In an earlier article, “The fight against Islamic State – Boots-on-the-Ground” (US Defence Report, 18th May 2015), I suggested that most people were in agreement that, in the fight to defeat Daʿesh, air-strikes, though not a bad start, will not be enough to finish the job, and inevitably, at some point, “Boots-on-the-Ground” will be needed; but the question remained; “Who will supply them?”
It should not be us; it is not a matter of Western Governments lacking the courage to send troops, or that the people of the US and the UK are “War-weary”; creating a public resistance to our Armed Forces being sent to fight yet another foreign war; although those may both be true. It is, I think, that most Western governments now recognise that it is essential, that the Boots-on-the-Ground used in Syria be “Muslim Boots”. The last thing history needs is for Western or “Crusader Boots-on-the-Ground” to again be leading in a conflict in Muslim lands.
At least I thought the US and UK governments had recognised this; I know most informed people in this field have; the legacy of Crusader Boots in Iraq and Afghanistan is too obvious not to see that the result will always be the perception of an occupying foreign, and above all, Infidel army, meaning a resurgence of the opposition, probably in another guise, at the first opportunity…
I summarised the situation in May, 2015, thus: The only Muslim “Boots-on-the-Ground” opposing Daʿesh at the moment, are: the Kurdish Peshmerga, who Turkey wouldn’t mind seeing eliminated, and won’t work with; the Assad regime forces, supported by Iran & Russia, but who most of the rest of world appear to want to see defeated; the Shia militias of Iraq, now known as Hashid Shaabi or “Popular Mobilisation”, who until fairly recently were killing US & UK occupation troops; Hezbollah, in western eyes, a Shiite ‘Pariah’ terrorist organisation; and of course, the West’s bête noire major, Iran.
Currently the West is still conducting conservative air-strikes, and some very limited Special Forces operations against Daʿesh, but are also still trying to supply and support selected rebel groups against the Assad regime; in the full knowledge that any arms and equipment supplied to them will, in all probability end up with Daʿesh, be it given over, sold on or captured.
The US led air-operations coalition is crumbling; Arab participation in the campaign, never great, is dwindling. According to the New York Times of 7th November 2015; Bahrain last flew a mission against Daʿesh in February. The United Arab Emirates stopped in March and even Jordan stopped in August. Saudi Arabia hasn’t flown a mission against Daʿesh since September. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan have diverted their strike aircraft to their fight against the Shīʿite Houthis in Yemen. Qatar is still flying some patrols over Syria, but has attacked nobody for ages.
In Syria, in recent weeks Russia has expanded from its previous support role for the Assad regime and is now carrying out airstrikes against Daʿesh and other groups on the rebel side. If the West’s air operations are conservative, they appear merely tentative in comparison with the Russian display of “Shock ‘n’ Awe.”
And the required “Muslim Boots-on-the-Ground” are there as well, in the form of the revitalised Syrian Army, Hezbollah and, in increasing numbers, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). This combination of Muslim ground troops with Russian air-support is now retaking parts of Syria, previously in rebel or Daʿesh hands.
Then on Friday 13th November, Daʿesh struck in Paris; murdering 129 innocent people; well innocent by our standards, but of course by their Wahhabi-Salafist beliefs, these were Kafirs or Infidels; therefore not in their eyes “innocent” at all.
France understandably immediately struck back with re-doubled air-strikes hammering Daʿesh targets in Syria.
A French UN Security Council Resolution has been unanimously passed, which allows anybody to do anything in the way of attacking Daʿesh.
On 2nd December, 2015, following an exhaustive, 10 hour debate, the UK Parliament voted to authorise extending RAF strikes against Daʿesh, into Syria as well as Iraq. Within hours, it was reported that the first such air-strikes had taken place.
Now it would seem reasonable that the next step for the West, would be to put their desire for Syrian regime change ‘on-the-back-burner,’ and actively cooperate with Russia, in supplying Air, Logistical and SF support to the Syrian, Iranian, and Kurdish “Muslim Boots-on-the-Ground;” ground forces that are currently enjoying considerable success against Daʿesh, al-Qaeda et al.
If the total destruction of Daʿesh is really the main aim of the Western coalition, doesn’t that seem a logical course of action?
If the current situation is allowed to continue unchanged; make no mistake, Daʿesh will be destroyed. The Russian-Iranian alliance, with Syrian government forces will be successful in Syria, destroying Daʿesh; leaving Bashar al-Assad to rule there. The alliance will then help the Iraqi government clear Daʿesh from Iraq as well, leaving whoever they approve of in charge there.
But I’m afraid that it is not about to happen, because if it did, the end result would make the US, the UK and their allies look weak and ineffective, causing the West to lose influence in the whole region; Israel would feel even more paranoid and insecure than it does now, and the GCC states would be livid.
The current situation will not be allowed to continue unchanged.
One way the situation could be changed, to the West’s advantage; in my view the sensible move; would be for the West to join with that alliance, so as to be a partner in the defeat of Daʿesh, and so retaining influence in the future of the region, by right.
But I’m afraid the West has a different change in mind. Both Barack Obama and David Cameron have spoken with Vladimir Putin, and come away speaking of cooperation & compromises.
It isn’t the idea of working with Russia that concerns them, though that wouldn’t be easy. What really sticks in their craw is the thought of working with Iran. And more to the point, even if the US, the UK, France, and others were prepared to do so, their so-called “Allies” in the region; Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE et al won’t. It is pressure from these nations that is causing our leaders to put most of their diplomatic effort into “peeling-apart” the Russian-Iranian alliance. If they are successful in that, it will delay the defeat of Daʿesh for years.
I’ve written about ‘muddled-thinking’ before, and this is a glaring example. It has been accepted, (I thought,) that what is needed to defeat Daʿesh is “Muslim Boots-on-the-Ground,” and there are some already in place, at the request of the Syrian government, already getting the job done.
The West is intent on removing them from the equation (er… how?), and replacing them with troops from… … erm …where, exactly?
There is absolutely no chance that any member of the Gulf Cooperation Council will supply ground troops in Syria. They enthusiastically entered the fray in Yemen, in what should have been a one-sided scrap, and despite having used literally £Billions worth of munitions; liberally bombing hospitals, schools & residential districts; collecting an ever-extending list of war-crime allegations in the process; they are now mired in a stalemate. The conflict in Yemen has stagnated; the only beneficiaries being ‘al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’ & the ‘Yemeni Province’ of Daʿesh; who many consider to be one and the same.
For the GCC countries, Shīʿite bashing is one thing; open warfare with their Sunni co-religionists, Daʿesh & al-Qaeda, quite another.
Turkey and Jordan are both capable of supplying the necessary ground troops, but won’t. Both place a greater priority on the removal of Assad than the defeat of Daʿesh. And for the current regime in Turkey, long suspected of covertly supporting Daʿesh, and known to be buying oil from them; neutralising the Kurdish Peshmerga carries a greater priority still.
So there’s the West’s problem, and it appears to me they have three choices;
a) Peel-apart the Russian-Iranian alliance; if successful, angering Russia, alienating Iran, the only viable “Muslim Boots-on-the-Ground” and delaying the defeat of Daʿesh for years; if unsuccessful, angering Russia, alienating Iran and see (b)
b) Do nothing to change the current situation and see Daʿesh defeated, but lose all influence in a region that will still have all its usual problems.
c) Join with the Russian-Iranian alliance; see Daʿesh defeated, but retain influence in the region that will still have all its usual problems.