Obama “evolving” on Syria


It looks like another of Pres. Obama’s policies is “evolving”.
The announcement that Ankara has agreed to permit its NATO airbase at Incirlik to be used for bombing missions against Daesh [ISIL, or the Caliphate] in Iraq not only makes them more efficient and cheaper. It became necessary with the gap sequestration has produced for American power projection. It seems definite now that there will be no aircraft carrier in the region from which to launch for several months this fall with their retreating to Norfolk for overlong deployment and refitting.
Meanwhile, Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has moved away from his somewhat ambiguous position after a suicide bomber of Daesh [ISIL, or the Caliphate] pulled off a deadly attack in chaotic southeastern Turkey. There is a suspicion that part of the new arrangement with the U.S. includes Erdogan’s longtime proposal for a neutralized zone in northern Syria, perhaps a “no-fly” zone used earlier in Iraq. That would bring American bombing into Syria as well as Iraq [which some of the U.S.’ allies, including the U.K., are already doing.]
Erdogan moved because his position was becoming increasingly difficult with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees pouring into Turkey. Its border towns have been used for entry into Syria by volunteers from the rest of the Muslim world and the West [including the U.S.] for one of the many groups in the Syrian civil war. The fact that at the same time Turkish forces have cracked down on Daesh’s supporters inside Turkey, Erdogan has moved against representatives of the Marxist–Leninist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a guerrilla group that waged a 30-year-long insurgency against Ankara on behalf of Turkey’s 20% minority Kurds. Ankara’s fear now is that the Kurds, who are the most effective force in Iraq fighting the Daesh with American support, and the Kurdish minority in Syria will make common cause for an independent Kurdish state.
If, as now seems the case in the Mideast’s shifting alliances, Daesh has made a deal with the Turkish Kurds – the suicide bomber was a Kurd – then Erdogan has a bigger problem. And he is trying to press Washington into supporting any new action he is being forced to take in the border areas and perhaps in Syria.
That, of course, may drag Washington into a more forceful campaign against Daesh – something Obama’s Republican critics in the Congress have been calling for. It’s clear that the relative weak bombing campaign has been only partially successful in stemming Daesh’s gains. It has been relatively ineffective without adequate American military resources on the ground in Iraq to direct the campaign, and the additional complication of basing it on aircraft carrier launches and bases further afield.
It now remains to be seen if the new arrangement with Ankara includes an additional effort on the ground by both the Turks and the Americans to trim Daesh’ sails, and speed up any effort to destroy it. The nominal allegiance of other Islamic terrorist groups from West Africa to Indonesia could take on real strategic significance given Daesh’s brilliant exploiting of the internet. And that may well dictate a U.S. effort to smash the movement quicker than the promise to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL” which the President made 10 months ago. The lack of progress so far certainly suggests Confederate General Nathan B Forrest’s first admonition for war, “get there fustest with the mostest”.
sws-07-24-15

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