^ Devil Number One : the mad “Khalifa” al-Baghdadi
^ Devil Number Two : Bashir Assad, who was once merely an optometrist
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The video of journalist James Foley’s slaughter was a dare. Of course it was. The men of ISIS presumably are not stupid. They knew that posting the killing of Foley would anger many of us and stiffen our President’s resolve.
It was not a question of scaring us off. We were already in. Our air power had saved the Kurds, rescued the Yazidis, and helped Kurdish and Iraq soldiers retake the Mosul Dam, Iraq’s biggest.
So, no : the video was not shown to keep us out. It was shown to draw us further in. The question is, why ? And what will be the consequences if we do go further in ?
I’m pretty sure that these questions have been discussed by the President and his advisors probably from the very minute the horrifying video first was seen. I also think that the decision has already been made : we are going further kin. we are going to come after ISIS in Raqqa province in northeast Syria, their lair, their safe haven, where reportedly their armaments are arsenaled and where almost certainly their commandants meet.
And if indeed the decision has already been made, I am hoping that it was made while to the world we are broadcasting only that we’re thinking about it. Otherwise, ISIS will do a sidestep.
But the question remains : why did ISIS want to draw us in ? You would think that, their offensive toward Kurdistan’s capital city, Erbil, having been broken, and the Mosul Dam taken, with many Sunni tribes on the point of rebellilon, ISIS would be retreating, not blustering.
That isn’t the way ISIS can do things. The “Khaliphate,” as it calls itself, has lived by bluster and by scaring people. It cannot retreat. it cannot look vulnerable. What stronger way to prove that the crocodile’s jaws still snap than to snap at the Great csatan itslef, America ?
TYhios wa tonic indeed to the suddenly wounded cadres of ISIS. Challenge the Big One, America, do come get us, the video said to its real naudience — its own fighters. Every fighter in ISIS wants, ultimately, to hurt America. Killing unarmed Christians and Yazidis is, sort of, the easy pie. Not much glory in it, indeed, frustration that all that blood and curdle lone hears from ISIS tweets gets wasted on bystanders and petty obstacles. And what ISIS zealot wants to be hit hard by Kuddish troops for the sake only of kidnapping villagers and raping apoststates ? Surely, ISIS fighters must be thinking, we didn’t join jihad, risking death, for actions so sideways.
Thus the timing of the video : it was not done when ISIS looked invincible, its fighters unstoppable. it was posted when they had been quite firmly stopped.
That was its meaning and its purpose. It was aimed fiorst at its own fighters, then at us.
And so we are faced with going hard after a wounded beast, going into its laur. And that would be easy, except that the politics of it are not easy at all. Because ISIS is the strongest of the rebel forces which have been battling Bashir Assad’s nearly as brutal regime for three years now. America has stayed out of the Syrian civil war for very good reason : there really are no good guys in it and no telling which of its many militias will prevail.
Going after ISIS in Raqqa province means helping Basir Assad a lot. It won;t be our policy — it can’t be — and yet killing ISIS will definitely have that consequence. Killing ISIS almost guarantees that Assad will win his civil war, because none of the other rebel groups has anything like the fighting power that ISIS has had.
And this — what does it portend that our going after ISIS helps Assad — is, likely, the actual topic of those discussions the President and his advisors are having.
What DOES it portend ? first, it means that Assad will have to join the fight all-in. So far he has avoided a finish fight with ISIS, preferring to pick off the smaller, less powerful rebel arnies. Today it is reported that his air force is attacking ISIS-held positions in raqqa with new fiuror. Obviously he gets the message.
Second, helping Assad means bringing the major Sunni powers, Saudi Arabia and Egypt aboard and also Jordan and Qatar, because a prevalent Assad is a victory for Iran, his major ally.
All this is being discussed, and the discussions reportedly already include the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Qataris and King Abdullah of Jordan.
The decision to seek a finish fight with ISIS in Syria is thus a huge one, reshuffling almost all of the arrangements made throughout the Middle East these past five years. assuring Assad’s triumph — which will almost certainly be the result of defeating ISIS — means accepting the survival of man who, until ISIs arose, had become a byword for brutal cruelty ” torturing, raping, killing multiple thousands of his own citizens. This is a hard pill to swallow.
We have swallowed such a pill beore. In World War II, we allied with the eually brutal Stalin and his Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany. In war, you have to make choices distasteful because you have to do it.
The consequences will be enormous for probably decades to come. For the Middle East, this battle looks as epic as World War II was for Europe. Once again, America is in it, up to our pates. i do think the decision has already been made. I hate to sanction anything that helps Bashir Assad; but right now I don’t see that the Middle East has any choice, nor do we.
—- Mike freedberg / Here and Sphere