Friday, December 7, 2012

Syria: The spark of end times?

            Initially, I proposed to myself to stay out of the whole debate over the end of the world coming this month.  I am personally still highly skeptical that December 21 will have any more significant meaning for us this year than it did in previous years.  The way I see it, if the Maya had any reason to make a prophecy about the end of the world on this date, it would have had to be a natural disaster connected to astrology, which is what they used as reference for their calendar.  A solar flare is unlikely, because it is doubtful that they could have predicted it so long ago, given that we still have a hard time predicting it ourselves, more than a few days before it happens, despite all our technology.  A collision with a meteor would have been a more likely scenario, but I’m sure we would have detected this threat by now, and I doubt anyone would have been able to keep it a secret. 

As for non-stellar events, there is no compelling reason to believe that the Maya or anyone else had a way to tell the future, so I decided to let this one pass.  It is more important in my view to continue to focus on our long-term, agonizingly slow Armageddon, we seem currently completely unable and unwilling to deal with.  Our planet’s ability to sustain our activities ranging from reproduction to consumption are tested like never before.  There are already many signs of serious strain which I spent a whole year trying to create awareness about, such as food and energy issues, as well as environmental difficulties, all of which are getting worse, and there is currently no global mechanism in place to deal with this global issue.  The story of Syria’s preparations to possibly deploy chemical weapons caught my attention however, and I decided to touch on it, because it became clear to me that a very dangerous potential threat seems to be escaping most people.  So for this month, I decided to write one extra article.

The big worry, at least officially is that Syria is getting ready to use the weapons on its own territory in a last attempt to destroy the rebellion.  I thought about that for a moment and came to the conclusion that they cannot possibly be that stupid.  It would mean giving everyone who wants to end this, the excuse needed to intervene.  Russia and China would have a hard time objecting to intervention.  There is no logical reason to have the remnants of Assad’s last loyal troops be decimated by US and NATO airstrikes.  In effect, it would automatically give the rebel forces the benefit of indirectly fighting the regime with the backing of the world’s most powerful air force.

So, starting from the point I chose, which is the assumption that Assad and his entourage cannot possibly be that stupid, what other reasons could there be to prepare the chemical weapons arsenal for use?  There is another answer, which is that perhaps he is looking to intimidate the opposition, but he is not actually considering the use of the weapons at all.  This is slightly more plausible from a logical perspective, but still unlikely, because there is no reason to expect the Syrian rebels to feel deterred from their actions, due to a threat of chemical warfare, which would leave Syria devastated.  First of all, they would know that they won in such a scenario, because they know that there would be an outside intervention.  Second of all, the use of chemical weapons is imprecise.  It would be just as likely to kill people loyal and fighting for the regime, so no reason for the rebels in particular to worry.

Excluding the first two options from the possible reasons that the Assad regime might have to get the weapons ready for use, there is one possibility left.  It is precisely the one that the official circles are betting against.  Possible external use, either directly or as a deterrent against heavy counterblows, is in my view the most likely reason they are preparing the weapons for use.  It seems most people have dismissed this possibility on the assumption that Syria’s army is already heavily decimated by the long internal conflict, so the last thing they need is one more enemy. 

One more enemy might be perhaps exactly what the Syrian regime is considering, especially if that enemy happens to be the most hated entity in the Middle East.  Due to the continued insistence of Israel to occupy, exploit and colonize[i] the Golan Heights, the justification is there.  Syria is a sovereign state looking to get back territory occupied by a neighbor.  The average pro-Israel American may not see it this way, but over one billion Muslims across the world sure will.

Behind the justification for opening hostilities, lies the real reason.  Syria cannot of course take back the Golan Heights by force from Israel.  The US taxpayer has made sure of that, through their yearly donation of about $3.5 billion in military aid to the Israelis.  Syria on the other hand is mainly armed with Soviet era weapons, and their military force is decimated by many months of internal fighting and defections.  What opening up a new front could achieve is to take the wind out of the sails of the Syrian opposition, for they would no longer be fighting the evil Assad regime, but Assad the freedom fighter, who opposes Jewish expansionism in the Middle East.  In effect, it would be a last gamble to put the broken country back together in a governable shape, because at this point, even if he could defeat the rebels after a long struggle, the resentment of Assad’s rule over them would cause the country to remain unstable.  This is not as far fetced as many might believe.  Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia pulled this trick repeatedly in the 1990's, every time the Serbs became unhappy with him.  He found them an external enemy to focus on, and thus he avoided being austed for many years.  Europe's elites welcomed the prospect of a grand war of nations against nations following the gains made by Socialists all over the continent.  The people who were chanting "workers of the world unite" up to 1914, eagerly jumped into the trenches of WWI, in order to face down the perceived enemy of their national states.  The external enemy is always a good way to keep cohesion.  When simple rhetoric no longer works, action may be necesary, as may be the case with Syria.

December 2012, road to Global Armageddon?

            I don’t believe that Assad would start the conflict by using chemical weapons, although, technically speaking, he could use them on the Israelis by unleashing them in the Golan Heights, where after all, he would be doing it on Syrian territory.  There, Jewish soldiers and settlers would be hit, without Israel being able to claim that it was attacked with those weapons, since it did not happen within its internationally recognized borders.

            The most likely scenario would be low level skirmishes initiated by troops loyal to Assad with Israel’s occupying forces.  From there, much depends on Israel’s reaction.

            The most likely outcome that most people would expect from such a situation, would be a good pummeling of Syria, courtesy of the region’s most powerful military.  We have to remember however what we saw in the past decade in terms of the conflicts fought in the region.  The US invasion of Iraq was relatively easy as long as the conventional conflict lasted.  The next eight years of war there, were not what most expected.  The US was kept from reaching its goals in Iraq by small bands of men, armed with little more than some AK-47’s, and improvised explosives, matched up against the most powerful military on this planet.  Israel’s incursion into Lebanon saw a similarly unexpected result, with Israel being fought to a stalemate by the Hezbollah militia.  Israel took heavy casualties during that conflict, with little to show for it.

            It is impossible to predict what a war between Israel and Syria would look like.  There is no question about Israel’s conventional supremacy, but once the bullets and bombs start flying, one can never know what the outcome might be.  It is possible that it would turn into a conflict of attrition, with Assad’s army being reinforced by perhaps thousands of men streaming in from all over the Middle East, eager to do jihad against the “little great Satan”.  It is hard to see how Syria’s rebels could continue to fight in those conditions, if anything, some of them might join the fight to retake the Golan..  Weapons might also flow in from the state of Iran, which it seems learned many of the lessons of recent conflicts in the region quite well, and is thus committed to unconventional warfare tactics and they seem to have steered their military industry in that direction.  The potential for surprises is definitely there.

            Regardless who would gain the upper-hand; we have to remember that both Israel and Syria have weapons of mass destruction, and I believe either side can be counted on to use them in case that they feel cornered and there is no other way.  Israel has by far the more dangerous arsenal, as well as ways to protect from counterstrikes in the form of a formidable missile defense system.  Syria on the other hand has a few hundred scud type missiles, potentially able to hit Israel.  Based on the latest fight between Israel and Hamas, it seems Israel can feel comfortable with the assumption that they can intercept and shoot down about 80-90% of the incoming missiles.  That means that there is still the danger of dozens of missiles hitting their targets, delivering their chemical load.  Casualties would be of serious magnitude, but not catastrophic.  Chemical weapons are just not that effective, especially if the population is prepared for it, and we know that Israel is prepared for it.  Syria could only hope to use it as a deterrent against Israel contemplating unleashing its full military arsenal against them, nothing more.

            Israel on the other hand has the power to wipe Syria and most of the Middle East off the map with its weapons, and if things were to go bad in terms of the conventional war, they may be tempted to teach the Syrians a lesson and deploy a few of their nukes.  We know after all that as far as the western world is concerned, Israel can do no wrong, so condemnation of such an action would only be partial.  We also know that such an event would trigger the kind of anger in the Muslim world, which would push their leaders to act, even if they don’t want to.  The most likely weapon to be deployed by them would of course be the oil weapon, since all of them combined could not beat Israel in a conventional war, and at the moment none of them have a nuclear weapon to retaliate with, except for Pakistan. 

A substantial cut in oil deliveries for a few years perhaps, would paralyze the world’s economy, which is already feeble, due to the 2008 financial near collapse, which affects us even now.  My guess is that it would be only a matter of months before many other clashes around the world would erupt.  At first, it would involve powerful states against weak ones, or weak states against each other.  Internal conflicts would also erupt all over the world.  Eventually, the big powers, desperate to find ways to keep their populations from rebelling, would cross swords, and that would lead to global Armageddon.


            All this would not likely trigger the end of the world by December 21, 2012, but we could look back to this month as being the trigger of global scale disaster, just as we remember back to Gavril Princip (Man who assassinated archduke of Austria-Hungary in 1914, setting off the events that cost 15 million lives during the First World War.  So, while we may get past this year, breathing a sigh of relief because we did not perish, we may find a world on the other side of “Happy New Year!!!”, which many of us will wish would have ended quickly, rather than having to witness extreme misery drag out, unless Assad and his entourage are incredibly stupid and are actually contemplating using the weapons on their own people.

BBC article explains how Israel depends on 1/3 of its water supply from the Golan Heights.

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