Thursday, May 31, 2018

Better Late Than Never

Yes, this is a problem with our strategy in Syria:

Ethnic tension in Syria’s east dates back decades, a legacy of the divide-and-rule tactics used by President Bashar al-Assad and his father before him in the country’s hinterlands. America’s decision to rely on the military wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) to lead the SDF has deepened those divisions. Arab rebel forces, which also received American backing, had to watch from the sidelines as the SDF marched into Arab towns. “We met in secret with the Americans in Turkey, but they told us we were too disorganised and couldn’t raise enough men,” said Abu Omar, an Arab rebel commander. “They were worried we might fight the [Assad] regime after IS.”

You can see that the Syrian Kurds control territory far south of their northern border region homeland.

This problem was foreseeable and I wanted America to build up an Arab rebel force in eastern Syria to replace a defeated ISIL precisely because I said the Kurds would not be willing to fight Assad while Arabs would:

From the beginning, I've been in favor of defeating ISIL in Iraq first.

While doing that I thought we could build up the non-jihadi resistance in Syria, attacking ISIL there only to support the operations against ISIL in Iraq or to shape the future battlefield in Syria.

Strikes to protect our Syrian rebel allies from ISIL would be an example of that latter kind of effort.

Then, after the non-jihadi resistance to Assad was built up and after ISIL in Iraq was defeated (and turned into a terrorist problem rather than a caliphate occupying territory), we could focus on defeating ISIL in Syria, confident that the defeat of ISIL would not be a favor to Assad.

I called this Win, Build, Win.

So far we are relying on Syrian Kurds to fight ISIL in the operation to take Raqqa. But the Kurds are not going to fight Assad for us. The Kurds will fight ISIL as long as those jihadis are a threat to Kurdish regions in Syria. The Kurds will not march on Damascus.

The Kurds will happily make a deal with Assad for autonomy as the price of sitting out the rest of the war after the Kurds have what they want secured. No Kurdish leaders are going to send their forces all the way to Damascus while Turks loom over their Kurdish proto-state in northern Syria.

So now we find that the Kurdish-led force is in charge of much of eastern Syria; while the Arabs who make up the population south of the border region in the north where the Kurds dominate feel left out.

Can we build Arab forces even at this late date that will fight to hold eastern Syria from Assad after Assad gathers enough forces after defeating many of the rebels in the west to go after the east; while rejecting a revival of Sunni jihadis?

Better late than never to do the right thing. Will we?