Bombs rain down in the con­fu­sion

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS KONSTANDARAS

Rus­sia has a clear aim in Syria – to sup­port Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad and pro­tect its in­ter­ests. Tur­key, too, has a clear aim – to keep weak­en­ing the Kurds, within its borders and be­yond. The United States is con­fused – it wants to de­stroy Is­lamic State but it can’t fo­cus all its power on this be­cause it doesn’t want to ben­e­fit As­sad nor anger Tur­key by us­ing the Kurds, who are its most re­li­able ally in the war against ISIS. And so Rus­sia has be­come a pro­tag­o­nist in the Syr­ian tragedy’s latest chap­ter; Tur­key has Is­lamist ex­trem­ists cross­ing its bor­der to hide and Rus­sian planes on its borders; As­sad is em­bold­ened to try to re­take ter­ri­tory; Iraq, too, would like some Rus­sian in­ter­ven­tion; the Amer­i­cans de­clare in an­tic­i­pa­tion that Moscow will pay (in the form of Is­lamic reprisals) for its Syr­ian ven­ture. The United States, of course, is well aware of the cost of in­volve­ment in such con­flicts: Barack Obama’s wari­ness in Syria is a re­sult of the lessons of cat­a­strophic in­ter­ven­tion in Iraq in 2003. But the US in­va­sion of Afghanistan in 2001 also, de­spite be­ing jus­ti­fied as reprisal against a force that had un­leashed ma­jor ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the United States, has turned into Amer­ica’s long­est war, with no end in sight. The re­cent, ac­ci­den­tal at­tack on the Doc­tors With­out Borders hos­pi­tal in Kun­duz also drives home the dan­ger of wag­ing war from a dis­tance. Per­haps that is why the United States yesterday an­nounced that four Rus­sian mis­siles, launched from the Caspian Sea, fell in Iran while on their way to Syria. The Amer­i­cans know the huge po­lit­i­cal cost of “col­lat­eral dam­age,” some­thing which the Rus­sians ap­pear to have for­got­ten af­ter their own Afghan quag­mire in the 1980s. Rus­sia’s in­volve­ment in Syria makes it a player in the re­gion and sets in mo­tion a chain of events that will have last­ing ef­fect. It brings Moscow into di­rect con­fronta­tion with Ankara, which sees Rus­sian air­craft not only op­er­at­ing in north­ern Syria, where Tur­key wanted a buf­fer zone un­der its in­flu­ence, but also vi­o­lat­ing Turk­ish air space. Tur­key has called on NATO to guar­an­tee its borders. The al- liance, which has been idle through­out the Syr­ian cri­sis, has be­gun to pull to­gether, re­in­forc­ing mem­bers in Eastern and Cen­tral Europe, no­ti­fy­ing Moscow that it will stand by ev­ery mem­ber. NATO stresses that it will not for­get Rus­sia’s in­ter­ven­tion in Ukraine and the an­nex­a­tion of Crimea. It also wants to show that it has a rea­son to ex­ist, and a clear tar­get. That is why a resur­gent Rus­sia looks like a gift from above. In the con­fu­sion, it is com­fort­ing to have a clear tar­get. Com­fort­ing but de­ceiv­ing. Be­cause in to­day’s ma­trix of in­ter­ests and clash­ing al­liances, the great­est dan­ger is the care­less­ness which all pow­ers are dis­play­ing, both big and small.

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