The joint U.S.-Israeli missile test in the Mediterranean Tuesday morning, announced first by Russia, epitomizes exactly how the tragedy of the Syrian civil war has now become a power play between the Cold War enemies, acted out in someone else’s backyard.
The White House denied the move had anything to do with Syria, or, explicitly, the fact that the U.S. is currently considering military action in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in late August which it says it knows was carried out by the government and killed over 1,400 people.
But coming a day after Russian reports indicated that Moscow was sending a reconnaissance ship to the Mediterranean, perhaps to keep the growing U.S. armada in the region company, this cannot be seen as an unrelated event that was planned long in advance. No one is that naive. The U.S. and Israel are, quite literally, testing the waters, and gauging Russian reactions ahead of a possible limited cruise missile strike on Damascus.
Although Russia has denied it would get involved on behalf of the Syrian government, it already is. It is well known that any defensive systems Syria has is thanks to Moscow. A proxy war if ever there was one, the civil war in Syria is being used by Moscow to humiliate Barack Obama as much as possible. Ahead of any military action, Vladimir Putin wants Obama’s administration to know that any offensive won’t necessarily be a walk in the park. The U.S. may have the world’s most formidable army, but Russia isn’t far behind, or so the message goes.
These military games are more about these decades-old animosities, the never-ending arms race, oil, Israel and regional alliances. Yet it is the people of the Middle East who, once again, feel the consequences. The region has apparently been on the verge of war for weeks, and these have been tense times for Syria’s neighbors. With the economic markets shaky, waking up to news of missile testing because of some American and Israeli muscle flexing is not good for the region’s blood pressure.
With the news Tuesday that there are now 2 million Syrian refugees, on top of the 5 million internally displaced, and over 110,000 dead, it seems clearer than ever that whatever the U.S. has up its sleeve is not about protecting lives or seeking stability for Syria. It is about protecting its own image as a world superpower, as Israel’s bodyguard, as a heavyweight in the region – about saving whatever shred of credibility it has left.
Unfortunately for Obama, the Arab region appears to have seen this American “policy” for what it is. The fig leaf has fallen. The U.S. cannot claim to be concerned with the sanctity of human life when all it really appears to care about is flexing its muscles and attempting to intimidate its Russian counterparts. The game is up, and sadly for America, it appears to be the last to realize that.