The anti-Islamist coalition led by Obama lacks strength and allies
The disproportionate attention paid by the media to the speech of Barack Obama on the fight against Islamists in Syria and Iraq seems to relate more to the form of this speech than to its content. From the point of view of speechwriters, the President of the United States delivered a more than successful speech. It may well take an honorable place in collections of this kind along with the speeches of Roosevelt, Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. If wars were won at the microphone, there is no doubt that the Islamists would have been defeated on the spot.
Obama is generally very good at making public speeches. From this point of view, he is the ideal president: always properly dressed, with an appropriate expression on his face, his intonations correspond exactly to the situation. Although for him as president, who was re-elected for a second term, this speech is not as important as for his party - the democrats still have to hold congressional elections.
Not about that
Unfortunately, the unfortunate reality is that a declaration of war to anyone does not complete it at all, but merely states the fact. In this case, the United States declared war, and they belatedly and not too logically react to an open challenge, trying to combine the struggle with a real and very serious opponent with the old geopolitical speculations like the overthrow of President Assad. At the same time, the States maintain close relations with the main sponsors of Islamic terrorists - Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
“The incompetence of the military-political leadership of the most influential country in the modern world has reached the limit beyond which to disappear”
It is clear that these countries are fiercely fighting with each other for influence in the world, and in this confrontation Qatar wins in Iraq and Syria, has yielded to Egypt, while in Libya and Yemen the situation is stalemate, in Afghanistan, Riyadh is pushing Doha, and in Algeria, Doha beat Riyadh. However, the question here is not which terrorists are worse for the United States, but that America with surprising stubbornness continues the same party that it leads from Afghanistan 80, flirting with political Islam.
Judging by the intentions of the American president "to support the Syrian opposition," he does not intend to cooperate with Damascus, whose air force inflicts serious blows on the IS. Moreover, the only opposition that in this country, fighting against Assad, simultaneously fights with the militants of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is Pro-Saud Jabhat al-Nusra, that is, Al-Qaida. There is no secular opposition that would cost anything from a military point of view in Syria.
The Syrian free army fell apart long ago, including because its Western sponsors saved money, preferring to get rid of the arrangement of training camps and foreign policy support, including a campaign in the international press. The most combat-ready parts of the SSA went to the Islamists — fortunately, both Saudi Arabia and Qatar supplied the units under their control, unlike the Americans, generously. Not a single command, no matter how serious the formations of this army is no more, that even the Turkish curators from MIT recognize. Although President Obama speaks specifically about the support of the secular opposition.
The conclusions from here can be made the most disappointing. Either America’s top leaders are openly lying, betting on some Islamists against others, how it all ends up for the security of the United States, not to mention the region, can be predicted today. Either President Obama is deluded. Or, even worse, he lives in a fictional world that exists only as represented by his own and closest employees. That is, the incompetence of the military-political leadership of the richest and most influential country in the modern world has reached the limit beyond which to disappear.
Note that Turkey, whose role in the IS defeat could be key, given its geopolitical position and the presence of the second army in the NATO bloc, will not participate in the military campaign announced by Obama. It can mean anything. Including the fact that Ankara will not join any coalition with Egypt and Saudi Arabia fighting the Muslim Brotherhood, which for the ruling Justice and Development Party is a politically intimate movement. And regardless of who the coalition must act against.
At a minimum, such a decision demonstrates that the IS can view this direction as a safe rear. Turkey is turning al-Baghdadi into a neutral, albeit unfriendly state. Given the fact that his militants are fighting with the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, traditionally hostile to Ankara, as well as the role that the sale of contraband oil to Turkey and, by the way, to Jordan at prices two to four times lower than market prices for both sides, Turkish Army IG can not be afraid.
Ankara gave members of the anti-Islamist coalition assurances that it is ready to stop the supply of oil from the Islamic state through Iraqi Kurdistan. They also promised to stop and detain on their territory foreign jihadists, primarily from Western countries moving to Syria and Iraq. The question is to what extent these promises can be and will be fulfilled. For the time being, it is Turkey that is the main destination of oil supplies to the world market and the transit route for European Islamists, up to five thousand of whom joined the detachments of al-Baghdadi.
It is not excluded, however, that neutrality in the described situation is a consequence of the same policy that Turkey demonstrated ten years ago, refusing to grant Washington its territory and airfields to strike the army of Saddam Hussein. What does de facto, together with a demonstratively neutral position that Turkey occupied both in 2008 during the Russian-Georgian crisis and in 2014 in relation to the situation in Ukraine, means that this country is completely out of the orbit of the United States, while maintaining formal relations with the United States within NATO.
The personal relations of Presidents Obama and Erdogan are extremely tense, and this can also affect Turkey’s cool attitude towards any coalition organized by Washington that the American leader intends to lead. The dominance of the White House is unacceptable for the Turkish president in any form. The only form of leadership that Recep Tayyip Erdogan recognizes is his own, which he has repeatedly demonstrated in both domestic and foreign policy.
Outside the framework of the coalition, both the Syrian government and Iran, and especially Israel, remained. At the same time, Assad's air forces are successfully fighting with IS on their territory, although Damascus is losing ground battles: taking the Air Force base in Tabka demonstrates the clear advantage of the Islamic state. The base was captured, despite the fierce resistance of the Syrian army, and more than a hundred suicide bombers were used during the fighting. At the same time, the buildup of Jabhat al-Nusra troops through the use of the Obama plan by the Saudis poses a threat to Damascus no less than a war with the Islamic State. In addition, the use of the American aviation in Syria, not against the Islamists, but against the army of Bashar al-Assad.
Iran by definition will not join any regional alliances, which include the United States and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the weakening of the IG is expected due to the strengthening of his opponents from the Pro-Saud Salafi groups and the Kurds, whose relations with Tehran are not unclouded, although they do not have such a long-standing stories of hostility, as with Ankara. Thus, the Iranian army and the IRGC will confine themselves to the protection of Najaf, Karbala and Samarra, where Shiite shrines are located, control the border strip and support the Shiite army of Iraq.
The question of the extent to which the Iranian leadership is ready to intervene in the civil war in Iraq on the side of the government against the IS, from the point of view of the Iranian leadership, remains open. Discussions are ongoing. The IRGC is ready, if necessary, to organize the defense of Baghdad. At the same time, Iran cannot be drawn into full-scale hostilities in Iraqi territory. This will allow the IG to turn the war into a national liberation, put the Iraqi Shiites in the position of the "fifth column". And even more - unleash a religious war between Shiites and Sunnis, which can cover the entire region.
With the US, Iran is likely to maintain information exchange on the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, but it’s premature to talk about normalizing their relations. The lobbying of the Arabian monarchies and Israel, as well as the opposition of the congress, does not allow President Obama to move towards lifting the sanctions and using Iranian hydrocarbons to oust Russian oil and gas from the European market as quickly as he would like. On the contrary, the unsettledness of the Iranian nuclear problem provokes it to demonstratively harsh statements, which are extremely negatively perceived in Tehran.
Jerusalem announced that in the event of a serious threat from the IG for Jordan, the IDF would support the Hashemite Kingdom. At the same time, the Israelis are preparing to repel the attacks of the Islamists on the Golan Heights. The situation is complicated by the possibility of conflict with Hezbollah, which is fighting the Salafi units in Syria and Lebanon, while simultaneously building up its military potential on the border with Israel. The war with it is not included in the plans of the military-political leadership of Israel, but it can start as unexpectedly as the operation "Indestructible Rock" in Gaza.
Whether Israel will be able to pay enough attention to the Salafi factions or, as before, will have to concentrate on the confrontation with Hezbollah and Hamas, depends on external players. In the first case - from Iran, in the second - from Qatar, and it is possible - Turkey, supporting Hamas. The emergence of a new regional threat in the person of the IG does not cancel either the previous conflicts or the “domestic preparations” of these countries claiming regional hegemony by organizing “proxy wars” against Israel by radical Arab movements.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relationship with US President Barack Obama is as tense as they both are with the Turkish leader. White House open blackmail during the recent confrontation with Hamas raises the question of how much Israel can rely on the United States in a critical situation. At the same time, all the necessary support that the United States would need in its confrontation with the IS, Washington will receive from Jerusalem.
If we talk about the real opposition of the coalition to the Islamic state, there is no chance of defeating the forces of al-Baghdadi without conducting a large-scale land operation. The air force and the use of UAVs can stop the attack of militants in certain areas and support the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi army, but they can successfully operate solely on their own territory. The Arab armies - be it the Armed Forces of Jordan, Egypt or KSA - will not fight in Iraq: the Saudis and Jordanians will limit themselves to protecting their own borders, while the Egyptians will support Saudi Arabia, whose troops are the weakest link in the coalition.
At the same time, we note that Riyadh is trying not so much to fight IS as to outbid the sheikhs of Sunni tribes supporting al-Baghdadi in the border strip, for which the former head of the General Intelligence Directorate, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, has been sent to this line of activity. At the same time, it’s not possible to split the IS: neither the tribes nor the former Ba'athists are ready to give up on the success achieved at the peak. The extreme cruelty with which IG militants suppress resistance, including from local tribes, also strengthens their position.
In addition, the destruction and expulsion of Shiites, Christians, Yazidis and secular Sunnis against the backdrop of attracting tens of thousands of immigrants from the arid areas of the Middle East to the territories freed from them reinforces the monopoly of radicals on power between the Tigris and Euphrates, whose average flow is completely controlled by them. The ability to manage water resources in the Middle East has always been tantamount to power. In the IG, this factor is fully used - not to mention that the immigrants, having received the property of the expelled and destroyed local residents, are the mainstay of al-Baghdadi and his regime.
As for Egypt, its Armed Forces are engaged in confrontation with the Islamist underground in the inner provinces of their own country. No less of a problem for the army and President al-Sisi are the infiltration of Islamist militants across the Libyan and Sudanese borders and the military operation in Sinai, including not only the central highlands of the peninsula, but also the border with Gaza. The point is not that Hamas can inflict any kind of serious damage to the ARE army. However, the activity of terrorist groups from Gaza in Egypt itself is very worried about the country's security services.
He cannot but support Saudi Arabia, whose financial assistance is vital for Cairo in the context of the unfolding economic crisis and the oncoming collapse of the year 2017. Moreover, Turkey and Qatar declared Egypt after the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood regime and President Mursi by the army, which is being waged consistently and aggressively. Without the help of Riyadh, the Egyptian economy will collapse, and rearmament of the army will be impossible.
In the same way, this alliance is the main guarantee of the security of the Saudi monarchy in the current situation, when it can no longer rely on the United States. However, guaranteeing the inviolability of the borders of the kingdom, the Egyptian expeditionary force is ready to conduct operations only on its territory or in a narrow frontier zone. We repeat: to go deep into the inner provinces of Iraq, which is necessary for the defeat of the IG, the Egyptians cannot and will not.
A ground operation requires a concentration of forces that are at least three times superior to the enemy, while in both wars against the army of Saddam Hussein the Americans had a fivefold advantage. There is nothing of the kind in the coalition formed by President Obama. Taking into account the fact that IS groups together comprise up to one hundred thousand people in Syria and Iraq, for their effective defeat to concentrate in the region a grouping equal to or greater than that which ensured the overthrow of the Baathist regime. He is not going to do this, and the possibility of a coalition winning over the IG is thus removed from the agenda.
On the side of al-Baghdadi
The number of foreign jihadists in the ranks of the IS militants is estimated at 15 – 20 thousand people. A significant part of them are people who in the future will become the basis of jihad in their own countries - from the EU countries to the countries of the Arab world or Central and South Asia. The influx of specialists - engineers (primarily oil workers), doctors and holders of other diplomas at the call of Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi into the territory controlled by him strengthens his regime and suggests the possibility of obtaining IG chemical and bacteriological weapons in the foreseeable future.
The multibillion-dollar holdings held by the IG have turned this structure into the leader of the terrorist Green International, allowing not only to recruit “jihad infantry” in Yemen, Morocco and other countries of the Islamic world, but also to support radical groups fighting for the creation of the Emirates in the image and likeness of the IG. This applies primarily to Africa - both the Maghreb and the countries of the Sahara and the Sahel. Although the spread of this kind of jihad to Central and South Asia is only a matter of time.
Successful Boko-Haram actions in Borno State in Nigeria, Al-Shabab in Somalia and Kenya, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa in Mali, Niger and Algeria are extremely dangerous trend. However, the geography of the activities of the Islamists corresponds to their real capabilities, which have increased tremendously since the beginning of the Arab Spring, especially after the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya and the start of the Syrian civil war.
The problem of fighting the IS and its allies is that the United States and other members of the coalition do not want to use the methods that are necessary for this. How do they not want to bear the costs that are needed to conduct a war of such magnitude. Someone intends to replace the IS with their own radicals or to lure the militants of al-Baghdadi to their side in order to try to use them for the same purpose - to their own advantage. There are coalition members who only want to protect their borders. Still others simply display the flag.
The latter fully applies to its western participants - primarily the United States. The current US president, before the fact of massacres of the civilian population and the genocide of minorities, as well as demonstrative executions of Western citizens, can do nothing. On the other hand, he personally sympathizes with the Islamists, if they do not attack America, although they cannot demonstrate this openly. On the third, having embarked on the overthrow of Bashar Assad, Obama is not ready to abandon him. On the fourth, his idea is fixed - the struggle with Russia, including on the European hydrocarbon markets, for which he needs the gas resources of Qatar and Iran, the oil resources - Saudi Arabia and Turkey as a transit country. Finally, Iran with its nuclear program is an annoying factor for the congress, and Obama cannot ignore this either.
In this situation, no theoretically correct steps will not lead to victory over the IG. This is also because the United States is not interested in this - no matter what President Obama says. The expansion of Islamist control makes American aid vital for regional players who would not otherwise need the United States. As for those whom the IS will destroy, including the American citizens, this is not the first genocide of the last century, which the USA “did not notice”.
Ritual assurances that the aggressor will get what he deserves, and pinpoint air strikes are not dangerous for the IS. However, al-Baghdadi with all its militants is safe for the United States. The Obama administration is clearly convinced of this.
Alliance without a chance of success
- Eugene Satanovskiy
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