Civil wars are the worst type of warfare. However, we am not implying that there is such a thing as “good warfare.” There are only good causes. In the case involving Syria we have a situation much like the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). In Syria, as the fighting extends in time between the combat wing of the United Revolutionary Council and the despotic Assad regime, foreign players have begun entering the struggle. Backing Assad, you have the Iranians, Russia and HizbAllah. Backing the revolutionaries we have the Saudis, the Emirates, and to a limited degree, Turkey and Jordan. The USA has sent aid, but best we know at this point it has been, we are told, only humanitarian aid. In the meantime the body count grows and is now over 30,000.
Intervening on our part, at this time, would be difficult at best. But this could change in the near future should the Iranian military add more forces on the ground, including additional battalions of HizbAllah. This Iranian proxy, it should be noted, has a full time militia of 6,000 men, supported by a part time armed force of 15,000. The Iranians also claim to have armed and created a 50,000 strong Syrian militia called the Jish Shaabi (People’s Army) to fight the rebels (WSJ 9-17-12), along with hundreds of Iranian al Qods “advisers.” Further, Russia is not going to stand by and watch itself lose its only major naval base in the Mediterranean at Tartus, should the rebels look like they will win. Months ago the international media reported the Russians were deploying “elite antiterrorism troops” into Tartus. More likely these troops were either the elite and aggressive “Vympal” or “Alpha” groups! These groups honed their skills fighting Chechen rebels, not standing guard duty.
Should the rebels depose the Assad dynasty, the major HizbAllah/Iranian base in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, becomes isolated. This is both a significant training ground for HizbAllah and HAMAS terrorists and maintains a site for over 3,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Equally important is that the Bekaa is a major heroin producing region. This is a virtual no-go area for the Lebanese government. This heavily armed site now has a missile umbrella and provides hundreds of millions of dollars of drug money for the Assad regime. Further it is a convenient staging area for attacks against Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
With the fall of Assad the Bekaa would be isolated. Will the Iranians tolerate this? Will they air lift the current Revolutionary Guards out, or will they air lift reinforcements in? Will HizbAllah stand by and watch its main source of weapons and protection collapse, or will they strike out at all perceived enemies?
Regardless of what happens, any of the above can bring destabilization of the region on a major scale, to say nothing of the possibility of the US/EU and the Russians having a face off! The clock is ticking.
Contributor: Larry Martines, noted CT expert.