If you thought the Cold War was over, think again. It appears to be rearing its ugly head again in Syria.
The European Union decided to lift its embargo on sending weapons to the rebels fighting the regime of Bashar al Assad. This came not long after the United Nations issued a report saying about 93,000 people had died so far in the conflict, and after the United States said it had confirmed Syria’s use of chemical weapons against the rebels.
The United States also is planning to ship arms to the rebels.
So, in turn, the Russians now say they will send sophisticated S-300 anti-aircraft weapons to Syria’s regime in order to counter the Western “hotheads.”
And this has caused Israel to threaten action, vowing it won’t stand by while its hostile neighbor gains the capability of shooting down passenger aircraft and anything else that might enter Israeli airspace.
The days when Boris Yeltsin danced onstage with rock groups seem so long ago now, don’t they?
The current situation sounds an awful lot like a Cold War scenario. And just as in the Cold War, the West is being forced to support forces it isn’t entirely sure represent its own ideals.
One of the reasons the U.S. has been reluctant to send anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels in Syria is that it worries about those weapons ending up in the hands of anti-American Jihadists. That tells you a lot about the rebels, who appear to be more aligned with those radical elements than with any pro-democracy movement in the region.
Americans were the deciding factor in helping Libyan rebels overthrow the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. As a thank you, radical elements attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and killed the U.S. ambassador.
What might we expect this time?
However, the Middle East is of such importance that the administration cannot ignore any potential power shift in the region, especially if it would displace a long-time threat to stability. From where President Obama sits, there is no ideal or obvious course of action. The rebels appear to be losing. Ostensibly, the EU hopes sending weapons will force Assad to the negotiating table.
But it isn’t hard to see how things could spin out of control with radical elements possessing powerful weapons and Israel threatening action.
(As a side note, some experts estimate the death toll in Israeli-Arab conflicts spanning the years 1945-1995 equaled 92,000. While more have died in the intervening 18 years, this puts the 93,000 total in Syria over a period of just 25 months in some perspective.)