Syria is now involved in the Iraq-ISIS conflict. We are dealing here with the latest performance in the 1400-year-old Sunni-Shia war.
Syria is ruled by Shia (Alawite) president and the regime is basically Shia too. On top of that, the Syrian government has been fighting Sunni jihadists for the last three-and-a-half years in Syria itself. So it would be very odd if the Syrians didn’t get involved in the conflict in Iraq.
(Some Muslims – primarily in the West – have borrowed certain aspects of Marxist theory and history and claimed that the “eternal Sunni-Shia war” is a “myth”. They’ve even claimed that many of their fellow Muslims have also “bought into the myth”. Islamists claim that the war is, in fact, the invention of Western kuffar concocted to ‘divide and rule’ otherwise harmonious Muslims. However, even though Western powers - and indeed all powers - have used the strategy of divide and rule, that doesn’t mean that there were no divisions in the first place. In fact divide-and-rule policies could only work when such divisions already exist. All this buck-passing, of course, follows the ancient Muslim tradition of blaming the kuffar for Islamic/Muslim conflicts, violence and even Islamic “imperialist” conquests.)
The obvious strategic thing to do( if you were an Iraqi or Syrian Shia) would be to call for Syrian-Iraqi cooperation in order to get rid of both the Sunni jihadists in Syria and ISIS in Iraq.
(This is a somewhat odd scenario if you bear in mind just one historical detail. When Saddam Hussein was in power (from 1979 to 2003), Baathist Syria was mortal a mortal enemy of Baathist Iraq. It seems that their joint commitment to totalitarian Baathist socialism didn’t help them iron out their differences.)
And just as Shia Syria and Shia Iraq seem to have aligned, so too have Syrian and Iraqi Sunni jihadists. That is, former Syrian Sunni rivals to ISIS have now pledge allegiance to that group. In fact Syrian jihadists have gone one step beyond that and given ISIS complete control of the fighting on both sides of the border.
One particular group of Syrian jihadists, the Nusra Front, has also pledged allegiance to ISIS. This is no surprise because the Nusra Front is a unit of as-Qaeda in Syria and ISIS itself, of course, grew out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
Interestingly enough, it was Iraq’s Shia Prime Minister, Nouri Maliki, who confirmed that the Syrian air force had carried out strikes against Islamic jihadists in Iraq earlier this week.
The official line, however, is that Iraq didn’t request the Syrian air strikes. Nonetheless, the Iraqi PM “welcomed” them.
More specifically, on Tuesday the Syrian air force attacked Sunni jihadists around the town of Qaim (on the Iraq-Syria border).
Once again, the issue of the American use of drones has arisen. It has been said that US drone attacks may soon be carried out – against ISIS – in Iraq.
Now of course the Western Left (the “anti-war” brigade which isn’t really against war at all: only wars carried out by Western “capitalist states”) will be against drone strikes. But then again they’ll also be against the obvious alternative to that: US troops fighting on the ground.
As for Iran’s position on US drone strikes. You’d think that Iran would certainly prefer drone strikes to direct US intervention in the conflict. It may even be the case that Iraq’s Shia government would also prefer drone attacks – though only if they did the trick of destroying ISIS. (Previously, the Iraq government appears to have demanded more than drone strikes.)