Thursday, October 27, 2016

Punching the Entry Ticket for the Next Syria Problem

We may well formally begin the drive on Raqqa before the Mosul operation is formally declared won. That will be not the beginning of the end but the beginning of all new problems that have been obvious all along.


Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking to reporters after meeting allies in Paris, did not disclose the timing of the Raqqa campaign but said preparations were on track.

"Yes, there will be overlap (in the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns) and that's part of our plan and we are prepared for that," Carter said after a gathering of 13 countries in the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State.

Sure, that's possible. But I imagine that telegraphing this overlap is probably an effort to freeze ISIL's Syria-based assets in place rather than sending them to Mosul (and this would be done even as some ISIL assets in Mosul are being evacuated).

Of course, the Iraq front is the easiest part of this. When we eliminate the ISIL province in Iraq, we move on to support the Iraqi government's efforts to stamp out the terrorist ISIL war that will rage, reconcile Iraqi factions to push democracy and rule of law along, and reduce Iranian influence in Iraq.

I'm not too hopeful that this time we will stay to do these things, am I?

But the Syria portion is problematic. Two years ago when I proposed a win-build-win strategy for Iraq and Syria (defeat ISIL first in Iraq--build up non-jihadi resistance to Assad in Syria while we win in Iraq--then defeat ISIL in Syria without that being a huge gift to Assad by essentially replacing the weight of ISIL resistance to Assad), I had certain assumptions that have not unfolded.

We have failed miserably to build up the non-jihadi resistance--and still hold back:

As rebel-held sections of Aleppo crumbled under Russian bombing this month, the Obama administration was secretly weighing plans to rush more firepower to CIA-backed units in ­Syria.

The proposal, which involved weapons that might help those forces defend themselves against Russian aircraft and artillery, made its way onto the agenda of a recent meeting President Obama held with his national security team.

And that’s as far as it got. Neither approved nor rejected, the plan was left in a state of ambiguity that U.S. officials said reflects growing administration skepticism about escalating a covert CIA program that has trained and armed thousands of Syrian fighters over the past three years.

Russia openly and directly intervened on behalf of Assad. And we gave Iran a windfall of cash to afford their efforts to hire and support a Shia foreign legion to fight for Assad.

So victory over ISIL in Syria will just leave Assad stronger to move against the still-too weak non-jihadi and Kurdish rebels who will be exposed to Assad's offensive backed by Iranian cannon fodder, Hezbollah special forces, and Russian special forces, firepower, and logistics.

What will we do then? Will we let Assad destroy the people who have fought with us on the ground in Syria? We've already done that a little bit as our problematic NATO ally Turkey has struck at our Kurdish friends on the ground in Syria. What will we do when it is the full might of Assad and his allies who care not one bit about what we think?

And then we will have crushed the spirit of resistance in Syria for a generation because the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians was for nothing, as Assad consolidates a victory and snuffs out the remnants of any resistance through quiet brutality that never gets reported over here.

Hell, Mrs. Assad will probably get another fawning Vogue article written by an American author about her stylish home life.