Not for the first time there are dire warnings of a direct US-Russia confrontation in Syria that could escalate, in the worst case, into a third world war. What is going on has echoes of the proxy conflicts fought by the superpowers during the latter stages of the cold war, but with added elements of risk because the accepted rules and formal channels of communication to a large extent no longer exist.Sponsored Ads
The latest alarm sounded after US forces shot down a Syrian government warplane and Russia said it would in future treat any US plane flying west of the Euphrates as a potential target. Russia also announced that it was cutting the Russia-US hotline designed to prevent accidental clashes in the Syrian airspace. The US said it had acted in defence of opposition forces fighting Islamic State. Russia asked on what authority it was striking against the government of a foreign state
There’s a real danger that over the course of a Trump administration that the US will be at war with North Korea and that millions of people in the region will die. I don’t say that lightly. I think it’s possible. I don’t think it’s likely. But, it’s not 1%.
And a year ago, five years ago, the likelihood of major military confrontation between the United States and major countries with real military capability was effectively zero, it was close to zero. That’s not true anymore, and North Korea is probably the place where it’s most dangerous.
Several recent indicators suggest a climactic conflict may be just around the corner. US support for its ally seems highly likely, but Israel knows defeating Hezbollah will not be simple
Several recent indicators suggest a climactic war might indeed be just around the corner for Lebanon and Israel. In mid-April, Israel announced it had successfully layered its airspace with the most sophisticated anti-missile tripartite defense system ever developed.
Instead it aims at torching all of Lebanon and creating an internal uprising against Hezbollah led by Sunnis, Christians, Druze – and Shiites as well. Ultimately Israel hopes to squeeze Hezbollah out of existence or to lay down its arms under unbearable domestic and military pressure.
The next war will be the fourth Lebanon war. Israel-Lebanon wars:
- 1948 Arab–Israeli War
- The 1967 Six-Day War
- 2006 Lebanon War
Putin has made a huge error in leaving it up to Assad whether Russia goes to war with the US. The initiative for war would not be in the hands of Putin, but with the Syrian dictator, who could initiate a conflict by using chemical weapons again on civilians or just dropping a few barrel bombs of conventional explosives. On his own, Assad could start a war and then force Putin to either make good on his threat or slink away.
Vladimir Putin does not seem to me to be the slinking type.
Hopefully, Putin will put his foot on Assad’s neck in order to keep him in line. But if Putin has finally decided he wants a confrontation with the west, Syria is probably where it will start.
Pressure to escalate is only going to get worse.
When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travels to Moscow this week, topic No. 1 will be Syria — and the stakes could not be higher. If the Trump administration and the Kremlin are not able to come to a meeting of the minds on Syria, it could set the two nuclear powers on a dangerous collision course.
But therein lies a major dilemma for Trump moving forward. Successful deterrence requires a credible threat to hit Assad’s forces again if the regime continues to use chemical weapons or commits other transgressions. Yet Trump, having already rejected a larger military response out of apparent recognition of the dangers, may find it difficult to credibly signal he is willing to deploy this option in response to further actions by Assad down the line.
In this context, the danger of miscalculation is real. The Syrian dictator (perhaps prodded by Russia or Iran) may attempt to test Trump again, hoping to prove the president is a “paper tiger.” And Trump, having invested his personal credibility in standing firm, may find himself psychologically or politically compelled to respond, despite the very real risks that it could result in a direct military clash with Russia.
When US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travels to Moscow this week, topic No. 1 will be Syria – and the stakes could not be higher.
If the Trump administration and the Kremlin are not able to come to a meeting of the minds on Syria, it could set the two nuclear powers on a dangerous collision course.
However justified and morally satisfying, any use of military force is serious business, and even last Thursday’s limited strikes could lead the United States and Russia down a path towards escalation.
The expansive way in which US officials have talked about the purpose of the strikes increases the prospects of mission creep. In his statement announcing the attack, Trump framed it as essential to “prevent and deter the spread and use of chemical weapons.”
US and Russia haven’t been this close to a clash since the Cold War | New York Post
Russia and the US now are in greater danger of a direct military clash than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Their leaders are driven by domestic political considerations and macho instincts — a dangerous combination. The only clear winner in this fraught situation is ISIS. In recent months, the Russian-aided Syrian regime and the US have been successfully chipping away at it from different sides. Now, the regime may need to concentrate on its immediate survival in the face of an increased US threat.
The news aggregator Al-Masdar is already reporting, based on unnamed sources, that ISIS has launched an offensive in the area near Shayrat. In a conflict as complicated as the Syrian one, hitting one of the parties, no matter how evil, necessarily encourages other bad actors. Trump won’t beat ISIS by attacking Assad — he can only embarrass his domestic opposition and, to some extent, Putin. Neither is necessarily in the US interest.
NatSec adviser says “we’re prepared to do more” as Russia hints current U.S. strategy could mean war
Trump’s top national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster suggests Russia had to know Syria was plotting chemical attack.
In his first interview as President Donald Trump’s top national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster on Sunday backed the U.S. missile attack on Syria last week, saying “we’re prepared to do more,” even as Russian officials hint that current U.S. strategy could mean war.
When Wallace asked what the United States will do if Russia defends its interests in Syria, mentioning Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s comments Friday that the U.S. missile strike in Syria put the two countries “on the verge of a military clash,” McMaster stood firm on his position that Russia is “part of the problem” and should become “part of the solution.”
Will this lead to war?
We already know that the US and Russia are at a tipping point: Where something small can trigger something big. It’s not going to take a lot to push them over the edge.
We know that Putin doesn’t back down, he doubles down. And it appears that Trump doesn’t back down either. Haven’t you noticed how Trump always fights those who attack him? Against all odds Trump fought to become president and by a miracle he won. Syria is a place where two leaders who won’t back down can butt heads.
My conclusion is that the elements for a great-power war are certainly present in Syria. If the war spreads to Israel, then I think it would be time to get serious about preparing for World War III.
“… Iran and Hezbollah have some reason to fear that the Trump administration, Russia and Syria’s al-Assad might find a suitable deal in the coming period that essentially deals out the Shia duo.”
Israel wants Iran and Hezbollah out of Syria. Once the war ends then Russia and Syria might be fine with that scenario. I don’t think Iran is going to allow that to happen if it can help it.
In 13 years of watching these two bitter opponents, I have never seen such a high degree of anxiety that war is coming
The core problem with all of these – mostly inaccurate – assumptions is that they are providing vital lubricant for the main casus belli that has now fully emerged in Southern Syria and the Occupied Golan. Meanwhile, both Hezbollah and Iran appear to be continuing down the path of acquiring ever more sophisticated armaments.
Perhaps even more problematic, Iran and Hezbollah have some reason to fear that the Trump administration, Russia and Syria’s al-Assad might find a suitable deal in the coming period that essentially deals out the Shia duo. Any attempt to sideline Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, however, would probably provoke a strong counter-reaction that could lead to a wider war. It would certainly leave both actors looking particularly vulnerable to an attempted knock-out blow by the Israelis.
While the world watches mounting military tensions in the South China Sea, another, more ominous situation is brewing in the East China Sea that could be the trigger point for a major war between the superpowers. At the heart of tensions are eight uninhabited islands controlled by Japan that are close to important shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil and gas reserves. China contests Japan’s claims and is escalating its military activity in Japan airspace. In response, Japan has been doubling its F-15 jet intercepts.
The situation increases the risk of an accidental confrontation — and could draw other countries, like the United States, into a conflict. It’s a topic President Trump will likely bring up with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate this week.
Are Israel and Hezbollah headed for war?
That’s the question many analysts are grappling with in the wake of recent escalations involving an Israeli strike inside Syria that targeted a weapons shipment meant for Hezbollah. It prompted Bashar Assad’s launch of three SA-5 surface-to-air missiles, triggering the first known use of Israel’s Arrow-2 missile defense system. The conflagration was noteworthy enough for several Israeli newspapers to describe it as “the most serious incident” to occur between Israel and forces inside Syria in recent years.
Since the end of their inconclusive 33-day conflict in 2006, conventional wisdom has always been that another war between Hezbollah and Israel was simply a matter of time, and when it happens, the extent of destruction in Israel and Lebanon will dwarf that of the previous war. Some have concluded that the promise of such devastation works as a measure of deterrence, at least for now.
The questions then become, when will the war begin, and how will it be triggered?
In this timely op-ed, Maj. Paul Smith, who works in the J-9 of U.S. Pacific Command but is, of course, writing in a personal capacity, compares today’s international security situation to that preceding World War I and sees worrying parallels. He calls for a reassessment of our strategy toward China. Read on. The Editor.
The global environment today eerily resembles that of Europe in the early twentieth century, when a rising tide of nationalism swept through the continent. That nationalism led to increased trade competition, networks of intertwined and complicated alliances and social and political ferment that sparked a war that eventually spread to engulf much of the world in the flames of World War I.
Are we headed towards another global conflict? If so, then where? Most importantly, can this crisis be averted?