Understanding the Nightmare
Joseph A. Klein writes:
First, there is the religious and political battle being played out between Shiite Iran and the Sunni Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Iran is eager to maintain its sphere of influence in Syria through its alliance with Assad (who is affiliated with a Shite minority sect known as the Alawites ruling Syria). Saudi Arabia and Qatar aim to roll back Iran’s ambitions for hegemony in the region and are supporting the Sunni majority in Syria in their revolt against Assad and the Alawites. Hence, Iran is beefing up Assad’s regime with arms and the support of its Revolutionary Guard. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding and providing arms for the opposition.
Second, al Qaeda is using the chaos in Syria to establish another Islamic jihadist beachhead. As the New York Times recently reported, “Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution…The evidence is mounting that Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists, including those operating under the banner of Al Qaeda.”
Third, Turkey, under the Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is serving as a transit point for the flow of arms to the opposition, including shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles known as MANPADs. Erdoğan is evidently trying to revive Turkey’s Ottoman caliphate heritage by offering a seemingly “moderate” alternative to al Qaeda and other fundamentalist groups in leading the regional Sunni battle against the increasingly isolated Assad regime.
Fourth, there is the revival of U.S.-Russian Cold War-like rivalries. President Obama’s policy of trying to push a re-set button in the relationship between the two countries has backfired. As evidenced by its intransigence at the United Nations, Russia is protecting the Assad regime to thwart the West and its NATO ally Turkey in their efforts to extend their reach through regime change in a region where Russia believes it has vital strategic interests.
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