F. Michael Maloof, staff writer for WND and G2Bulletin, is a former senior security policy analyst in the office of the secretary of defense.More ↓Less ↑
WASHINGTON – As the Obama administration considers bombing Syria’s capability to launch chemical-weapons attacks, various Middle East groups beyond Syria are speaking out, threatening reprisals against U.S. interests should Washington order an attack.
Such reprisals, in fact, could occur anywhere there are U.S. assets, including Iraq.
Sheikh Watiq al-Battat, leader of Iraq’s Jaysh al-Mukhtar, or Al-Mukhtar army, has vowed to target U.S. interests in Iraq and the Persian Gulf region using what he describes as “thousands of martyrdom-seeking operations.”
Al-Battat said that he has some 23,000 “fully trained and equipped martyrdom-seeking forces” whom he said “can blow (up) U.S. interests in Iraq and the Persian Gulf at any time if the U.S. commits such a stupid act.”
The U.S., he added, will not be “immune from martyrdom-seeking operations” of his fighters.
He also suggested that in addition to the U.S., Israel also could be a target.
“Taking into account the Islamic and Arab awakening movements as well as the regional nations’ transparent stance on their confrontation against any possible U.S. military strike on Syria, the United States and the Zionist regime (Israel) will be definitely defeated” if the U.S. begins military strikes against Syria.
Even Iraq’s Parliament speaker, Osama Nujaifi, spoke out against a possible U.S. strike.
He said all political groups in Iraq are opposed to a military strike on a Muslim country.
“We have come to an agreement with all political leaders in Iraq to oppose any military attack against Syria,” Nujaifi said.
“Military act will have no benefit for the region and these are the Syrian people who should decide about their political future,” he said.
The Obama administration has threatened military action in response to an Aug. 21 chemical-weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus in a Syrian opposition-occupied area, killing some 1,429 people, including more than 400 children, according to U.S. officials.
The Syrian government has denied its forces initiated the attack, while President Bashar al-Assad denied Sunday on CBS he ever gave such an order.
As WND recently reported, there is considerable skepticism over the intelligence which U.S. officials say showed that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.
For example, a group of former U.S. intelligence analysts claim current intelligence analysts have told them the Syrian government was not responsible for the Aug. 21 poison gas attack but say a “growing body of evidence” reveals the incident was a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters.
“The aim is reported to have been to create the kind of incident that would bring the United Sates into the war,” these analysts said in an open memorandum to Obama.
They referred to a meeting a week prior to the Aug. 21 incident in which opposition military commanders ordered preparations for an “imminent escalation” due to a “war-changing development” that would be followed by the “U.S.-led bombing of Syria.”
In addition, the former U.S. analysts said Israel welcomed limited U.S. military action, but not so much that it would strengthen rebel groups, which are “increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.”
Other analysts question what the U.S. obsession is with “military intervention wars.”
Dr. Subhash Kapila of the think-tank South Asia Analysis Group, said that U.S. intervention in Syria really is aimed at Iran.
He said the U.S. is being goaded by the Arab oil-rich monarchical regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are SunThni, using Syria to fight a proxy war against Shi’ite Iran, which is extending its influence throughout the Middle East region in conflict with Gulf Arab interests.
“To assert that the United States and the West is ready to militarily intervene in Syria on grounds of humanitarian intervention or abhorrence for the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Damascus regime is a sheer travesty of truth and ground realities,” Kapila said.
He said “the real reason” for such an intervention by the U.S. and the West was “the United States strategic intentions to disrupt the evolving ‘Shi’a Crescent’ in the Northern Tier of the Middle East.”
That “Shi’a Crescent” includes not only Shi’a Iran but also Iraq, which is governed by a Shi’a Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who is sympathetic to Iran; and Syria and now Lebanon, given the influence of the Iranian-backed resistance group, Hezbollah.
Syria is closely allied with Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In fact, Iran has sent in Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps fighters into Syria, as has Hezbollah, to fight alongside Syrian military forces.
Along with these outside Shi’a fighters, Iraq’s al-Madhi Army under the leadership of the Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has committed some 2,000 fighters to aid the Syrian government in its battle with the Syrian opposition and outside Islamist militant foreign fighters.
It was the al-Mahdi Army which undertook the first major armed confrontation against U.S.-led forces in Iraq in 2004.
This also helps explain the latest threat from Sheikh al-Battat who is Shi’a and similarly is tied to Iran.
These Shi’ite fighters have been fighting alongside the Shi’a-Alawite al-Assad ever since al-Qaida operatives began to be funneled into Syria under Saudi and Qatari auspices.
Kapila said these developments “highlight the quagmire into which the United States and the West would be walking into should they decide to militarily intervene in Syria in favor of the Syrian rebel forces created to effect a regime-change in Damascus.”
At the same time, Iran has its own designs for the region, Kapila said.
“It needs to be noted that the emergence of a potent Shi’a Crescent in the Northern Tier of the Middle East figures heavily as a threat perception in Israeli strategic calculus,” Kapila said.
Because of Israel’s fixation on Iran and its perception that it is developing nuclear weapons that could be used against it, sources say Israel is working through the security arrangement that has been in existence since the 1979 Camp David Accords that guarantee its security along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Turkey similarly is part of that equation.
These Sunni countries, like Israel, are very concerned about the spread of Iran’s influence throughout the region, with the potential of undermining their own governments.
“Globally, it needs to be noted that the so-called Syrian Civil War provoked and impelled by external forces, stands transformed today from a domestic political tussle into a wider Islamic sectarian war between Islamist Sunni oil-rich regimes rich enough to bankroll regime changes wars and the Shi’a Crescent countries,” Kapila said.
Adding to this dimension is the interest of Russia and China in protecting the Syrian regime at all costs. Both countries oppose any U.S. military intervention. Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened reprisals should that occur.
“The United States also needs to seriously ponder over the strategic consequences of yet another military intervention in the Middle East destined for ultimate failure,” Kapila said, referring to U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq before it, both of which are regarded as strategic failures.
“As far as regional players like Saudi Arabia and Qatar obsessed with a regime-change in Syria are concerned, what is being overlooked is that with their vaults overflowing with petrodollars they could have effected a regime change in Syria with these financial reserves through use of Islamist groups,” Kapila said.
“The fact that it has not taken place is indicative that in their calculations is the fact that the Syrian majority may be still with the Damascus regime and any Islamist rebellion would not succeed.”