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Russia, Kurdish Aspirations and Brutal Enemy Call for Deft US Moves in Syria

Posted October 23rd, 2015 at 12:09 pm (UTC-4)
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Kurds Need More Than Arms

The Editorial Board – The New York Times

Since the Islamic State began seizing significant amounts of territory in northern Syria and Iraq, policy makers and analysts have focused primarily on the question of whether America should arm the Kurds to fight the jihadi group.

America must stop dealing with the Kurds strictly as military allies. Otherwise, Washington could end up contributing to precisely the sort of regional instability that its policy is intended to prevent.

A member of al-Qaida's Nusra Front climbs a pole where the group's flag was raised in Ariha city after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Syria's Idlib province on May 29, 2015. (Reuters)

A member of al-Qaida’s Nusra Front climbs a pole where the group’s flag was raised in Ariha city after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Syria’s Idlib province on May 29, 2015. (Reuters)

Petraeus: Use Al Qaeda Fighters to Beat ISIS

Shane Harris – The Daily Beast 

The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front to fight ISIS in Syria, four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly, told The Daily Beast.

The heart of the idea stems from Petraeus’s experience in Iraq in 2007, when as part of a broader strategy to defeat an Islamist insurgency the U.S. persuaded Sunni militias to stop fighting with al Qaeda and to work with the American military….

Gen. David Petraeus (Ret.) testimony to Senate Armed Services Committee September 22, 2015

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Petraeus was more specific:

“We should under no circumstances try to use or coopt Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, as an organization against ISIL,” the retired general and former CIA director told CNN, using another name for ISIS. “But some individual fighters, and perhaps some elements, within Nusra today have undoubtedly joined for opportunistic rather than ideological reasons: they saw Nusra as a strong horse, and they haven’t seen a credible alternative, as the moderate opposition has yet to be adequately resourced.”

That said, Petraeus argued, “the question, therefore, is whether it might be possible at some point to peel off so-called ‘reconcilables’ who would be willing to renounce Nusra and align with the moderate opposition (supported by the U.S. and the coalition) to fight against Nusra, ISIL, and Assad. Doing so would require both the rise of much stronger, moderate opposition groups — backed, again, by the U.S. and the coalition seeking to defeat ISIL — and at the same time, intensified military pressure on all extremist groups.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad head to a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on Oct. 20, 2015. (Reutetrs)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad head to a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on Oct. 20, 2015. (Reutetrs)

Putin Marches, Obama Watches

Charles Krauthammer – The Washington Post

Guess who just popped up in the Kremlin? Bashar al-Assad, Syrian dictator and destroyer, now Vladimir Putin’s newest pet. After four years holed up in Damascus, Assad was summoned to Russia to bend a knee to Putin, show the world that today Middle East questions get settled not in Washington but in Moscow, and officially bless the Russian-led four-nation takeover of Syria now underway….

Russia is not fighting the Islamic State. On the contrary. Its attacks on the anti-government, anti-Islamic State rebels have allowed the Islamic State to expand, capturing rebel-held villages north of Aleppo, even as the Shiite expeditionary force approaches from the south…..

Obama’s response to all this? Nothing. He has washed his hands of the region, still the center of world oil production and trade, and still the world’s most volatile region, seething with virulent jihadism ready for export.

Syria and the Folly of Proxy War With Russia

 Brad Stapleton – The Cato Institute

The decision to arm Syrian rebel forces, followed by reports that some rebels are already using American-made anti-tank missiles to good effect against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, have prompted many observers to conclude that the United States is now engaged in a “proxy war” against Russia, which backs Assad. Ominously, it suggests that the Obama administration may be falling into the trap of engaging in a new cold war….

Unfortunately, there is probably little constructive the United States can do at this point to resolve the conflict in Syria and establish a stable new government.

The Obama administration, therefore, should take care not to make a bad situation worse. During the Cold War, almost 20 million people died in Third World conflicts fueled largely by U.S.-Soviet competition. That dismal history of proxy warfare suggests that more arms is not the answer in Syria.


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