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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. coalition risks being unwitting accomplice in Syrian carnage

By Paul Iddon     Oct 10, 2014 in Politics
In Syria lack of a long-term strategy will eventually make the United States and its coalition allies unwitting accomplices in that country's destruction.
The United States and its allied Arab air forces have been launching air strikes into Syrian air space for a fortnight now. They are targeting Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliated forces there. U.S. jets have been seeing carrying anti-radiation missiles in case they have to quickly turn their attention on the remnants of Syria's air defense in the event that it fires at them. They are avoiding targeting the regime or its forces, who are continuing to escalate its offensives against opposition forces elsewhere in the country.
In some areas these offensives are even intensifying. And the regime is continuing to drop ordnance like barrel bombs on civilian areas. Scores of Syrian civilians continue to be killed by such indiscriminate attacks. And those ordering such mass destruction haven't even been told to back off.
With all the talk of training some moderate rebel army (the 'moderate' opposition Free Syrian Army is supposed to be the foundation of this future army and they are presently complaining that they are being left out of the picture two weeks into this yet to be named operation) to coordinate attacks against IS on the ground in Syria it is clear that the U.S. administration has yet to adopt a coherent long-term overarching strategy to guide this campaign. As numerous media outlets watch IS besiege the autonomous northeastern Syria Kurdistan region the U.S. is seemingly reluctant about even attempting any initiation of ad hoc coordination with Kurdish ground forces struggling to hold their ground against IS there. Such coordination would certainly give those Kurds a fighting chance to prevent IS from seizing even more territory.
It is clear that the United States is not directly helping Assad in his fight. But one thing that needs to be understood is that the Syrian regime isn't overly displeased that coalition air power is targeting a group such as IS and keeping them busy in the northeast while they are focusing their efforts on continuing to kill off any attempt by any Syrians to establish even a civil opposition or political organization to the ruling regime. Which has essentially been their strategy since day one before Syrians even took up arms against the regime.
So Syrians continue to pointlessly die in droves. Something we have sadly gotten used to seeing and hearing. And U.S. successes against IS and other similar Islamist groups to date have been quite limited – for example the U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missile targeting the veteran al-Qaeda Khorasan terror cell last week, ahead of which that group simply dispersed, reports indicate that no more than two members of that group were killed. Furthermore its targeting of infrastructure IS has captured is also going to displace even more Syrians and make the humanitarian situation there even worse. And to top it off this is when the season happens to be winter.
IS are now a well established force on the ground in northeast Syria. They are sizable and well organized. Air strikes alone aren't going to be enough to thoroughly defeat them. That is all the U.S. is relying on at the moment and likely for the foreseeable future also. The Syrian regime feels confident enough despite a U.S. military presence over Syrian territory to launch more offensives while the violent, murderous expansionist force it acquiesced to the rise, and expansion over the border into neighboring Iraq, of is being taken care of by the coalition which is being sure not to disrupt nor interfere with the regimes actions elsewhere in the country.
When IS savagely murdered American journalists it was understandable that the United States retaliated against them. It is good in my view that they are targeting a brutal group like IS and preventing it from getting a foothold in the region. But the manner in which this campaign is being executed and the lack of a broader strategy is quite disenchanting. Simply bombing some IS trucks and slamming missiles into infrastructure in areas that group occupies, infrastructure which is of course going to be needed when that part of Syria finally rids itself of that horrid group, is worsening the already dire situation on the ground and in turn making it easier for the likes of IS to subjugate an already extremely fatigued and weakened populace. Indeed if IS's present offensives fail they can always go underground for a few months and devise new strategies and tactics to terrorize their many enemies, both foreign and domestic.
Some Syrians have sardonically remarked that they don't know who is bombing them anymore. After all the Syrian Air Force continues to have a freehand in leveling whole city districts with relative impunity. And while the U.S.-led coalition is not coordinating its anti-IS campaign with Mr. Assad's regime its lack of a clear strategy is seeing to it add to the carnage that regime has afflicted on Syria and in the process tarnishing an otherwise necessary campaign against a very heinous and very savage adversary.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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