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Tags: isis | isil | terrorists | iraq

Former CIA Officer: Snuff Out ISIS With US Bombs, Syria, Iraq Troops

By    |   Saturday, 20 September 2014 03:49 PM EDT

The Obama administration’s stated goal is to defeat ISIS, but its strategy for doing so is deeply flawed. Not one single military expert I have heard, retired or active, has said ISIS can be defeated solely by a bombing campaign.

Boots on the ground will be required, but whose boots? Not ours, President Obama has declared time and again. So whose? Not Turkey’s, not Jordon’s, not Egypt’s, not Saudi Arabia’s, not Britain’s, not France’s . . .

The point is, none of the neighboring Arab countries will step up and go into battle to defend against the ISIS threat. Maybe France and Great Britain will step up and drop a few bombs, but that’s about all we can reasonably expect from our allies.

So if we really want to defeat ISIS, we would have to essentially go it alone militarily, and the U.S. has no stomach for another massive military campaign at this time. This leaves us with a strategy of half measures — inflict some pain from the air and train and equip local Iraqi and Syrian opposition forces to handle the grunt work on the ground.

My father always told me to go big or stay home — do it right or don’t do it at all. Half measures are pathways to failure.

So, on the one hand we could just stay home and do nothing, and let the region spin out of control into anarchy, or we could commit to defeating ISIS and just do it.

Neither alternative is a good one.

The Obama administration’s policy toward the Middle East has been wrong-headed from the start. When Iran burst into flames with the Arab Spring revolt in 2009 it was the administration’s decision not to intervene; it made a conscious decision not to support the insurgents.

Then, when revolts took place in Egypt and Libya, the administration intervened forcefully on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood and assisted in bringing down the Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi regimes.

Our failure to support the overthrow of the hostile regime in Iran was not in America’s best interest. Likewise, our open support of the overthrow of Mubarak and Gadhafi in Egypt and Libya, two nasty men to be sure, but who kept their respective countries intact and relatively pro-American, was an egregious foreign policy error.

That leaves us with Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The administration is making the same mistakes in Syria it made in Egypt and Libya.

Granted, Assad is not a nice guy. He is seeking a nuclear bomb and he has gassed his enemies. That said, he is the glue that holds Syria together.

Without him, or some viable pro-American alternative, it is in America’s best interests to work with him, because with him gone the alternative could be much worse — witness Libya. And then there is the question of ISIS, which poses a much bigger threat.

The current situation in Syria is very complex. We are supporting the Syrian rebels, a disparate group of anti-Assad militants with the express goal of overthrowing the Assad regime and taking power. But while we still openly espouse the overthrow of Assad, our most immediate goal is defeating ISIS.

So if we arm the rebels to help us defeat ISIS, what is to keep them from using these newfound military capabilities against Assad and ignoring ISIS? This is at the root of the conundrum we face. 

A few years before Libya’s Gadhafi was overthrown, the CIA ran a very successful operation to neutralize him. A very senior CIA officer was sent to Libya on a covert mission to tell Gadhafi that the U.S. would permit him to remain in power if he would make a number of important concessions, the most important being the destruction of his nascent nuclear capabilities.

Gadhafi agreed to our terms and his nuclear arsenal was destroyed. Dealing with the devil in this case was in America’s best interests, and the operation was a huge success.

Perhaps, given the current circumstances, dealing with the devil Assad is also in America’s best interests.

ISIS controls an enormous amount of territory in Syria and Iraq. Iraqi boots are already fighting ISIS in Iraq. If we could enlist Syria to add their boots to the fight, along with the Syrian rebels, we would have the boots needed to carry on the ground war with the support of U.S., French, and other air support.

This would take an extraordinary amount of covert diplomacy, something we haven’t seen since the days of Nixon/Kissinger, and more recently the CIA initiative with Gadhafi. But it is doable, especially since Assad has already indicated a willingness to join us in the fight against ISIS.

We would need to convince Assad to make important concessions in return for staying in power. He would have to give up his nuclear and chemical/biological capabilities and aspirations, negotiate a truce with the Syrian rebels in return for a voice in his government, agree to low-level elections in two years and general elections in six to eight years at which time he may have to step aside, and end his support of Hezbollah in Lebanon. He could go down in history as the man who saved Syria from extinction.

Other players like Iran and Russia would have to be brought on board to some extent, but in the end such an agreement may be the only salvation for Assad, and the only way to defeat ISIS without massive US involvement. It’s at least worth a try.

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If we really want to defeat ISIS, we need a strategy of half measures – inflict some pain from the air and train and equip local Iraqi and Syrian opposition forces to handle the grunt work on the ground.
isis, isil, terrorists, iraq
Saturday, 20 September 2014 03:49 PM
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