More Flaws in the Strategy to Defeat the Islamic State

By Glenn M Stewart B.A., M.A. Oxon:

The political and strategic ramifications of the remarks made yesterday by General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the possibility of using US advisors in support of both Kurdish and Iraqi government forces to attack IS forces in Iraq have clearly not been thought through to their logical conclusion.

In addition, the remarks made by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about a protracted air campaign in Syria to attack IS command and control and vital assets belies a further misunderstanding of the political consequences of these proposed actions. When this is added to the half baked plans to vet and arm other factions of the Syrian opposition to fight IS I predict that US policy will merely come to more grief in the region and the net result of all of these actions will be a strengthening of Iranian power and influence in the region and the consolidation of the Iranian-Alawi-Hizbollah axis.

Let’s start with Iraq. If the US embeds advisors with those elements of the Iraqi army that it thinks may be able effectively to fight IS then we have unequivocally entered the Iraqi civil war on the side of a corrupt, non inclusive Shi’a dominated puppet state of Iran. This will only strengthen Iranian power in southern Iraq and will provoke a widespread Sunni backlash against the United States not only among the Sunni tribes in Iraq but throughout the region. One result of the US intervening in this way will be to further radicalize Sunnis in the region against the crusaders and increase recruitment for IS.

The Sunni tribes and ex Ba’athist elements are the only potential counter weight to IS in the Sunni areas of Iraq. US intervention on the Shi’a side will leave them little choice but to throw in their lot with IS in order to preserve their independence from the regime in Baghdad. The possibility of creating an inclusive government in Baghdad is long gone and this fantasy needs to be abandoned.

There is a further rogue element at work in Southern Iraq as well and that is the Shi’a militias that are not under the control of the Central government and would not be under the control of US advisors. They will pursue their own agendas irrespective of US policy aims and 1600 advisors won’t be able to stop them. These militias will also be co-ordinated by Iran which will use them to work assiduously against our interests.

The Kurds may be better military material for the US to work with but the same problem exists in the North. They are not Arabs and they will find little support in the Sunni regions of the North. There are distinct limits as to how much territory they can recapture. Out of necessity certain Kurdish groups are already co-operating with Iranian elements such as the Pasdaran. It is imperative that in order to restore some balance of power in the region that the US allies with the Kurds in such a way that they are not tempted to work with the Iranians even for short term gains.

In Syria, the idea of extracting vetted anti government fighters and taking them to Sa’udi Arabia for training and then sending them back is ludicrous. Even if we could identify suitable candidates this whole process will take a year and by that time the situation on the ground will have radically changed. Sending weapons to the opposition invites the high possibility of those weapons falling into IS hands or what will prove easier for IS than capturing them, simply to buy them from the other opposition groups.

Air strikes against IS in Syria will only serve to strengthen the regime of Bashar al Assad. Degrading IS forces will only serve to strengthen the regime of Bashar al Assad. The net result of the proposed action in Syria will be to strengthen the Iranian-Alawi-Hizbollah axis.

The net result of all these policies will be to further strengthen Iran in the region. When is anyone in Washington going to wake up to the fact that Iran is our main enemy in the region? We could have dealt with them after 9/11 if Bush and his boys didn’t go off on their tangent to get Saddam Hussein because his daddy failed to.

The Sunni tribes could be pried away from IS if given the right incentive. That’s not even on the table. As we get further and further distracted by the hysteria building up to attack IS, which frankly is not an immediate strategic threat to the United States we are giving the Iranians even more time and daylight to finish their nuclear program. They’ve already run rings around us in their negotiations and all of this current circus will assist them in distracting us from the main strategic threat in the region which is Iran.

Glenn M Stewart was educated at Oxford University where he was a member of The Queen’s College, Glenn M Stewart obtained a BA and an MA in Oriental Studies with an emphasis in Islamic History and Arabic language. He resided in the Middle East for 27 years working with Arab-owned businesses giving him a unique and unparalleled view into both the business, cultural and political aspects of this challenging region. He is one of the world’s foremost experts in Islamic commercial law and has lectured on Middle Eastern affairs at Oxford and Harvard Universities.


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