With the alarming high risk of a military clash between U.S. and Russian forces over Syria’s crowded airspace, a proxy war between Washington and Moscow has already begun.
Even though U.S. President Barack Obama said over the weekend that there is going to be no proxy war between the U.S. and Russia in Syria, all evidence and common sense seem to point to the contrary.
Thus, Obama is either unwilling to admit that Russia has just become, if not the sole master of the Middle East, than an equal player to the U.S. in terms of its political role in the Middle East, or the Obama administration has just passed Syria on to Russia and doesn’t care about the realities in the region anymore.
But the fact remains clear: the proxy war between Washington and Moscow in the Middle East has already begun. And Middle Eastern states are already lining up to join either Russia or the U.S.
And with Russia being more prestigious for its loyalty to its partners as well as the ongoing effectiveness of its airstrike campaign against ISIS in Syria, it seems like the U.S. does not have that many pals in the Middle East as we might have thought before.
Russian President Vladimir Putin saw that the campaign launched by the U.S.-led coalition has little effect on eliminating ISIS in the region, which is why he began increasing Russia’s military presence in the region since the end of August. The first half of September saw a large build-up of Russia’s military hardware and troops in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia.
On the verge of the World War 3
Ever since Russia started bombing Syria last week, Moscow warned Washington to not fly U.S. warplanes in Syria without providing any geographical information about exact positions it planned to strike. The U.S. then refused to comply with the request and the U.S. air campaign in Syria is continuing as usual.
This fact alone raises concerns over a high possibility of a military clash between U.S. and Russian forces in Syria, especially now that the Pentagon confirmed Russia is not targeting exclusively ISIS targets as it claims to be.
Accidentally or otherwise, a clash between U.S. and Russian forces is of high possibility, which is why U.S. officials urge Moscow to coordinate their actions in Syria. But it’s not enough to coordinate actions with just Russia anymore, as other Middle Eastern states have already gotten involved into the ongoing proxy war.
What Putin seems to be doing is simply copying the U.S. style of waging modern war: dropping bombs on people from a safe distance without any risk to Russian soldiers. And the next time Putin is asked why he is doing it, he will probably reply ‘Why the U.S. can do it, and I can’t?’
And it would probably make sense. However, what the Russians have done is rather unprecedented in the history. Russia decided to launch airstrikes in Syria right when the conflict had involved Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey as well as aircraft of the U.S. and other countries of the U.S.-led coalition.
That alone creates a high risk of a military encounter between Russian and U.S. aircraft over the airspace during overlapping airstrikes in Syria, which makes you think that we might be standing on the verge of the World War 3 now.
Russia-Syria-Iran-Hezbollah alliance brings us closer to the World War 3?
By sending its troops and military equipment into the region, Russia has acquired both friends and enemies. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are probably not going to side with Russia, because Russia’s airstrikes in Syria contradict both of these countries’ strategic goals in the region.
Putin also shows that Russia is a reliable ally unlike the U.S., who abandoned Iraq in 2011 and does not seems to be motivated enough to eliminate ISIS. The alliance with Iran increases Putin’s influence in the Middle East, while his game in Syria will most likely let him get Western sanctions against Russia lifted.
Israel, another major player in the region, on the other hand, seems to be already secretly dealing with Russia over Syria, in return for Putin’s pledge that Israel’s security will be protected. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Moscow has shown that U.S. allies in the region are not going to wait for Washington to wake up.
It was recently reported that hundreds of Iranian troops arrived in Syria along with military equipment to launch ground combat operations on rebel-held areas in the north of the country.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and has been fighting alongside the Assad regime since the beginning of the conflict, told Reuters that it is preparing to join the operation as well.
The operation involving the Syrian army will go hand in hand with Russian airstrikes to regain the control over the Northern-Western part of Syria, which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents gained earlier this year.
What we already see is an emerging alliance between Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Assad regime, which will likely get other Middle Eastern states involved into the proxy war in Syria.
And maybe not just Middle Eastern countries, but also Western states, which raises concerns about unleashing of the World War 3, accidentally or otherwise.
Obama has two options now
Egypt, in its turn, is supporting Russia’s actions in Syria. It must be noted that even though most Middle Eastern countries do not like what Putin has unleashed in the region, they still respect how the Russian President stands up to the U.S. dominance in the region.
There is also a high probability of Russia strengthening relations with the Shi’ite-dominated government in Iraq, who are also reportedly planning to join the ground combat operation alongside the Russians, the Syrian army, Iran and Hezbollah.
Another potential Russia’s partner in Syria, China, which recently carried out joint naval drills with Russia in the Eastern Mediterranean and is expanding its military potential in the neighboring Pakistan, has major plans for the Middle East, including investing into Iranian hydrocarbons.
With the conflict in Syria already being a proxy war between Russia and the U.S., Obama has only two options now: to admit that there is an ongoing proxy war against Russia and deal with it, or ignore it and face unpleasant consequences for its global dominance role.