Our apologies, but there are six sides to he Syrian ‘civil war.’ We’ll label them for you (feel free to argue) thus:
- The Assad government (Shia, sort of), a client of Iran.
- The (majority) Sunni Islamic rebels fighting the government.
- Sunni ISIS, fighting everybody – an Iraq based Islamic militia.
- Iran (Shia) and its Hezbollah client from Lebanon.
- The U.S. in more or less covert fashion.
- Russia, in the open.
Yes, the majority Shia Syrian population is involved too, especially in starving and dying. But those aren’t ‘players.’
Russia and Iran want Syria to continue as a client state, so they back the Assads. Nobody else does. The Sunni Arab neighbors prefer a Sunni government in Syria, the opposite of Iran and Russia’s choice. So the Arabs want the Assads gone.
Within that, the Islamist rebels are battling Assad and ISIS while ISIS is battling both of them. The rebels want a secular Syria (At least, some of them say so) and ISIS wants – well, you know what ISIS wants. Add it up:
The Assads, Russia and Iran want the Assads on top of a Shia-governed, Iranian client state. The Arabs, rebels, ISIS and many of the U.S. European allies want a Sunni governed and excepting ISIS, hopefully Arab client state. Nobody is sure exactly what the U.S. wants. Clear? Yeah …
Anywa, the Assad government has an air force of sorts, with which it bombs rebel-supporter and suspected rebel-supporter neighborhoods, killing and starving lots of civilians and aimed at debasing the rebels. The U.S. and friends have been bombing ISIS. No one else has airplanes … until now, the Russians have arrived with their own. And with fancy, new high tech anti-aircraft missiles too. Interesting!
As the only aircraft operative are U.S. and friends plus the Assad government, the only available targets for these new Russian missiles are U.S. and friends aircraft. Mr. Putin has just told Prez Obama that the U.S. and friends can only bomb those Russia wants bombed, or at least, doesn’t care about. That list can include only ISIS and must exclude the Assad government.
So our Pre,z has gone from controlling his Syrian policy to needing Russia’s permission more or less. Obama is no longer in charge. He will have to deal with Putin or simply withdraw, leaving Syria to Iran. We imagine that the Arabs are hysterical at this point. Iran/Putin have finessed them. Putin has put Obama in check, thereby forcing him onto the defensive.
How will this play out? Hell, we have no idea. The U.S. can’t afford to pay for it anyway. Neither can Russia but neither of those players’ leaders spending their on money, right?
We’ve simplified this a wee bit for clarity, but we believe the overall picture is reasonably accurate. We’ll appreciate corrections from those more knowledgeable. Meantime, we’ll have to watch how it all comes out. Primary distractions as it happens, will be dead Syrians and refugees from that condition.