagues and me last month. To forestall an Israeli attack on its nuclear program or an attempt at regime change in Tehran, Iran has long backed regional proxies that extend its power across the region. Foremost among these is Hezbollah, the Lebanese “Party of God,” which has been an integral part of what Iran calls its “forward defense,” taking the place of missiles that could effectively target Israel, which Tehran still lacks. Through Hezbollah, Iran can use Lebanon as a launching pad within fifty miles of major Israeli cities.
Yet Iran’s strategic posture is only as strong as the supply line that supports it. Until now, this has been an air route connecting Iran to Hezbollah via Iraq and Syria, but the Iranian government wants to consolidate this with a land corridor running from its own borders to the Mediterranean. This is not merely an accusation one hears in Tel Aviv, Ankara, Riyadh, Amman, or Abu Dhabi, but an aim that is acknowledged by Iranian analysts themselves, who describe it as a strategic necessity. It needs these routes to get arms to Hezbollah. That explains the importance of Iran’s alliance with the Assad government in Syria, and also why Iran and Hezbollah were in such a hurry after 2011 to prop up the Syrian regime when it was threatened with imminent collapse. (Iran has also long wanted to diversify its energy export routes, and has mooted plans to construct an east-west pipeline across Iraq to the Syrian coast.)
Highly recommended.  

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