What’s happening now in Syria is increasingly complicated. Urban warfare is difficult and costly, as countless civilians pay the ultimate price for indiscriminate shelling and armed attacks in residential areas. Numerous YouTube videos continue to show such indiscriminate shelling in residential areas. A severe humanitarian crisis is emerging in some Syrian cities.
While no one should discount the loss of civilian life in Syria on a daily basis, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Gen. Martin Dempsey is correct (in terms of tactical assessments) to point out that, according to Al Arabiya News paraphrasing him: “Syria was the focus of competing Middle Eastern states, notably Iran and Saudi Arabia, and posed different problems for the United States than Libya did.”
In other words, Syria is now the “rumble in the jungle” for a number of external powers, seeking to realize their own interests and agendas for a post-Bashar al-Assad Syria. I wrote about this in a previous blog post, “The Saudi Specter in Syria and the World.” What this means is that Syria is now the multidimensional chessboard for internal and external players, not unlike the case of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990).
Says Gen. Dempsey: “There’s indications that al-Qaeda is involved and that they’re interested in supporting the opposition. I mean there’s a number of players, all of whom are trying to reinforce their particular side of this issue.”
While I cannot independently verify the presence of Al Qaeda in Syria (although last week Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a video calling on Muslims to support the Syrian rebels against Assad), clearly there are many hyena packs lurking in and around this jungle. The hyena Assad is not alone in his pack. Various other hyena packs also roam in the darkness, including Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, and China, and perhaps numerous proxies, and we cannot dismiss the respective interests and agendas of Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, European powers, and the United States. Continuing with Gen. Dempsey’s assessment:
“Dempsey identified ‘a Sunni-Shiite competition for, you know, regional control,’ of Syria being played out between Saudi Arabia and Iran as a key barrier to U.S. intervention, as well as Damascus’s ‘very capable’ military. They have a very sophisticated, integrated air defense system. They have chemical and biological weapons. They haven’t demonstrated any interest or any intent to use those, but it is a very different military problem,’ Dempsey said, noting he had not yet been asked to provide U.S. military options on Syria.
… ‘It was a big mistake to think of this as another Libya’, he added.”
Meanwhile, on February 24 a meeting of various global diplomats will convene in Tunis, supported by the Arab League, to discuss support for the Free Syrian Army and provide humanitarian relief to civilians. Interestingly, the Free Syrian Army has its own Facebook (FB) page, and also its opponents have set up a FB page called “Eliminate the Free Syrian Army,” and in parentheses you see “(Al Qaeda Army),” so it appears as: “Eliminate the Free Syrian Army (Al Qaeda Army).”
Therefore, the cyber battle and diplomatic maneuvering all mirror the ongoing conflict inside Syria. This is an example of modern, literally multidimensional conflict, which includes cyberspace. Sadly, what gets lost in the messages is the ability for the rest of the world to extract the “TRUTH” behind the rhetoric and fog of war.
Moreover, as an international affairs analyst, I cannot fail to be mindful of the parallel crisis involving Iran’s nuclear program, and how elements of the power play between all of these players are seeping into the Syrian jungle. Gen. Dempsey referred to Iran as a “rational actor,” in terms of how the regime calculates its courses of action. That’s the basic presumption of state actors in international relations, but often states cross the line of rationality, like Assad’s regime, in the zeal for power and power projection. In the end, they only end up looking like bloody-fanged hyenas.
NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.