Yesterday, our esteemed FB Ali commented on the US plans for Syria:
„In Syria [the US] plan was to use the non-IS jihadis against IS by promising them a part in the post-Assad Syrian regime. That is the reason why Kerry is promoting a political transition there to get Assad out, hand over Syria to these jihadis with a bunch of old Syrian politicians being the external face of the regime (mainly for pacifying public opinion back home). Saudi Arabia and Qatar have provided the necessary assurances that the US will have nothing to fear from this new Syrian government, and that it will follow the plan.
The US will provide more arms to this 'new Syrian army' (ie, the non-IS jihadis) and hope that, with the Kurds and Western air support, it’ll knock IS out (or at least push it out of Syria).
This plan has been stymied by the Russian intervention, and the rejuvenated Syrian army's successful offensive against the jihadis. Kerry is still pushing the political plan, but Russia will never agree to anything that hands Syria over to these jihadis. The outcome is, therefore, likely to be decided on the battlefield, where it currently seems the R+6 will succeed.
For Iraq the West's plan appears to be to split it into three portions: a Kurdish entity, a Sunni one, and a Shia rump. The first part of the plan has been put into effect. The Kurdish peshmerga, supported by US airpower and SF, captured Sinjar. Additional SF have now been sent to support the Kurdish peshmerga. The Turks have moved troops near Mosul to support the coming Kurdish attack on the city. This expanded Kurdish region will be one entity in the new Iraq.(The Kurds would never attack Mosul or any other non-Kurdish areas unless they had solid assurances that they could keep their gains).
It was because of this plan that the US's air campaign in Iraq was so devoid of results (often because planes weren't cleared to attack targets). Large-scale air attacks with their attendant civilian casualties would have alienated the local Sunni population of Anbar. That is also the reason why IS's oil operations weren't attacked until Putin shamed Obama into it; even then special steps were taken to avoid Sunni casualties. The hope was (is) to revive the old Sahwa (Sons of Iraq) movement (a Sunni force friendly towards the US) and let it take over Anbar and other Sunni areas of Iraq to form the Sunni entity.“
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FB Ali’s very helpful analysis is an excellent basis for futher inquiry. For instance it sheds light on the reasoning behind the accusation that Assad is allied with IS. Lies and omissions have putpose - misdirection.
♦ Conflating Assad with IS
Just like Assad is regularly accused of colluding with IS by only going after "moderate rebels", Russia is now regularly accused of not really fighting IS, but bombing "moderate Rebels" instead. Assad is also accused of "buying oil from IS" (formerly his own oil, seized by ISIS, and sold back to him at an inflated price, due to the embargo for lack of a choice - elsewhere one does call that sort of deal not collusion but extortion). Trifles, I know.
The accusation of complicity conflates IS (Assad’s deadly enemy, which have routinely massacred his troops, given the opportunity) - the only Jihadis everybody can agree on opposing - with Assad - the secuarist everybody already agrees on opposing anyway - and marks them as one target, lest the disgust over IS leads to undesired sympathy for Assad and lest enthusiasm for regime change falters. The objective is to nip in the bud the the insight that one would have to choose between Assad or IS, or that Assad is a lesser evil.
Indications of that insight emerging were already visible in Hollande's rather reasonable second thoughts after IS' Paris massacre. These localised outbreaks of common sense forced Kerry into hurried emergency diplomacy, specifically aimed on excluding Iran and Russia from the anti-Syria coalition sometimes also fighting IS, and to prevent France from breaking out of the Washington straightjacket consensus on Syria. For the US and their nominal regional allies preventing that from happening was imperative.
♦ Breaking the "Shia Crescend"
Key to understanding how Syria has become what it is today is that the Obama administration early on decided to "not do stupid shit", like occupying countries such as Iraq. By itself, laudably prudent. Alas, one must not make the mistake of assuming, based on that, a lack for appetite for destruction intervention. Interventions would of course take place, the sly and smart 'soft power' way (neatly branded and twittered), and if force was needed, it would come through deputised local proxies, balanced from offshore 'led from behind' - in the case of Syria, through Turkey, the Gulfies, and to a lesser extent, Israel.
Taking on Syria was probably concocted in DC as an "assurance" to the Israelis and the Gulfie monarchs to help them over their hysteria over the Iran deal. Normalisation with Iran perhaps, but only if it is 'defanged' and it’s greater influence (handed to Iran by the destruction of Iraq by the hapless hands of the Bushmen) curtailed.
Israelis, Gulfies or Turks have made demands for US guarantees, quietly firmly in pursuit of their own goals: Turkish neo-ottoman irredentism or Erdogan's brand of Islamic pan-Turkism. With the Saudis and the Gulfies Wahhabi chauvinism and the goal of Sunni hegemony to the Mediterranean. With the Israelis it's about the Golan, and of course, about getting back at their nemesis Hezbollah. It's hard to not notice the impatience and independence shown by the Turks (especially in their attempts to draw the US into Syria) and the Saudis (their unannounced aggression against Yemen). These also indications that 'leading from behind' didn’t suffice to reassure these "special needs" proxies. It also calls into question the ability of the US to effectively exercise leadership over these trigger happy "allies".
It also suggests that there are, as of yet unrealised, plans for a finish in Lebanon and against Hezbollah (pitting, presumably, the victors of Syria - and/or Israel - against Lebanon's majority group represented by Hezbollah, the Shia).
♦ Proxies wanted! Provide arms, regular salary, free meals, salvation
To subdue Syria, Turkey wouldn't commit its army. That was not only unpopular domestically, it would have meant open war. The Saudis, let alone the UAE or Qataris (who need the Saudis to quell their own internal majority dissent), do not have "the stones" or forces to effectively defeat Assad - indeed, look at the mess the Saudis have made of Yemen. Israel had no appetite to go to war against Assad either. The US didn't want to do it as well (sticking to the idea "not to do stupid shit").
So, from the onset, the only way the Assad government could be undone was by proxy. In their efforts, the Anti-Syria alliance underestimated Assad's staying power. Once the protests devolved into violent struggle, the intial proxy of choice were the FSA forces (who received generous financial and material support from the outside). Eventually, after initial gains, they lost ground to Assad again, and to Islamist (who by then already must have been funded by the Gulfies) predations. As a result, the FSA was increasingly pushed aside by IS - and by Islamist proxies, which were being directly funded, supported and armed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Today, and the US are fully aware nof that, Jihadis are the only game left in Syria's opposition. IS, foreign supported but by and large Iraqi homegrown, is hereby being presented as the ugly outlier that the US and her Gulfie allies tout as extremist in order to moderate the other Islamist groups, like the equally headchopping and prisoner murdering al-Qaeda affiliates Jabhat al-Nusra Front or Ansar al-Sham.
EDIT: As the US continue to insist on regime change, they tacitly acknowledge and accept the role for Jihadis in bringing upon Assad's downfall, and in a post-Assad political system, there is, after all, no other way. US attempts to create a secular "third force" have failed spectacularly, and were betrayed by nominal US allies. Given that US allies have narrowed down US options in Syria to Islamists only, it is an open question of how secular a Sahwa II will be in Iraq, and what Saudi and Qatari assurances would be worth in Syria.
♦ US reject Russia and Iran as partners
Accepting the notion that the anti-Syria coalition is about rolling back that "Shia crescend", it becomes clear that Iran is the target of the exercise. Including them would thus be 'counterproductive', just like including Iraqi Shia government would be 'counterproductive'. If FB Ali is correct, US plans involve partitioning Iraq, and Baghdad is unlikely to consent to that. The Anti-Syria alliance sees Iran’s influence as extending through Iraq, Syria into Lebanon. They regard Assad’s Syria as Iran’s weak spot, the fulcrum to bring about Iran’s weakening.
That is, Syria was picked on because it was weak, not because Assad posed a particular threat to anyone, including his population, and his human rights record was the pretext (as if the Saudi one is any better) - Syria's issue that everybody could agree on. The Arab Spring provided the revolutionary backdrop. It is in light of these agendas unlikely that this uprising was spontaneous. It was, just like the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the destruction of Libya in 2011, a war of choice.
Russia has always opposed such wars of choice, seeing themelves, not entirely implausibly given latent US hostility, as somewhere down the line of similar encroachments of national sovereignty by the West, taking a position so conservative legally, that it is practically indisputable. The reason why Russia had to be excluded from the US coalition against IS is because they are Russia (to the US, a reason in itself it seems), a mere regional power that better knew its place, and because Russia is emphatically against regime change in Syria.
Since the US haven’t abandoned their maximalist goals and are as inflexibly insistent on regime change as ever, their and Russia's ideas for Syria are diametrically opposed.
♦ Obama's conduct unbecoming
There is a demonstrated tendency in DC to never let a well established bogieman go to waste. In light of that, the conflation of IS and Assad may just develop a life of its own in a display of pure cynicism transcending reality: If Assad is allied with IS, and Russia is allied with Assad - then Russia is allied with IS. Forget about that Sinai airliner destruction distraction already. Probably, the US can be relied on finding uses for this particular untruth.
Obama’s gloating over how terrorists murdering 224 Russians was, well, Russia's fault, underlined US attitudes:
"The Russians now have been [in Syria] for several weeks, over a month ... In the interim, Russia has lost a commercial passenger jet. You’ve seen another jet shot down. There have been losses in terms of Russian personnel ... with Afghanistan fresh in the memory .. get[ing] bogged down ... is not the outcome that he’s looking for."
With Obama approving the delivery of TOW2 to rebels, the Russians could be forgiven to read that as a threat. When IS murdered 130 in Paris, and wounded 368, Obama called that "a heartbreaking situation" and an "outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians". Contrast that to Obama's smug reaction to the downing of Metrojet Flight 9268, and the war crime comitted against that Russian pilot. That to the man who called the US first after 9/11 to offer the US his full support.
A question of time, or probably rather timing, until the foreign sponsored Syrian jihadis become "victims of Russian aggression".
~ by confusedponderer