By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
The Glamourous Life of an Author
Understanding the ISIS crisis gets more difficult every day as the number of players increases and the posture of President Barack Obama shifts, with the most recent change apparently driven by Russia, not by the battle with ISIS.
The crisis comes into clearer focus when viewed as several separate but connected wars with the one in Syria currently the most complex, followed in complexity by the war in Yemen. The situation in Yemen resembles that of Syria in that both countries have a civil war underway, separate from the onslaught of ISIS.
The situation in Iraq, while perhaps more serious in terms of implications for regional stability, appears less complex than that of Yemen. Add to that, the actions of ISIS and ISIS-connected groups in Somalia, Tunisia, and Algeria and other countries, along with the sworn allegiance to ISIS by Boko Haram in Nigeria and the complexity increases while the clarity of the situation decreases. In order to avoid adding to the confusion I will focus on Syria in this post and tackle the other countries in other posts.
One crucial difference — and the single most important difference – between Syria and the other countries is the very status of ISIS. In most countries, ISIS undoubtedly ranks as the most important and dominant terrorism player. Certainly that is the case in Iraq.
However, in Syria, Russia President Vladimir Putin’s decision to inject Russia into the action, with a very large question mark hovering over his next decision changes the ranking of players. Putin’s decision to become involved, driven by Russia’s need to have at least one close friend – however weakened – in the Middle East – arguably led to the most recent shift in American policy.
Meanwhile Obama tries to preserve his ‘no boots on the ground’ mantra, and suggests that the decision to send Special Forces troops does not contravene his policy since they will not fight frontline operations. He also styles this move as an extension of Special Forces operations already underway. Obama has provided a classic example of elasticity in military policy, changing from ‘no boots on the ground to ‘no battalions and the Special forces won’t be on the front lines’.
While Obama and his press secretary Josh Earnest suggest that the Special Forces troops will not face combat on the frontlines, these personnel are hardened battle-trained individuals and the advisory role suggested for them makes it highly possible that they will eventually go into action. That was the case with the Special Forces team in Iraq which executed the raid on an ISIS prison two weeks ago.
While ISIS remains the dominant player in some of the other countries in which it operates, Russia’s actions have changed the power ranking somewhat in Syria. Some intelligence specialists see Syria as a arena in which two giant players now dominate the action and play very different roles in a scenario that becomes at least as important as the battle against ISIS.
Russia, which historically needed Syria as a geographical conduit to the Middle East and as a market for its military hardware is ramping up its presence and telegraphing its intentions to lead the game. Meanwhile, the United States, which traditionally focused on other countries in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia because of American need for oil always had a lesser focus on Syria and under President Obama has tried desperately to limit its participation in the conflict. Russia needed the access provided by Syria more than oil since it has ample supplies of its own at home.
Meanwhile the civil war that started in Syria before the onslaught of ISIS still rages on and Russia’s air strikes appear to have targeted the rebels more than ISIS. Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, who was being shown the door by Obama in 2011 now has an indefinite reprieve, thanks in large part to Russia’s actions.
Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press behind the news about ISIS and what might lie ahead. He has begun developing a follow-up book set for release in 2016.