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Syria is at a Flash Point, but Assad is Firmly in Saddle

Updated on December 24, 2017

The Russian Factor in Syria

The Beginning

The British and the French sat on a table and carved up the Middle East after the demise of the Ottoman empire. Thus countries came up along geometrical straight lines. This was a sure recipe for instability. The Republic of Syria was similarly formed. Initially, it tried a union with Egypt, which collapsed because of internal contradictions and after that Syria went on its own path.

The Syrian people have never known democracy. The fact is a democracy is a unheard phenomenon in the entire Middle East and the Assad regime held on to power with an iron hand and a dictatorship.

Opposition to Assad

The western powers were greatly handicapped in their design of the Middle East. After conquering Iraq and Libya, they thought it the right time to oust Assad. An insurrection was allowed to build up against Assad. The plan was to give a fillip to the opponents of Assad and once the opposition had crystallized, to intervene and overthrow Assad.

But times had changed. The American people wary of another war after the Pyrrhic victories in Iraq and Libya was loathing to allow the US government a free hand to intervene in Syria. Another deterrent was the 17 trillion debt, a result of reckless spending on unproductive wars. Congress was certainly not enamored of another intervention in Syria.

The Flash Point

Looking for a way to intervene in Syria, the bogey of use of Chemical weapons by Assad was built up. It was expected that the world would appreciate a "principled" stand against such weapons. But the UN reports could not confirm that the WMD chemical weapons were used by Assad, so eh the USA and its allies France and the UK were in a limbo. One other factor emerged. This was the support of Russia and to an extent China for Assad. These two powers had felt that the west had cheated them into giving support in Libya and they were not prepared to tow the Western powers line.

The Flash Point

Syria is at a flashpoint. President Assad is emboldened to cock a snook at the western powers. He has also ignored the actions of that toothless tiger the Arab league. What could be the reason for this? Apparently, Assad has something up his sleeve and that is in the form of Russian support.

Support of Putin

Putin is the man who runs Russia. This former KGB officer and black belt Judo champion considers the USA a pain in the neck. He would like to restore the old glory of the Soviet Union and thus he has given his support to Assad. This is not good news for the West and the USA as removing Assad is that much, more difficult now. Putin has started by giving anti-ship missile battery to Syria. This will have an effect in case there is seaborne invasion attempted by the West. More important he has explicitly stated the Russian Aircraft carrier would be sent to the sea-coast of Syria.

The Syrian Army

The Syrian National Council, the country's leading opposition movement cannot match the firepower of the Russian aided Syrian army. After all, even the father of the present ruler Hafez-al-Assad had launched an attack on Hama in 1982 and thousands were killed. As things stand the Syrian army has already killed hundreds of protesters and the Arab league and the west are passive watchers. Probably they are aware of the Russian presence and the training which they are giving to the Syrian army.

The Future

What of the future? If the West and the USA get involved it won’t be a walkover like in Libya as Russia has come into the game. Anti-aircraft batteries and now anti-ship batteries are installed and Putin feels he has a mission. Intervention by the west won’t be a dry run like in Libya. The bear will have to be countered and I wonder whether Obama will risk it. He is too prudent an American to commit to a US-led invasion of Syria.


The situation is fluid, but Obama has made a face-saving deal with the Russians. The Chemical weapons will be destroyed and for the time the US will not attack Syria. In any case, public opinion will not accept another Iraq war. In eff, ct Assad is the great survivor and there appears little chance of his removal as yet/


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