Having a hard time figuring out who the good guys are in Syria? It’s unbelievably complex. That’s why there’s no good “solution”, political or military. Also, there are no clear, achievable objectives for us that could shape a coherent policy and that’s why we’ll be the loser no matter who is deemed the winner. Even if we stay out of it, we’ll be someone’s enemy.
Above all, it’s too complex for Trump. You can’t sum this thing up in a tweet.
The first thing to know is it’s not ISIS vs. The West. This would be a convenient explanation and one that is very attractive to Trump: a simple, patriotic narrative that would energize our military and that our population would support. And it’s what is being put forward by Trump’s man-crush, Vladimir Putin. For Putin, anyone who opposes Assad is a terrorist. Trump ran on a platform of “bombing the shit out of ISIS”.
Apart from the Syrians themselves, there are five countries involved, each with it’s own set of interests: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, and the U.S.
Turkey wants to keep Kurdish separatists in check, both in Syria and Iraq. They supported anti-Assad rebels early on and would like to see him gone.
Iran wants to prop up Assad to maintain its access to Lebanon, where its client, Hezbollah, opposes Israel, whose nuclear weapons Iran fears. Also, maintaining Shiite control of Syria’s Sunni majority increases Iran’s regional influence. Assad is a member of the Shiite Alawite sect.
Russia also wants to prop up Assad. Syria is one of Russia’s few allies and buys weapons from them. Syria contains Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union.
Saudi Arabia wants to check the spread of Iranian power. Saudi Arabia and Iran are the two regional proxies in the never ending conflict of Sunni vs, Shia.
The U.S. would like to see Assad gone. We’ve given weapons to the “rebels” (hopefully the good ones) and the Kurds in order to fight ISIS.
Lots more explanation here.
Within Syria, you’ve got the weak Assad government and its Alawite followers. You’ve got anti-Assad “rebels” who are the remnants of the Arab Spring. You’ve got Syrian Kurds, the Sunni civilian majority, factions within the military, a variety of extremist groups battle-hardened from fighting in Iraq. And you’ve got ISIS, which seems composed mainly of foreign kids that have been lured into the mess by Jihadist propaganda.
As is the nature of all things in the middle east, each sect, tribe, gang, and family has its own interests, and as time has gone on, each has felt more threatened by reprisals from all the others. The factions have become smaller, more numerous, and more intractable. Assad’s indiscriminate bombing of cities is the most extreme example of this splintering – everyone who is not part of his clique is his enemy.
What to do? Who knows. When it’s over, it won’t be over. There will be vendettas and plots, executions and assassinations. If Assad remains, he will be the president of nothing with enemies all around.
But I am quite confident that, before then, the man-baby will find a way to make it worse.