[Marxism] The US strategy against Isis is working for Assad

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Mon Nov 10 17:18:26 MST 2014

The US strategy against Isis is working for Assad

The Syrian president is the beneficiary of a muddled campaign that 
leaves him free to strike against his own enemies

o    Ian Black
o    The Guardian, Friday 7 November 2014 05.31 AEST
o    Jump to comments (167)
Bashar al-Assad: 'prefers perpetual war with Isis'. Photograph: AP
Bashar al-Assad was in a relaxed and hospitable frame of mind a couple 
of weeks ago, according to a Syrian expat who met him in Damascus. True, 
the US was now leading a coalition attacking Islamic State (Isis) 
fighters on Syrian soil as well as in Iraq, but he had received firm 
assurances that it would not be targeting his own forces. The only 
thing, the president admitted, was a nagging worry that the Americans 
could not be trusted.
The word from Washington, passed on via Syria’s UN envoy and the 
Iranians, was that Barack Obama was focused firmly on the jihadi threat 
and had no intention of helping other rebels who are fighting to 
overthrow Assad, the guest told friends.
The fact is that in the second month of the US-led air campaign, 
American and western policy towards Syria is in disarray and perhaps 
facing disaster. Operation Inherent Resolve does not seem worthy of its 
grandiose name, hence Assad’s surprisingly upbeat mood.
The latest blow to his enemies was suffered by the Syrian Revolutionary 
Front and Harakat Hazm, both groups the US hoped would become the 
nucleus of an anti-Isis force. Last weekend in the Idlib area they lost 
ground and weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra, a battle-hardened 
al-Qaida-aligned outfit which was hit by US air strikes again on 
Thursday. The problem, say critics, is that Obama is taking a narrow 
counter-terrorist view of Syria and has no strategy for tipping the 
scales – even though he claims to want to force Assad to negotiate an 
end to the war. Jabhat al-Nusra men are now reportedly fighting 
alongside Isis.
“The US,” said the analyst Faysal Itani, “wants its allies in Syria to 
fight its enemies but not their own, and will not even give them 
military support to do so effectively.” Many note the gap between verbal 
commitments and investment. “US strategy against Isis puts moderate 
Syrian rebel forces in an impossible situation,” tweeted Emile Hokayem 
of the International Institute for Strategic Studies: ”Assad benefiting, 
Isis/Jabhat al-Nusra appearing as anti-Assad champions.”
Fighting Isis in Iraq is tough but still easier, with Kurdish peshmerga 
and a functioning if incompetent and sectarian Iraqi army. US plans for 
organising Syrian “boots on the ground” looked problematic even before 
the latest losses. The $500m (£300m) “train and equip” programme for a 
5,000-strong force is modest and painfully slow-moving. Vetting to 
prevent (more) US weapons falling into the “wrong” hands has yet to 
And events on the battlefields are not standing still. Coalition air 
strikes have caused civilian casualties while leaving Assad to act with 
impunity, dropping deadly barrel bombs with even greater frequency than 
before – and, gallingly, close to where Isis has been hit by US attacks.
Appeals for a no-fly zone to ground the Syrian air force continue to 
fall on deaf ears. Hadi al-Bahra, president of the ineffective 
western-backed Syrian National Coalition, is unlikely to get a different 
response when he attends the shrinking Friends of Syria forum in London 
next week. It is a sign of the sluggish pace of international diplomacy 
that foreign ministers will not be attending.
This week saw a flurry of interest in a proposal by a European NGO to 
expand local ceasefires and freeze the situation on the ground. 
Supporters see this as the only way out of the current impasse while 
acknowledging that it would give the Syrian government the upper hand. 
Critics oppose it for that reason while warning of a growing trend in 
European countries – especially by domestic security chiefs fixated by 
the Isis “blowback” threat – to cooperate with Assad.
Anecdotal evidence also suggests scepticism in Arab coalition partners – 
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Bahrain – which fear a Sunni backlash 
and question a policy galvanised by the beheading of four western 
journalists but not by the 200,000 Syrian deaths that preceded them. 
Mistrust of Obama and fear of an impending US-nuclear deal with (Shia) 
Iran have to be factored into that mood.
“The limitations of US policy on Syria were obvious from the start and 
have become more apparent,” observed Noah Bonsey of the International 
Crisis Group. “it is not clear that air strikes against Isis have been a 
step forward. The Assad regime is getting near to the point where it can 
deal a really serious blow to the viability of the forces that 
Washington has identified as its allies moving forward. It prefers 
perpetual war with Isis and feels the west will be compelled to work 
with it.”
No wonder, say dispirited Syrian opposition figures, that Assad sounds 
more relaxed than embattled these days 

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