Let’s call it what it is: a proxy war.
Ben Brumfield of CNN reported that U.S. troops arrived in Turkey today to man Patriot missile systems. The systems themselves are officially NATO property, but the people with the finger on the trigger are decidedly American.
From Brumfield’s report:
In response [to Assad launching Scud-B missiles on Allepo], the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands deployed Patriot air defense missiles to the border region to intercept any Syrian ballistic missiles.
Just across the border, manning similar systems, Russian military officers “pose a challenge” to U.S. intervention, according to the Guardian. It’s more than a “challenge,” it means that if Assad drops chems, and the U.S. launches an assault, America will see Russia on the battlefield.
Though Russia denies sending troops and resources to Syria (actually, they called the idea “nonsense” and said their Navy ships were rescuing Russian nationals), the country has a long history of arms shipments to Syria — it’s become almost reflexive.
There’s little reason they shouldn’t arm the Syrians after Obama came out last month and said that America has plans to ship heavy weapons systems from Libya to rebels in Syria.
The administration’s announcement came following a thwarted attempt by Russia to fly supplies (and personnel) in to the embattled Assad regime using a Syrian jet liner. Turkey, likely reacting to pressure from the U.S., forced down the Syrian passenger plane over its air space in order to search them for “heavy weapons.”
The U.S. is also training Syrian rebel commandos in Jordan, which explains why some reports of Russia arming Syria with 24 Iskander surface-to-surface ballistic missiles also noted that 12 of them were pointed at Jordan while the other dozen were pointed north at Turkey.
So there’s a chance Russia and the U.S. will fill each other’s crosshairs, unless the U.S. responds to chemical weapon use by allowing Russia enough time to exit prior to an assault.
Independent analysts have told BI that Russia is very focused on “self preservation,” and that chemical weapons would trigger withdrawal of support — which is why Russia promptly denounces every report of chemical weapon use or preparation.
When the U.S. expressed concern, to put it lightly, that Assad’s movement of chemical weapons constituted “mixing,” “loading,” and “preparation,” Russia responded immediately, labeling the actions “securing” of the weapons, rather than prepping — and later referred to use of chemical weapons as “political suicide.”
The suicide would be that Russia would pull its support, and the U.S. (NATO) would have a free hand with Assad. It would also lose the proxy war for Russia, who has officially expressed its goal is to ‘protect Syrian sovereignty’ and in so doing wear down America’s power (and its ability to provoke regime change).
From the BBC:
By standing up for Damascus, the Kremlin is telling the world that neither the UN, nor any other body or group of countries has the right to decide who should or should not govern a sovereign state.
Then there’s also the fact that arms shipments to Syria are big bucks. Without Assad, with the rebel Free Syrian Army in place, those contracts would likely go to the West, and Russia would lose influence right in its own backyard.