Syria shares a border with Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. And that matters.

syriaIn a country where none of the news is good, this is very very bad. I’ve worried about Turkey since the Islamists started flowing into Syria – they’re Sunnis, determined to help overthrow a Shia government.

An extremist group linked to Al Qaeda routed Syrian rebel fighters and seized control of a gateway town near Syria’s northern border with Turkey on Wednesday, posting snipers on rooftops, erecting checkpoints and imposing a curfew on the local population . . .

Its seizure is likely to alarm Syria’s neighbors. Turkey, which has vocally supported the fight against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and allowed fighters and arms to flow freely across its southern border, now faces a bold al Qaeda affiliate. . . 

In recent months, jihadist groups have isolated local populations by imposing strict Islamic codes, carrying out public executions and clashing with rebel groups.

Lebanon is expressing some worry too.

9 responses to “Syria shares a border with Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. And that matters.

  1. The geography is interesting. I had not taken the time to look at it much before now. You did leave out one of the countries bordering Syria, by the way – Israel. The border between those two is still in legal dispute and Google shows it as ambiguous – dotted lines. This, it turns out, marks the Golan Heights disputed territory. The Syrian capital, Damascus, is only 30 or so miles NE of the Israeli border. Also, Jordan is smaller than I realized, a patch of land in the desert about the same size as Israel and pretty much a one-city country. Amman too is only about 30 miles from Israel. Syria’s borders with Turkey and Iraq are hundreds of miles long, meaning, of course, very porous. The differences in the networks of roads in each country are stark, with Israel of course looking well developed and the others more like Nevada countryside.

    I am thinking these days that it may be a strategic mistake to keep thinking about trying to “deny al Qaeda a safe haven”. That hasn’t worked in Yemen, nor Iraq, nor really in Afghanistan and our two big wars are a failure in that regard. I submit we need to think about ways to discourage al Qaeda’s recruiting and to try not to get involved between the Sunni’s and the Shiites. Stalemate may be the best plan there. ??

    Let’s hope something comes of the peace statements now issuing from Iran’s new president.

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    • I missed that Israel thing Jim – and look how close Saudi Arabia is. You’re right about quitting this ‘deny a safe haven’ thing. Fer Elvis’ sake, Iraq is awash in Al Qaeda.

      I think we all hope (except for McCain and Graham as usual) that the Russia/US/UN thing moves forward and gets stronger and ultimately might affect some kind of political solution. Otherwise . . . I think sometimes with this Shia/Sunni thing that we may be looking at a generation or two of war no matter what everyone else does.

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  2. Moe,
    Having spent some time in that region, with a rifle in my hand, I’ll have to concur that the “Shia/Sunni thing” is far more the root cause problem that is now formed into the new Cold War of the Middle East. But unlike the Democracy/Communism Cold War, Russian and America are relegated to proxies of more public or material support. Both nations lack any real tie to the political or cultural leanings of the key players. But even with that said it seems America and Russia just can’t seem to shake off the original Cold War mentality of thinking that they must still continue to inject their nations as “players” even though we have no standing on the real issues they have. The US has only two real interest in the Middle east. Israel’s safety and Oil. If we take the stance of China, that buying oil is a business action vs some sort of moral/political stance, then we don’t care who we buy from or what they’re doing in their country. That just leaves Israel’s security. Which we can counter that threat with standing US bases there to plant the formal flag of support with a treaty similar to NATO’s of “An attack on one is an attack on all”. Otherwise we’re just spinning our wheels in the Middle East. IMHO.

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    • Hi Rat – you have it exactly right. We wouldn’t be anywhere near the region except for oil. And it’s kind of ironic that now, even while we here in the US get not much oil from them any more, we can’t shake our mindset out of thinking the way we used to.

      And we could pledge protection to Israel even if we weren’t involved in any other way over there. Of course, those countries know very well not to get the Israelis TOO upset, because that little country could wipe most of them off the map.
      And you – Afghanistan? Iraq?

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  3. Both. As well as Bosnia with our first troops there to stop the genocide. Bosnia, even with it’s lost interest to history, was my first exposure of man’s inhumanity to man. I provided security to the U.N. exhuming the mass graves in Srebrenica. I learned then and there to appreciate the diversity of America and it’s acceptance of others. Not perfect, but definitely better than some of the places I’ve seen. In six months I’ll retire my rifle and move on. There’s been twenty years of some great things and horrible sights but it’s time for me to put that all into the back of the closet and focus on the years I owe back to my wife and children. I call them my “missed years”. I’m looking forward to it.

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    • Ah, a career man. Indeed you must have seen a lot – I remember well the pictures out of Bosnia when those camps were discovered. I couldn’t believe I was seeing that in the 1990’s but now I think we’ve all shed some of our naivete about the world. The ugliness is all too visible.

      No – we’re not perfect, but I always try to remind myself, as we all must, to never forget what’s good about us – I told a young kid I know recently that this country wasn’t so much founded as INVENTED and that at the time there wasn’t a single democracy on the planet and today the vast majority of the world has democratically elected government because they saw us and saw what was possible. My young friend said “Oh, is that they mean when they say American exceptionalism?”

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      • I agree with your comments to Rat on American exceptionalism, Moe, but (sorry, there’s always a “but”) I would add that there are good reasons why our invention worked so well for us and not so well for the likes of Iraq, Afghanistan, South Vietnam and the rest of the Third World. Those reasons are all economic and my sense is that prime among them was an underlying wealth of cheap land and natural resources. Here in the 21st century we are finally seeing that wealth diminish by weight of population, by divergence of our politics through greed, and by corruption of capitalism by large corporations and banks. We are becoming less “exceptional” every year.

        Rat is fortunate, as am I, that he will continue after military retirement in a federal safety net of decent income and excellent healthcare, but I fear he will find the infrastructure he fought for crumbling all around him.

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        • Jim – yup, abundant land and abundant resources, frequently overlooked elements in our success – It’s a tad ironic that in a country where personal property rights (including minerals and oil etc) hold sacramental status, so much of the original property was stolen, granted or just free for the taking.

          But even as much of the developing and non western world resents much of what we do, I think they still like and want to borrow the form of government we created. The one that we are, at present, busy destroying. Irony abounds.

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  4. Interesting thoughts. will return here often.

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