Archive for August, 2016

Syria:Why Has the US Not Won the War?

August 1, 2016

christopher_lee180-11

Christopher Lee

1 August 2016

New York

Why has the mighty US not won the war in Syria?  Missiles, drones, laser bombs, satellite Intelligence, allies from all over the world and still the war goes on.  Refugees are being abandoned.  Russia is calling the shots – literally.  President Assad Must Go posters in the White House have faded.

With all the military might that could destroy the world in an afternoon’s war gaming (and for real if worry struck) the United States has failed to do what it thought so easy in 2011.

President Assad was expected to step down with a few weeks of the demonstrations that spread from Daraa where the first real signs of protest had emerged.

President Obama had made it clear from day one in the White House that he saw the Middle East as a military and political quagmire where only the legacy of failure would survive. The pressure on America from within the reason was consistent on Obama.  He had to chose sides or risk even greater pressures from US allies like Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, apart from its oil and dollar attractions had become the centre of US military options.  The Saudi’s were and remain America’s political and military landlords in the region.

Obama ran out of stand-off options.  On August 18 2011, Obama said Assad should step aside.  That was not what the rebels not Washington’s allies wanted to here.  They wanted a sharp get out of town notice pinned on the Assad’s Presidential door. Assad was never going to pack his bags. Assad was not Saddam Hussein.  No Colonel Gaddafi.

The protest became an armed confrontation within months.

Opposition groups took up weapons. They killed 120 Syria troops.  The bodies were desecrated. Anyone who wanted to join the fight was welcomed.  The result obvious: a desperate and disparate armed opposition to Assad demanding support – political and financial and military – from the major outside players such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Saudis, the Turks. Without understanding what they were doing, many of US allies supported the so-called Coalition against Assad. It was called a coalition.  It was nothing of the sort. It was split armed opposition that soon included al-Qaeda and then IS.

What went wrong from the start?  The so-called Western alliance did not understand what was going on.  The leaders, including Obama, were badly advised and no one could publicly at least stick firmly to ambitions because they did not know what they were and how to get to them.  The scale of the conflict demanded on the ground military intervention.  To have made that strategic jump would have meant unacceptable commitments from countries such as the US and UK only just out or still in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Furthermore, none of the apparently sophisticated military outside forces had any idea whatsoever how to fight Assad and gradually they did not trust the side upon which they would have to fight.

The internal coalition of opposition was being seen as a group who would in power run a bloodbath of revenge.  Obama and Co kept out other than mounting distant warfare against Islamist groups and arranging arms to rebels.  The insertion of Western special forces made little difference.

Then of course, the Russians arrived.  They backed the Assad regime, moved without any discretion rebel positions and helped destruct much of Western Syria.

The Turkish war against kurds was but a side show but an example that Syria had become a battlefield of such consequence that apart from downtown Damascus- a futile but telling description – Syria no longer existed.

And what have we got from desolation?  Assad in power. Russia the leading outside power. A proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. A refuge population that the world does its very best to forget – if ever it took notice.

There is one other aspect: the surviving rebel groups whose blatant ambitions neither suited American understanding of the conflict nor made military sense now hope with considerable fervour that Hilary Clinton makes it to the White House. To do what?

Whatever Hilary Clinton’s mood there is no way she wants to get involved in a tough military commitment anyway in the Middle East.  Moreover, Congress will not let her.  Hilary, who naturally thinks two terms as President is fine with that.

Two people know that for sure: Presidents Putin and Assad.  There is nothing that will get home political support that American and her allies can do.  Moreover, there is nothing at all in the latest military adviser’s think tank that will change that.

The armed opposition groups from 2011 are powerless figures at fringe meetings of What To Do About Syria. Today real opposition in Syria are mujahedin groups who have taken the 2011 rebellion much further. The ambition is not simply to unseat Assdad; it is to replace the government and its ways in Damascus with rule by sharia law – the other caliphate; but the commitment of Russia may prevent that.

Barring a palace revolution, the outcome looks simple: Assad stays in a possible split territory with Russia in much the same position as the United States is in Saudi Arabia.

Curiously, Russia’s position may therefore benefit America and her allies.  Mr Putin actually wants what American thought it wanted. The fact that President Assad is still there is therefore what Russia wants and what America cannot publicly admit it wants.

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