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Middle East Aflame
A New Red Line In Syria

The Administration has put a plan in motion to deal with ISIS, and on the surface it looks promising. The New York Times reports:

The Obama administration said Friday that the United States and its allies had formed a coalition to fight Sunni militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, unveiling a military and political campaign that officials said could serve as a model for combating extremist groups around the world.

In a hastily organized meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit meeting here, diplomats and defense officials from the United States, Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark conferred on what they called a two-pronged strategy: working to bolster allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria, while attacking Sunni militants from the air. They said the goal was to destroy the Islamist militant group, not to contain it.

“There is no containment policy for ISIL,” Secretary of State John Kerry said at the beginning of the meeting, using an alternate acronym for ISIS. “They’re an ambitious, avowed, genocidal, territorial-grabbing, caliphate-desiring quasi state with an irregular army, and leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us.”…

Judging from the Times’ reporting, the Administration seems to have secured the support of key Sunni Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It also seems at last to be open to arming the Free Syrian Army. Two cheers, then—and three if they can pull it off.

Nevertheless, the announcement of the coalition hit some off notes to our ear:

But [Secretary John Kerry] and other officials present made clear that at the moment, any ground combat troops would come from either Iraqi security forces or Kurdish pesh merga fighters on the ground in Iraq, or from moderate Syrian rebels opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. “Obviously I think that’s a red line for everybody here: no boots on the ground,” Mr. Kerry said.

Let’s leave aside for the moment that the words “red line” and “Syria” used in conjunction have unfortunate resonances coming from this Administration. Given that some U.S. troops are already on the ground, isn’t this is a curious thing to say? And even if this sort of thing was tacitly agreed to by all the parties, is there any need to telegraph this kind of information to the enemy?

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  • rheddles

    isn’t this is a curious thing to say?

    Not when it’s part of a religious creed.

    • gabrielsyme

      Yep, not when you’re more interested in securing your political base (when you can’t even run for re-election!) than actually acheiving victory.

      See also: Afghanistan, Iraq withdrawals.

  • Nevis07

    “Given that some U.S. troops are already on the ground, isn’t this is a curious thing to say? And even if this sort of thing was tacitly agreed to by all the parties,
    is there any need to telegraph this kind of information to the enemy?”

    I had the same thought when read the quote, but Obama and his administration have always put their domestic polling above national and defense priorities.

    • S.C. Schwarz

      Exactly. With Obama and his crew everything, repeat everything, is politics. Seeing American citizens repeatedly beheaded on TV is disturbing the electorate, so we see a few pinprick airstrikes, some bellicose rhetoric (‘gates of hell”), and some Hellfire missiles. But the progressive base is functionally pacifist so nothing serious will be done.

  • gabrielsyme

    It also seems at last to be open to arming the Free Syrian Army.

    Firstly, the US and other Western nations have already trained and armed various FSA factions, only to see many of those arms and trained soldiers end up within ISIS.

    I am, once again, flummoxed by TAI’s continuing support for arming the FSA. There seems to be a view that the FSA is some sort of fairy army from fairy-land that will defeat ISIS, defeat the Syrian Army without committing any sort of war crimes, and then, rather than engage in any punitive punishment of the Alawite community, establish a lovely pro-Western liberal democracy in Syria. This is the very definition of magical thinking.

    As, has been amply shown, the FSA is a somewhat artificial group of shifting factions, many of have been quite happy to collaborate and even join the al-Nusra Front and ISIS. Apart from this, the main enemy of the various FSA factions is the Syrian Army. The Syrian Army is the main opposition to ISIS in Syria. Supporting the FSA will inevitably result in depleting the capacity of the Syrian Army to fight ISIS. It is hard to see how arming the FSA will, on the whole, hurt ISIS.

    Even if, by some tactical miracle, various insurgents and jihadist factions under the banner of the FSA were to defeat both the Syrian Army and ISIS, we would still have a Libya-like situation of powerful armed factions attempting to govern a geographically, ideologically, ethnically and religiously-divided country. Given the extreme hatred of the Alawites and other religious/ethnic groups within the various FSA factions, such a victory could very well usher in pogroms, ethnic cleansing and even genocide. This is a very real risk, and one that we should not increase.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    This is the weakest President in American History, and America will eventually have to pay for that weakness with the blood of American troops. Obama’s weakness is encouraging strategic overreach in every Authoritarian nation on Earth, and it is going to take American treasure and blood to put the filth back in its cage.

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