Syria: A Ticking Time Bomb


Syria can be thought of as a ticking time bomb that could explode at any time, igniting a massive war between major world powers. As this conflict escalates Americans remain largely unaware of just how very dangerous this situation has become. Most think it’s a civil war within that country, but it’s far more than that; it’s a major confrontation involving the most powerful nations in the world.

This latest Middle East crisis involves numerous countries and terrorist groups. The U.S. government is, as usual, right in the middle of the action leading a coalition made up of some of its NATO and Middle East allies; Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar; also Australia, Canada, France and Britain. Many of these countries are directly involved with the relentless bombing while others are in supporting roles.

The U.S. and its allies have two main objectives; one is to destroy the ISIS jihadists and other terror groups aligned with it; Daesh, Al Nusra, as well as Al-Qaeda and its highly-trained Khorasan fighters. Secondly the U.S. is determined to remove President Assad of Syria from power no matter what it takes.

Now on the other side of this conflict are Syria and its allies, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. Russia now has hundreds of military advisers in that country, sophisticated fighter jets, anti-aircraft artillery and missile systems, as well as a naval battle group located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and equipped with long-range surface-to-air missiles, some of which have already been launched into Syria. Russia has also initiated a bombing campaign against ISIS and to provide cover for Syrian troops.

So in Syria with a population of about 18 million people and an area of 71,498 square miles there are some 15 countries and at least 3 terrorist groups engaged in a raging air and ground war.

One small spark set off by either the U.S. or Russia or one of their allies could ignite a war that would rock this world. This situation has escalated to its present level because President Putin of Russia supposedly made some overtures to the U.S. about putting a hold on the bombing and engage with Russia and other major powers in negotiations to determine ways to resolve the conflict. When this offer was not accepted by the U.S. Putin decided to quickly move military assets into that country and conduct his own military actions against ISIS.

Putin has made it clear that he will do everything in his power to support Syria, Russia’s longtime ally. Along with this primary objective Russia has a large naval base strategically located at Tartus, Syria which gives it critically important access to the Mediterranean Sea; it will do whatever is necessary to hold onto that base no matter what happens to Assad.

Now here’s how very complex and dangerous this crisis is. Just think about the possibility of some incident taking place in which Russian fighters and those of U.S. coalition forces have some serious encounter in the skies over Syria in which one or the other’s plane(s) are shot down. That would be disastrous. We should not minimize this possibility because there have been numerous wars that have erupted under far less volatile conditions.

When these fighter jets on either side are in the air their tracking radars lock onto other planes operating in the same vicinity; and only one button needs to be pressed to launch a missile at an identified target. What is the probability of that happening; might a Russian fighter shoot down a U.S. or allied plane or vice-versa? You bet it could happen quite easily, especially when more and more planes are in the skies at the same time and the tensions reach a boiling point; then look out for what follows next.

Putin has most definitely upped the ante in this standoff; now will Mr. Obama counter his moves? What are the odds that Mr. Obama’s bombing campaign will be a success and result in removing Assad of Syria from power? Well, from the looks of what has been happening so far and the fact that Putin has, once again, seemingly outmaneuvered Mr. Obama, they would seem not to be very good.

It may well be that President Obama has succeeded in painting himself into a corner from which it will be very difficult to extract himself. He has finally realized that his attempts to train and equip “moderate” Syrian rebel forces was not going to work because there are none in existence. What’s that old saying, “When you have dug yourself into a deep hole, the most important thing you must do is to stop digging?” Well, President Obama; it’s time to stop digging.

I watched the Democratic debate this week and was interested to see if any of the 5 candidates would issue warnings about that tenuous situation and if they realized how very volatile it was. Well, the two leading candidates, Clinton and Sanders, were adamant that Putin was the aggressor and was the main problem, but neither said anything of substance about what must be done and seemed to want to move on to some other subject. Meanwhile, Anderson Cooper, the CNN moderator didn’t press this issue as he should have.

Some 66% of the Russian people are in agreement with what their government is doing in Syria while 19% oppose these actions. Now, what % of Americans are for or against what the U.S. government is doing there? The only poll I’ve seen recently was one taken to determine what the American people considered to be the most important issues currently facing this country. The results indicated that religion was #1 (what???), followed by the economy and several other issues; and the 5th most important was what the U.S. military was doing in Syria.

That response clearly shows that the American people are still being kept in the dark about Syria. Neither their government nor the mainstream media will tell them the truth of the matter and that is just plain inexcusable; but that’s nothing new.

Some say that the U.S. and Russia have entered into a new Cold War but I see that as an inaccurate assessment. This is turning into a very heated war that could erupt into something much, much greater. Wiser and cooler heads must prevail, the bombing by all sides must be put on hold and the leaders of these major nations must realize that they need to enter into serious negotiations to find some way to resolve this crisis before that time bomb goes off.


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Michael Payne is an independent progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues; and especially with the great dangers involved with the proliferation of perpetual war, the associated defense industry, and the massive control that Corporate America holds over this government and our election process; all which are leading this nation down the road to eventual financial ruin if the conditions are not reversed. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois and a U.S. Army veteran.