** as originally posted at Binghamton Political Buzz – with added updates**
The appearance of ISIS in Iraq, and the horrific actions taken against innocent American and British citizens, has resulted in a rollercoaster ride of political and military actions. With a 273-156 vote in the House of Representatives on Sept 17,2017 (and approval by the Senate 78-22 the next day), the stage is set for even more twists and turns in the near term.
The terrorist group known as Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) existed before Al Qaeda and has been in resurgence for years. One of the key groups involved in the civil war in Syria, they were feared to have been part of the anti-American forces that have commandeered resources targeted for more moderate anti-Assad rebels in Syria. Those fears were realized as throughout the year ISIS invaded and took control of numerous cities in Iraq, almost taking control of Baghdad by the time the US attention focused on them.
Once aware of the threat from ISIS, President Obama authorized humanitarian aid for the Yazidis ethnic group targeted by ISIS. In addition drone bombings were started to impede the spread of this group in Iraq. Which led to the beheading of 2 American citizens and 1 British citizen. International outrage followed.
This culminated in a national address by President Obama on September 10th. In that address President Obama announced efforts to remove the threat of ISIS, via aerial attacks and a coalition of nations – especially nations in the Middle East. The success of the coalition has been mixed, as 30 nations agreed to varying degrees of outrage, some offered support and combat air forces, but none were willing to provide ground troops (further confirmed by Secretary John Kerry). President Obama has already pledged that no US combat troops would be on the ground in Iraq to fend off ISIS.
This in turn led to various parts of the Obama Administration to state America is either at war, or not at war, with ISIS – or to the degree that America is at war with Al Qaeda. The matter was further obfuscated when General Martin Dempsey stated that there is a likelihood that US troops will be needed to fight ISIS on the ground in Iraq.
“…I believe that will prove true but if it fails to be true and if there are threats to the United States then I of course would go back to the President and make a recommendation that we include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”
A statement that was quickly walked back by the Obama Administration. Yet this outcome seems to be the pivotal factor in coalition troops taking a stand on the ground behind US leadership. Even Iran has noted that “[ISIS] will not be eradicated by aerial bombardments.”
With the need for ground forces to directly confront ISIS, and a lack of any national body willing to provide front-line troops, President Obama turned toward to his political adversaries in Congress for support. The plan is to supply moderate Syrian anti-Assad forces with the means to take on ISIS. A plan that was described by Rep. Charlie Dent of PA as
“We’re sort of in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.”
So in summation, the US supplied weapons and funds to Syrian rebels (plan A), which helped strengthen ISIS not only in Syria but also Iraq. ISIS then swept through Iraq, causing the US to bomb them (Plan B), which garnered the beheading of innocent citizens. A rightly angered US called on the international community to remove the threat of ISIS, which resulted in near complete agreement without the conviction to actual take concrete steps to remove ISIS. This vacuum of leadership and strategy, in part, motivated the House of Representatives (a Republican majority) to approve once again arming Syrian rebels to take on what was originally Syrian rebels (Plan C).
As circular as the actions may seem it is not new strategy for the Middle East. Nor is the pattern of a regional conflict expanding and thus fueling the next round of fighters an uncommon historical situation to the Middle East. But this just blurs the fact that at its core, the world is apparently waiting for the US to take the lead that it is remiss in doing. The odds of an new global threat appearing within the next 10 years, with its inception from a global coalition, seem too probable to even contemplate.
One would only hope that the cycle of Wyle E. Coyote international policy will end before Plan D springs upon us.