Deepening Syria crisis adds to unpredictability

14 October 2015, News Wires – The crisis in Syria appears to have taken a turn for the worse with the involvement of Russia in the four-year-old war and the possibility that the confrontation will widen and pose a threat to the stability of a region that is home to some of the world’s bigger oil producing and exporting countries.

The unexpected Russian military entry into the Syria conflict remains a puzzle, but some observers think they see hints of a scenario concocted by adventurist strategists in Moscow and acquiesced to by a desperate Western coalition stuck in the Syrian quagmire.

The best light that can be put on the Russian intervention is that President Vladimir Putin — perhaps encouraged by the Western decision-making vacuum over Syria and his own troubles following his Ukraine adventure — has decided he has little to lose and potentially much to gain by taking bold action.

The reasoning of the Russians — as well as the Iranians, who have also been supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — is assumed to be that if they want to salvage something out of their interests in Syria, they have to first strengthen Assad.

At the moment, the Russians appear to be ignoring the extremist Islamic State (IS) forces. The assumption is that a triumphant Russia will later offer a transition government possibly including Assad, and isolate IS in preparation for a final blow administered by Russian and coalition forces.

This assumption has been emerging mostly because nothing else makes sense. It is reinforced by the surprisingly mild reaction of the US and its allies — who have been seemingly fruitlessly bombing IS for more than a year — to the aggressive Russian moves, including dangerous aerial confrontations on the border of Nato member Turkey.

The Russians appear so far to be determined and obviously feel they have laid their plans well. They may also expect the tolerance of the Western coalition. However, so volatile and unpredictable has the situation in Syria become that the best laid plans may not be good enough.

Already extremist preachers in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere are calling on Muslims to rush to the supposed historical battlefield. Only bulls in the oil market will find encouragement in all this.

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