Whilst the official story in the United States talks of up to 200 intelligence and communications specialists from Fort Bliss, Texas being deployed to Jordan, the Independent newspaper in Britain is reporting that up to 3,000 United States military personnel are now believed to be on the ground in the Middle Eastern kingdom. With the news that 4000 troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard are to be sent to the aid of Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad, Iran may be setting the stage for war with the United States.
As discussed in a previous Guardian Express report, the war in Syria represents the latest phase in a far wider struggle for power within the Muslim world. The Alawite Shia regime in Syrian is locked in a struggle with its Sunni foes. The Lebanese terror group Hezbollah – also Shia – has plunged into the fight, in support of President Assad. In addition, Shia fighters from Iraq are believed to have entered Syria and are fighting alongside pro-government forces there. The rebels attempting to oust Assad include a branch of al-Qaeda, a Sunni terror network. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which is also Sunni, has severed diplomatic ties with the Assad regime and will likely involve itself – directly or indirectly – in the struggle against the Syrian leader.
Using the pretext of the Syrian President’s reported deployment of chemical weapons – namely, Sarin gas – against the rebels, President Obama has authorized the arming of opposition forces in Syria. A no-fly zone is also, apparently, being considered, albeit somewhat reluctantly. Russia, a staunch ally of Assad, has declared that the imposition of a no-fly zone would be illegal. Iran appears to be setting the stage for war with the United States with its intention, apparently decided before the recent Iranian election, to send troops from its Revolutionary Guard to bolster the Syrian regime.
All indications are that the Obama administration is preparing for direct military intervention: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who ordered the deployment of troops to Jordan, said in a statement, Wednesday, to the Senate Armed Services Committee that their mission was to work with Jordanian forces to “improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios.” Hagel described military intervention as “an option, but an option of last resort.” CNN has reported that it was told by Department of Defense officials that the contingent of personnel deployed to Jordan could “potentially form a joint task force for military operations, if ordered,” and that they would “be ready for military action” if President Obama orders it. In addition, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey has speculated that US troops could enter Syria if President Bashar-al-Assad is overthrown, in order to secure stockpiles chemical weapons.
As for Iran, sources have indicated that the leadership in Tehran is committed to ensuring that Assad remains in power in Damascus. With Hezbollah now signalling its intention to reduce its presence in Syria, expectations are that Iran will increase its own role.
The conflict, which has raged for two years and claimed almost 100,000 lives, has changed direction – most notably after Hezbollah sent its fighters to aid the Syrian leader. At one point, the rebels appeared to be gaining momentum and scored several victories against the Syrian army, which has suffered a rash of defections by its officers. Now, however, the tide has turned in Assad’s favor. Factors such as Hezbollah’s involvement, skirmishes between rebel groups and little coordination between the political opposition and the rebel fighters have combined to put the anti-government movement on the back foot. Perhaps emboldened by this, Iran seems willing to allow the possibility of a military confrontation between its Revolutionary Guard and US troops on the Syrian border, thereby potentially setting the stage for war with the United States.
Written by Graham J Noble