Senator McCain and Unpacking Syria

Arizona Senator John McCain is at it again.  In this statement he claims that if Congress doesn’t get behind President Obama on Syria it would be catastrophic.  Wow.  He goes on to say that the credibility of this country would be shredded with friends and enemies alike.  It sounds like the good Senator is saying that it destroys credibility to say one thing but do another.  He’s saying it’s catastrophic to promise something and not deliver on a promise.  This is too rich! Please stop being a talking head for the administration and “Build the dang fence!!”

I recognize the fact that this man is a true war hero, and would never take that away from him.  I would, however, like to respectfully ask this Vietnam veteran and former POW if he would like to fight along side his captors 12 years after being released from captivity? Would Senator McCain be interested in furthering the cause of the very people who killed his brothers at arms and tortured him?  These are the things I can’t get past as I study this Syrian conflict.

Syria is a royal mess.  And it is in the United States’ best interest not to be involved another drawn out military action that doesn’t affect us.  While I actually agree that since   President Obama has made this asinine red line statement the US must do something, I cannot help but be annoyed and skeptical at anything that comes from RINO McCain’s mouth.

Let’s try to understand the complexity of what’s going on in Syria.  I’ve been doing some research and have gathered, in my opinion, the best, plain speaking, most accurate summations of the many players in the conflict and what their interests are.  Perhaps if we unpack these interests a bit more, we can understand the ramifications of acting or failing to act.

The Players Within Syria

Syrian Regime–President Bashar Assad, his brother Maher and about four intelligence agency leadersPro regime militiamen are also involved.  They are Shabiha fighters from the ruling elite class hired to do the regime’s dirty work.  These men are believed to perform the brutalities for Assad indirectly, thereby giving his regime deniability.

Supreme Military Council: This comprises the main rebel units.  They are backed by the West.  General Salim Idriss defected from the Syrian army 30 years ago.  The hope is that he is a secular minded moderate.

Local brigades and military councils: These are made up of tens of thousands of rebel fighters, military defectors, and citizens who have taken up arms.

Jabhat al-Nisra:  The Islamist extremist group that have been behind the most significant battlefield of successes.  The United States has labeled them terrorists, saying they are affiliated with al-Qaida.

Syria’s Allies:


Iran and Syria fought together in 1979 against Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.  Then again they fought against Israel to keep her out of Lebanon.  Syria has been key to Iran’s access to their Shia Muslim supporters in Hezbollah.  Iran’s Ayatollah needs Syria to remain stable so it can be the link between Iran and Hezbollah, thereby pressuring and threatening Israel.


First things first, Russia loves anything that will keep the US busy while they reestablish themselves as a dominant presence.  Russia has quite the strategic partnership with Syria and they want that to continue.  Syria hosts a Russian naval base, buys Russian weapons, and naturally, Putin wants that to continue.  Russia has invested $20 billion in Syria since 2009, and if Syria falls, it would be far more painful to Russia than the $4 billion they lost when Libya fell apart.


China gives oil and credit to Syria since the rebels in the north control most of the country’s oil.  They simply want Syria to be a blockade to western influence.  They don’t want to see a precedent set wherein the United States gets involved militarily in humanitarian intervention.  China uses similar aggressive tactics in their own country and doesn’t want to be opened up to international criticism.

Syria’s Opposition

Saudi Arabia

The Saudis have been arming Syrian rebels and carrying on a 13-14 centuries old battle of ideology.


Turkey has allowed the opposition rebels to headquarter in Istanbul and is arming and training Sunni rebels.  Ankara is fighting  the Syrian regime and the Shi’ites in Iraq over Kurds.  Another very old conflict.


Israel has had a convoluted relationship with the Assad regime that reaches further back than Bashar Assad.  Israel wanted Hezbollah (Lebanon) to be maintained by Syria.  They had tried and failed to manage the area, and felt that Syria was better under Assad’s regime than a radical Sunni Islamist regime.  One of the reasons the US was in Iraq was to help protect Israel as one of our interests.  Without the US providing a buffer in Iraq, Iran (radical Sunni Islamists who are getting quite chummy and influential with Syria) can become more powerful and thereby be a threat to Israel.  See the explanation of Iran as an Assad ally.  Needless to say, Israel has decided that Syria needs a more moderate, secular leader.  Sharing a border with Lebanon when it is under the management of radical Islamists creates a destabilization Israel absolutely does not want.

United States

Again, US interests is to avoid being drawn into another sectarian conflict.  We cannot afford to offset our balance in the world too much.  Our military can only do so much, and with reduction in forces and budget, it is best to limit our investment of assets.  Unfortunately, the President made his red line statement on Syria, and he will either have to act or be exposed as bluffing.  Here is where the opinion part of this piece kicks in again.  The President is darned if he does, and darned if he doesn’t. Any action he takes will be Tomahawk and Tuck.  He’s broadcast his strategy, given every military target time to move and protect their assets, and now he’s drawn the ire and ridicule of the international community with his abrupt changes in policy on this issue.

Syria’s Ramifications

The west is worried.  Germany (where Angela Merkel is facing an election), France, Belgium and Netherlands count on Russia for their natural gas and oil resources.  They don’t want to get involved in something that could compromise that.  Syria has transit and trade lines that are important to facilitate this dependence.  They will not act.  The European Union and Britain is also worried about the possibility of refugees flooding into their countries.  Turkey and Jordan have already taken in one -half million refugees by virtue of being near the border.  Most countries (but not the US) realize that a huge influx of refugees can be destructive to their economy.

Engaging in the Syrian conflict will also mean that we help (among many others) a group that we have previously named terrorist.  These people have been the leaders in effective offense agains the Assad regime.  They were also the leaders in the assault against Americans on American soil.  There is no easy answer here.  I have to ask Senator McCain if an offensive, no matter how quick and ineffective, would cheapen the heroic actions of Americans–first responders and courageous civilians–who gave it all when the very people we are defending on a humanitarian basis were our enemy scant twelve years ago?  Perhaps I still need to forgive and move on, but the blood of Americans cries out heart wrenching and loudly in my mind, and I find it hard to listen to  my so-called Republican Senator from Arizona tell me it will be catastrophic if we don’t do what we say we will do.

You can find the information in this article in the following links:


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