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 takes Syrian air base

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.


louielouie said...


B.Poster said...

This is truly one of those situations that individuals sometimes face when a series of poor choices in the past has led them to a current situation where they have no good options and, in fact, the only options are trying to choose between the least bad option. The same dynamic would seem to apply to nation states.

Essentially today because of poor strategic planning, poor tactical planning, and poor execution all the way around in a number of areas we now have no good options in this situation. In other words, we are tasked with trying to choose the least bad option.

Essentially our choices are as follows: 1.)Help Iraq and Syria fight ISIS and help Iran maintain control of Iraqi province and preserved and expand its influence in the Middle East and around the world. 2.)Help ISIS or at least stay out of its way. They can act as a bulwark against Iran holding this major enemy in check. Also, this means helping Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda, and other Sunni enemies. Either way we help an enemy. As I stated earlier, there's no good choices for us here.

With that said there is a philosophy our enemies have used against us over the last few decades to devastating effect. Essentially the creed is "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." If option 1 or option 2 is the call our government makes, I would probably be inclined to support it, IF I believed that the intentions of our government as well as the judgments made by these officials could be trusted. Unfortunately we cannot trust either the intentions of this government nor its judgment.

While air strikes on ISIS positions do seem to have provided some temporary relief to the Kurds and other groups that perhaps face the threat of extermination, this relief is likely on temporary. The enemy has already begun to make adjustments and the air strikes would need to be followed up with more aggressive actions. Unfortunately we lack the capability to do so and even if we had such capability the domestic political situation will not allow it. Again, no good choices.

"What are Barack Obama and the Americans going to do?" I REALLY hope they are not asking themselves that question. If they truly are coming together, they can probably beat ISIS without us. Whether they can or can't what America and Barack Obama need to "do" is to formulate a coherent national security strategy that maximizes the security of the Untied States of America. To this end, I have some ideas that stand a reasonable chance to give us a fighting chance to defend our country. Time permitting I will put them in another post.

B.Poster said...

As for what Barack Obama and the American leadership needs to do, the following would be a great place to start. 1.)Open up earnest negotiations with all countries where the US currently has military installations especially those in East and West Europe, South Korea, and the Middle East to name a few. Preferably these negotiations will be done in private. Essentially the terms are we redeploy away from these positions within one year. This gives them adequate time to make the necessary preparations for their own defense. In the case of real allies, perhaps with our help. It should be made clear that should the nature of the negotiations be "leaked" to the media the redeployment can and will be accelerated. These forces will then be redeployed to areas along our borders and off or our coasts that give us a reasonable chance to defend our nation. To this end, I'd suggest studying the military posture, tactics, and strategies of the Australians and the Canadians. They do not have military installations in to many diverse places yet they are more secure, wealthier, and enjoy a better quality of life than most Americans do. We could learn much by studying them. 2.)Immediately secure the borders and place a moratorium on all immigration for at least 10 years. This will give us breathing space to fix our immigration system. The moratorium on immigration from Islamic countries should be indefinite as it makes no sense to invite people into your house who wish to harm you. 3.)We have a pretty good idea who the terrorists are. As such, closely monitor the mosques. This has the twin advantages of better focusing our security personnel and saving money. It makes little sense to monitor those who are not a threat and it wastes time and money. 4.)Develop all of our own oil and gas reserves and increase refining capacity to process this. In time, this will likely give us leverage against foreign suppliers and may even provide some cushion against price spikes that may be due to disruptions in supply around the world. Maybe even if fracking works as well as some suggest we could even become a net energy exporter further cutting into the revenue streams of our enemies. 5.)Upgrade and expand the nuclear arsenal as well as the means to deliver it. We have neither the numbers nor the conventional capabilities of our combined adversaries. We are going to need something to put on at least equal footing. With a robust nuclear deterrent this would likely make others think twice before attacking us. 6.)Given that US Intel services have been caught flat footed on just about everything of significance in the early 21st century alone. POTUS would be unwise to rely on anything they report to him/her. As such, these organizations need to essentially be built from the ground up. We can probably enlist the assistance of certain "allies" to help us in this regard.

Doing these things will give us a fighting chance of defending our nation. In any event, these suggestions have greater utility for our security and economic interests than anything we are currently doing.