Iraqi and Syrian forces are closing in on the last ISIS strongholds, a pincer movement from the two sides of their border, but that doesn’t mean the struggle with ISIS is over, or that Syria’s civil war is over, either. I discussed this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh.
The problem is the singular US focus on defeating ISIS militarily. Here’s the problem: ISIS is not a military threat to the US–it never has been. Its threat is terrorism and ideology. Defeating ISIS on the ground in the Mideast might tarnish its luster–after all, ISIS declared a caliphate, an Islamic regime to rule the entire region–but its influence remains through the Muslims who have adopted its extreme, violent ideology and its fighters who will head for the hills and carry out what they would call guerrilla missions, but most others would call terror attacks in Iraq, Syria, and other places in the world where ISIS has gained influence and where foreign fighters have returned home..
Now, as ISIS nears defeat on the battlefield, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suddenly wakes up and declares that Syrian President Bashar Assad must not remain in power. Yet Assad’s resurgence after six years of bloody civil war is partly the result of that laser focus on ISIS, instead of a wider view of Syria, and an even wider view of the Mideast and where it’s really going,
The likely outcome now is a weakened Assad, with the support of Russia and Iran, in some semblance of control of Syria, and sectarian tensions and clashes continuing to plague Iraq. The problems of refugees and reconstruction slip farther down the Western list of priorities, while the innate corruption and limited local support of the regimes of the two countries hamper efforts in both spheres.
The US finds itself behind the curve in all those areas. It’s a shame, since the US is the number one contributor to funding humanitarian aid over here. It’s time the US stopped doing what it does badly–misguided involvement in local military conflicts–and ramps up what it does best–helping the victims. That’s where the long-term benefits lie for all sides.