U.S. considers military action against ISIS in Syria

The New York Times reports: The Obama administration is debating a more robust intervention in Syria, including possible American airstrikes, in a significant escalation of its weeks-long military assault on the Islamic extremist group that has destabilized neighboring Iraq and killed an American journalist, officials said Friday.

While President Obama has long resisted being drawn into Syria’s bloody civil war, officials said recent advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria had made clear that it represents a threat to the interests of the United States and its allies. The beheading of James Foley, the American journalist, has contributed to what officials called a “new context” for a challenge that has long divided the president’s team.

Officials said the options include speeding up and intensifying limited American efforts to train and arm moderate Syrian rebel forces that have been fighting both ISIS as well as the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Another option would be to bolster other partners on the ground to take on ISIS, including the Syrian Kurds.

But American officials said they would also take a look at airstrikes by fighter jets and bombers as well as potentially sending Special Operations forces into Syria, like those who tried to rescue Mr. Foley and other hostages on a mission in July. One possibility officials have discussed for Iraq that could be translated to Syria would be a series of unmanned drone strikes targeting ISIS leaders, much like those conducted in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

Whether Mr. Obama would actually authorize a new strategy remained unclear and aides said he has not yet been presented with recommendations. The president has long expressed skepticism that more assertive action by the United States, including arming Syrian rebels as urged in 2011 by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state, would change the course of the civil war there. But he sent out a top adviser on Friday to publicly hint at the possibility a day after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said ISIS could not be defeated without going after it in Syria.

“If you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you, wherever you are,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters in Martha’s Vineyard, where Mr. Obama is on a much-interrupted vacation. “We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat and we’re not going to be restricted by borders.” [Continue reading…]

This report quotes Stephen Miles, advocacy director of Win Without War, saying: “We’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends.”

Is that right?

Let’s refresh everyone’s memory: the last time a militant group seized control of large portions of two states and created a de facto state of its own… the last time would be?

Oh! It’s never happened before.

Whatever movie Miles is referring to was a work of fiction because despite the fact that we have witnessed 13 years of uninterrupted war, the current situation in the Middle East bears little resemblance to the chapters of air war, invasions, occupations, and insurgencies that came before.

No doubt ISIS has its own strategic thinkers and they study history carefully, gleaning whatever useful lessons they can find from Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Mali. But when the Pentagon says that we are witnessing something new, this isn’t just fear-mongering hype — this really is something new and the government officials who are now trying to come up with a response seem to be struggling more to catch up with the present than to be guilty of their much more common practice: overstating the magnitude of whatever happens to have been dubbed the global threat du jour.

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4 thoughts on “U.S. considers military action against ISIS in Syria

  1. Robert

    You are absolutely right Paul. But the propaganda campaign is aimed at manufacturing popular capital to give Washington maximum flexibility in the Levant.

    ISIS has nowhere to go in Iraq. Both Erdogan and Khamanei have vital national interests in creating Kurdish and Sh’is protectorates in what will be rump Iraq. There is no way that ISIS will stand against either of them. And of course in the new Kurdistan Exxon also has vital interests and that of course means Washington BOTH PARTIES.

    But Assad is more vulnerable in Syria. Erdogan hates him. He has support from Russia and Tehran but they are relatively far away.

    Washington’s “hatred” of Assad has always been a lot of political theater. Washington’s interest in the Levant is in a balance of power between mutually hostile Sunnis and Sh’ias.

    An integrated Sunni Syria linked with a Sunni region in Iraq, should it go for a Muslim Brotherhood government probably would link up with Hamas and the repressed people of Egypt and create an existential threat for Israel.

    So Washington has to insure that Assad stays. But Obama has built his own political trap that he now is trying desperately to extricate himself from.

  2. Laurie

    There was the World Zionist Organization that displaced people in the land of Canaan as a divine right. They aren’t finished yet and are heavily subsidized to create a permanent Judaist State. The Islamist State is similar in concept.

  3. Bill Jackson Jr

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that none of this was run by the sovereign authority in Syria. Somehow I seriously doubt that the Syrian government would approve of this naked violation of its sovereignty. So what we really have here is the attempted illegal invasion of Syria by the US under the fictional pretext of confronting forces that the US played a crucial hand in organizing in the first place. Pathetic.

  4. Paul Woodward Post author

    If through the sheer force of repetition, something could be made true, then it would be true that the U.S. created ISIS (or Saudi Arabia created it, or Turkey did — take your pick on whichever conspiracy theory is of a flavor to your liking). What everyone who repeats these claims never does is back them up with evidence.

    On the other hand, what those who have taken the trouble to study ISIS’s history and its development have all concluded is that this is more than anything a self-created, self-funded, self-directed entity. No doubt it has received a certain amount of support from various quarters (such as Saudi donors via Kuwait), but ISIS has no trouble bankrolling itself through taxation, selling oil, kidnapping, and other creative ways of funding its operations.

    If one wants to “credit” the U.S. with having played a role in ISIS’s growth, then one could reasonably argue that the U.S. provided a large amount of weaponry and military equipment via the Iraqi army, but this wasn’t exactly the way the Pentagon actually planned the transfer of power in Iraq.

    More significantly, ISIS would not have come into existence had Syrian opposition forces been better organized from their inception and received stronger support from those outside Syria who professed their desire to see Assad go.

    Ultimately, the one individual who bears a greater responsibility for ISIS than anyone else is Bashar al-Assad himself. Had he had the courage and wisdom to respond to the demands of his own people when they first rose up, the horror of the last three years could have been avoided.

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