“Getting Real: Facing Necessary Facts in Syria and Iraq” by Michael J. Brenner for The Globalist:
Washington only compounds its culpability while simultaneously reducing the chances of finding a tolerable way out of the jam if it remains addicted to fanciful thinking.
And yet it remains wedded to a set of totally unrealistic propositions. This results in the creation of a make-believe world that bears no relation to reality.
Here are some of the biggest fictions that must be abandoned:
- Jihadist Syrian frontrunners al-Nusra/al-Qaeda can be transmogrified into mere expressions of genuine Sunni grievances.
- Nusra jihadists can be converted into the instrument for militarily crushing ISIS just because there is nobody else willing or able to a job America won’t take on.
- Saudi Arabia and the Gulfies will give priority to defeating the various Salafist groups rather than to the removal the Alawite regime in Damascus.
- ISIS’s financial lifeline can be cut without destroying the infrastructure of its oil trade and without getting Turkey to cease and desist its complicity in sustaining the oil trade.
- The Russians can be “isolated” and denied a major role in determining Syria’s future by calling Putin dirty names and reciting the number of worthless partners in Obama’s ersatz coalition.
- Phantom Syrian rebel armies devoted to tolerance and democracy – that don’t exist except in the escapist visions of Washington’s strategic non-thinkers – can be relied upon to win battlefield victories.
- Establishing a no-fly buffer zone in northern Syria would do something other than satisfy Erdogan’s ambition to keep open his supply line to al-Nusra and his lucrative commercial dealings with ISIS.
- Such a no-fly buffer zone would not contradict our purposes in Syria and would be tolerated by Russia.
- It is within the power of the United States to shape the Middle East to its own specifications while contesting a legitimate place for Iran, Russia, Yemenese Houthis and anyone else who doesn’t hew the Saudi-Israeli-Erdogan line Washington has endorsed.
Flag of the Syrian government.
Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.
Ever wondered how ISIS and the early insurgency in Iraq got so many decent weapons so fast? It wasn’t just by capturing them after big surrenders by the Iraq Army.
Here’s Al Jazeera English, quoting an Amnesty International report on how the United States carelessly created the conditions necessary to arm ISIS fully:
“From 2003 to 2007, the US and other coalition members transferred more than one million infantry weapons and pistols with millions of rounds of ammunition to the Iraqi armed forces, despite the fact that the army was poorly structured, corrupt and ill-disciplined”.
“Hundreds of thousands of those weapons went missing and are still unaccounted for. During this period, illicit markets flourished, as did covert supplies from Iran, making arms and ammunition readily available to armed groups operating in Iraq.”
Yet another reason to be so wary of Western efforts to arm various groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, or anywhere else in the world right now.
It’s going to be weird to see how ISIS incorporates China into their history-obsessed weirdness of Crusaders and Safavids.
If you want to know why the Syria conflict can’t be ended by willpower or the snap of a fingers, this is a good analysis by Gareth Porter. The latest peace talks don’t include any significant armed combatant party in Syria – not any stripe of rebels, not the government, and certainly not ISIS. Practically speaking, on the side of the anti-regime forces, there is nobody that the rest of the world is comfortable negotiating with who could actually control any armed fighters if a deal was reached. The Syrian government (or even just the Army) doesn’t want to negotiate a deal either because they have no interest in signing a deal that brings al Qaeda/Nusra to power, and they are currently the primary non-ISIS opponent.
Flag of the Syrian government.
Trench warfare largely fell out of favor when aerial bombing became more commonplace and it wasn’t so rare for one or both sides to possess aircraft with serious ground attack capabilities. (Paratroopers didn’t help matters either, if you were trying to defend a location via front-facing trenches.)
But in a conflict where neither side has its own air force, such as the war between Kurdish YPG fighters and ISIS in eastern Syria, extensive trench complexes still make sense for slowing offensives and for securing territory. The New York Times sent reporters to the Kurdish front lines and reported back on the scale and complexity of the earthworks there:
[Kurdish] fighters hold most of the more than 280-mile-long front line with the Islamic State. Parts of it have come to resemble an international border, with deep trenches and high berms running for miles, lined with bright lights to prevent jihadist infiltrators. The whole line is dotted with heavily sandbagged positions to protect against machine gun and mortar attacks by the jihadists.
The geo-ethnic divisions wracking Syria, Iraq, and Turkey today were largely drawn during World War I and the five or so years that followed it, so it’s interesting to see massive earthworks and trench networks like that war re-emerge a century later in the waging of this conflict.
Approximate front line of the southward push by Kurdish YPG forces against ISIS in eastern Syria, as of October 26, 2015. (Map via Wikimedia community.)
Rick Santorum fully understands that ISIS is an apocalyptic death cult because he’s part of one.
WhiteHouse.gov, August 21, 2015:
Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, the second in command of the terrorist group ISIL, was killed in a U.S. military air strike on August 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq, along with an ISIL media operative known as Abu Abdullah.
Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2014:
Defense officials said the operations to kill senior and midlevel Islamic State commanders are beginning to weaken the group’s leadership structure in Iraq.
U.S. military strikes between Dec. 3 and Dec. 9 killed Abd al Basit, the head of Islamic State’s military operations in Iraq, and Haji Mutazz, a key deputy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s top leader, officials said.
If he “dies” in a U.S. airstrike one more time, he’ll hold the same honor recently taken in Syria by Muhsin Al-Fadhli (similarly named but from a rival group), who has now “died” in U.S. airstrikes three times to much fanfare. Unlike the ISIS fellow killed in Iraq, the other guy is the leader of the probably fictional terrorist organization the US has labeled the “Khorasan Group” (see previous link for more on that).
It’s almost like we’re not being presented with accurate information to be able to assess the progress of our various interminable and boundless wars!