The Middle East is ablaze even without a declared war! The cradle of historical civilizations and major religions are embroiled in small conflicts, spiralling chaos but with the potential to explode into a Greater War! Mini Armageddon has not been announced even though all indicators point towards it. The horoscope of the times portrays numerous small wars in the Middle East. Even one like Syria can mushroom into a greater war of major powers.
The Middle East is interconnected geopolitically. The reasons are its geographic unity, Islamic identity (except Israel), shared historical legacy, local turf wars, animosity for Israel and borders dating back to Lawrence of Arabia’s handiwork. Not to mention, its oil wealth and America’s insatiable love for it. More so, the Middle East is linking to North Africa and by geographic extension the rest of Africa.
The extended or Greater Middle East includes Turkey on one flank and Pakistan on the other. In the centre is the region which is boiling today. Geopolitically the entire Greater Middle East is dynamic, at places explosive. Local conflicts both historical plus recent and besides Shia – Sunni divide (exploited by hostile powers), Arab – Israel – Iran triangular contest have merged. On top of that great power geopolitics has seeped in and now threatens to become a global contest!
It would be pertinent to examine the local conflicts, before factoring in the ‘Great Powers Play’.
Syria is at present the epicentre of the conflict region. The Syrian uprising or Spring failed to dislodge the Damascus Regime. Neither the Egyptian (Tahrir Square) nor Libya (NATO Supported) model, worked so far.
Basher Al Asad proved a harder nut to crack than was expected by his foes both at home and abroad. An impasse of sorts or strategic stalemate exists till date. Regime change in Syria albeit by local resistance, supported externally was considered a prelude to attack on Iran by Israel – USA. Now the battle lines are drawn sharply. Damascus or the Syrian Regime is overtly supported by Iran, Russia, Hezbollah fighters and Shias in the region. It is opposed by Syrian Rebels, Turkey, Sunni Arab States, NATO, US and Israel. US has decided to arm the Syrian Rebels overtly (some of whom are termed as Al Qaeda supporters).
The war in Syria could spread, while American intervention will worsen it and thousands of new fighters being trained in the crucible of Syria will destabilize the entire Middle East for decades.
The improbable question is being asked – ‘Could Syria ignite World War III?’
Turkey is clearly a rising power, with its $1 trillion economy and powerful military. The Gazi Park controversy now over, Turkey’s internal dynamics will settle down. A mature democracy is emerging. Efforts to create turmoil by foreign elements in Turkey will fail. Will Turkey temper its Syrian Policy? The brave Turks seek a powerful and prosperous Turkey and peaceful neighbourhood.
Revolutionary Egypt will need time to settle down. Still conflict in Syria or with Israel will embroil it sooner than later. This will complicate the already complex environment. It could also convert the Syrian Civil War into an Arab – Israel context.
Saudi Arabia and Gulf States even while supportive of Sunni Rebels need stability themselves. Instability or civil wars, revolutions are unaffordable commodities for oil rich Sheikhs (who can afford everything else). A protracted asymmetrical war in Syria churning out radical fighters will spread chaos in the Arabian Peninsula.
If the Syria conflict was to spill over to Jordan, Iraq and Arabian Peninsula, a new consternation would be created. The wise Saudis are cognizant of the pitfalls and seek an early end to the Syrian turmoil.
The new regime in Iran is considered ‘Moderate’. This is good for Iran and the world. Yet Iran is not likely to compromise on its nuclear plans, the real reason for its conflict with Israel and USA. While USA – Iran talks may be more likely, Israel will try to devise new means to hamper them. Israel is determined to stop Nuclear Iran even as the Iranians are equally determined to defend themselves.
Pakistan is linked to multi regions. Its Baluchistan province is the gate way to West Asia or Greater Middle East. The province is being targeted by foreign powers. Baluchistan’s internal dynamics apart, it is being destabilized by foreign forces. China joining Pakistan’s Gwadar Port has been opposed by India. The recent terrorist attacks in Quetta and burning of Quaid –e- Azam residence at Ziarat, were foreign sponsored. The new democratically elected Pakistani regime may be surprised and shocked to find how hostile forces are trying to destabilize it. However the Pakistani Nation and its Armed Forces are united to defend Pakistan against a handful of foreign aided militants in Baluchistan.
Great Power Conflict
Behind the Middle East are opposing alliances, US – NATO on one side and Russia – China on the other. US – NATO is the dominant alliance, proactive and ready to fight offensive or humanitarian wars. Russia – China is the challenging or emerging alliance. The struggle or competition is actually global, but focused for now on the Middle East. US – NATO seek longevity for their dominance, while blocking China’s economic rise and Russia’s strategic return.
China’s economy is rising fast and will rival USA within the decade. USA shifts to Asia Pacific and China’s Neo containment. China, while planning its defence in Pacific and supportive of North Korea looks west. China seeks Middle East oil, maintains influence and ingress in Africa. Even South America and EU are within reach of Chinese economic ventures. The Chinese are winning the geo-economic war! Yet it needs oil from Middle East and minerals from Africa, shipped and piped through the Pakistani Port of Gwadar to Xinjiang.
Disrupting the China, Middle East / Africa energy – market sources is for US Neo Con lobbies a priority. Gwadar has become a phobia for India due to presence of China on Indian Ocean, even if it be for geo-economics reasons.
Russia under Putin’s leadership is balancing world affairs. It allies with Iran, supports Syria, and has strategic consensus with China. Moscow considers US – NATO intrusions in other nations not merely disdainful but is ready to support its allies. Russia, Iran, China are linked in Syria and blocking US – NATO from launching the next war.
The Israeli – US war against Iran was expected to enlarge onto a greater war. Yet the war against Iran seems relegated for the present. War against Syria or rather the battle for Syria, is the first step or prelude to this greater war!
The reason is not that the feeble regime in Damascus can have a great war fighting strategy against US – NATO invasion, or even limited (Libya Style) intrusions. The Syrian Regime can strike Israel with missiles, prompting Israeli retribution on Damascus.
A US – NATO no fly zone demands destroying Syrian Air Defence / Air Force while Syria may be supported by Iran – Russia. In case, Russia gifts S300 Air Defence missiles, the Syrian defence will become robust. This can prolong the struggle. US – NATO forces invading Syria will certainly be fighting with Syria, Hezbollah, Iran and Arab fighters, all opposed to ‘The New Crusaders’. The entire region will be militarized, borders will be violated, economic trouble abounds and war prolongs. Regardless of the outcome, USA will be blamed!
Alliances may shift as the war progresses and spill over into Israel. Conversely, with Syria neutralized with American – NATO power, Israel may strike Iran. Neo Con – Globalists supporting or sponsoring war against Syria, also want Iran denuclearized, Baluchistan separated from Pakistan, still others want Kurdistan established and Saudi Arabia inflamed. Hezbollah and Iran will fight for their survival in and around Syria. The war zone will transgress many borders. Russian weapons and Chinese money may support the anti hegemony forces.
War in Syria is taking shape of an asymmetrical World War III. The Syrian Army’s victory at Al – Qusayr is being termed as a turning point. Of course this is no climactic like Stalingrad. Still Damascus buoyed by Hezbollah – Iranian support is far from falling. Franklin Lamb in his article, ‘Why Obama is declaring war on Syria’ aptly and succinctly presented the larger picture. The Iranian strategic endeavours in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon have unnerved Americans, more so, anti Iranian Neo Cons. Still the Pentagon with a wise General Dempsey is sceptic about the Syrian Campaign. Smart Americans are already terming the Syrian War tomorrow, as worse than Iraq’s war yesterday.
With diplomacy not leading the charge and even John Kerry is worried about statecraft being too little, too late. The Pentagon seeks a quick end to the Syrian Affair. The disaster of Iraq – Afghanistan protracted wars, Al Qaeda linked Syrian Rebels, armed with new missiles, appears dangerous. US – NATO armoured forces supported by special operations and air naval power may seek fast tempo demise to the Damascus Regime.
In the event of American invasion or NATO supported rebel victory, the Damascus Regime will change. A lot else will also change in the Middle East. Multiple wars will erupt. Firstly after US – NATO victory or occupation of Syria, an anti American resistance will commence not limited to Syria. This may be greatly supported by Iran – Russia and China.
Secondly, another war may erupt in Lebanon attacked by Israel or Iran attacked by Israel. In essence, a war involving Israel. Egypt may be lured in while Turkey may re-examine its options in the conflict.
Thirdly, the borders of Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon may become fluid. Saudi Arabia and Gulf States could face a new wave of an Arab Spring or Sunni – Shia conflict promoted by foreign forces. Even if open wars are not fought, asymmetrical conflicts may overlap borders. Noam Chomsky may prove right that ‘Sykes – Picot is failing’. The post World War I or post Ottoman Empire borders may be affected.
Is it Ralph Peter’s new map of Middle East or ‘Controlled Chaos’ which is being worked on? Uncontrolled chaos will not leave anyone unscatched. Middle East on fire will devour local powers and foreign intruders. It was here that Saladin beat the Knight’s Templers and Crusaders at battle of Hatin, and later Sultan Baibours defeated the Mongol Hordes.
US – NATO invasion in Syria is already being termed as Armageddon of biblical prophecies and the coming of Dajjal. A war of the worlds may begin. Redrawing of maps, multiple wars in Middle East and humanitarian crisis will exhaust America, weaken EU, and embroil Russia – China. A new form of cold – hot war will commence. Kurdistan will lead to endless strife in numerous states. Israel will be endangered in a burning Middle East, whose flames it would not escape. If the war spread further, involving Pakistan – India, nuclear war destroying large parts of humanity and the world may occur.
President Putin boldly voiced the defence of Syria in G8 Summit, leaving no doubts. American geo-strategy has already over reached; Syria can only make it worse!
There is still time to relent from apocalypse in the Middle East, which can be controlled or contained. ‘Geopolitics of Peace’ is the solution and not chaos or a great war in the Middle East. The regime in Damascus is not the ultimate question?
Peace and prosperity in the Middle East and the world is at stake!
by Brigadier Nadir Mir from Pakistan, EU Times correspondent
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