By Moses Gunvald
Grey Cell Press, 28 Sept 2015
Russia’s recent military build up in Syria and the extreme likelihood it will initiate strikes against the Islamic State (ISIL) has some wondering what the US response will be. Some military analysts have already started to suggest that the US will attempt to counter Russian military efforts in the region. But why?
One option would be Assad, who analysts suggest allowing to stay in power is an option the US is not willing to accept. Since 2003, when it was rumored that Saddam moved his WMD into Syria, the US has had their eyes set on taking out the Baathist. With the initiation of civil war, and allegations of war crimes against Assad, the US has seen it as their opportunity to finally take care of business via proxies in Syria.
Another option would be that the US refuses to give way to Russia since it would deliver a major black eye to the US if they were successful. Already we have seen multiple countries move closer to Russia in recent years since they see the US as not willing to take on the role of global peace maker any longer. Throw on top of that what has occurred (and still occurring) in the Ukraine and it becomes very likely that the US cannot afford a Russian victory.
It could come down to countering Iranian influence in the region although this is unlikely. With the US negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran it would not want to endanger the progress made. Not to mention US officials have no appetite for facing Iran in any form of conflict.
Looking at the options, it is unlikely the US will counter Russian efforts in Syria. The US needs the ISIL problem to go away and it has already shown it is unwilling to face the problem head to head; instead opting to conduct airstrikes that have done little to mitigate the Islamic State’s expansion. The US problems with Russia, although multifaceted and multi-regional, are still problems it believes it can handle in the long term. Russia has always been the long game and it is unlikely the US will risk escalation just to have a pissing contest over Syria.
Make no mistake however; if the Russians are successful in driving back the Islamic State it will have negative effects on the US both domestically and internationally. The current US administration will forever be known as the guys who lost everything to Russia and the Democrats will suffer at the polls come next election. In the geo-political arena, the US will see a seismic shift in influence. Countries that once looked to the US for guidance, countries that you wouldn’t even suspect, will move closer to Russia. But even given this, the US will not counter Russia’s efforts in Syria.
The only real option for the United States is to publically invite Russia to coordinate counter-ISIL efforts. By making the announcement public it paints Russia into a corner. If they accept it makes them a partner in the growing world anti-ISIL coalition that has the US in the lead. If they deny it shows them as having interests in the region outside of the defeat of ISIL and that could be spun in numerous ways that could hurt the Kremlin. But the US must be serious about partnering with Russia and should view this as an opportunity to reestablish a good working relationship that has suffered greatly in recent years.