Given the US’s wretched track record, including support for Israel’s recent massacre of innocents in Gaza, why would anyone imagine yet another military intervention would succeed.

John Taylor

Given the US’s wretched track record in the Middle East, why would anyone here or abroad imagine yet another American military intervention would Given the US’s wretched track record in the Middle East, including support for Israel’s recent massacre of innocents in Gaza, why would anyone here or abroad imagine yet another American military intervention would succeed

When it comes to dropping bombs on Arabs, American newspapers and TV are usually extraordinarily supportive of whatever the Administration in power wants to do. Witness the pack mentality which led virtually every print journalist and editor in the country to endorse Colin Powell’s bogus UN speech blowing the whistle on Saddam’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

Thus it is surprising and perhaps encouraging that some of our traditional media outlets greeted Obama’s speech about attacking the Islamic State (IS), aka ISIS or ISIL, with more than a little skepticism. From the AP:”…Barack Obama is taking a huge risk. He is thrusting US fighting forces into a growing military operation with clear dangers, unknown costs, an indefinite length and unpredictable consequences.” And from The New York Times: “Some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians…”

Certainly the rhetoric of our Solons has been over the top. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein claimed “The threat ISIS poses cannot be overstated” and that the Islamic State is “the most vicious, well-funded and militant terrorist organization we have ever seen.” Republican James Inhofe warned, “We’re in the most dangerous position we’ve ever been in as a nation” Somehow I thought the US was in greater danger when U-Boats were sinking tankers within sight of the Jersey shore, but perhaps people in Oklahoma, lacking an ocean, have a different perspective.

Add a couple of beheading videos to Congressional hyperbole and the White House quickly succumbed to war fever. Another major military intervention in the Middle East has begun, leading who knows where and at what cost. Forgotten are the Mujaheddin we sponsored in Afghanistan to fight Soviets who morphed into the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Down the memory hole is the destruction of the Libyan state, which Obama himself presided over, and the lawlessness and anarchy which prevail there now.

Obama’s televised speech outlining American “strategy” against the Islamic State was not reassuring in the least and ought to make us wonder whether the President understands the scope of the struggle he is getting us into. For Obama the Islamic State may be “a terrorist group, pure and simple,” but it is clearly much more than that having political as well as religious underpinnings. How else could a few thousand fighters control six or seven million people and vast swaths of Iraq and Syria? Despite what the Administration would have us believe, the Islamic State is an insurgency with popular backing from the Sunni inhabitants of Syria and northern Iraq. The Sunnis there are going to resist the re-imposition of non-Sunni rule from Damascus or Baghdad. Is this a struggle we really want to be involved in?

In Syria the Sunni population supports the Islamic State because they have been excluded from political power since the 1920s. The French colonial administration, installed as the Mandatory power by the League of Nations, fearing the power of the Sunnis, who then as now constituting a majority of Syrians, recruited the Syrian army and police from Alawite and Druze minorities. Since the departure of the French, Alawite military officers have held the supreme power in Syria. In Iraq, the Sunnis were the ruling class until Uncle Sam removed Saddam in 2003 and elections brought a Shia government to power who have been determined to marginalize Iraq’s Sunni population.

It is more than a little ironic, therefore, that by supporting Sunni insurgents fighting the Assad regime in Syria and by bringing Shia rule to Iraq, American intervention has been instrumental in creating the Islamic State and the mess Obama now seeks to remediate.

The President’s strategy for mobilizing political and military support within the region to defeat the Islamic State is wholly unconvincing and completely unrealistic. Although the American trained Iraqi Army vastly outnumbers IS fighters, the army abandoned the Sunni areas in northern and central Iraq without a fight, threw away their arms and legged it south to Baghdad and beyond. Subsequent Iraqi Army attempts to recapture Tikrit, just up the Tigris from Baghdad, ended in complete failure. The record of Kurdish forces versus the Islamic State’s insurgents is little better. Without the insertion of American ground forces, whose deployment to Iraq looks politically unacceptable, at least for the moment, it is hard to imagine how the IS insurgency will be defeated.

Even more unrealistic are US plans to build up the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as a counter weight to the IS. The FSA is Sunni and has the same objective as the Islamic State, ousting the Assad regime in Damascus. Although the Assad government is determinedly secular, its senior officials are Alawites, an off shoot of Shia Islam, making the government in Damascus an important target of the Sunni insurgency. The FSA and the IS are actually allies. American aid to the FSA in the past has unquestionable contributed to the success of the Islamic State and continued aid will likely continue to do so.

The Assad regime is a natural US ally, not an adversary, in the battle with the IS. And of all the forces in the region resisting the IS only the Syrian army has had any success. Another natural American ally is Iran which is overwhelmingly Shia and closely allied with the governments in Baghdad and Damascus. Iran also has significant military capacity and a long border with the Islamic State in northeastern Iraq. Both Syria and Iran are enemies of Israel. As a result, because the United States has chosen to make Israel’s enemies America’s enemies, domestic political considerations make it impossible for the US to ally itself with either Iran or Syria, as useful and sensible as those alliances would be.

Perhaps the most unrealistic and bizarre of all are the Obama Administration’s plans to make Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Turkey allies in the fight against the IS. The Turks have supported the Sunni insurgency against the Assad regime from the beginning. Turkey is a Sunni nation, with a moderate Islamic government. Could the Turkish government be convinced to abandon the Sunni insurgency in Syria? Doubtful. There are reports that the Turkish government has already told Uncle Sam that Turkish airfields will not be available to attack IS forces.

As for the conservatives Sunni Arab states in the Arabian Peninsula, their inhabitants have provided private financial support to the nascent Islamic State, channeled through Kuwait, for years. Their governments, with encouragement from the United States, are hostile to Iran. How could the Obama Administration imagine that these nations, who citizens regard all Shias with distain at best and fear Iran, would suddenly reverse course and help save Iran’s most important ally, the Shia government in Baghdad, from a Sunni insurgency?

Given the US’s wretched track record in the Middle East, including support for Israel’s recent massacre of innocents in Gaza, why would anyone here or abroad imagine yet another American military intervention would succeed when previous invasions, raids, bombing campaigns, occupations and economic sanctions have utterly failed?

The coming battle with Islamic State insurgents showcases American political immaturity, is emotionally driven and lacks a coherent political and military strategy. It is also unnecessary.

Source: UNZ

23 Sep 2014

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