How goes the Obama administration’s campaign to “degrade and destroy” ISIS? Badly, according to Max Boot.
In Iraq, there have been a few modest successes. But Obama refuses to provide direct support to Sunnis in Anbar and Nineveh provinces, and the Iraqi government, still strongly influenced by Iran, will not supply arms and equipment either.
The folly of Obama’s policy in Iraq is self-evident. He relies on proxy forces to combat ISIS but fails to ensure that these forces are supplied. As Boot says:
This is a self-defeating policy and yet one in which the Obama administration persists, pretending that sending aid to Sunnis directly would undermine Iraqi sovereignty. In truth the Baghdad government already controls considerably less than half the country and it will never regain any more control unless it can mobilize Sunnis to fight ISIS. The U.S. can be a key player in mobilizing Sunnis, as it was in 2007-2008, but only if it is willing to reach out to them directly.
In Syria, Obama’s policy seems even more perverse. The administration said it would rely primarily on the Free Syrian Army to combat ISIS. The FSA will not, of course, receive resources from the Syrian government it wants to overthrow, so the arms and equipment must, in the main, come directly from the U.S.
Congress, though, has not approved the administration’s $300 million appropriation to fund the Free Syrian Army. It fears that the FSA is not an effective fighting force and that advanced weapons we supply might well fall into ISIS’s hands.
The fear is reasonable. But it gives rise to a vicious cycle. Withholding weapons because the FSA is weak makes the FSA weaker, all but ensuring that it cannot effectively fight ISIS. And it does so at a time when the FSA is desperately battling to hold on to the key city of Aleppo.
Obama’s response, according to Boot, has been to distance the U.S. from moderate rebels by cutting off their weapons flow and refusing to allow them to meet with U.S. military officials. This is unconscionable.
Obama didn’t have to vow to degrade and destroy ISIS in Syria, nor did he have to assign the job to the FSA and other so-called moderate forces. But having done so, he disgraces himself and our country by “distancing himself” because the going is tough.
Who, then, will fight ISIS in Syria? Boot says “it increasingly looks as if the Obama administration is counting on Bashar Assad, who has murdered some 200,000 of his own people.”
Relying on Assad is tantamount to relying on his Iran, the regime that has kept him in power. Similarly, to rely on the Iraqi government is to acquiesce to a considerable degree of Iranian control.
Acquiescence to Iran is the only coherence I can detect in Obama’s anti-ISIS campaign, a campaign under which, I suspect, both ISIS and Iran will thrive.