We are now watching the next Libyan-style, internationally managed conflict unfold in Syria. Forces have been positioned and regime change is the objective, though the end goal is all about containing Iran and ensuring that it does not succeed in establishing a geographically connected Shi’ite triangle buttressing Saudi, Turkish and Jordanian borders.
On Monday, Syria said it would agree to an Arab League demand to allow its observers into the country. Damascus, however, has conditions: The Arab League must revoke the suspension of Syria’s membership in the club and remove sanctions.
Of the Arab League members, on Iraq and Lebanon distanced themselves for the vote to kick Syria out of the league and target Damascus with sanctions (Iraq because of its Shi’ite majority and because Iran largely calls all the shots here now, and Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s control in the government).
Interpreting the Arab League ‘Observer’ Mission
The observer mission is in actual fact a military cooperation between NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – part of what is already being dubbed a mini-NATO in the Persian Gulf.
The base of this operation is Iskenderun, in Turkey’s southern Hatay province. The Free Syria Army (FSA), which will be assisted by Libyan rebels, hundreds of which have already been transferred to Syria via Turkey.
This arrangement is propitious for the FSA and its NATO and GCC supporters as it gives the fighting force a staff of bodies fresh from their own civil war. It is also propitious for the Libyan transitional council, which need to keeps its edgy fighters busy and distracted now that their key role in Libya is largely concluded. The Libyan rebels also bring with them a great deal of arms.
Involved in the military preparations, which are being presented at humanitarian efforts, are the Turkey, the US, France, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Establishing a foothold in Aleppo in Syria will be a key maneuver, and this is relatively close to the command center in southern Turkey.
All About Iran
The key to containing Iran is Syria. Iraq is already lost to Iran, and not even the greatest optimists or spin doctors in the corridors of Washington, DC can attempt to depict it otherwise. Iran is calling the shots.
Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan are most concerned about Iran’s attempts to put the last piece of the puzzle in place to form a geographically connected Shi’ite triangle. Towards this effort it has the support of the Iraqi prime minister, which is a vastly underemphasized fact.
Syria is the weak link in realizing this Iranian objective. The protests have opened a very significant window of opportunity to keep Iran from reaching its goal. The Arab League and Turkey are playing the lead in this right now, but so far supporting the Sunni opposition has not been enough. The general consensus, hinted at less than subtly by Hillary Clinton, is that something more aggressive is required to force a regime change in Damascus.
This is what we are witnessing presently with the training and arming of the FSA, the recruitment of Libyan rebels to fight alongside them and the final moves to cement a NATO-GCC military cooperative in the Gulf.
Lurking in the Background
Turkey’s alliances have shifted the most with regard to the region over the past year. Less than a year ago the talk was of a Turkey-Iran-Syria nexus.
Russia, for one, has made it clear that it does not plan to stand by passively and allow Syria to unfold like Libya, on NATO-GCC terms. In fact, a Russian nuclear-equipped aircraft carrier has already departed for a naval base in Syria.
As such, the trade-off, especially for Turkey in this standoff with Syria will be Russian and Iran energy and the threat of a Russian backlash. Moscow has already been extremely irked by Turkey’s back and forth game with NATO and its decision to allow NATO to operate a missile defense radar station on Turkish territory.
by ISA Intel. Copyright 2011, ISA Intel. All rights reserved