Sunday, August 24, 2014
Islamic State Captures Key Syrian Base In Major Victory - And What It Means
The Islamic State scored a major victory today over Syrian leader Basher Assad's forces when they broke through after a two week siege to capture the strategic Tabqa airbase southwest of their northern stronghold of Raqqa. Hundreds of the 1,000 Syrian soldiers trapped there were killed.
Islamic State killed army commanders and pro-government militiamen, decapitating them before putting their bodies and heads on display.
This was the last Syrian base in the northeastern province of Raqqa, which means the Islamic Stae has now gained full control of an entire Syrian province for the first time in the civil war.
Islamic State is also close to complete control of the rebel-held; province of Deir el-Zour. They are picking off rebel strongholds one by one, and many members of other rebel groups are flocking to join them.
The next move by Islamic State could be towards the strategic city of Aleppo.Assad's regime troops, Hezbollah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary guard are close to completing their capture of the strategic city from the Syrian rebels, but they could then end up encircled and cut off by Islamic State forces.
One of my sources told me that Islamic State is withdrawing its fighters from the central Syrian province of Homs, after handing over its headquarters to its allies, the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front. This could mean a two pronged assault on Aleppo from both the south and from Tel Abayad and Raqqa in the east.
Meantime, the official Saudi news agency reported that the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Qatar and Jordan are meeting in the Red Sea city of Jeddah for a major conference.
Here's what I'd bet money they're discussing:
What are Barack Obama and the Americans going to do? Islamic State is not only a threat to Iraq and Syria, not only a threat to the Sunni Arab countries but a huge security threat to the United States.Aside from a few arms shipments and air strikes, thus far the U.S. has not been overtly involved, certainly not the way President Obama was in Libya.
Islamic State has already rolled back almost a year of advances made by the Syrian military and their Hezbollah allies against the insurgency.Is President Obama going to go in full bore? And if he does, is he going to extend the U.S. military action to Syria?
If the president decides to go into Syria, Obama is basically preserving the rule of Basher Assad, and relieving pressure on Iran and Hezbollah, allowing them to consolidate their own Shi'ite bloc, something the Saudis, Egypt, the UAE and the other GCE countries see as just as much a threat to them as Islamic State...while Qatar sees Islamic State as a major force to combat the Shi'ites and supports them more or less covertly.
After declaring for nearly four years that 'Assad must go', Barack Obama is in a position where he just might end up sending in U.S. troops and air power to save Assad, believe it or not.That of course would put America on the same side as Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. And it would also have a direct effect on the security of Jordan and Israel, both of whom border Syria because taking out Islamic State would simply remove the counter weight to Iran and Hezbollah and facilitate their consolidating their own nuclear armed Shi'ite bloc.
Just to show you how convoluted this all is, at the same time the Obama regime is making air strikes on Islamic State (who are largely armed with SOTA U.S. weaponry captured in Iraq from the fleeing Iraqi army)an dmaking common cause with Hezbollah. Assad and Iran, the U.S. is completing an $11 billion arms deal with - wait for it - Qatar, who had been funding Islamic State and Hamas! Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is in this particular transaction with both hands.
Another point of discussion, probably on the sidelines is what to do if America does nothing much, a not unlikely scenario. What defense arrangements can be made to counteract both Islamic State and the Shi'ites if that happens, especially with Iran on the verge of going nuclear? Or should the Sunnis give limited backing to Islamic State against Iran and the Shi'ites?
And what role can Israel play? Yes, believe it or not. Faced with a war on two fronts and a dysfunctional American president, the Sunnis may even be looking at Israel, the most powerful country in the region in a new light.