Syria and Iraq : Why US policy is fraught with danger
En Irak, le nouveau gouvernement est à peine moins sectaire que le précédent,
The new [Iraqi] government may be less divisive than the old one – it would be difficult to be more – but only to a limited degree.
... the Sunni are more terrified of the return of vengeful Iraqi government forces than they are of Isis.
They have reason to be frightened since revenge killing of Sunni are taking place in Amerli, the Shia Turkoman town whose two-month siege by Isis was broken last month by Shia and Kurdish fighters aided by US air strikes. Mass graves of Shia truck drivers murdered by Isis are being excavated and local Sunni are being killed in retaliation. The family of a 21-year-old Sunni man abducted by militiamen was soon afterwards offered his headless body back in return for $2,000 (£1,240).
In the 127 villages retaken by the Kurds from Isis under the cover of US air strikes, the Sunni Arab population has mostly fled and is unlikely to return. Often Sunni houses are burnt by Shia militiamen and in one village Kurdish fighters had reportedly sprayed over the word “apostate” placed there by Isis and instead written “Kurdish home”.
En Syrie, la #CIA, peu convaincue par les « modérés » des wahhabites, a constitué ses propres « modérés »,
Isis will be difficult to defeat in Iraq because of Sunni sectarian solidarity. But the reach of Isis in Iraq is limited by the fact that Sunni Arabs are only 20 per cent of the 33 million population. In Syria, by way of contrast, Sunni Arabs make up at least 60 per cent of Syrians, so Isis’s natural constituency is larger than in Iraq. Motorised Isis columns have been advancing fast here, taking some 35 per cent of the country and inflicting defeats both on other Syrian opposition fighters, notably Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate, and on the Syrian army. Isis is now within 30 miles of Aleppo, the largest city in Syria before the war.
The US is now desperately trying to persuade Turkey to close the border effectively, but so far has only succeeded in raising the price charged by local guides taking people across the frontier from $10 to $25 a journey.
... Mr Obama (...) will (...) step up a pretence that there is a potent “moderate” armed opposition in Syria, capable of fighting both Isis and the Syrian government at once. Unfortunately, this force scarcely exists in any strength and the most important rebel movements opposed to Isis are themselves jihadis such as #Jabhat_al-Nusra, #Ahrar_al-Sham and the #Islamic_Front. Their violent sectarianism is not very different to that of Isis.
Lacking a moderate military opposition to support as an alternative to Isis and the Assad government, the US has moved to raise such a force under its own control. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), once lauded in Western capitals as the likely military victors over Mr Assad, largely collapsed at the end of 2013. The FSA military leader, General Abdul-Ilah al Bashir, who defected from the Syrian government side in 2012, said in an interview with the McClatchy news agency last week that the CIA had taken over direction of this new moderate force. He said that “the leadership of the FSA is American”, adding that since last December US supplies of equipment have bypassed the FSA leadership in Turkey and been sent directly to up to 14 commanders in northern Syria and 60 smaller groups in the south of the country. Gen Bashir said that all these FSA groups reported directly to the CIA. Other FSA commanders confirmed that the US is equipping them with training and weapons including TOW anti-tank missiles.
It appears that, if the US does launch air strikes in Syria, they will be nominally in support of the FSA which is firmly under US control. The US is probably nervous of allowing weapons to be supplied to supposed moderates by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies which end up in the hands of Isis. The London-based small arms research organisation Conflict Armament Research said in a report this week that anti-tank rockets used by Isis in Syria were “identical to M79 rockets transferred by Saudi Arabia to forces operating under the Free Syrian Army umbrella in 2013”.
In Syria and in Iraq Mr Obama is finding that his policy of operating through local partners, whose real aims may differ markedly from his own, is full of perils.