Tags: Iraq | ISIS/Islamic State | MidPoint | Syria | Derek Harvey | Iraq | ISIS

Ex-Petraeus Aide: US Refuses Help to ISIS Foes Over Ideology

By    |   Tuesday, 10 February 2015 05:04 PM

The way is open for an effective middle path between another full-blown U.S. military invasion of the Middle East and the piecemeal, arm's-length campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) in effect today, but the Obama administration won't take it, says a former Army intelligence officer.

President Barack Obama and his White House national security team are politically and ideologically opposed to a larger American military effort to crush ISIS, retired Col. Derek Harvey told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV Tuesday.

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"There are a lot of options that are available to [U.S.] Central Command and Special Operations Command and others," said Harvey, who was an adviser to Gen. David Petraeus as commander of all coalition forces during the Iraq war.

"Unfortunately, there's a very tight leash," said Harvey, explaining that military leaders are taking orders from a White House that is micromanaging the fight against ISIS and, at the same time, providing no "clear mission."

Keeping the United States out of a military quagmire is "a good goal," said Harvey, director of the Global Initiative on Civil Society and Conflict at the University of South Florida. But he argued that the administration has set up a kind of false dichotomy.

"It's either 200,000 troops go in, or you continue with an ineffectual, insufficient campaign that is mainly political and not really directed at protecting our interests or changing the situation on the ground," said Harvey. "There is a middle ground, and they will not take it for ideological reasons."

He also said the U.S. is losing the informational war against ISIS.

"We're [feeding] into the ISIS narrative with our comments," said Harvey. "The president's comments about the Crusades at the [National] Prayer Breakfast fed into the ISIS narrative about the Sunni Arab communities are under attack."

Meanwhile, Shiites are bragging "that the U.S. is their air force" as they launch ground offensives targeting Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria, he said.

"ISIS uses all of that to feed this messaging that has been very effective on social media to build up their own support," he said. "We're not very good at this."

Harvey also cast doubt on the entry of Jordan into the anti-ISIS coalition as a game changer.

Jordan amassing army troops on Iraq's border is "more to show force" than to deliver the "earth-shattering" blow that Jordanian officials promised last week after ISIS burned alive a captured Jordanian pilot, said Harvey.

Jordan "might be able to play a minor role in clearing some [ISIS] operations in western Iraq or in southeastern Syria," said Harvey. "But it's very unlikely that Jordan is going to really have a significant contribution to a ground campaign. They've got limited capabilities. It's more noise than anything else at this point."

He said that overall, the anti-ISIS coalition "remains fundamentally weak and full of contradictions.

"And there is no real strategy," said Harvey. "As President Masoud Barzani of the [Iraqi] Kurdish [regional] government said this week, the problem is, is that there is no strategy for Syria. If you don't deal with the Syrian problem, you're not going to be able to resolve the Iraqi problem over the long haul."

Here again, the Obama has good options short of an invasion that it is not exercising, said Harvey.

"There are a lot of things one can do to impact ISIS [in Syria] without toppling the Assad regime for now," he said, calling for a U.S.-enforced "no-go zone" that would exclude the Syrian government military as well as Shiite militias supported by Iran.

That frees the coalition "to open up the targeting campaign" against ISIS in Syria, and "really arm the Sunni Arabs that we can work with … that we've really been neglecting so far," he said.

Back in Iraq, said Harvey, the Obama administration's stinginess with aid to the Kurds fighting ISIS is rooted in a policy of not discomfiting Shiite-led central government in Baghdad, which fears that better-armed Kurds will be emboldened to declare themselves an independent nation.

Harvey ridiculed that reasoning as "unfortunate" and "driven by not understanding the power relationships" in Iraq.

"Providing the types of weapons that the Kurds need, small arms, munitions, mortars … .50-caliber machine guns and the like, is not going to tip the balance of power between Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government," he said. "It just won't."

Harvey said the U.S. and its allies in NATO aren't doing much better with their central challenge: Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggressive expansionism in Ukraine.

"They're really afraid of provoking Russia at this point in time, which is the wrong route," said Harvey. "Russia will be a bully and it's going to take advantage of weakness and that's what NATO and the United States is projecting today — weakness in regard to Eastern Europe."

He also questioned the value of the White House creating an agency within the Department of Homeland Security for combating cyberattacks.

"They're muddling through," Harvey said of the administration's response to incidents such as the devastating Sony Pictures hack blamed on North Korea. "It's a political response: Create another organization. Homeland defense is another one of those types of organizations that, at the end of the day, we've created something that is a monster."

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The way is open for a middle path between another U.S. military invasion of the Middle East and the piecemeal, arm's-length campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) in effect today, but the Obama administration won't take it, says a former Army intelligence officer.
Derek Harvey, Iraq, ISIS, Islamic State, David Petraeus
Tuesday, 10 February 2015 05:04 PM
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