Obama’s Strategy on the Iraq/Syria Crisis Collapsing

By Fred Fleitz, CENTRE FOR SECURITY POLICY

On September 10, 2014, President Obama announced his strategy to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State and to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels to fight against the Assad regime. As Americans head to the polls today, this strategy is on the brink of collapse.

The Islamic State has continued to make gains on the ground and commit atrocities since the president announced his strategy. Over the weekend, the Islamic State executed 322 members of the pro-U.S. Albu Nimr Iraqi tribe in Anbar province, including dozens of women and children whose bodies were dumped in a well.   Pleas by the Sunni tribe for weapons to defend itself were ignored by the Bagdad government.

After enduring political isolation and persecution by the Maliki government, Iraq’s Sunnis are deeply distrustful of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. Last weekend’s atrocity will make it more difficult for Iraqi officials and U.S. advisers to convince Iraqi Sunnis to support the government and fight against the Islamic State. New Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is struggling to bring Iraqi Sunnis back into the political process but has made little progress. Iraq’s Sunnis were further alienated by a recent report that Abadi intends to name an Iranian-backed Shiite militia leader as interior minister.

Obama policy on the crisis in Syria suffered a major setback yesterday when the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front routed moderate Syrian rebels armed and trained by the United States in the suburbs of the city of Idlib.   Al-Nusra fighters confiscated U.S.-provided weapons, reportedly including TOW missiles.

This development may confirm reports of a truce and possible collaboration between the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State. Previously, the al-Nusra Front had cooperated with moderate Syrian rebels to fight against the Assad regime and the Islamic State. Al-Nusra leaders reportedly entered into talks on collaborating with the Islamic State because it was incensed at U.S. airstrikes in northern Syria.

Further complicating this situation, the Islamic State made major gains on the ground in Syria this week by seizing two gas fields and pressing a major assault on an air force base close to the city of Homs.

Although the president’s Iraq/Syria strategy achieved some small successes, it has been widely criticized as far too timid and having no chance of “degrading and defeating” the Islamic State because it lacks a credible force on the ground.

The evidence is mounting that the president’s strategy is an utter failure and is undermining American credibility. It is crucial after the election that President Obama approve a much tougher approach to defeat the Islamic State, bring Iraqi Sunnis into the government, and prevent non-Islamist rebels in Syria from being wiped out. The urgent need for a better Iraq/Syria strategy is a compelling reason why Mr Obama must shake up his National Security Council staff after the election to bring in more competent advisors who will present him with insightful, hard-hitting policy options that are divorced from U.S. domestic politics.

November 5, 2014 | 12 Comments »

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12 Comments / 12 Comments

  1. yamit82 Said:

    The Saudis are beginning to depress the oil market which will effect the Russians and Iranians if they continue they will topple those two countries or render them weak players over time.

    strange how you do not tie this together with russian action in the ME, that the saudis did this after their “rapprochement” with russia…how odd.
    yamit82 Said:

    Will Israel attack Iran? From this vantage point NO!!!

    I see direct attack as the last option after tightening the noose in all other areas and preparing the theater. If and when and attack comes, if there is no deal, then I expect it can araise anywhere in the area over which many air forces are now flying. Perhaps Iran is being given a face saving device to allow them to back down,like the US rapprochement with Iran?

  2. Why Rejection of America’s Dictates is Crucial for Israel’s Security

    In this context, the “chickenshit” comment will be seen by the general American public as yet another failure of American foreign policy under Obama. It will be seen as yet another instance of the Administration pushing away America’s closest allies and embracing the world’s most heinous regimes.

    The Administration’s attitude towards Israel is an additional example of its willingness to act against what the American people want and has served as yet another straw on the camel’s back in the midterms this week that saw the president delivered a stunning rebuke.

    Israel’s proven willingness to act alone, whether in its past wars, its strikes on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors, or its dogged insistence that a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines will harm its security, serves as a supreme deterrent.

    If Israel is seen as being beholden to the Obama Administration’s bidding, its diplomatic currency will be weakened across the board. This is especially true at a time when American diplomatic influence is not what it once was.

    Netanyahu knows that vigorously maintaining Israel’s independence even from allies like the US is crucial to secure the Jewish state’s future. Surely the current friction is a relatively small price to pay.

    http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/11/06/why-rejection-of-americas-dictates-is-crucial-for-israels-security/

  3. yamit82 Said:

    Our geopolitical interests are not compatible and there is nothing in it for Israel.

    It is not what you or I think Israels interests are, but what BB’s perceptions are: he is PM,. no me or you, our evaluation of interests have no relevance in his decision making. He and liberman have already referred numerous times to arrangements with the Gulf arab nations and it is obvious that he considers this alone to be an interest and this viewpoint explains many of his decisions that do not appear to make sense;
    Here is what he got so far as a result of the arrangements:
    cease fire at POD without going in arranged by qatar and Egypt.
    the weeding out of Iran influences on Hamas and Hamas leashing to the Gulf arabs
    A cease fire with Hamas which worked until the recent problems.
    The weakening of Irans proxies of Hamas, Hexbullah, Assad and the stretching of Irans military resources from Lebanon through Iraq.
    Egypts unprecedented cooperation with Israel in bringing Hams to heel without having to go into Gaza at Protective edge plus Egypts continuing cooperation in leashing Hamas.
    the assembling of mercenary jihadi armies in Syria with no attacks on Israel.
    If Israel, or anyone, should attack Iran the potential blowback to Israel from Irans proxies has been severely reduced.
    What has Israel paid so far:
    targeting of gazans linked to Iran at POD
    bombings in Syria coordinated with rebels
    Release of prisoners to Abbas so that Abbas could enter talks that all knew would go nowhere. These prisoners insured Abbas life.
    Israel payment was to enter talks so as to remove the obvious target of Israel from the Jihadi menu which was heretofore considered by jihadis to be a greater satan than the shia’s. Talks were to avoid distraction from sunni recruting and focus on shia war.
    Israels restraint at the mount and opening gaza now is done to maintain the scenario of jihad focused on the shia rather than on Israel

    yamit82 Said:

    They don’t need us and we don’t need them.

    Its not needs, its interests, the sunni jihadis put Israel into a far stronger position wrt Irans proxies and Israels direct enemies. its a strategic decision that so far required little payment. BB has already admitted that he sees relations with the arabs to be an important and positive INTEREST!
    Using this model I predicted the jihadi moving on Assad, hezbullah, lebanon and Iraq at the beginning if they attacked Assad rather than Israel. I predicted that if Iran does not make a deal satisfactory to the west that they will use a similar internal destabilization in Iran first with the sanctions in conjunction with maintaining Irans involvement outside Iran. I predicted that they would use the clean “rebels” to take over from the loony jihadis after the loonies solidified the territories. This remains to be seen.

    For a guy who always tells me that there are no coincidences you appear to take all of the strange occurrences and turnarounds to be coincidence rather than see the obvious and now overt relationship.

    Does this coincidence not seem strange to you that without IS the sunni/western side was losing and now the presence of IS has given leverage for negotiations and the entering of military forces?
    How about the coincidence that the US stopped reporting on saudi air force attacks on IS because the pilots returned with no hits because they (wait for it) could not locate the targets?
    what about the coincidence that IS traversed a large distance from their conquests to establish control of the iraq side of jordan and saudi borders thus allowing a free flow of money and supplies?
    K.I.S.S… the sunni arabs attacking the sunni jihadis they openly supplied who achieved ALL their goals except the outlet to the med is a BS story too foolish to swallow. Meanwhile a number of air forces got permission to fly over the area and bomb what they want…..now…but more importantly they are in position for later. The oil discount and everything else is the tightening of the noose on the russian iran axis to bring a deal or to get tighter.

  4. bernard ross Said:

    I have said from the beginning that Israel has understnading with the Gulf sunni monarchies who control all the sunni factions and that is why there has been no problem from the jihadis and also why BB makes no big moves to change mount etc. Everything he decides takes this relationship into consideration and explains why he is so strange.

    You say it I never bought into it. Our geopolitical interests are not compatible and there is nothing in it for Israel. They are now current and potential future competitors. Radical sunnis or radical shia cancel each other out unless Iran get’s THE BOMB!!!

    They don’t need us and we don’t need them.
    The Saudis are beginning to depress the oil market which will effect the Russians and Iranians if they continue they will topple those two countries or render them weak players over time. If Iran goes nuclear then others will quickly follow…. New ball game and all bets off. Will Israel attack Iran? From this vantage point NO!!!

  5. yamit82 Said:

    as you well know is between shia and sunni Muslims everything else is BS.

    Although I agree that it is sunnis agianst shias and that ALL sunni factions are controlled by gulf monarchies I do not beleive it is a relgious war except that the controllers use the relgion to recruit, direct and focus the cannon fodder. I beleive it is a geopolitical war of interests involving Iran, syria and russia on one sidee and the west and GCC on the other. I view IS as a red herring giving a reason to go in using them as the fig leaf. I think the players know who is who but it is for the public consumption. Russia got crimea, perhaps it is willing to give something in the ME; a reduced, fragmented or “coalition” Syria. It is only IS which successfully gave the sunni side any leverage.

  6. yamit82 Said:

    Assad at least kept his border with Israel peaceful.

    I have said from the beginning that Israel has understnading with the Gulf sunni monarchies who control all the sunni factions and that is why there has been no problem from the jihadis and also why BB makes no big moves to change mount etc. Everything he decides takes this relationship into consideration and explains why he is so strange.
    yamit82 Said:

    The real fight as you well know is between shia and sunni Muslims everything else is BS.

    exactly and I beleive that Israel has operated on behalf of the sunnis/gulf monarchies.

  7. yamit82 Said:

    Maybe but having any Islamist group on our border is trouble now or later.

    Everything is trouble now or later. Read more, this is FSA who was helped by NUsra which is the mid level jihadis. these are the ones that were so few that they had to get Nusra and who were not terrible enough so they got IS. FSA asked Nusra to go fight in Damascus and leave them there. I think Israel works with FSA and maybe even Nusra.
    yamit82 Said:

    Start from the Last. Assad is in no position now or ever to claim anything. He mostly controls Damascus hardly a recognizable national entity. Syria for all intents and purposes is no longer a nation state nor will it eve become one.

    That is only because of these what these “rebels” have done. I think there will be a negotiated solution on syria.yamit82 Said:

    Assad at least kept his border with Israel peaceful.

    that’s only because of Israeli deterrence and not because he is Mr. nice guy. these guys are less problem and would never be able to claim anything.yamit82 Said:

    CIA’s training record is spotty at best and likely as not those they train wind up fighting for the wrong side.

    That’s if you beleive the media, I think they are fighting for the same side they were fighting for at the outset. This is interesting because the “clean” group, FSA, takes over territory won by the jihadis. This is what I predicted prior in Iraq. To me they are the same side, handing off the ball to one another as instructed.

  8. @ bernard ross:

    You think Israel will sit silent for long with them across our border???? Maybe but having any Islamist group on our border is trouble now or later.

    Start from the Last. Assad is in no position now or ever to claim anything. He mostly controls Damascus hardly a recognizable national entity. Syria for all intents and purposes is no longer a nation state nor will it eve become one. Assad exists today because he serves a purpose and function of others. The real fight as you well know is between shia and sunni Muslims everything else is BS.

    Assad at least kept his border with Israel peaceful.

    CIA’s training record is spotty at best and likely as not those they train wind up fighting for the wrong side.

  9. yamit82 Said:

    Seems like the CIA trains em and then they seem to get sidetracked.

    Why do you think they are sidetracked? yamit82 Said:

    Now just what are their mission objectives anyway

    they seem to be seeking to make a link to lebanon or control the syrian side of Israel border. The mid intense jihadis secured the area and then left it in the hands of the official “rebels” CIA trained rebels are too few and dont have the qualifications to take territory, not like Nusra or moreso IS.
    yamit82 Said:

    Israel needs these guys on their border like we need Ebola Viruses.

    HMMMM? who is better on other side Assad or these jokers who keep coming to Israeli hospitals. How would Assad claim the Israeli Golan if he does not even control all the territory up to the border, in this case perhaps none of his side of the border. Would Israel rather deal with a nation with an army and suppliers of large weaponry or jihadi militias? this bunch aren’t even the jihadis.

  10. @ bernard ross:

    How many versions of present and past CIA trained rebels are there… Seems like the CIA trains em and then they seem to get sidetracked. Now just what are their mission objectives anyway…. Israel needs these guys on their border like we need Ebola Viruses.

  11. U.S.-backed rebels said to make gains in S. Syria near Golan
    Special to WorldTribune.com
    NICOSIA — U.S.-trained Sunni rebels were said to be advancing in Syria.
    Opposition sources said Sunni rebels based in Jordan and trained by the CIA were moving through southern Syria. They said the rebels were trying to establish a corridor between the southern Syrian city of Dera and the Golan Heights along the frontier with Israel.
    http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/11/06/u-s-backed-rebels-said-make-gains-s-syria-near-golan/