For those who know history, recall how we stumbled into World War I after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie Duchess of Hohenberg, by Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip, June 28, 1914. The subsequent series of events led to what would become known as the “war to end all wars,” World War I. And of course, it would be easy to assess that the ending of World War I set the conditions for World War II, knowing that the major antagonists, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, both fought in the precursor.
And now, as we sit back and watch the disintegrating situation in the Middle East, we must begin to ask, are we close to a World War IV? (OK, I consider the Cold War World War III; it was not fought by the major adversaries, but instead fought globally by proxy, from Korea to Vietnam to Africa to Central America to Afghanistan, between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.)
The recent downing of a Russian fighter bomber could be the spark igniting a new global conflagration.
As reported by Fox News:
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Turkey’s decision to shoot down a Russian warplane near Turkey’s border with Syria is a “stab in the back” and it would have “significant consequences” for its relations with Turkey, as NATO called an emergency meeting over the incident.
Putin said the Russian Sukhoi-24 jet was shot by a missile from a Turkish jet over Syria about just over a half-mile away from the Turkish border, which he described as a “stab in the back by the terrorists’ accomplices.” Turkey said it warned the jet several times that it was in its airspace.
Putin was meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Sochi. Prior to the meeting, The New York Times said Putin was “speaking slowly and clearly angry.” NATO called an emergency meeting in Brussels on Tuesday after the incident.
“The aim of this extraordinary North Atlantic Council meeting is for Turkey to inform allies about the downing of a Russian airplane,” NATO’s deputy spokesperson Carmen Romero told the Associated Press.”
We’ve talked here about the very confusing situation of airspace coordination in the Syrian area of operations. You have Russian, Turkish, Syrian, American, and even Israeli combat aircraft operating in the area. Something was bound to happen.
And here’s the real rub: Turkey is a member of NATO, and if it decides to invoke Article V, then the 28 member states of NATO are somewhat obliged to honor that commitment. Turkey does not support the Assad regime and has been supporting Sunni Islamic terrorist groups — such as the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra front and others — to topple Assad. Russia and Iran support Assad and have a considerable contingent occupying Syrian ground — Russians, Iranian Quds force and Hezbollah. And of course we know there are forces on either side who are encroaching upon the Golan Heights, and Israel has launched strikes into Syria to attack Iranians.
And President Obama tells us about his kissing Michelle in Paris and states a conference on climate change will send a message of resolve to ISIS — FUBAR.
Now, I’ve just laid out the “conventional” forces, but what about the militant Islamic terrorist factor? We have ISIS, who conducted command and control of a massive terror attack in Paris, operating in the battlespace. ISIS has not been contained and holds territory spanning two different country borders — Syria and Iraq. Then there are the Kurds, the world’s largest ethnic minority without a homeland. And now freely operating in Iraq, and leading, is Iran supporting the Shiite militias.
What a doggone gumbo that could’ve been evaded with a simple investment of 10,000-15,000 U.S. residual forces in Iraq.
And consider the chess game of leadership. France’s Hollande was in Washington, D.C. today and got a chance to hear about Obama’s romantic interlude; this was after his meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Cameron. Next, Hollande will travel to Moscow to speak with Vladimir Putin. Putin was just in Iran and now in Jordan meeting leaders — anyone recall the last time Obama was in the Middle East talking with leaders? Don’t forget only two of the six Gulf Cooperation Council leaders showed up for his Camp David photo op — oops, I mean summit. Egypt’s el-Sisi, shunned by Obama, has spoken with Putin and Netanyahu went to Russia before the last U.N. General Assembly.
Why do I say all this? Go back and read of all the diplomatic discussions that happened after Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination — quite similar. In the end, they stopped talking, drew lines, mobilized and commenced fighting.
A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition based out of Baghdad said the U.S. indeed heard Turkey on “open channels” issue 10 warnings to the Russian jet before the incident. Reports out of Russia also say a military helicopter was shot at in Syria, killing one serviceman. The helicopter was reportedly on a rescue mission.
Rebels said they fired at the two parachuting pilots as they descended, and that one had died. A rebel spokesman said they would consider releasing the body in exchange for prisoners held by Syria. The fate of the second pilot was not immediately known.
We now have a French carrier group deployed and a Russian naval cruiser with orders to defend Russian troops. Ladies and gents, we can dismiss this, but we’re on the verge of a world war.
And who are the players? Turkey will side against Assad and leverage NATO Article V. France is part of NATO, but their beef is against the Sunni Islamist terrorist group ISIS that’s been supported by Turkey. al-Nusra is a Sunni Islamic terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, but they’re fighting against Assad. Russia supports Assad and is joined in that alliance by Iran and their proxy army, Hezbollah. Russia has had a passenger jet shot down by ISIS, killing 224 of its citizens, and now has had Turkey shoot down its plane — first time a NATO member has done such since the 1950s. ISIS, Turkey and al-Nusra are all Sunni. The Kurds are Sunni, but hated by the Turks, who don’t want them strong and independent.
Nature abhors a void and will fill it. And in this case, there is a clear void in leadership and things have gone to hell in a hand basket. But fear not, Obama will fix the weather and all will be resolved.
What would I do? Organize a true coalition against ISIS; that is the most prevalent enemy. I’d declare an operating battlespace with the objective to defeat the savages. I’d ally primarily with the Kurds, Jordan, Egypt, the UAE and France. I’d invoke NATO Article V to defeat ISIS — and the broader enemy of militant Islamic terrorism and jihadism, to include al-Nusra. My concern would not be on Assad, but I’d revoke the Iranian nuclear deal and tell Iran its Quds Force and Hezbollah are both dedicated Islamic terrorist groups and, where identified, they’d also be attacked and defeated.
My message to Vladimir Putin would be simple: get out of the area and take the Cuban special forces with you — unless you want to fall under American command and control, taking directions from us. And in the meantime, I’d be talking with our eastern European allies and strengthening military-to-military relations and partnerships — reinstating the missile defense shield.
I certainly would not be heading to any climate change conference; that’s not a global priority.
Hollande — and, indeed, the world — is looking for a leader. Putin cannot assume that role. Sadly, we’re stumbling into something potentially horrific, and our president is reminiscing about kissing and pondering fixing the weather. It will be a very long 14 months until January 2017.