The Obama administration is going to considerable lengths to keep Jordan in the international coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant since last September, after most of the other Arab members have quit.
This week, the group’s US coordinator Gen. John Allen gave Jordan’s official Petra news agency an assurance that a ground offensive against the jihadis would start soon.
“In the weeks ahead, when the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower.” He added that the US “is doing all it can to deliver its support as soon as possible.”
The American general’s big news (sic) was that coalition forces are “training and arming 12 Iraqi brigades in preparation for a large ground offensive against ISIS.”
DEBKA Weekly’s military and counterterrorism sources report that the Jordanian government and King Abdullah were not exactly elated by the news that Iraqi brigades would be providing the main firepower for the promised “large ground offensive.”
Gen. Allen avoided offering dates for the offensive to get started – not just because he doesn’t know when those Iraqi brigades will be ready to fight, but because he can’t tell how they will handle themselves when they reach the firing line against ISIS fighters.
UAE bulldozed by Washington to help Jordan
Their past performance eight months ago was, to say the least, hardly reassuring. In their first brush with the black-clad ferocious ISIS forces last June, the US-trained Iraqi divisions turned tail, threw off their uniforms and headed for home.
They left $100 bn worth of top-line American munitions and equipment on the battlefield, whereupon the enemy, ISIS, transformed itself into the best armed terrorist group in the world, its arsenal enriched with a profusion of quality American weapons.
Sunday, Feb. 8, the United Arab Republic let itself be bulldozed by Washington into sending a squadron of 16 F-16 fighters to Jordan, as a mark of solidarity with the Hashemite Kingdom for the burning alive of its air force pilot Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh.
Tuesday, the state news agency WAM reported that “aircraft of the UAE F-16 squadron based in Jordan bombed positions of Daesh, hitting their targets and safely returning to base in Jordan.”
Like the Jordanian air strike Monday, emirate planes were escorted by US F-22 Raptor stealth fighters for protection against ISIS ground fire.
The UAE’s return to full participation in the coalition air offensive, which it suspended last December, is still up in the air.
Saudis, Kuwait, Qatar go AWOL on fight against ISIS
In Riyadh, the US was unable to overcome Saudi reluctance to make good on its promised participation in coalition air raids. From the time of the group’s inception last September until this week, the Saudi Air Force had not conducted a single air strike against ISIS.
Kuwait has followed Riyadh’s lead and withheld its aerial strength from combat, while Qatar has limited its air missions to surveillance flights over Iraq, the usefulness of which is completely lost on coalition headquarters in Tampa, Florida, and every other military watcher in the region.
Jordan’s air offensive is also limited in scope – and not only because of the small size of its air force. Communiqués from Amman have suggested that they are bombing jihadi targets both in Syria and Iraq. But the fact is that the raids are strictly confined to Syria – because, our sources reveal, the Baghdad government, on instructions from Tehran, warned the Jordanians off bombing or intruding on Iraqi territory and threatened reprisals if the warning was disobeyed.
Even Jordan’s bombardments over Syria are confined to the east of the country and to hitting occasional targets on the move around the Euphrates River. Its air force does not appear to have a tactical “bank of targets.”
The Jordanian Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Mansour Jabour’s claim Monday, Feb. 9 to have “destroyed 20 percent of [ISIS] fighting capabilities” was treated by military experts in America and the Middle East as no more than hollow bluster.
Most experts don’t see the Jordanian air campaign lasting much longer.
The international campaign against ISIS treads water
No one in Washington or the region has the slightest hope of Egypt joining the international coalition battling the Islamic State considering the ice overlaying US-Egyptian relations.
The disconnect is so complete that even America’s vestigial day-to-day military ties with some Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa have been shut down with Cairo. In particular, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources report, all traffic has dried up between US and Egyptian high command centers in America and the Middle East, as well as interaction between their intelligence agencies.
President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice and the rest of her team are no longer in touch with any policy-making, military or intelligence levels in Cairo.
This deep freeze is the result of the profound mistrust generated by the realization in Washington that President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi has no intention of coordinating his steps with the Obama administration’s Middle East and Gulf policies, with which he finds no common ground.
As almost every other Arab government shrinks back from an active role in the international lineup against Daesh, the war is treading water instead of embarking on a dynamic campaign to crush the fast-expanding Islamist peril.
Its commander, Gen. Allen, in an ABC News interview this week, rated ISIS as far superior to its forerunner, and “at an entirely different level than Al Qaeda was.” This terror group is “better organized. Its command and control is better.”
Asked whether the Islamist State is a threat to the home front, Allen said, “We should take it very seriously.”