The warlike rhetoric heard from Washington over the plight of the stricken Syrian town of Aleppo does not represent any current Obama administration plan for military intervention to halt the ever-mounting carnage.
President Barack Obama’s mind is elsewhere.
This was discovered by his national security adviser Susan Rice every time she tried to arrange for Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford to be received by the president. After the collapse of diplomacy with Moscow for a cessation of hostilities, they had drawn up a plan for limited US military intervention in Syria that would enable essential humanitarian aid to reach the population.
Obama refused to hear what the trio had to say and the plan was shelved.
debkafile’s Washington sources report that, for now, the US president’s mind is fixed exclusively on the preparations for the Oct. 19 offensive for the liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS occupation. US, Iraqi, Iraqi and Kurdish forces are aligned for the battle.
Obama is brooking no distractions from his main objective, He hopes the Mosul operation will be over and done with by mid-December, so that when he exits the White House in January, he will have chalked up a major victory against the Islamic State as part of his legacy.
In the process, the Democratic president intends to debunk the Republican candidate Donald Trump’s criticism of his administration as showing weakness in the face of ISIS.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is exploiting Obama’s preoccupation with the Mosul offensive to snatch a free hand for pushing the Aleppo battle to its barbaric limit. He is letting Bashar Assad and his allies conduct a scorched earth policy – even if this means reducing Syria’s second town to ruins.
Russian and Syrian jets are bombing the city, building by building, leaving the 8,000 rebels still fighting there with little hope of survival, since food, water, medicine or ammunition and anti-air missiles are out of their reach. The only form of resistance remaining to them is marksmen sniping from the rubble in an attempt to slow the advance of Syria, Iranian and Hizballah foot soldiers.
Obama, Putin and Assad are not alone in sentencing Aleppo to its doom: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, after grabbing 5,000 sq. km of northern Syria, is letting his army stand by idly as every attempt to bring life-saving assistance from Turkey to the beleaguered population is thrown back.
The Turkish leader is shielding himself with his secret deal with Putin, whereby his army is given a free hand in northern Syria without Russian interference, while the Aleppo arena becomes a Russian-Syrian precinct that is off-limits to Turkey.
This secret deal has also neutralized the US special operations forces deployed in northern Syria as well as the small Syrian rebel militias they trained and sponsor. Washington has therefore lost any leverage for swaying events in that part of the country. Since they are hemmed in on all sides, Obama refuses to hear of any military intervention in an area under Russian-Turkish control.
As he sees the larger picture, the northern Syrian devolution as a sphere of Turkish-Russian influence is balanced by US-Iraqi-Kurdish domination of northern Iraq
On paper, the US plans and preparations afoot for the liberation of Mosul are impressive.
Elite US troops are being pumped into the Mosul region – 600 just this week. Altogether an estimated 12,500 US servicemen are assigned for the offensive, which is due to be launched in 11 days, on Oct. 19.
This is the largest American military force to fight in Iraq since the battles against Al Qaeda during 2006-2007.
US military engineers are working overtime on the construction of bases around Mosul for the intake of US and Iraqi army units. The Kurdish Republic’s Peshmerga army is in position to the north.
Two new US facilities have just been completed. One is near the Mosul Dam, which regulates the flow of the Tigris River bisecting the targeted city. A second is located in the Bashiqa Mountains north of Mosul.
The two bases plus Kurdish army posts are designed as jumping-off points on the city from the south, east and Uninvited military forces are hovering nearby hoping to pick up a piece of the action. Among them are Turkish military units, local Iraqi militias, such as Turkmen, which the Turkish army is training for combat, and pro-Iranian Iraqi militias, such as the Badr Brigades and the Popular Mobilization Forces.
US commanders are intent on keeping these hangers-on out of the action, because their participation in the Mosul offensive would deepen the discord dividing Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities, and throw the city into chaos after the jihadists are driven out. US officers failed to check the sectarian violence that erupted in another Sunni-dominated town, Fallujah, in the wake of the battles for its recovery from ISIS in May and June.