Monday, September 22, 2014

Desperately Seeking Multiple Fronts

With those Turkish hostages released and no longer deterring Turkish intervention against ISIL, are we pressuring Turkey to set up "safe zones" inside Syria?

Early in the Syrian civil war, Turkey talked about setting up safe zones inside Syria so that Turkey could prevent refugees from entering Turkey. But they haven't done that.

Turkey has been hesitant to intervene since ISIL took four dozen Turkish hostages in Iraq when ISIL swept through that region. Recently, Turkey got them back.

So is this relatively new focus on the latest refugees setting the stage for Turkey to follow through with a "humanitarian" buffer zone inside Syria?

The exodus is expected to grow amid fierce clashes around Kobane, a Kurdish stronghold in northern Syria. The UN's refugee agency said more than 60,000 Syrians, mostly Kurds, had already arrived in a 48-hour period. Fighting between Kurdish militia and IS forces is now within earshot of the Turkish border.

A "humanitarian" zone guarded by Turkish troops would essentially become a safe sanctuary for rebels to regroup and recruit among the refugees in a secure rear area.

And it would be outside of Turkey. Which helps Turkey avoid problems of terrorism and the legal responsibilities for taking care of refugees who reach Turkey.

This would fit in with our efforts to support rebels north of Jordan and our plans to use rebels we train to control the Iraq-Syria border.

We are certainly more open about our efforts to get another front against ISIL from the Arab world:

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that more Arab participation in the effort is a prerequisite for President Obama's approval of the military campaign plan against the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

"If we can get ISIL looking in about five different directions, that's the desired end state," he said while traveling to Croatia from Lithuania, where he discussed Iraq and other issues with his NATO counterparts.

When speaking of "fronts" in this context, it is clear Dempsey isn't looking for more Arab state aircraft. Dempsey wants troops. And if he wants troops for another front, this can only mean Jordan.

If Jordan commits troops to advance into Anbar from the west, it will help clear up cross-border traffic from Syria down there and threaten from the west ISIL control of territory around Ramadi and Fallujah. This will complement Iraqi efforts--so far faltering--to attack from the east.

We've had substantial forces in Jordan for some time, and could provide air support from Jordan itself to supplement Jordan's air force.

I suppose this could also mean wanting Saudi Arabia to provide ground help from the south in Anbar, but that seems unlikely given the generally poor shape of Saudi ground forces. The Saudis can provide a small amount of air power (despite their inventory, they'd really need foreign pilots to mount much of an air effort), facilities, supplies, and money.

At best, in the area of ground power I only expect some Arab states to provide special forces to work with Anbar province Sunni Arab tribes.

With US-bolstered Iraqi brigades advancing north and west from the Baghdad region, Kurdish forces advancing southwest from Kurdistan, Jordanian forces advancing east out of Jordan, and substantial Iraqi Sunni Arab defections from ISIL (that's five fronts right there)--all under a US-led air umbrella--we could stress out ISIL's ability to hold their new caliphate and break their hold.