Token allies in a reluctant engagement 2

Much dust is being thrown in our eyes to keep us from seeing what’s really happening with the air (and airy) war against the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL).

Have you noticed that while every reporter, commentator and talk-show host repeats the Obama-Kerry boast that “five Arab states” are joining in the US bombing war on the Islamic State, nobody ever names them?

Mention has been made of the United Arab Republic sending planes, and as if to prove its involvement we are shown a picture of a smiling young woman pilot. But nothing is said about UAR targets and whether they were hit and whether they were destroyed.

Word is also dropped that Saudi Arabian planes were in the skies over IS territory. What did they do? Nobody says.

According to a Coptic source, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, revealed that only when five Arab governments gave assurances they would join the bombing operation over Syria against the Islamic State, did President Obama “give the order to commence the operation”.

The Coptic report names the five Arab states as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Jordan. The story is put about that they “participated in the airstrikes Monday in eastern Syria”.

Why are we skeptical?

Qatar  has actively aided IS/ISIS/ISIL. (So, according to the same report, has Saudi Arabia – along with Turkey and Kuwait.)

Bahrain is in chaos.

Jordan has declared itself willing to supply intelligence. And while there was a rumor of Jordanian planes participating in the flights over Syria there was not even a whisper about them actually dropping any bombs on their fellow Sunnis.

Nothing is clear:

A U.S. official said that all five Arab countries were believed to have joined U.S. warplanes, although it is still unclear how many countries dropped bombs during the operation. The official asked not to be identified to discuss sensitive operational details.

Plainly he’s been told to be vague and say as little as possible.

Dempsey said that the first Arab government told U.S. officials that it would participate in attacks on Syria “within the last 72 hours” and that once that occurred, the other four soon promised to participate. He would not identify which country was the first to back the U.S. airstrikes.

“Once we had one of them on board the others followed quickly thereafter,” he said. …

Verbally on board, that is.

Dempsey said he was still awaiting information about how much damage the strikes had inflicted on the militants.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs still awaiting such information? That was not a convincing reply. He quickly brushed the question aside.

The importance [he said] was the signal the attacks sent to Islamic State that its fighters, camps, equipment and leadership are vulnerable in Syria …

The signal is important. And a signal is as much apparently as could be squeezed out of the five Arab governments.

There are still major questions about how committed governments in the region are helping the U.S. and Iraq, whose government is dominated by Shia Arabs, against the well-armed militants, who have claimed large areas of eastern Syria and western and northern Iraq over the last year.

But being able to claim their alliance is all important to Obama. Why? Because –

Having Arab governments as part of the coalition helps “strip away the cloak of religious legitimacy that [Islamic State] has wrapped itself in and point out to these Muslim populations that ISIL is nothing but a perversion of Islam.”

Got that? Obama needs to tell the Islamic world that the Islamic State is “nothing but a perversion of Islam”.

He could not bear Muslims to think that he is making war on Islam. So Islamic states must be believed to be helping him bomb IS in Syria.

But the only bombing we know about with any degree of certainty is being done by the US Air Force.

Can’t you just hear the voice of the Kerry begging, threatening, cajoling the five Arab governments just to say that they are in alliance with America?

Charles Krauthammer the Wise writes:

Late, hesitant and reluctant as he is, President Obama has begun effecting a workable strategy against the Islamic State. True, he’s been driven there by public opinion. Does anyone imagine that without the broadcast beheadings we’d be doing anything more than pinprick strikes within Iraq? …

The strategy will not destroy the Islamic State. It’s more containment-plus: Expel the Islamic State from Iraq, contain it in Syria. Because you can’t win from the air. In Iraq, we have potential ground allies. In Syria, we don’t. …

The Kurds will fight, but not far beyond their own territory. A vigorous air campaign could help them recover territory lost to the Islamic State and perhaps a bit beyond. But they won’t be anyone’s expeditionary force.

From the Shiites in Iraq we should expect little. U.S. advisers embedded with a few highly trained Iraqi special forces could make some progress. But we cannot count on the corrupt and demoralized regular Shiite-dominated military.

Our key potential allies are the Sunni tribes. We will have to induce them to change allegiances a second time, joining us again, as they did during the 2007-2008 surge, against the jihadists.

Having abandoned them in 2011, we won’t find this easy. But it is necessary. One good sign is the creation of a Sunni national guard, a descendant of the Sons of Iraq who, fighting with us, expelled al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) during the Anbar Awakening. Only they could push the Islamic State out of Iraq. And surely only they could hold the territory regained.

But they haven’t even started doing anything yet.

Syria is another matter. Under the current strategy, the cancer will remain. The air power there is unsupported by ground troops. Nor is anyone in Obama’s “broad coalition” going to contribute any.

[Non-Arab] Turkey  … is not just refusing to join the air campaign. [It] has denied us use of [its] air bases.

As for what’s left of the Free Syrian Army, Obama has finally come around to training and arming it. But very late and very little. The administration admits it won’t be able to field any trained forces for a year. And even then only about 5,000. The Islamic State is already approximately 30,000 strong and growing.

But the Free Syrian Army is in alliance with groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and even possibly with IS itself (see here and here). Arming it may be an act of sheer folly. Those US arms may be used before long against Americans.

Not that air power is useless. It can degrade and disrupt. If applied systematically enough it can damage the entrenched, expanding, secure and self-financing Islamic State, turning it back to more of a fugitive guerrilla force constantly on the run. …

Can it? In any case, as Obama admitted –

This war he’s renewed will take years. This struggle is generational. …

Today jihadism is global, its religious and financial institutions ubiquitous and its roots deeply sunk in a world religion of more than a billion people. We are on a path — long, difficult, sober, undoubtedly painful — of long-term, low-intensity rollback/containment.

Krauthammer ends by saying that “Obama must now demonstrate the steel to carry it through”.

Obama demonstrate steel? Has he got some? Where has he been hiding it? He was “late, hesitant and reluctant” to start doing anything. If he carries the war on until the end of his tenure it will only be because he can think of no way to stop it.

Posted under Arab States, Commentary, Iraq, Islam, jihad, Jordan, Muslims, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Friday, September 26, 2014

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  • Don L

    ‘Nough said:

    • liz

      That’s for sure. I think the only “steel” he has is for targeting political opponents with his henchmen in the IRS and DOJ.