In our article about ISIS last week, we wrote:
- The reality is that virtually no one considers ISIS as their main enemy or adversary. Saudi Arabia & the Gulf countries, America’s vaunted allies, consider Iran as their primary & semi-existential enemy. To them, ISIS is a counter thrust against Iran’s drive to dominate the arc across Iraq & Syria. Turkey is sworn to remove Assad and thinks of ISIS as an enemy of both Assad and of Kurds, Turkey’s immediate problem.
Turkey proved us right in less than a week. They took the explosive step of shooting down a Russian fighter-bomber that had reportedly veered across the Turkish border for a mere 30 seconds. The Russian plane was in the midst of a bombing mission against Sunni rebels in Syria in close proximity of the border with Turkey. These rebels reportedly were ethnic Turkmen, people Turkey considers their kin. Turkey wanted to send a shot across the bow. Instead they shot into the bow. Whether the situation escalates or not, whether the relations between Turkey & Russia worsen or not, is peripheral in our judgement.
The real problem is that Turkey is determined to get rid of Assad. On Thursday Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan stated categorically in a speech in southeast Turkey – “Moscow’s siding with a man who conducts state terror is not acceptable“. This then is the rub. Turkey is actively supporting Sunni rebels who are fighting Assad and that support is a strategic goal of Turkey. It is easy to do so in the mountainous & porous terrain between Turkey & northen Syria. While Turkey will send its support into Syria, Turkey is determined to prevent any encroachment from Syria of its border.
Doesn’t this remind you of Afghanistan & NonPakistan? The Taleban in Afghanistan have been nurtured & actively supported for decades by NonPakistan while they declare 100% verbal support and some degree of material support to the US war against the Taleban in Afghanistan. The line of control between NPak & Afghanistan is mountainous & porous. NPak has sworn to use their air force & army to prevent any encroachment of its line of control from Afghanistan while they send supplies & fighters across the same line into Afghanistan.
The United States has been trying for years to identify & separate the “good” Taleban from the “bad” Taleban. This has been a fool’s errand for the past seven years of the Obama Administration. Even the new Prime Minister Ghani has given up the idea of finding “good” Taleban with whom he could negotiate.
Yet hope springs eternal in Turkey. The United States seems committed to identifying & supporting “moderate” Sunni rebels while rejecting “extremist” Sunni rebels. The fact that both these groups are committed Jihadi fighters is not deemed a big problem. The Obama Administration seems committed, at least at this stage, to removing Assad without any plan for a successor government. That is even dumber than getting rid of Saddam Hussein without any plan for a successor government.
The Russians are committed to preserving the Assad regime even though they are not wedded to Mr. Assad. The reality, as they see it, is that there is no real alternative to Assad within the Alawite regime. And getting rid of the Alawite regime will not only push Russia out of Syria altogether but also result in ISIS control of all of Syria and a much worse civil war.
So we seem to be back to the Afghanistan of the 1980s with Russians trying to make sure the “secular” dictatorial regime in the capital survives while the US remains committed to removing this Russian-backed regime and therefore committed to support Sunni Jihadi fighters conducting a brutal war against the Russian-backed regime. As we all know, that situation only worked to the benefit of the Sunni Taleban & the regime across the border that nurtured them, NonPakistan.
Replace Afghanistan by Syria, Taleban by Syrian rebels, NonPakistan by Turkey and you get today’s Syrian quagmire. Remember, the Taleban have survived and even thrived for the past 35 years. And NonPakistan supported & nurtured them for 35 years because that fit NPak’s strategic objectives.
This is why we are resigned to ISIS remaining a viable entity for a long time despite the current wave of determined outrage against ISIS and verbal commitments to “crush” ISIS. The attacks in Paris were far smaller than the 9/11 attack in New York. If that 9/11 attack on the world’s reigning superpower could not wipe out the Taleban from Af-Npak, what will wipe out ISIS from Syria-Iraq?
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