Syria & Iraq Audio Analysis: How to Fight the Islamic State…and Why It Will Fail


PHOTO: An opposition march in Syria, April 2015

I spoke with Malaysia’s BFM Radio earlier this month about the fight against the Islamic State, following both the British Parliament’s authorization of airstrikes and the US statement that it is putting about 100 additional special forces into northern Iraq for operations in both Iraq and Syria.

The analysis parallels that in others which we have featured on EA, namely that airstrikes and special forces will only be effective in a campaign if they are coordinated with ground operations and effective political action. The discussion also considers the long-term weakness of the Islamic State.

See also Syria & Iraq Analysis: The Bombing of the Islamic State is a Political Sideshow
Syria & Iraq Audio Analysis: Bombing Won’t Defeat the Islamic State

It positions itself as against so many other movements, groups, and States. It’s very hard to see which groups the Islamic State will ally with….It’s a question of how longer you can govern when you’re opposed to so many others and when you’re suppressing those under your rule….

But until you recognize that, just shouting “radicalization” and saying somehow “we’re going to crush IS”, that defeat is not going to happen.

The problem with the bombing of IS in Syria is that, if people see it is not achieving anything in bringing out a stable Syria — if it merely causes civilian casualties, damage to infrastructure, and more people to flee their homes — that could feed more anger and frustration. People say, “I don’t like what the West is doing here”, so they give support to the Islamic State.

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  1. Very true. The push against ISIS is half-hearted at best. It can EASILY be routed in Syria and Libya by sending in ground troops and liberating cities and towns. The Talibans who actually ruled a country bigger than Syria were routed in a matter of weeks. The ragtag Kurds pushed out ISIS from about a quarter of their territory in a matter of months. The biggest obstacle to routing ISIS comes from the left who will decry the ‘occupation of Syria’ and go bonkers even if it is meant to liberate Syria, despite the ostensible hatred they manifest towards ISIS.

    The problem is that neither Iran, nor Russia nor Assad nor the Iraqis, nor Obama want to bother with ISIS. Turkey is ambivalent and actually wants an Islamic Republic in Syria. Saudis and the Gulf states are probably the only real enthusiasts, for obvious reasons, against ISIS. But then Qatar funds JaN which is another ISIS. Assad actually benefits greatly from ISIS and JaN, in particular in the propaganda war for legitimacy.

    ISIS is mainly a political football being kicked around to entertain the crowds. The Republicans have a field day debating ISIS. That is not why Obama is ambivalent to ISIS. The reason he is is because he is against US flexing its muscle anywhere anytime, and he wants to go down as the president who reigned in American imperialism.

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