The Obama administration has officially conceded the military effort in Syria is not about attacking the Islamic State. It is about removing Bashar al-Assad from power.
The new strategy formed by Obama’s national security team ignores the fact al-Assad and the Syrian military represent the only tenable opposition to the Islamic State and other Islamist groups funded and trained by the United States and its partners, most notably Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
Employing convoluted logic, the administration argues the “long-running Syria problem is now compounded by the reality that to genuinely defeat ISIL, we need not only a defeat in Iraq but a defeat in Syria.”
ISIL, short for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is the acronym the government uses for Da’esh (al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham), or the Islamic State.
The initial plan, described as “Iraq first,” concentrated on attacking the Islamic State in northern Iraq where it defeated the U.S. trained and armed Iraqi army and captured a large amount of territory. The administration is reportedly jettisoning this strategy in favor of directly targeting the Syrian government.
In addition to creating a no-fly zone along the border with Turkey, the administration is looking at vetting “moderate rebels.” As noted by Infowars and others, radical Sunni Islamists dominate the proxy war against the Shia government in Damascus and the argument that moderate forces are involved to any significant degree is largely a public relations effort designed to mask the real character of the so-called opposition.
The United States is also targeting Syria’s oil infrastructure. In September, it attacked grain silos in Manbij that killed civilians, not IS fighters. Attacks in Aleppo, Deir al-Zor, Hasaka, Raqqa and Idlib have killed civilians, including children. According to Reuters, the United States takes reports of civilian casualties seriously and says it has a process to investigate each allegation.
The new strategy will in fact strengthen the Islamic State, not weaken it as Obama claims. The war “is even less tenable than it was before, as between attacks on ISIS, Nusra, and Islamic Front fighters, and now the Assad government, the US is fighting materially all of the combat forces inside Syria at the same time, even the ones that are aligned with their publicly-stated goals,” notes Jason Ditz.
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said the administration has “had regular meetings that the President has joined with his national security team on this issue and Syria has been an important subject at those meetings. And I think the President wants to make sure that we’re asking hard questions about what we’re targeting in Syria, how we’re able to degrade ISIL but also how we’re supporting opposition and building them up as a counterweight to ISIL but also ultimately of course to the Assad regime.”
“Assad has been the biggest magnet for extremism in Syria, and the President has made clear that Assad has lost all legitimacy to govern. Alongside our efforts to isolate and sanction the Assad regime, we are working with our allies to strengthen the moderate opposition,” added Alistair Baskey, spokesman for the National Security Council.
Left out of the discussion is the fact the United States and its partners created and exacerbated the situation in Syria and are responsible for the death of over 140,000 Syrians, the displacement of millions of others and the wholesale destruction of the Syrian economy. Syria’s GDP has fallen more than 35 percent, while the local currency has lost 80 percent of its value.