Saturday, August 30, 2014

What If Assad's Support Collapses?

One argument against opposing Assad while ISIL is strong in Syria is that ISIL will take advantage of Assad's weakening. So we should not harm Assad, at least in this thinking, and think of Assad as an anti-jihadi partner at most. What if Assad collapses regardless of what we do?

Assad's forces have been bleeding away at an astounding rate and the loss of Tabqa airbase in Raqqa province has shaken Assad's supporters:

A mounting death toll in President Bashar al-Assad's armed forces is causing alarm among some government loyalists who are worried about Islamic State's territorial gains and are turning their anger on the authorities in Damascus.

The execution of scores of Syrian soldiers taken captive by Islamic State at an air base in Raqqa province has triggered unusually harsh social media criticism of the Damascus government by people who have taken its side in the civil war.

I noted these factors recently.

At this point, Assad's small base of support could collapse even if we decide (foolishly) that Assad is a partner. That would lead ISIL to be the strongest force in Syria.

Remember, Hezbollah's support is faltering and the Iranian-organized Shia foreign legion fighting for Assad has gone home to Iraq to fight ISIL there. Assad is left with his mostly demoralized forces to hold the west (which I also called in January 2012 as his only hope for success).

I'll repeat what our strategy should be for ISIL, since the president oddly addressed the nation to say we have no strategy.

We should focus on rolling back ISIL gains in Iraq while bolstering non-jihadi rebels in Syria.

While we do these things we should conduct recon and intelligence missions over Syria, limiting strikes to key people and weapons if they attempt to enter Iraq. Meanwhile let ISIL battle other jihadis and Assad. A pox on both of them. Do not give Assad's backers any reason to hope we will help Assad.

When ISIL is ground down and ejected from their control of Sunni Arab Iraq and with non-jihadi rebels strengthened in Syria, we can turn on ISIL in Syria with our air power.

The non-jihadi rebels should be strengthened by our aid and by seeing ISIL getting hammered. Joining the strong horse is one thing. Joining the dead horse another.

With ISIL then crippled, and other jihadis hopefully heading for the exits or seeing less committed jihadis switch to the non-jihadi rebel groups, we can finally look to making good on President Obama's wish that Assad must go.

Face it, Assad's forces are bleeding heavily. It's wrong to side with Assad and it is likely a mistake to assume he is someone we can rely on.

If we simply ignore Syria, ISIL could be the last man standing by default when Assad's regime collapses.