By Christiaan van Huyssteen (@cvh23)
Barack Obama is the 4th consecutive president to bomb Iraq. I’m sure it will work this time.
The US is now also directly involved in Syria by bombing ISIS/ISIL militants.
A summary of facts from VOX news:
What we know
— The air strikes and cruise missiles hit ISIS in four Syrian cities, including the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the group’s self-declared headquarters. They also hit the ISIS strongholds of Dair Elzur, Hasakah, and Abu Kamal.
— The Pentagon says the strikes against ISIS destroyed “fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles.”
— Five Arab countries also participated in the operation: four Gulf countries — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates — and Jordan. Saudi participation is big deal here, as the Saudis have been hesitant to act so fully against ISIS (they share a mutual enemy, Bashar al-Assad) and are a regional power.
— The US notified Syria that it was going to strike ISIS. The Syrian government did not grant formal permission for the strikes in its territory, but these attacks help Bashar al-Assad, who is also at war with ISIS. Assad’s air defense system is conspicuously declining to fire on the American and Arab jets.
— This is a huge success for Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian leader has now convinced the world’s most powerful country, which was threatening to bomb him just a year ago, to instead bomb his enemies. There is a strong indication that this was his plan all along.
— The US also bombed the al-Qaeda branch in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra. The strikes reportedly killed over 50 al-Qaeda militants, most of them foreign fighters; the group is an enemy of ISIS.
— US strikes also hit an al-Qaeda group called Khorasan. The little-known group, which some analysts say is actually just a collection of al-Qaeda officers, is said to have been plotting an attack on the US.
— An unknown number of civilians were killed in the strikes. Syrian rights groups say the civilian casualties include three children.
— Israel shot down a Syrian military jet over its territory. This is the first time this has happened in 25 years; Syria also acknowledged the incident. An Israeli spokesperson said, “We had to shut him down even though we understand that his intention was not to attack us.”
The situation in the Middle-East is so complex due to hundreds of tribes, factions and sects. It is impossible for anyone to claim that they understand Middle-Eastern politics, or know who wants what. We can only look at the history, and thereby try and predict consequences of current events.
“Perhaps we didn’t appreciate fully enough the depth of the hatred and the complexity of the problems that made the Middle East such a jungle. Perhaps the idea of a suicide car bomber committing mass murder to gain instant entry to Paradise was so foreign to our own values and consciousness that it did not create in us the concern for the marines’ safety that it should have.
In the weeks immediately after the bombing, I believe the last thing that we should do was turn tail and leave. Yet the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics forced us to rethink our policy there. If there would be some rethinking of policy before our men die, we would be a lot better off. If that policy had changed towards more of a neutral position and neutrality, those 241 marines would be alive today.”
– Ronald Reagan
The intervention in Iraq (which was based on a lie) and forced removal of Saddam Hussein as dictator of Iraq left a power vacuum in Iraq. He was by no means a peaceful leader, but he had the power and authority to keep the various factions in line.
Once he was out of the picture, and a weak, corrupt puppet government was installed, resentment toward the west grew. Radical elements have used the past decade to recruit and build up arms (unintended consequence of western intervention).
The power vacuum along with the arab spring resulted in rebels springing to action in places like Syria.
“They really felt what they needed was for there to be some humanitarian outrage in Syria and once they had it, that would legitimize going in with a big air strike”
– Julian Assange (wikileaks)
In the aftermath of the chemical attack which took place on 21 August 2013, President Obama, and others in the political establishment pushed hard for direct intervention in Syria against president Assad through air strikes. This ultimately did not happen due to strong public opinion against the idea in the US. The US did however intervene indirectly by arming moderate opposition rebels who were fighting the government.
This year, we saw the dramatic rise of ISIS, an extremist rebel group who now threatens the stability of the entire Middle-East.
The US have now launched airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. This is unconstitutional under US law by the way, as congress hasn’t voted and declared a war as such.
“The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.”
The US now find themselves in the awkward position of assisting the Iranian backed Assad regime by striking the rebels they were supporting only a year ago. It must however be noted that there are likely multiple rebel groups, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra etc. To what extent these groups are supporting/fighting each other, and how the moderate and extremist rebels are distinguished is unclear.
How this plays out is uncertain, it may very well be that this is just the beginning of a significant military effort against ISIS, who are 30 000 men strong, and are making millions in oil revenue each month. A few airstrikes may not be enough against a group who are a global terror threat.
As Reagan said, the political situation in the Middle-East is too complex and irrational to make any predictions or assertions.
What we do know for certain, is that intervention will lead to unintended consequences.
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