Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Syria in October

      Results of an air strike near Damascus October 30, 2012 REUTERS/Maawia Al-Naser/Shaam News Network/Handout

After a very tense summer, the outside parties to Syria's civil war have stepped back from the brink.  The war goes on, but the rebels at least are being starved of weapons by their sponsors.  The Americans are worried about weapons falling into the hands of jihadis.  The Turks, Qataris and Saudis seem to be heeding American doubts.  I have no information on how the Government is doing for supplies, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear the Russians are quietly starving them as well.

In any case, the Syrian military has been notably ineffective in suppressing the rebels despite huge advantages in equipment and manpower.  I'd give a win on points to the rebels so-far for simply surviving. 

So it seems like there will be a cold, miserable winter in Syria with no resolution.  Nevertheless, Syria remains a powder keg.  By far the most important issue in the Middle East today.  That's because (as I've said before) all the regional fault lines run through it.  Syria may end up like Afghanistan where all the regional players would rather have instability than a solid government favouring a different player.  In Syria, its the Iranians against the Saudis.  Neither will accept a government beholden to the other.  So continued war is the safest bet.  As long as nobody wins it.  The Syrian people don't enter into the calculation, unfortunately.