ISIL: The U.S. has No Idea How to Proceed*
By Jason Ditz
The US has put itself in a difficult position, having for days hyped the idea that they need to expand the current Iraq air war into neighbouring Syria, but now facing the difficulty of Syria’s government having a mind of its own.
The Assad government, which only a year ago the US was preparing to invade Syria to remove, has said they welcome any coordination with the US on their ongoing war with ISIS.
The problem is, they want that coordination to all be on the up-and-up, and the foreign ministry has said they would not accept unilateral US attacks outside of a coordination deal, and would view them as an act of aggression.
That’s the standard the US has set for its intervention in Iraq, portraying the support of the Maliki government as proof they aren’t the aggressors in the war. Making a public spectacle of themselves with a rapprochement with Assad, however, isn’t something officials are prepared to do.
The US faced this problem on a smaller scale going into Iraq this time, as Iran was already backing the Iraqi government, and the US has refused to coordinate with Iran, even though they both have the exact same agenda, simply on the grounds that Iran is an official “enemy.”
The problem in Syria is dramatically bigger, as the US expansion of the war into Syria is going to inevitably require a reckoning with the Assad government, and even though rapprochement would give the US everything it wants, including an Iraq-style pretext to intervene in aid of the existing government, the embarrassment that would come from changing their official tone on Syria means they’re going to need to find another excuse.
In the meantime, the US will continue to secretly send targeting intelligence to the Assad government to aid it in the ISIS war, and continue to do everything in making itself an Assad ally, short of publicly admitting it.
US and British special forces are on the ground in Iraq, according to new reports, with an eye particularly on identifying the so-called Jihadi John who beheaded James Foley.
British Ambassador to the US Sir Peter Westmacott claimed the nations are “close” to identifying the man, believed to be a British citizen, and there has been considerable speculation that he is Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, though this is not confirmed.
The most interesting part of this operation is that, including the unidentified Jihadi John, the US and Britain haven’t really conclusively identified many ISIS leaders, and don’t really have much understanding of how the group works.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the “caliph” of ISIS, is the leader. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. The speculation seems to be coming primarily out of the various ISIS recruitment videos, with the assumption that anyone who makes a lot of appearances is probably a “leader.”
This guessing about the leadership makes the US plans to start assassinating ISIS leaders in airstrikes dicey, at best, and seems likely to lead to a lot of claims of “top leaders” killed who were at best tangentially linked to the organization.