Once out of the Mid East, the US Can’t Come to Grips with the Jihadists
It was not just the US-Russian brokered truce for Syria that caved in this week; the entire architecture of military cooperation in Syria between the two powers tumbled down.
That edifice was built on shaky foundations: the Obama administration’s reluctant acceptance of the Russian-Iranian-Syrian axis demand to keep Bashar Assad in power in the foreseeable future; and the establishment of the Joint Implementation Center for coordinating US-Russian bombing raids against the extremist Nusra Front (Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm) and the Islamic State.
The collapse of the truce, which coincided with terrorist attacks in three US states, New York, New Jersey and Minnesota this week, finally dashed President Barack Obama’s belated hopes of chalking up some gains before bowing out of office.
Instead, the horrific Syrian crisis will land on his successor’s head as a grim warning to avoid the Middle East like the plague. So, there was nothing realistic about the campaign rhetoric heard this week from either of the would-be US presidents:
“I have a simple message for [ISIS],” said the Republican candidate Donald Trump. “Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how. We must, as a nation, be more unpredictable… “
Or the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton: “We cannot contain ISIS, we must defeat ISIS… we should intensify the coalition air campaign against fighters, leaders and infrastructure, step up support for… local Arab and Kurdish forces on the ground.”
The truth is that Obama’s proud acquisition of “a coalition of 67 nations” for fighting ISIS was always a myth. At best, the US has 10 partners and even their contribution to the war on terror is grudging and self-serving.
That situation went from bad to worse this week (See separate items in this issue on the Deir ez-Sour debacle and how the joint US-Russian pact to fight the Nusra Front backfired). It buried for good the last prospect of US-Russian collaboration for fighting ISIS.
Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton, whichever is elected president, will for a moment contemplate sending 50-75,000 American troops to Syria for this mission, any more than their predecessor.
Whether ISIS or Al Qaeda was behind Ahmed Khan Rahami’s three bombing attacks in New York City and New Jersey and Mohamed Mohamud’s ferocious stabbing of nine civilians at the St. Cloud mall in Minnesota, is hardly the point.
The glaring fact is that during the 15 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, America has never come up with a comprehensive, effective strategy for eradicating Islamist terror. Even so, the rift between the United States and the Muslim world has deepened exponentially since the US 2002 invasion of Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda. And the eight years of the Obama presidency, including his solemn outreach from Cairo to Muslims the world over on June 4, 2009, produced no bridges.
The upshot today is that ISIS is in full operational momentum and clouds over the near horizon indicate that Al Qaeda is back in the terror game.
Obama’s tragic miscalculations gave Russian President Vladimir Putin his chance to leap on the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, and Iran to seize the military and political lead in Syria and Iraq.
The unspeakable horror allowed to devour Syria for nearly six years has begun replicating itself in other Arab arenas like Libya, Sudan and Yemen.
More “Syrias” threaten to erupt in Tunisia, Algeria and Lebanon.
The American president who is sworn into office on Jan. 8, 2017 will find a Middle East whose primary players, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Israel Turkey and ISIS, have already settled into conducting their regional affairs without America. Neither Trump nor Clinton can therefore expect to find local partners for a battle against the Islamic State. Any party claiming willingness to fight with US will almost certainly run for the hills when it comes to the crunch, just as they all did in Syria this week.