Let’s see if Obama’s war on ISIS works

The ISIS is a creation of Western short-sightedness, going back to the dismantling of the Saddam regime

On the eve of the 13th anniversary of the September 11 outrage, US President Barack Obama spelt out his resolve on Wednesday to use air power against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” the jihadist outfit, but it is far from clear how well thought out the presidential initiative is. Remarkably, ISIS is not even seen by Washington as threatening its interests right now.

Mr Obama’s expanded counter-terrorism strategy does not include sending ground troops. It is open-ended. The contours are not exactly filled in yet. All that is clear is that Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide facilities and some funds for equipping and training the so-called moderate opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that are expected to take on the ISIS which has come to occupy a swathe of territory in northern and western Iraq and eastern Syria. All of this lends the enterprise a somewhat unreal, possibly even a dangerous, quality.

The same moderate fighters have been funded by the Western powers to take on the Syrian government for the past three years, and have persistently found themselves hopelessly marginalised by the extremist Sunni jihadists who walked away with the weapons provided by the West. One of them is indeed the ISIS, an Al Qaeda breakaway formation that America feels obliged to combat.

Taken in this sense, the ISIS is a creation of Western short-sightedness, going back to the dismantling of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein that Mr Obama himself once called a “dumb war” initiated by his predecessor. With Saudi Arabia in the thick of things, Shia Iran, with which America is holding nuclear discussions, may ask a few questions. It should be kept in mind that Washington is ready to bombard ISIS positions inside Syria without so much as a by-your-leave from Damascus. In any normal discourse, this will be seen as a transgression of sovereignty, although in the present case President Assad may hold his peace as the ISIS is his enemy too.

In his 13-minute prime time address from the White House, Mr Obama spoke of recruiting a global coalition to carry on the good fight, as it were. Perhaps it is this which will be his legacy as he demits office in two years though he has persistently sought to differentiate himself from his predecessor, George W. Bush, who committed American troops to Iraq and Afghanistan while Mr Obama wants to be known as the leader who brought the boys home. India will do well to remain cautious about the Obama scheme. It has its own stakes in West Asia’s geopolitics, which it must approach according to its own lights, and not in the wake of a superpower’s immediate interests.

( Source : dc )
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