America and Russia Should Work Together in Syria and Iraq
What should the American Policy for the Middle East be from now on? Should we continue as we have for the last 60-100 years to be directly involved in these countries destinies where the landscapes shift as often as the sands that sweep across the vast region? Places full of varied ethnic groups, tribes, religions and tensions, picking and choosing which dictator to prop up versus which one to undermine?
The results are in on the strategy of arming one extremist group against the other, such as supporting a formal government. Take the former Shah of Iran, who was installed after a joint operation by the CIA and MI6 to overthrow a democratically elected Doctor, ensuring cheap oil prices for American and British companies.
Or arming a guerrilla faction, such as the Mujaheddin of Afghanistan that turned into the Taliban. Yet to simply retreat from the region at this critical juncture is both naive and dangerous. It would not only put American geopolitical interests at stake but sound a weak message to our partners in the region as well as those such as China and Russia who are playing at a game with far higher stakes Is there a middle ground?
I believe almost every action the United States has taken in the past century has lead to unintended consequences, or “blow-back” as the CIA termed it, in the Middle East that the world is now paying dearly for.
The West have consistently thought only about short term goals, such as acquiring natural resources (I.E. Oil) as cheaply as possible for its companies to make profits both at home and around the world while simultaneously controlling strategic points in a region vital to America’s foreign policy over this same time frame. Helping dictators and their cronies to squash their populations liberties in exchange for this unholy trade of power and resources.
Now, after America’s latest and possibly most tremendous blunders in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is faced with a quickly devolving region that is sliding closer and closer to full-blown ethnic war between the various religious sects, namely Shia and Sunni but including vast swathes of lesser tribes that are now positioned to fight on one of many different sides of this conflict.
We of course have IS and Al-Qaeda, the name brand terror groups who have rocked the world at various times and control large amounts of territory in Iraq and Syria. With IS proving a completely different kind of animal than Al-Qaeda, the American response was one of stupidity.
Then we have the state sponsors of the various terror groups and ethnic fighting, in the form of Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-fundamentalist Wahhabism that was an inspiration for IS’s own doctrine, and Iran, the Shia-dominated state that has long held ties to Hezbollah and other extremist groups and is currently funding the Houthis in Yemen.
These are the same Houthis who are being bombed nearly daily by Saudi Arabia. Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Jordan, the mess that is Syria, Bahrain.
The list of who is fighting with who, who sides with whom on what issue, who backs someone here and at the same time fights against that same group in a different area, is so convoluted that you are more likely to see an atom with the naked eye then you, me, or be are to fully grasp the situation in these myriad relationships.
This does not even begin to talk about the massive over-arching rivalry between the three nominal superpowers of the world in China, Russia and the United States that has lead to this ever-escalating conflict we will one day come to call World War 3.
The easiest way to start breaking down this labyrinth of relationships is to cleanly define the parties, which my colleagues here at Defensionemdid a wonderful job of laying out.
It is a web of rivalries, relationships and history that goes back literally thousands of years and revolves around a land dominated by the 3 major religions that have all been at war with each other since each of their respective inceptions.
On an even more elemental level, it breaks down into tribal beefs and alliances going back the same time frame. For any outside country to think it can solve this problem by sheer force of will is lunacy, as the Europeans, Russia and especially America have consistently found out time and again.
Thus, the situation the world find itself in is nearly a nightmare in almost every theater. Beyond the mess in the Middle East, China and the Americans are locking horns over the South China Sea, with the American Navy starting daily patrols within 12 nautical miles of fortified Chinese islands.
We still have half of Korea living in a hellscape set in the 1950’s, including the gulags, lack of internet and an angry little man threatening to blow up the world. Ukraine is still a quagmire in the East for Russia, while the rest of the Baltic states are on high alert to any Russian aggression.
Africa is Africa, with genocides still occurring across the continent and corrupt strongmen ruling their helpless, uneducated and poverty-stricken masses until the next “rebel” leader takes over in violent cycles, plundering their own countries’ wealth before heading for “exile”. India and Pakistan, Pakistan and India. No matter whose name you put first, the other is offended.
Unrest in the Latin American countries, with Mexico still proving to be by far the biggest threat to American national security that literally no one seems willing to address, possibly due to the embarrassing nature of the both the CIA, the government and it’s corporations such as banks that willingly launder money for the Cartels while the CIA arms them.
That paragraph is quite bleak, and it barely scratches the surface of the myriad problems facing humans. Nothing suggests the world will end anytime soon, at least not by military means, and that is encouraging.
But as we slip ever closer to a potential showdown between the world’s great powers across the globe, we must educate ourselves on our history to help guide us through this penultimate time in our species history. America has worked with Russia before in war, to great effect.
Now is such a time where eradicating the AIDS-like virus that is the Islamic State is worth washing hands and holding noses while letting Russia do the dirty work NATO simply wasn’t prepared to do.
While Assad becoming ruler of the Syria he once did eventually is a dream, and that should be enough for now for America to focus on destroying IS while waiting for the right time to dispatch Assad. Even the President himself had this much to say on the matter:
“The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict. But we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo.”
Ultimately, it is for the Syrians themselves to draw up their own borders and choose their own way of life, in whatever form that may be. For America to succeed in its stated goals of removing Assad and destroying IS, it must now team with Russia for the mutual benefit of eliminating a source of extremists that could reach their own home territories.
President Obama has misplayed his hand at almost every turn in the Middle East, with devastating effects that have reverberated around the world. Now, President Putin has forced America’s hand, pulling up a seat to the table and forcing America to play poker.
Instead of blinking, America should reach out to Russia and figure out a way to see this through without allowing the Russians to become the dominant players in not only Syria but Iraq and other countries who see America stepping back from the region to focus on China.
In any case, the war that started as a peaceful protest all those years ago during a time of hope and romantic revolution has brought the world to it’s knees, only inches away from falling into the abyss a true global war would send this planet and all of its inhabitants to. I hope this answers if America and Russia should work together in Syria and Iraq.