The Tipping Point :: by Matt Ward

There is a new military build-up taking place within Syria between three major power blocs. At this point it is unclear whether this militarization is in sync or whether these power blocs are at odds with one other. The silence surrounding this major military escalation from all sides though, is ominous.

In the Kurdish areas of Northern Syria, Russia and America have begun a major military build-up in a narrow strip of land sitting right on the Syrian-Turkish border. Facing this growing U.S.-Russian build-up is a parallel Turkish build-up on the other side of the border, from within Turkey.

In view of the tense and highly strained relations between Russia and Turkey over the recent shooting down by Turkey of a Russian fighter aircraft, it is unlikely that this build-up is coordinated or in unison. They are building-up their forces in order to counter and oppose one another’s mutual military threat.

This in itself is not abnormal. What is abnormal though is how close this Russian and American build up is to the Turkish border, how extremely narrow the strip of land is that America and Russia are amassing their forces on, and how easy it would be for a misunderstanding or some form of human error to spark a conflagration that may well escalate beyond our ability to predict, or their ability to control.

This is a highly charged convergence of three opposing armies and air forces, all operational in one tiny area just 85 km long. Major wars have begun in such a way.

The Americans have made a base at the small Remelan Airport. Quickly bringing in Special Forces troops and attack helicopters they have now effectively occupied the airport. American engineers have worked fast to widen the airport landing strip so that larger U.S. military aircraft can be accepted there.

The Russians, in response, have immediately taken over a small abandoned Syrian army air base just 80 km from the U.S. Remelan Air Base. They, too, have brought in Russian Special Forces troops and strike elements of their air force to directly counter the threat posed by the U.S. presence in the same small area. This Russian base is under 4 kilometers from the Turkish border and is now a barrier separating the two NATO allies, the U.S. and Turkey.

At both these bases, as we speak, there is a rapid militarization underway.

To counter this Russian threat, Turkey has arrayed a significant number of tanks and artillery batteries along the border as well as amassing a very large number of troops just three kilometers away from their Russian adversaries.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan stated as recently as last month that he will not countenance such an amassing of military equipment right on Turkey’s border, “We have said this from the beginning: we won’t tolerate such formations (in northern Syria) along the area stretching from the Iraqi border up to the Mediterranean.”

There are deep suspicions that the Russians have begun to amass their forces so that they can began to penetrate, and then claim territory deep into the Kurdish region of northern Syria. This is a hotly disputed area that Turkey also claims as historical sovereignty.

Turkey have been hamstrung. They know full-well that Russia is just waiting for an opportunity to avenge the recent shooting down of the Su-24 warplane in November, resulting in the deaths of both Russian pilots. As a consequence of this, Turkey must not wrongly put forth a single foot.

However, if Russia moves into the Kurdish region of Northern Syria, Turkey may be obliged to act. If Turkey does move against Russia (if and when they make a move into Northern Syria), their NATO ally America may also be forced to come to Turkey’s defense. That is potentially why the U.S. is also amassing forces in the same Turkish border area.

The more I look at Syria the more the very real specter a significant war between major world powers becomes. In my lifetime, the Middle East has never looked as dangerous or as volatile as it does right now.

I believe that Syria may be approaching a tipping point and a very real danger that almost every military alliance on earth might be sucked into a rapidly escalating conflagration there. It is possible that we are looking at the beginnings of a wider war in Syria taking shape right now.

Syria today is a powder-keg and it looks as though it could blow up at any time. If it does, chaos will surely follow in its wake.

Time is short.