While Americans continue to watch one of the most destructive and ugly political battles in history, real human destruction is taking place in Syria-Iraq-Turkey and spreading. Between ISIS, Russians, Syrian loyalists, Syrian rebels, Iranians, Kurds, Iraqis, Turks, and Americans an unbelievable catastrophe is growing on every single level with no resolution in sight. (It is often forgotten that Iran and Iraq fought each other for eight years. From 1980-1988 there were 500,000 to a million casualties, $2.5 billion dollars expended in the battle and $400 billion of property damage. When it was concluded there were no tangible results.)
Meetings among various combatant groups to address the humanitarian concerns of millions of casualties and hundreds of thousands of civilians are totally fruitless and insincere. From Secretary Kerry on, none of the participants meeting in Vienna have any faith that these discussions are going anywhere fast. The talks get suspended almost immediately after they begin and the only thing that the parties accomplish is to decide in how many weeks they should meet again for some more sacher torte and schlag.
Each day or week brings new developments. There was the renewed Aleppo offensive. Russians bombing Syrian rebels. Bombings renewed in Istanbul and now even reports of Israeli attacks against Syrian weapons caches which may be Iranian supplied weapons being passed through amidst the chaos to Hezbollah.
The political situation is becoming increasingly difficult. Erdogan in Turkey fears the escalating border tension, the rising Kurdish presence, his impossible growing humanitarian crisis, and no rest insight. Iraq is being held together politically and militarily—for the moment—by American Band-Aids. Once the U.S. leaves, all the cards there will fall.
The U.S. is allegedly training and advising our Iraqi allies on location. The success of this program for no fault of the Americans is dubious or at best uneven. Obama wants out desperately. Of those seeking to succeed him, there are not many voices who are seriously committed to escalation.
The Russians are having a grand time at the moment; but history ought to remind them that no major power ever escapes clean from a Middle East engagement. Assad continues to cling to power and in fact may be in a stronger position today that he was some months ago; largely due to Russia’s active intercession. Ultimately, Assad may be able to make a deal with the ISIS leaders; no loss of power for Assad and agreement to permit the caliphate to transport its message and its forces through Syria, while Russia keeps its warm water port.
In the background are the Sunni Gulf States in a condition of total panic. They will pay for virtually anything but they are in no position to do more than provide a few token troops. International oil prices continue to drop and the rich Arab sheiks may soon be drinking the excess oil production.