We have been fighting in Syria for a couple of years (were we ever invited into this conflict?) and slowly we have expanded our participation in the conflict…..to what end?
Its is a creeping invasion of Syria all under the guise of fighting ISIS…..
There was always going to be a reckoning. When President Obama began the American war against ISIS in 2014 — a belated and necessary step to stop ISIS’s blitzkrieg across Iraq — there was a lingering question: Then what? If and when we defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, what comes next? Ideally, American allies would defeat the world’s most vicious terrorists, the warring parties in Syria would then have the space to reach a political settlement, and a genocidal civil war would finally end.
For us IR analyst this appears a rush to war…..but under the guise of fighting terrorism…..we have attacked a Syrian air base, shot down a Syrian plane and attacked an Iranian drone….all the while expanding our military footprint in the country.
The downing of a Syrian fighter jet by the United States – and, more recently, of an Iranian drone – augurs a confrontation that could take us down the road to World War III. The US media is echoing the Pentagon’s explanation, which is that the Syrian jet bombed (or was threatening to bomb) units of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) around the town of Tanf. The Syrians say they were attacking forces aligned with ISIS, which both the US and the Syrian government are supposedly fighting.
The reality is that there is no such entity as the “Syrian Democratic Forces.” There are only loosely aligned groups, factions and splinters of factions, which proliferate seemingly on a daily basis in a mosaic of ethno-religious-ideological conflicts that reflect the chaos that has enveloped that country. The failure of the US to unite these various factions into the so-called Free Syrian Army – large units of which kept defecting to the various radical Islamist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda – led to an explosion of smaller groups centered around local, tribal, ethnic, and religious affiliations. The SDF is an attempt to solder these groups together in a military force capable of fighting and defeating the “Caliphate” established by ISIS – an effort that is far less successful than it seems.
This is starting to sound like an attempt to poke Iran in the eye with the hope of a response……more than a fight against ISIS…..
Over the past several weeks, US military actions within Syria have been less and less ISIS-centric, with a handful of operations targeting Shi’ite militias in southern Syria, and even shooting down a Syrian government aircraft over the weekend.
This isn’t just the US idly getting into one-off fights in the course of a war they’re already fighting in Syria, but rather is reflective of a push by White House officials, with multiple National Security Council members looking at the Syrian War less as a fight against ISIS and more as a chance to pick a fight with Iran.
The Pentagon has made clear they object, with Defense Secretary James Mattis personally rejecting multiple proposals related to this. Still, attacks on Shi’ite militias whenever they got sort of close to a US-backed rebel base, and a public narrative presenting the militias as necessarily in league with Iran, have found the US heading down that path anyhow.
This isn’t a new battle. The Pentagon has been battling the CIA in recent years in a rather public fight over the war, with the CIA keen to make the war about regime change, and by extension fighting Iran, while the Pentagon has sought to keep the focus on fighting ISIS.
The US is now poking Russia, Iran and Syria over some “alleged” gas attack in the making.
This situation needs to be handled carefully…..defeat ISIS and let the Syrians sort out their own problems after that. Poking Iran in the eye will not lead to a peaceful region with ISIS gone.