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Ignoring Syria: Our Collective Peril

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By Rene Sotolongo:

Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis have we faced such a showdown with Russia. In fact, on October 2, 2016, Maria Zakarova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, clearly and emphatically stated:

The refusal of a diplomatic settlement in Syria may result in a full-scale war.

This was a direct—and public—response to United States Secretary of State John Kerry’s earlier statement that the US may freeze cooperation on Syria with Moscow.

So what is happening in Syria? And why is Russia even involved? And why should we even care?

Let’s start at the beginning.

It all started with the “Arab Spring.” This was supposed to be a great tide of democracy sweeping the Middle East. We saw dictators removed from their positions of power through democratic elections. But no one was reporting that the Arab Spring, by most accounts, was orchestrated and even helped by Barack Obama. Barack Obama’s administration championed the Arab Spring and even went so far as to arm Libyan “rebels.” But by all accounts, the Arab Spring has been one of the worst failures in the annals of United States Diplomacy.

Yes, “democratic” elections were held. And yes, dictators were swept from power. But what one must realize is that most of those dictators were—at least in part—friendly to the United States and helped protect American interests. So now, instead of dictators favorable to the US, we have produced Islamic Terrorist States and Governments that follow Sharia law.

In short, we have replaced one set of dictators with another. Totalitarian governments committed to the total and complete destruction of the West. Case in point: Mohammed Morsi, the president of Egypt. Mohammed Morsi is part of an organization—the Muslim Brotherhood—that has vowed to destroy the United States

As per one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s foundational documents:

The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers…

In fact, Mohammed Morsi is probably the absolute best example of the failed Arab Spring. He was democratically elected. But once he was in power, he quickly nullified the constitution, castrated the judiciary, and shut down any media outlet that was critical of his government. He even set up a macabre torture chamber. But of course, no one in the Obama Administration, including then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saw this coming… or did they?

Would it be completely illogical to believe a sitting United States President would actually work with the enemy in order to install Islamist Militants throughout the Middle East and North Africa?

Which brings us to Syria.

Syria is in the midst of a civil war. It is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Over half of the population has been killed or displaced. And it all started with the Arab Spring. But here is where the story becomes really interesting. Syria has long been an ally and friend to Russia and Iran. The United States has called for the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad to step down. He of course refused.

It did not sit well with the Obama administration that al-Assad would not relinquish power. So a very secret agreement was reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan (the President of Turkey) administrations. If you are thinking Benghazi, your right. By the terms of the agreement, funding for the illegal arms shipments to Syrian rebels came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The CIA, with the support of MI6, was tasked for shipping and transporting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. All of this was confirmed by a highly classified annex to the Benghazi report (which was not made public) which described the agreement.

Seymour Hirsch published his investigative report wherein he confirms the secret report. Clearly stating that there is an addendum to the Senate Intelligence Committee report [on Benghazi] which explains what the CIA was doing in Benghazi. Our government was shipping arms from Libya through Turkey to Syrian rebels.

“The [Benghazi] consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ ‘It had no real political role.’ Said the former intelligence official quoted in Hirsh’s report.

The sole intent of all this illegal activity – to remove Assad from power. But with help from Russia and Iran, al-Assad has been able to hold onto power. And thus, the years-long civil war.

So now, you have the Obama administration illegally supplying arms to the Syrian rebels, and you have Russia supplying arms to al-Assad’s government. With both sides fighting each other, and ISIS stepping into the fray, taking strongholds all over Syria. In other words, Syria is the new Afghanistan. And all of this undermines a key assumption in much of the U.S. debate about Syria; the notion that what happens over there simply does not matter here.

For some reason, for years, in fact, it was argued that the conflict could be “contained” within Syria’s borders – which we now know was painfully ignorant. Just look at the mass migration of Syrian refugees. Many also argue that while the conflict is tragic, it does not threaten vital U.S. national security interests and so American involvement should be kept to a bare minimum. These arguments are no longer sustainable. In fact, this is a conclusion that Obama himself has reached. In a recent news conference, Obama publicly declared that Syria is now “one of our highest national security priorities.” And no wonder, when you have the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson threatening a full-scale war.

It is easy to understand why so many Americans see the war in Syria as someone else’s problem. Syria is a place most people have never visited and it is on the other side of the world, but the truth of the matter is the longer this conflict goes on, the more it becomes a problem that will reach our shores.  For three reasons.

  1. Whether we like it or not, The United States must hold and support the system of international law and governance. If we do not, then there is no system, and anarchy rules. Just look at the spread of ISIS for a history lesson on what happens when you leave a power vacuum.
  2. It creates a breeding ground for terrorists. In fact, according to recent reports, thousands (if not tens of thousands) of Muslims are flocking to the Middle East to join in the “holy war.”
  3. It creates an unprecedented immigration crisis. We simply have no means or system in place to handle so many Syrian refugees. Despite the assurances from the Obama administration, we simply have no way of knowing who is a legitimate refugee and who is a terrorist. Let alone the logistics and the cost of the program.

What we are witnessing is the violent destruction of a country in the heart of the Middle East. There are going to be untold consequences. Not just for innocent civilians but for the future of the region and its impact on global politics as well. More importantly, it will only be a matter of time before we see Muslim terrorist attacks on our shores… or an outright full-scale war with Russia.

We ignore Syria at our collective peril.

Rene C. Sotolongo is an OpsLens Contributor and a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer who served for over twenty years as an Information Systems official. Sotolongo also specialized in homeland security and counterterrorism.

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