Tags: Iraq in Crisis | ISIS/Islamic State | ISIS | Iraq | Sunni | Assad

ISIS Faces a Dearth of Opposition

By Tuesday, 04 November 2014 10:25 AM Current | Bio | Archive

News reports out of ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq have been even more horrifying than usual recently. Close to four hundred members of the Albu Nimr tribe have been executed in response to their resistance to ISIS. Entire villages have been slaughtered with bodies left to rot or stuffed into wells for disposal.
The rationale is crystal clear. Submit or die. Resistance means death.
Meanwhile in D.C., sources close to the administration continue to dribble out information concerning "planning" for the "possibility" of deploying U.S. Special Forces "advisers" to work with tribal forces and attempt to organize resistance to ISIS. No timetables for deployment have been set. No final decisions have been made. We are preparing for contingencies and thinking about acting at some unspecified time in the future.
Perhaps no better summation of the futility of our present approach to the threat of ISIS exists. We are deliberating as if in some abstract, academic world. Meanwhile, in the real world cold-blooded murderers are taking action.
One of the great weaknesses of a foreign policy based on fantasy and wishful thinking is, of course, that reality intrudes. The president may be able to dictate what his supporters say and what briefing notes are authorized for use by his spokesmen. He cannot compel ISIS to share in his delusions nor can he make the other parties involved in this tragedy accept his misrepresentations.
There is no general uprising of Sunni tribes against ISIS. The reason is simple. We have offered them nothing in return for their cooperation. In exchange for their assistance in helping us defeat a ruthless, determined adversary, we tell the Sunnis of Western Iraq only that when and if victory is achieved, they will have earned the right to go back under the control of a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad that is well on its way to becoming a client state of Iran.
Not surprisingly, most of the Sunni tribes have chosen to knuckle under and not risk the wrath of ISIS. Those like the Albu Nimr who have chosen a different path are faced now with extermination.
The same thing for the same reason is happening in Syria. There is no grand coalition of moderate fighters to work with us against ISIS. Those few groups of moderate fighters still in the field are losing influence and losing ground. Why? Because we have promised them nothing in exchange for their cooperation.
In fact, even to say that we have promised them nothing is probably too generous. We have explicitly told them, up front, that we will not give them what they are fighting for, the elimination of the Assad regime in Damascus. We have asked them to work with us, to stand and fight against ISIS and Al Nusra, and we have told them directly that when and if they succeed to destroying these Islamic terrorist groups they will still be left locked in combat with their original foe, Assad.
Not surprisingly, our influence is, therefore, nil. We are bombing ISIS, ignoring the Syrian regime and promising nothing of consequence. Our remaining allies in the Syrian opposition are either defecting to the side of the Islamic extremists or running for their lives.
This bombing campaign is not part of some deep, well-reasoned, long-term strategy. It is theater. Nothing more.
And it is bad theater.
What is needed now is an end to the pretense and the wishful thinking. We are at war with a hard, determined foe. Either we need to get serious or we need to disengage. Right now we are playing and dithering while people are dying and dying horribly.
The Sunni tribes are not going to work with us without some kind of promise of a different relationship with Baghdad after ISIS is defeated. At a minimum, that means some degree of autonomy. If we want their cooperation, we need to guarantee them that.
The Syrian oppositionists are not going to rally to our cause without a promise that Assad will go. Our goal has to be broadened from simply “degrading and destroying” ISIS to deposing Assad and installing a moderate, secular regime in Damascus.
None of our goals are going to be achieved, regardless of the promises we make, without American troops on the ground. We do not want or need U.S. conventional forces in Iraq and Syria. We do desperately need Special Forces personnel and CIA paramilitary officers in both places, working with the opposition and directing the campaign to come.
We know why we want ISIS defeated. We fear they will become a threat to our interests directly. If we are serious about defeating them, however, we have to start by answering the question we have all too often ignored so far.
What are our allies in this conflict fighting for?
Charles S. Faddis, President of Orion Strategic Services, LLC, is a former CIA operations officer with 20 years of experience in the conduct of intelligence operations in the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. He is the senior intelligence editor for AND Magazine and a contributor to a wide variety of counterterrorism and homeland security journals. His nonfiction works include "Operation Hotel California," a history of the actions of his team inside Iraq from 2002 to 2003, "Willful Neglect," an examination of homeland security, and "Beyond Repair," an argument for intelligence reform. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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News reports out of ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq have been even more horrifying than usual recently.
ISIS, Iraq, Sunni, Assad
Tuesday, 04 November 2014 10:25 AM
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