The recent ISIS attacks in Paris and the downing of a Russian plane by Turkey add new corridors to the labyrinth that we are lost in when it comes to peace in Syria. But while these changes add complexity to the ongoing enigma, the way forward remains the same.
We must reach a diplomatic solution among the various factions in Syria which then would allow them and foreign powers like ourselves and Russia to focus our full attention on destroying ISIS instead of splitting our efforts trying to destroy each other.
If that were the case, the long unanswered question of: Where are more boots on the ground to come from? Would likely be answered: From a lot of places.
At present they seem unlikely to come from anywhere, besides the Kurds, who can only do so much, and the Shia militias in Iraq who, while willing to fight ISIS, are further alienating the Sunni’s in western Iraq in the process. Ah, the Sunni-Shia divide. A clue.
Also, my sense of the Kurds is they are less enthusiastic to shed blood in Syria than in Iraq, their homeland, so while some are fighting in northeastern Syria, don’t expect the Kurds to supply all the boots on the ground necessary, even if aided by a few thousand U. S. troops.
The Kurds, like every other nation, have their own agenda which only partially converges with our own. Our top priority is to destroy ISIS, their top priority is to establish a Kurdish state free from Bagdad control, a goal we are likely helping them attain with our growing arms shipments.
The problem of finding peace among the Syrian factions as well as finding troops willing to fight ISIS goes back to the same issue, the fundamental Shia-Sunni Muslim antagonism that goes back centuries. While Iran and Iraq have majority Shia populations, the rest of the Middle East is Sunni dominated.
Syria is an oddity in that the Assad government is backed by a minority of Syrians who are Shia in the sense they are an offshoot of that sect. A large majority of Syrians are Sunni.
What has mushroomed into the Syrian civil war is, in a general sense, a proxy fight between Sunni and Shia Middle East nations. The key point in all of this is that while our top priority is to destroy ISIS, the top priority of the Sunni nations in the region is to defend against and weaken Iran, including its influence in Syria and Iraq.
As such, Sunni nations like Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have shown no willingness to put together a Sunni ground force to fight ISIS. Besides having other pressing agendas to deal with (Saudi Arabia with Yemen and Egypt with terrorists at home), these nations are more concerned with ridding Syria of Assad than in fighting ISIS. In fact, ISIS was initially funded by the wealthy in these nations as a Sunni answer to Assad’s dominance and probably still gets some support from them.
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio has suggested that the “right” boots on the ground should come from Sunni nations, which makes sense since ISIS has Sunni roots, so it would be Sunnis cleaning up their own mess so to speak and would avoid inflaming tensions both between the Shia and Sunnis and those between the West and the Middle East.
But from what I have read, there seems no likelihood that such a force could be formed until some sort of deal is worked out in Syria in which Assad gives up power and a process to include Syrian Sunnis in the government is developed. As long as Sunni ISIS counterbalances the power of Assad, the Sunni states cannot be counted on for much support (even their air campaigns have fizzled to nothing ).
So, you got all that? If you have trouble imagining a diplomatic solution coming to pass, like I do, its happening anytime soon received a setback when the Turks shot down that Russian plane. The Turks want Assad gone, while Putin remains his loyal ally.
It seems the Turks thought that plane was heading to bomb anti-Assad forces it supports, while Russian media portrays it as an act of Turkey helping ISIS, when most likely the Turks are right since Russian media has pushed the narrative that Russia is fighting a holy war vs. ISIS, despite most of their attacks being aimed at Syrians Turkey and we support.
Of course, since that bomb blew up the Russian plane, Russia probably is bearing down on ISIS more now. I haven’t checked.
The labyrinth grows while the enigma remains.