In Syria, unlike Las Vegas, what happens there does not stay there. So, as predicted many times in this blog, the crisis is having obvious and increasingly dangerous regional implications.
The Kurdish component, with the Iraqi-Turkish dimension of it already a major factor on the ground, as the northeast of Syria is already a virtual autonomous area, mostly out of the reach of the Assad regime. Surely, Lebanon is on the immediate receiving end of the crisis. A lot of attention is given to the occasional fighting between Alawites and Sunnis in Tripoli in the North, and to a lesser extent the tensions in Beirut which already led to the resignation of one government, something which is indicative of the ill effect of developments in Syria on the fragile, smaller Lebanese state.
Not much attention is given to the ever increasing participation of the Hezbollah militia in the fighting. According to reports, Hezbollah lost a significant number of fighters in Syria, not something which is unnoticed in neighboring Israel, who would like to see the Shi'ite terror organization weakened, if not outright decimated.
In Lebanon itself, there are many, mostly Sunnis and Maronite Christians who are waiting eagerly to see a feeble Hezbollah in the days after the final downfall of Bashar Assad. Then, the days and nights of long knifes will start also in Lebanon, and old scores with Hezbollah will be settled.
But, that is in the future, though not the distant one. Right now, the main burden of the regional dimension of the Syrian fighting seems to affect the kingdom of Jordan.
The impoverished kingdom has to deal with a huge influx of Syrian refugees, something that can and may very well endanger the political-demographic balance in Jordan, a problem even at the best and most peaceful of times. Jordan had its share of refugee problems in its turbulent history. Starting with the influx of Palestinians after the war of 1948-9. Then, there was the influx after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and later, the move of many from Iraq following the American invasion in 2003.
Jordan simply cannot accommodate any number of refugees, let alone vast numbers. The logic of the Syrian situation is such that the final collapse of the Alawite regime in Damascus will unleash a chain of events with another wave of refugees. A Sunni government in Damascus, controlled by Islamists, whether from the Muslim Brotherhood or any other Islamic faction, is definitely bad news to King Abdallah, who is clashing in his own kingdom with his Jordanian Islamists. He can do without them in neighboring Damascus.
He can also do without the threat of the transfer of chemical weapons to the hands of militant elements. The king is worried enough to have invited Big Brother U.S. to come to his help, if not for immediate use, then as a preparation for the inevitable rainy days to come.
For awhile, there were reports from reliable sources about the stationing in Jordan American special ops units. Now, we are told that Jordan, as did Turkey before, asked for Patriot Missiles to be placed in its territory. Turkey is a member state of NATO, so its request for the missiles to be located on the border with Syria was in the context of a NATO activity. Not so for Jordan, which is not a NATO member. In this case, this is an American obligation to protect the Hashemite kingdom, long considered, and rightly so, a pillar of regional stability.
Alongside the clear need to prop up the Jordanian ally, the U.S. sends a clear signal that it is serious in its dealings with Syria, and despite criticism leveled at the Administration from some conservatives, it does what should be done. It is not American boots on the ground, rather a concerted effort to try and contain the crisis. This is not an easy task, and Secretary of Defense Hagel on the way to the Middle East will become aware of it in the next few days, as will be made abundantly clear to him by the Jordanians, as well as the Israelis.
The Syrian crisis can, though not inevitably so, develop into an all-out regional calamity. Preventing it is henceforth a major challenge, and Patriots in Jordan are an important step along this road.