The UN Security Council failed to take a decision on Syria on August 28 and it’s not known what was said behind the closed doors. Russia said the UN must finish its investigation into the claims before discussing any resolution. Taking into consideration how strong is the support for intervention on the part of the US, Great Britain and France, it serves the purpose to have a look at what the response could be like…
Syria: potential to resist
Syria is not to fall victim to cyber-attacks, its command and control system is not that dependent on computers. It is an advantage under the circumstances.
Syrian armed forces have prevented an intervention for two and a half years. It’s a force to reckon with even on global scale (ground troops and air force). Morale is high; there have been few deserters so far. The equipment and combat systems are comparatively obsolete, but capable of inflicting heavy damage. Remember Yugoslavia in 1999, it was an obsolete S-125 that hit modern F-117A and F-16C.
Syria is capable to strike sea targets, like cruise missile platforms and amphibious ships at great distance. This capability is provided by up-to-date anti-ship missiles. The K-300P Bastion-P (NATO reporting name SSC-5) is a Russian mobile long range modern coastal defence missile system designed for destruction of various surface ships. The system uses the P-800 Yakhont (SS-N-26) anti-ship cruise missiles and has a maximum range of 300 km. The missile system is mounted on a mobile vehicle that can deploy its missiles in under five minutes and remain on active standby over a period of 3–5 days to keep US 6th fleet at length.
The Syrian Air Defense Force is an independent 40,000 active personnel strong command within the Armed Forces equipped with 650 static SA-2 (S-200 Angara), SA-3 (2K12 Kub) and SA-5 (S-200) launchers, 200 mobile SA-6 (Kub mobile version) and SA-11 (Buk) and Pantsir-S1 (SA-22) launchers and over 4,000 anti-aircraft guns. The low altitude defense includes modern Russia-produced SA-22 Greyhound (96K6 Pantsyr S1E) and Buk-M2. High altitude systems are comparatively obsolete SA-2 Guideline (CP-75 Dvina / S-75M Volga) and SA-3 Goa (S-125 Neva / S-125M Pechora) but still efficient enough to hit any modern flying target. Syria has air defense strong enough to inflict significant losses. Low attitude portable and air defense artillery systems will be left intact.
28 NATO members have around 20000 tanks and 6000 combat aircraft spread around from Alaska to Turkish Kurdistan. In contrast Syria has around 5000 tanks and 500 combat aircraft concentrated on comparatively limited territory.
Making an individual comparison, the US is the only Alliance member to lead in numbers. NATO leads in ships but it’s not a decisive factor, not this time, because it’s an air-land battle we face.
According to report prepared by prestigious London-based RUSI low risk figure would be 500,000 competent ground troops with the airpower to provide the necessary combat support and maritime forces to ensure continued and untrammeled access and sea basing particularly in the early phases of the intervention and as a precaution in the event of failure. (1)
Syria is completely different from Libya, it has allies: Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon. They will take action, especially Hezbollah. The Lebanon-based organization is Syria's loyal ally, with more than 20,000 soldiers, with tanks and missiles. The personnel got experienced confronting Israeli army. The organization has branches in Jordan, Yemen and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.
The Syria’s potential is real unlike the one of NATO which in some instances is strong on paper only. Having launched the operation in Libya in 2011 the allies could hardly find around a hundred of aircraft while formally they had over 2 thousand and a half. Germany, Greece, and Eastern Europe – they all shied away from the operation. Like at present the US and UK will probably get only verbal support.
By hitting the Syrian command and control military infrastructure the US will undermine the Syria’s capability to provide for safety of chemical weapons storage greatly increasing the possibility of getting them into the wrong hands. This will be the responsibility of US and the comrades in arms if it happens.
The Europeans (and Syrian Arab foes) suffer from panic disorder even upon hearing about the possibility of any personnel losses no military operation can be implemented without. The ongoing economic crisis in Europe is hardly a propitious time for getting embroiled in military adventures. Remember how a limited operation in Libya did hurt badly the NATO members’ military budgets with telling expenditure on fuel and high-precision munitions. The PGMs were all spent to destroy the extremely obsolete Libyan armor and artillery. The “smart bombs” proved to be something far from what they were believed to be, often a high-precision monition being more expensive than the target, while the Western inventory had less PGMs than there were targets to hit. It was a Pyrrhic victory in Libya making surface great errors of contemporary Western military thought and planning. Just imagine what it would have been like if combat aircraft were lost. They will be in case Syria is hit.
If the goal is to overthrow the regime of Assad, then cruise missiles are not enough. No way could it also be limited by air strikes only, a ground phase is unavoidable.
A ground phase is impossible without Turkey. If Turkey joins the operation it’ll suffer heavy losses. NATO will fill the gaps in case it is ammunition or equipment supplies that are needed, but the participation will result in heavy human death toll. Will Turkey get real political dividends? Hardly any, its role is likely to be of cannon fodder for the West. Turkey had an excellent chance to start the war when its plane was hit on June 22 2012 without a UNSC resolution invoking article 5 of Washington treaty. Instead it preferred to “complain” to NATO receiving “moral support” in return. No article 5 was on the agenda. And the country has just seen what a large-scale civil unrest is like. Turkish people will hardly be happy about the involvement into military adventure. And the Kurdish factor is certainly something the Turkish government cannot ignore while weighing the odds.
Syria will exhaust NATO to greatly diminish its capability in case of an operation against Iran. If Iran steps in to defend Syria then the scenario becomes much more complicated on broader scale. If Iran steps in then the whole region will be affected with fighting spreading around in the Persian Gulf states where Shiites have already shown they are discontented with their plight in the countries ruled by Sunni rulers. Iran may close the Hormuz Strait, the scenario leading to economic hardships for many. There will be sectarian violence across the entire region.
The war will spark inter-communal clashes in Lebanon. A chance is great that local strife will become large-scale combat actions leading to civil war.
The intervention will pour fuel on the violence in Iraq where bombings have almost become a thing of everyday life.
The anti-US sentiment in the Arab world will inevitably spread; after all, Syria has long been at odds with its neighbor, Israel, which happens to be a US close ally.
The US and other participants of operation will be responsible for inevitable collateral damage the most precious it says it cares so much about – the lives of innocent civilians. Densely populated towns in close proximity to one another make a NATO mission all the more hazardous, as higher civilian casualties would be inevitable should NATO deliver air strikes If the Assad’s forces are indiscriminate enough to kill civilians, so will the US.
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The latest survey indicates that only 45% of Americans would back an attack on Syria if it had used chemical weapons. The support is not strong enough to justify the action. In June a Pew Poll showed that 70% of Americans oppose arming the Syrian rebels. President Obama still has to go to people and convince them the action is a must and why. All recent military interventions led by the USA have failed. Serbia lost its territory with Kosovo becoming a crime affected area, Iraq is divided and extremely unstable, the Iraqi Kurdistan has actually become a separate state, Afghanistan is the place NATO is rushing back from leaving it to its fate and Libya is uncontrolled and divided. There is a strong reason not to believe the US affirmations about the veracity of chemical weapons use by Syria. In May, the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria reported «strong, concrete suspicions» that the US-backed rebels had deployed sarin gas. «This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities», said commission member Carla Del Ponte. There is a reason to believe the rush to war pursues the goal to prevent the UN inspection that Washington knows would disprove its claim and possibly implicate Washington in the false flag attack by the rebels, who could have staged a provocation, something they appear to have done before. The forthcoming attack is a blow to any hope of peaceful settlement. Now there is no incentive for the rebels to participate in the peace talks with the Syrian government as the West’s military is coming to their aid. Talking about the weapons of mass destruction, is it a matter of principle whether people were killed by explosives made of depleted uranium, like in the conflicts initiated by the US, or with chemical agents or any other weapon. Or why should chemical weapons be demonized but not nuclear “bunker busters” to be used against Iran? A military intervention could turn Syria over to jihad terrorists by helping them to overthrow the secular Assad government. The US never learned the lesson of Iraq and is on the way to plunge itself, and the world, into another quagmire of chaos and instability with dire global consequences, all calls to listen to reason are of no avail.