WASHINGTON – What do we make of the announcement by the Obama administration about its decision to send about 50 US Special Operations troops into Northern Syria? Is this part of a larger strategy? Is America about to get serious in its declared fight against ISIL?
I would not count on any of this. Quite frankly, it is hard to detect any US strategy. When President Assad reacted violently against any political dissent that was stimulated by the Arab Spring, America did nothing. After the situation in Syria got worse, America made noises but did essentially nothing. When ISIL, taking advantage of the mess in Syria took over a big chunk of the country, America did nothing. Worse yet, when an emboldened ISIL launched its invasion of Iraq from its bases in Syria, Obama reacted with surprise; but continued to do essentially nothing, while blaming (with some cause) the Shia majority government in Baghdad for its failure to establish good relations with the Sunni minority.
The coalition did little
Sure enough, after months of hesitation, Obama announced that America had formed a large and powerful coalition (more than 60 countries, we are told) whose objective was and is to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.
Well, notwithstanding a few bombing raids here and there, ISIL is still pretty much in control of a large chunk of Syria and most of North Western Iraq.
Put it differently, America is not winning. (Allowing a terrorist state to keep its grip on a large piece of territory in the heart of the Middle East has huge detrimental political implications. Just by being there, the self-described Caliphate can claim victory. But we shall not focus on this pernicious aspect of the crisis here).
Others stepping in
In the meantime, under ISIL’s attack Syria is falling apart, while the US $ 500 million program to train and arm pro-Western Syrian rebels went absolutely nowhere. And now? Now it is an even bigger mess.
Iraq is openly supported by the Iranians in its fight against ISIL. Assad is supplied by the Iranians and is assisted by Hezbollah fighters. Most recently, Russia decided to intervene militarily in order to support Assad. It may impossible to regain control over the entire country, but at least Russia will to its best to allow its weakened ally to keep a piece of it, while Moscow will retain its valuable military bases.
What about America?
And what about America? Well, who knows, really. The anti-ISIL “Grand Coalition” was and is a fiction. The US-led military effort against ISIL is modest, in fact pitiful.
And now, what? Well, now Washington is sending about 50 military advisers to help the Kurds in Northern Syria.
Not what I would call a game changer.