Just How Serious is the Situation in Syria?

The headlines from the last few weeks has been dominated by the refugee crisis in southern and eastern Europe.  Four million Syrians have fled their homeland over the past 4 years and now 1 million are making their way into Europe as a result of Germany opening its doors (and borders) to those who have escaped the murder and violence in their homeland.  The stories of trains and buses stuffed to the gills have been legion. Families have been walking hundreds of miles with their little children held tight to their chests, sleeping in the open air of the countryside, and disrupting the highways along the paths to the north.  The crisis has reached epic proportions.

Massive Russian military transport bringing weapons and troops to Syria
Massive Russian military transport bringing weapons and troops to Syria

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2011, the horrors of the Syrian civil war have, like the refugees, been flooding into mainline media news reports. Over 250,000 are estimated dead from the fighting.  Most Syrian casualties; however, were civilians killed by their own government.  The regime of Bashar al’ Assad has in fact murdered thousands of innocents indiscriminately through the horrific use of chemical weapons. But the terror in Syria extends beyond these heinous acts.

The emergence of ISIS during the past two years has exacerbated the violence and death in both eastern Syria as well as western Iraq.  The misery in this region knows no borders as ISIS seeks to install a caliphate within an Islamic state.  Countless numbers have been literally put to the sword by these Sunni extremists. The United States, war weary from over ten years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, has reluctantly supplied only meager amounts of air support to aid moderate Muslims who fight against ISIS as well as the Syrian government of Assad. Unwittingly perhaps, the U.S. has provided far more military help to ISIS with weapons abandoned at the end of the Iraq war than it does today’s moderate Muslims in Syria that better reflect American values.

Seldom if ever has U.S. Foreign policy been so feckless.  Throughout this period, the Obama Administration has called for Assad to step down, but to no avail.  The U.S. has poured $500 million into training less than 60 fighters to oppose Assad. And now fewer than a dozen of those trainees remain in the fray with the rest killed, captured, or executed.  The Obama administration has alienated the one democracy, Israel, which has proven itself to be an invaluable ally for decades.  It has proudly negotiated a deal with Iran that not only enables Tehran to pursue nuclear technology (and possibly weapons),  at the same time it has opened the spigot of $50 billion or more previously frozen Iranian assets.  By so doing, the U.S. Government has indirectly become the number one financier of terrorism.   What did the U.S. get in exchange for the Iran deal that our President and his Secretary of State herald?

First, a pledge by Iran that they will not pursue nuclear weapons outright even though they can advance their nuclear know-how with minor restrictions.

Secondly, a public promise they will continue to pursue advances in missile technology without restraint. That way, when Iran does perfect a nuclear weapon it will have the means to deliver it…ballistically and with almost no warning.

Thirdly,  verification that Iranian promises are made good by self-inspection (yes, that’s correct–they will inspect themselves to verify they are keeping their word).  On those nuclear sites Iran doesn’t self-inspect, where third-parties are allowed in to take a look around, Iran must be given no less than two-weeks notice.

It would be easy to hear the laughs and the jeers by alert U.S. citizens if it were not for being drowned out by the cheers of “death to the great Satan, America” and “death to the little Satan, Israel” led in Tehran–cheers evoked by the same Muslim government inking the deal with Secretary of State John Kerry in obvious bad faith (if we are to take Iranian leaders at their word).

It is against this backdrop that Vladimir Putin and the Russian military has just stepped into the Syrian civil war, ostensibly to support its ally, the the Assad regime, and maintain its valuable warm water port of Tartous on the Mediterranean.  The Russians ride into Damascus on a white horse to protect their strongest MidEast ally, the butcherous Assad.  The civil war gives Russia the opportunity to make its presence felt in tangible and tactical ways. While under the cover of taking the battle to ISIS, Putin has set up an air force base in Syria which includes 36 Russian fighters and fighter bombers, a number of helicopter gunships, and who knows how many “boots on the ground.”  And don’t forget the tanks, nine of them at last count.

What is the U.S. response?  Actually there have been several–all of them equally baffling.  First Obama’s press secretary lamented that the Russians would bring more instabililty into the region (which is impossible since the situation couldn’t be more chaotic).  Secondly, an admission that we don’t know exactly what the Russians are up to in Syria.  They keep “popping up” everywhere. And then finally an admission: “the Russian presence may prove helpful to quell the growth of ISIS.”   This latest outcome demonstrates that the U.S. strategy has broken free from its moorings and is adrift with no steerage. We forfeit the initiative once again to Russia for fixing a big problem we did not have the will to resolve.

Indeed, as a reminder, it wasn’t that long ago that Putin bailed out Obama who had proclaimed Assad’s use of chemical weapons would be a red line that if crossed, would surely bring the wrath of the U.S. military down upon his regime.  Assad crossed the line.  Obama was frozen in inaction.  Then Putin proposed overseeing the dismantling of the chemical weapon arsenal and Obama leaped at Putin’s proposal, keeping the U.S. military out of Syria.  Thus Obama demonstrated that he could surpass himself and his performance in Libya.  Now he would no longer lead from behind.  He would not lead whatsoever.  Assad was free to pursue his civil war (and annililation of his political enemies, mainly his own citizens) and Russia was one step away from locking up the Middle East for hegemonic regional influence now unchallenged by the U.S. military.

It’s not like the U.S. did nothing.  The U.S. continued to call for Assad’s stepping down and understandably, Assad ignored our request.  With that failure securely under its belt, the U.S. turned its attention away from Syria as well as Iraq to achieve its marvellous deal with Iran while concurrently pulling most of its remaining troops out of Afghanistan. The U.S. has made the Middle East safe for no one except despots, deathsquads, and tyrants.  Putin must be beside himself in glee.  The U.S. is all but out of the region.  Russia sells it weapons to Iran, Syria, and lately, even Saudi Arabia who also feels betrayed by its long-term ally.  Russia establishes itself more firmly and openly than ever in Syria.  It has secured Crimea through annexation.  Never has Israel been more isolated.  Never has the U.S. been more irrelevant to the politics of the Middle East and the Balkans through which the refugees flee.

What comes next?  The U.S. still chooses to focus its energies closer to Moscow, inflaming Putin by continuing to support the western leaning government in Kiev which fights its own civil war with Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the Donbass region (eastern Ukraine).  Sanctions against Russia continue with lukewarm support from our European allies who do not want to bother paying their dues to NATO.  Germany forges ahead gaining more prestiege as Europe’s natural leader.  Both German and Italian leaders enjoy good relationships with Putin.  Ties with the U.S. weaken everywhere in Europe except in Northeast Europe that recognizes that the Euopean Union is a paper tiger, unable to muster a defense against Moscow aggression.  Only Poland and the Baltic states have faith that the U.S. will stand with them against Russia.  The U.S. under Barack Obama can boast that it has simultaneously lost its footing in the Middle East, diminished its prestige throughout most of Europe, while heightening animosity with its Russian rival.   Throughout the past six months, Russia amps up its threats to use its nuclear arsenal to counter supposed U.S. clandestine operations–operations that Putin contends threaten the Russian state. Most realize Putin is prepping his people for war.

So just how serious is the situation in Syria?  Besides the tragedy of the refugees and the thousands who have been killed, Syria is a symbol that the world has forever changed and the United States can no longer exert its will undaunted around the globe.  The U.S. now faces even greater threats from both radical Islam and a revitalized Russia. Losing our foothold in the midst of the battle for Syria promises dire consequences for our nation.

Bible prophecy students recognize what is transpiring.  The battle described in Ezekiel 38-39, of Gog from the land of Magog will commence soon.  With the U.S. neutralized, Russia stands ready to gather up the armies of Islam along with its own forces to launch a massive attack on the one remaining obstacle to controlling all of the Middle East… Israel.  The only question now is not “if” but “when” Russia decides to act.  The probable trigger event–an Israeli attack on Iran–seems the most likely next step.  And that could occur at any moment.