Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Maybe the Strong Horse Will Sing

I've been saying for years that robust American support for non-jihadi rebels will decrease the appeal of jihadi rebels who have the reputation for actually fighting Assad. Guess what is happening now?

Will wonders never cease?

The armed opposition groups in Syria have seen significant changes over the past few months, largely in response to the Russian intervention and the subsequent and unprecedented commitment Western and regional states have shown to a political transition. ...

Many opposition groups initially took on Salafi-jihadi characteristics to gain support. In many cases, their manifestations of fundamentalism were not a true embrace of Salafi-jihadi ideology, but rather a way to obtain money from wealthy donors in the Arab Gulf. In light of meager Western support for moderate forces, small factions had to adopt Salafi-jihadi symbolism and slogans to ensure protection from powerful Salafi-jihadi forces that were ready to eliminate any groups that differed from them. Thus, the strength of extremist factions, including al-Qaeda-linked groups, grew—while the FSA, which maintained nationalist and moderate Islamist rhetoric, was losing support.

Gosh. Who could have predicted that?

Since the appeal of the more Islamist (and jihadi) groups has been their effectiveness in battle (which has meant they attract foreign arms or seize them more often from the government), arming the secular and nationalist groups can be expected to reverse the appeal of the Islamists. So this 25% of the rebels could grow with new recruits and at the expense of the groups we aren't arming.

Then look for some of the groups with Islamic character to move away from that outlook in exchange for arms, training, and assistance. If they are losing people to the secular and nationalist groups we help, they will have incentive to move away from an Islamic character.

And once the non-Islamists and non-jihadis are more effective, it will be easier to pressure our Arab allies into reducing support for these Islamist elements.

It isn't too shocking that the Islamists are the most important element right now. They fight the hardest and so get more results and attract recruits and arms. In World War II, the most effective resistance fighters against the Nazis were communists. Is it any wonder that communists were so strong in post-World War II Western Europe?

Since the winners decide what the right side of history is, it would behoove us to fight for our vision of that history.

Sadly, our super-genius secretary of state could snatch defeat from the jaws of potential victory:

Russia's foreign ministry said on Monday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov had agreed in a phone call on the preconditions necessary for another meeting of world powers on Syria.

Russia's precondition is that Assad survives and that Russia keeps their Syria bases.

Kerry wants Evian water at the meeting.

UPDATE: Yeah (tip to Instapundit):

One obvious question, though: Why make a concession now, after four years of insisting that Assad must go, if Iran’s grip on Syria is weakening and Putin is allegedly getting bogged down in the Syrian quagmire? If the Shiites and their allies are weakening, now’s the moment to double down and insist that Assad must go ASAP even if “the regime” writ large remains in place for awhile.

Assad must go. Because he's a new Hitler who gasses his people. He's doomed. And Putin's intervention to save Assad's regime is doomed.

Yet we will go along with saving Assad's regime if not Assad himself--as if that is the important objective.

I knew this would happen. I've known it for a long time. I should have written a post about Kerry titled Flop Gun rather than this one.

Well. In addition to that one.

Now witness the nuance of this fully hoped and changed foreign policy!

UPDATE: If it actually looked like we were serious about defeating ISIL, a lot of people who aren't jihadis but who are interested in backing the strong horse would abandon ISIL:

Iraq, Turkey and Jordan have all collected a lot of useful information on ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) by simply talking to former ISIL members who have deserted or managed to quit without being executed. Many of these former ISIL men are Syrians or Iraqis and it seems that most of them were in it for the money. This is because four years of civil war in Syria has wrecked the economy and left about half the working age population without any, not much employment. Thus if you have skills ISIL needs they will pay and pay more than you could make even if you had a job outside the new ISIL “caliphate) (eastern Syria and western Iraq). You have to be Sunni Moslem and at least pretend you believe in ISIL’s fundamentalist religious and social doctrine. That is not difficult for most rural Sunni Arabs in Syria and Iraq.

Money really is important to ISIL. Mission from God, notwithstanding.

Which is why Iraq's decision to finally stop paying their employees behind enemy lines will hurt ISIL. No money to prop up the economy and an incentive for those employees to work to eject ISIL.