Why Does America Shirk Smashing the Raqqa Global Terror Hub?

Since its capture on Jan. 13, 2014, the northern Syrian town of Raqqa on the banks of the Euphrates has evolved as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s seat of global terror under its foreign affairs section headed by Abu Muhammad al-Adnani.
Born 37 years ago in Syria under the name of Taha Falaha, it was al-Adnani who issued ISIS’ first directive to attack Westerners, telling jihadis to hold no bars: “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”
Al-Adnani’s formal role as spokesman for ISIS is a cover for his high rank as bloodthirsty planner of the latest round of international terror atrocities. Some observers tag him as next in line to succeed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph of the Islamic State.
Raqqa, which is Adnani’s center of foreign operations, is also the training ground for foreign operatives. It was there, that the cell leaders and “soldier” terrorists who perpetrated mass murder attacks in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Nice and Bavaria, were trained and given their orders.
The jihadis assigned to carry out the next round of attacks in the West will also set out from Raqqa and travel to their destinations through Turkey.
Since all these facts are known to Western, Russian and Middle East counterterrorism agencies, the big question is this: Why don’t America and Russia, both of whom maintain bases not far from Raqqa and whose homeland is threatened by ISIS, go ahead and smash this breeding ground of world terror?
Occasional pinprick-attacks have come nowhere near damaging the Islamist State’s core operations.
Russia’s Khmeimim base in Latakia is just 293km away from Raqqa as the crow flies, while the US Rmeilan base in the northern province of Hassaka is even closer, just 168km away. There, the Americans maintain special operations units and a helicopter squadron.
But since the Russian air force established its base in Syria eleven months ago, it had never conducted a single air strike on Raqqa any more than other forces had approached the jihadists’ base of global terror – until Thursday, Aug. 11, when it was targeted for its first Russian bombardment.
DEBKA Weekly’s counterterrorism sources postulate some answers to this conundrum:
1. Neither President Barack Obama nor Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to deploy the large-scale ground force of multiple division-strength that would be needed for an offensive to capture Raqqa.
2. Military deployments for taking Raqqa did not even come up in the talks on US-Russian military and intelligence cooperation in Syria conducted in recent weeks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
All they discussed was the start of Russian air strikes on ISIS’ Syrian capital.
3. US military planners have tried fruitlessly to dump the task of recovering Raqqa on the Kurdish People's Protection Units-the YPG. The militia’s leaders withheld their response to this proposal while waiting expectantly for a good supply of advanced US weapons to be forthcoming for the job and a Washington pledge to promote Kurdish national aspirations.
They waited in vain.
So, when a wave of ISIS terror hit Europe and brought the Americans back to press the Kurds into service for capturing Raqqa, they were turned down flat, not surprisingly.
The heads of the Syrian Kurdish community have apparently decided against taking part in the forcible capture a Sunni Arab-held town for fear of turning the entire Sunni Arab world against them. As a minority scattered across both Sunni and Shiite Muslim countries alike, the Kurds are wary of challenging either to a fight.
US war planners are now stuck without a single ground force for operations in Syria.
And that is not the end of their troubles.
Syrian rebels, including mainly the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish YPG, were able to snatch from ISIS large sections of the northern town of Manjib, 30km from the Turkish border. This drove the Islamists from their main crossing point between Syria and Turkey, while leaving them in control of parts of Manjib.
To win the day and push the jihadis out of this Syrian-Turkish border region, it would be necessary to capture another town, Jarabulus, which actually sits on the Turkish border and the bank of the Tigris, 32km north of Manjib.
Only if Jarabulus falls, will the rebel gains in Manjib count as a major achievement.
But this week, Turkish President Reccep Erdogan declared that he will not tolerate a Kurdish advance towards Jarabulus; if they defy him, he will order the Turkish army to attack them.
For all these reasons, the US war on ISIS in northern Syria is fatally stalled just before it started making progress.

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