President Obama strategy to defeat ISIL might not work
By Ali Younes
President Barack Obama announced last night his long awaited strategy to authorize air strikes against the extremist terrorist group that calls itself the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and Levant” (ISIL). Obama also announced the sending of more US troops to the region totaling 475 to provide intelligence and logistical support. In the effort “ to degrade and untimely destroy ISIL” Obama also said that he will support the moderate Syrian opposition groups in Syria against the Bashaar al Assad regime and work with countries in the region to counter the threat of terrorism against the US and its allies in the regime.
Obama said “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” Obama said. “That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
Earlier today several Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, Egypt and Lebanon have agreed to join the US-led alliance to fight ISIL.
To counter the threat of ISIL, Obama, despite calling his strategy “Counter Terrorism strategy” is really a page from the Counter Insurgency play book during the 2003 US war in Iraq that proved successful in ending the Sunni insurgency and the presence of Al Qaida in their areas. The strategy worked then by including the Sunnis in the political process and establishing “Awakening Councils” that became the vehicle to counter Al Qaida in Iraq and absorbed the Sunni insurgents into becoming US allies during the war years.
Speaking about the US goals, Obama said “Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy,”
The key to Obama’s objective however, is not just to try to degrade and destroy ISIL a tall order by on its own, but rather to try to end the sectarian divisions in Iraq and compel the Iraqi Shia establishment to treat the Iraqi Sunnis as partners.
To start with the new Iraqi government needs to have a new beginning by including the disfranchised Sunnis in the government, the army and other governmental and security agencies. Iraqi Sunnis argue that the 8 years of Al Maliki’s sectarian rule has left them alienated and created so much hatred and division in Iraq.
On the Syrian front, although Obama has said that the United States will target ISIL positions inside the Syrian territories without any kind of cooperation or coordination from the Syrian regime which Obama has said that it needs to go. It is however, much more complicated situation that Iraq. Syria poses a challenge to Obama’s strategy because should the US military start a bombing campaign against ISIL positions in urban areas, it will inadvertently cause civilian casualties. There is also the legal question since Syria is still considered a sovereign independent state; bombing targets inside another state without an authorization would be considered illegal and an aggression.
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