Saturday, December 12, 2015

Mysteries of the NATO Syria-Iraq intervention

This PBS Newshour report includes an interview with the British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon on the muddled multiple-party intervention in Syria and Iraq around Daesh/ISIS, UK accelerating pace of anti-ISIS missions, says defense secretary (transcript link) 12/11/2015:

It's a good illustration of the difficulty for the public to understand who's backing whom and what the goals of the various sides may be.

Fallon on Britain's Parliamentary authorization to start bombing Syria:

Well, I think a growing recognition that this border between Iraq and Syria is not recognized by ISIL itself, and it’s completely artificial and rather odd to be carrying out airstrikes on one side of the border, but the Royal Air Force having to turn back at the border and not follow through the other side of the border.
Change the border to the one between Vietnam and Cambodia and the Royal Air Force to US Air Force, and it takes on an very uncomfortable historical resonance. For that matter, make the border the one between North Korea and China, and we get another one, also very unpleasant.

This does not fill me with confidence.

He continues:

It was also a response to France and the United States and other countries that wanted Britain to step up its contribution to the campaign. And I’m delighted we’re now able to do that. We have doubled the number of strike aircraft that we have in theater. And we’re upping the tempo of our missions.
This gives me unpleasant memories, too, of the Clinton Administration's eight years of maintaining no-fly zones and sanctions against Iraq, which set the stage for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 after the 9/11 attacks gave the Cheney-Bush Administration an opportunity to promote jingoism and war with fewer questions being asked than might otherwise have been the case. The Obama Administration is sensible and restrained on the Syrian civil war and Daesh/ISIS compared to the Republican side. But, in his usual fashion, he frames his position as having the same goal as the Republicans (to the extent that the latter is discernible). He wants to destroy Daesh/ISIS but also wants to unseat their main opponent, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus. The other fighting force playing a major role on the ground seems to be the Al-Nusra Front, part of the current Al-Qaeda franchise. And while it may bear no especially meaningful relation to Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda of 2001, it's still Islamic fundamentalist and bitterly anti-American.

Judy Woodruff in her introduction to the interview said, "Meanwhile, today in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about his country’s war in Syria. For the first time, he said that Russian aircraft are now helping a rebel group, the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army."

Say what? I thought we gave up on them after they started defecting to Daesh/ISIS and Al-Nusra. And taking their American-supplied training and weapons with them.

And while we're strolling Memory Lane, the Pentagon may be up to one of its favorite tricks, from the days of padding "body counts" in the Vietnam War, as Daniel DePetris reports in Is the Pentagon Feeding Obama Bogus Intel on ISIS? The National Interest 12/11/2015. It was said of the Vietnam War that the US never lost a battle but still lost the war. Do you remember the Pentagon admitting to losing any battles in Iraq? Me neither.

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