Hassan Hassan writes: To understand American policy short-sightedness in the region, look no further than northern Syria today. One can predict with utmost confidence that the policy that Washington insists on pursuing in Raqqa will do two things. It will heat up a secondary conflict in the broader Syrian civil war to a boiling point, and it will reset the conditions for the return of extremist forces.
A common way to deflect the troubling issues with the policy is to make it principally about Turkey. The overarching concern, though, is how a YPG-led campaign to dislodge ISIL from Raqqa will be perceived locally and beyond, and what the YPG seeks to gain from fighting in a predominantly Arab city that ISIL took from the Syrian rebels after the latter expelled the regime from it in 2013.
A YPG commander, Sipan Hemo, told Reuters on Friday that the attack on Raqqa will begin in early April. Everyone should wish the anti-ISIL forces luck, but it should be made clear that the United States is operating below the credit line politically. By that, I mean two things.
First, the win against ISIL would be purely tactical: the removal of ISIL militants from Raqqa will not damage the group’s image, as it should ideally have been designed to do. If policymakers involved in the campaign think the demise of the group in Raqqa in this manner will undermine its narrative, they will be mistaken and out of touch with reality. [Continue reading…]