Today: 17.01.2018
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16.01.2018

The final act of the Syrian bloodbath.

The euphoric hopes of 2011’s Arab Spring soon collapsed into a long winter of blood and devastation. From the Middle East through much of North Africa, dictators fell, but societies crumbled. The dead are beyond counting. Many factors combined to deny populations good government, among them religious and ethnic differences, pervasive corruption, dysfunctional borders, meddling...
Time: 20:16     Date: 11.01.2018
Last US News - Opinion: The final act of the Syrian bloodbath. NY Post 24 - US News

Many factors combined to deny populations good government, among them religious and ethnic differences, pervasive corruption, dysfunctional borders, meddling by foreign powers and, not least, Islamist fanaticism and terror.

And the country where every one of those factors combined to extend the region’s bloodiest conflict is Syria, where a multisided civil war will enter its eighth year in March — with no end in sight.

What began as a popular uprising against a tyrant has become a war of vengeance between faiths and factions, supercharged by outsiders waging a proxy struggle for hegemony. Millions of refugees have been driven abroad.

This all-or-nothing struggle just entered its third act. The first, brief act was the freedom rebellion, now drowned in its own blood. The second act saw the sudden triumph of ISIS in eastern Syria as well as the intervention of foreign powers. Now, with the Islamic State’s caliphate collapsed, the civil war has become a war for regional domination.

To make sense of the current muddle, consider each major player. The Assad regime: Discredited by butchery but still seated at the United Nations, Syria’s government has no chance of regaining the broader population’s allegiance. Its military proved incapable, its repression counterproductive, its cruelty stunning. To survive, Bashar al-Assad had to turn to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and its Hezbollah clients for help.

Iran: Thus far, Iran’s the big winner. And Tehran has no interest in a peaceful settlement. A situation in which Assad has increased but not total control leaves Iran indispensable to the regime. Meanwhile, Iran has built a new Persian empire, stretching to the Mediterranean Sea.

Hezbollah: The terrorist army has suffered thousands of casualties in Syria. But it now has a large cadre of combat veterans. And its arsenal has expanded alarmingly. The next conflict with Israel will be far more destructive than the last.

The Palestinians: They blew it again. Siding with the Assad regime (which had given them refuge), the Pals alienated key Arab supporters. Thus, the lack of real retaliation when President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Russians: Putin’s intervention began impressively, but Syria has proved harder than his advisers predicted. Last autumn, Putin publicly declared victory, but his forces are bogged down. Russian weapons revealed themselves as second-rate, while slovenly air operations slaughtered civilians.

But the great Russian strength is ruthlessness, and it turned the tide in Assad’s favor. Now Assad has to come when Putin whistles.

The Russians are paying a price, though, becoming the new Great Satan. Last Saturday, the opposition struck Russia’s Syrian airbase at Khmeimim with long-range drones and reportedly damaged or destroyed seven late-model fighters (Russia’s media blamed us, then the Turks). And the Russian death toll mounts.

The Kurds: Valiant fighters, they’ve earned a state of their own. But we’ll let them down in our fool’s-errand pursuit of a role as the region’s honest broker.

Turkey: Big loser. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers himself a brilliant strategist but was duped by Moscow and Tehran. Having sponsored its own rebel factions, Ankara has to watch as the regime’s backers punch deep into Idlib Province, where the Turks hoped to maintain influence. Short of direct military intervention, there’s little Erdogan can do. And the Kurds, his chosen nemeses, are stronger.

Israel: It faces a stronger Hezbollah and Iran on its border. In the plus column, though, the major Sunni Arab states realize they need Israel on their side against Iran — which changes power relationships dramatically in the region. The United States: We forged the coalition that crushed the caliphate, but we don’t know what to do next. As usual, we had no strategic vision beyond the immediate task and ended up doing our enemies’ work for them, shattering ISIS while the regime’s allies focused on smashing the opposition. For all of our battlefield successes, we have no map to the future of the region.

Expect more corpses.

Ralph Peters is Fox News’ strategic analyst.

Opinion

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Living

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Business

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Sport

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