Countdown From IS to IS-Less: Obama Administration Misses The Point

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On Wednesday, September 11th, President Obama made an eloquent speech on worldwide television regarding “The New Strategy” that the US has planned to CONFRONT, DEGRADE AND DEFEAT “The Islamic State (aka ISIS).” The President painstakingly discussed the worldwide consensus that has joined the United States in the need to eradicate ISIS. The President was clear that “ISIL” must be stopped. Once again President of the United States is continuing to call the Islamic State ISIL. This could be for several reasons:

  1. The White House speech writers haven’t caught on to the name changes from ISIL to ISIS then to Islamic State, understanding that the accepted use of ISIL is no longer a valid term to refer to the Islamic State.
  2. The President is choosing to call the Islamic State “ISIL” by choice, assuming they are listening, in which case they might get the message that the President doesn’t recognize their growth strategy or name changes.

Which option above is more likely, is unknown. However, some feedback from Twitter and Facebook: When the President calls The Islamic State by their old school name ISIL it can make the President sound like he doesn’t understand the progression of the terrorist organization or the immediate threat they present to the region or the world at large.

It should be no surprise that ISIS is a fearsome terrorist organization with a satanic-like philosophy. This has been reported from Syria since their inception, “when Iran and Assad brought ISIS to Syria to destabilize the Syrian Revolution and protect Assad’s throne.” This is not just another terrorist group. They are organized into a military group and a community security force. ISIS understands how to acquire wealth and manage it. It has been estimated that they are the wealthiest terror group in the world with assets building in the $ billions.

The Islamic State’s aspirations to create a Caliphate may be narcissistic, however, they are not so egotistical to believe they can do everything. They have been advertising for several months for professionals such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and city managers – and they have the money to pay for them. Hurting their money will take a careful forensic eye, as the Islamic state will also hire financial managers who will work to invest their fortune and launder their money.

Although the Islamic State may have started out by taking donations from independent wealthy UAE and Saudi financiers, today their wealth comes from looting banks and selling oil & gas from acquired fields in Syria. Their biggest buyers are known to be the Syrian Government and black market buyers in Turkey. With their prices set well below OPEC rates, its not hard to find buyers for their unlimited supply of resources.

How Does ISIS Get Their Fighters?

One smuggler in his early 20’s reported that he has been helping smuggle foreign fighters cross the border from Turkey into Syria. These “jihadists” are from various North American, European and Eastern European countries. He explained that it would be really difficult for Turkey to stop the smuggling business as the Turkey – Syria border is very long and porous. This comes almost in parallel with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling Turkey an “absolutely indispensable” ally in the fight against ISIS. Defense Secretary Hagel made this call because Turkey is the only NATO member that did not sign onto the coalition strategy.

It is clear that Turkey has a lot to consider. Certainly they do not want to let down their NATO partners by failing to participate in The New Strategy to CONFRONT, DEGRADE AND DEFEAT The Islamic State. However, by taking an offensive position against ISIS, they could be setting themselves up as the next in line for membership in The Caliphate. Since Turkey is on the map of The Islamic State’s new vision map, caution is understood since they are a next door neighbor.

ISISFutureIslamicState
Future state of Islamic State

The Strategy – Highlights

President Obama has chosen to take a leadership role to pull a coalition together to deal with the ISIS problems. However, it is not clear that the President or his advisors fully understand ISIS behavior. In the Strategy, the President spoke about:

  1. Bringing together an international community to fight the Islamic State which could take months or years
  2. Increase bombing sorties in Iraq, including the Iraq-Syria border, to limit freedom of movement, weaken ISIS
  3. Destroy ISIS’s ability to control territory in Syria
  4. Train and equip Kurdish Army
  5. Train the Free Syrian Army in anti-terrorism through Saudi Arabia.
  6. Provide weapons to the Free Syrian Army
  7. Finances of ISIS will be “hurt.”
  8. Cut off access to foreign fighters
  9. No US “boots on the ground”

In his press conference on September 10th President Obama said, “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. The initial goal will be to cut off ISIS supply lines between Iraq and Syria, which US Senior Officials believe is where ISIS is “gaining arms, gaining manpower, gaining fuel – literally and figuratively – for the fight.”

The ISIS Factor

There is allegedly a concern that hurting ISIS in Syria will benefit Assad. Apparently the Obama administration is under the belief that “driving ISIS out of its Syria stronghold makes for one less enemy for Assad to worry about.” As the story goes, the administration is banking on Syria sectarianism to prevent this. Meaning since ‘ISIS is Sunni, only the American backed rebels would benefit from an ISIS defeat. Since the Assad regime is Alawite which is the Shia sect, the administration apparently believes the demise of ISIS would not hurt Assad.” Assuming this assessment which was provided by a blogger quoting the Administration is correct, we cannot say where the Administration continues to get their misguided information. However, if they continue to plan coalition activities and Syria strikes based on this type of assessment they will not only embolden both ISIS and Assad, innocent Syrians will likely be hurt in the process.

Since September 10, ISIS has been battening down the hatches in Syria. From their actions, it appears they are preparing for the United States to “bring it on”.

  1. ISIS has been repositioning their military personnel and moving their families from their HQ communities. All reports from activists indicate ISIS has abandoned Raqqa.
  2. JadBhanta from the East wrote on his activist site that FSA rebels kicked out ISIS terrorists from 21 towns in Deir Ezzour, FSA burned ISIS HQs and setup checkpoints to prevent ISIS re-entry #Syria.

How Does ISIS Remain Hunkered Down and Still Keep Tabs on Their Caliphate?

For ISIS the answer is high tech. They have deployed drones that they have told Raqqa activists are confiscated from Iraq. Interpretation is they were most likely stolen from military armaments that the US left in the hands of the Iraqis.

Destroying ISIS in Syria is a must which will help the Syrian Revolutionary Fighters. This action will also directly hurt Assad as there will no longer be a collusion partner to play games with.

Where Is Assad in This Picture

The New Republic published an excellent piece on Assad’s self-protection strategy:

“For Bashar Al Assad the ideal scenario is one in which ISIS helps him kill off his armed nationalist opposition in western Syria, American aviation assets pound ISIS positions in the east, and he sits comfortably in Damascus, feeling once again needed by the West as a useful partner against those arguably more evil than him. And a lucrative dividend awaits: The fact or perception of collaboration between Washington and Damascus driving wedges between the U.S. and every one of its regional partners, thereby serving the interests of the party Assad has so faithfully served: Iran.”The New Republic

ISIS has released a statement saying they have beheaded David Haines who was a Scottish aid worker in Syria. UK Parliament released a statement saying that what ISIS did is an act of pure evil. David Cameron promises to hunt down the terrorists who have beheaded David Haines.

Obama Administration Completely Misses The Point

What has been said repeatedly, but the Obama administration has missed the point on each time is “the Assad regime and ISIS collude with each other to ensure the opposition remains derailed. Should the Syrian Revolutionary Fighters, with coalition help, defeat ISIS, there will still be a dangerous Monster left to defeat in Syria. The Assad regime is fully supported by the Russians politically and by the Iranians militarily; and it is also critical not to forget Syria is closely associated with two terrorist organizations – ISIS and Hezbollah. Hezbollah is not super-brutal like ISIS and they don’t have a high membership like ISIS; however, Hezbollah has never hesitated to cross the border from Lebanon to assist Assad when needed.

The Russians warned the US and other coalition members that any bombing of ISIS in Syria without permission from the Assad regime would be considered an act of aggression. Russia clearly continues to coach Syria on their political decisions and acts as their spokesperson for difficult issues … some things never change. Just when it appears Russia is concentrating all their effort on Ukraine, comes a reminder that Russia cannot afford to lose Assad’s position on the throne either. What is misunderstood is that Assad has essentially sold Syria to Iran in a real estate deal in exchange for his right to keep the “throne.” It is unlikely that Assad would give the United States permission to encroach within the sovereignty of the Syrian borders to bomb ISIS unless the United States was willing to make promises to Assad regarding his presidency.

Syria Live Update News @YallaSouriya had the following to say about the Assad regime:

The clock is turning against Bashar. Bashar is not winning in this hit-and-run war, as some journos have been writing. Maps are useless and don’t reflect the situation on the ground. Battlefields are not static. They are moving spaces. FSA has never attempted to control cities. Their aim is to control the regime’s strategic supply lines and axis, then the countryside and end with the cities. (Brigadier Safwat AL Zayat has explained it at length on Al Jazeera). He predicted today’s situation, i.e the SAA will be so stretched that Assad will rely on massive airstrikes. Yesterday 73 sorties in northern Hama airspace only.

Physicians have released initial reports on the Ahrar al-Sham members killed in Idlib. These physicians were shockingly clear about their results, even though they are only preliminary. The people whose bodies were untouched by explosives, but died anyway definitely points to some type of chemical weapon. The examining committee made up of ten physicians determined that some kind of chemical weapon was used, and it was the kind that affects the bloodstream. The site and other physical evidence will be preserved until an outside agency can get to the scene and examine it further.

The New York Times reported, “As the prospect of the first American strikes inside Syria crackled through the region, the mixed reactions underscored the challenges of a new military intervention in the Middle East, where 13 years of chaos, from Sept. 11 through the Arab Spring revolts, have deepened political and sectarian divisions and increased mistrust of the United States on all sides.”

What Can the Coalition Do to Most Effectively Support the Opposition In Syria?

The answer is not rocket science. It is the same answer that they have been asking for over and over for the past three years. They need air support.

  1. Keep Assad’s war planes out of the air.
  2. Keep helicopters from dropping barrel bombs on markets and schools.

Kimberly Jones is a global nomad with a special interest in the Middle East and North Africa. She grew up in Saudi Arabia and traveled throughout the MENA growing deeply attached to the people and the culture.