Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
FATTENING WALL STREET — Mike Whitney reports on the rapid metamorphosis of new Fed Chair Janet Yallin into a lackey for the bankers, bond traders and brokers. The New Religious Wars Over the Environment: Joyce Nelson charts the looming confrontation between the Catholic Church and fundamentalists over climate change, extinction and GMOs; A People’s History of Mexican Constitutions: Andrew Smolski on the 200 year-long struggle of Mexico’s peasants, indigenous people and workers to secure legal rights and liberties; Spying on Black Writers: Ron Jacobs uncovers the FBI’s 50 year-long obsession with black poets, novelists and essayists; O Elephant! JoAnn Wypijewski on the grim history of circus elephants; PLUS: Jeffrey St. Clair on birds and climate change; Chris Floyd on the US as nuclear bully; Seth Sandronsky on Van Jones’s blind spot; Lee Ballinger on musicians and the State Department; and Kim Nicolini on the films of JC Chandor.
Winning Victories Where It Counts

ISIS Raises the Stakes

by PATRICK COCKBURN

The killing of James Foley by Isis caused an upsurge of international revulsion and condemnation with harsh words from the US defence secretary and others. But the Obama administration is trying hard not to be sucked into a war that could be more serious than the US invasion and occupation of Iraq between 2003 and 2011.

What Isis showed by Foley’s very public murder is that it will always raise the stakes in any confrontation with the US and anybody else. It trumped America’s reassuring portrayal of the recapture of Mosul Dam by the Kurds aided by US air strikes as a
JihadisReturn_WebAd_2014_08_20_Counterpunch_Square_300x300 sign that Isis could be defeated.

How much has really been changed by the US airstrikes? Possibly less than first appeared: one of Isis’s great strengths is that it can switch its military campaigns from Iraq to Syria and back again, and much that happens on the Syrian battlefields remains unreported. It helps Isis that the US, Britain and their Arab allies don’t know how to retreat without humiliation from their three-year attempt to bring down President Bashar al-Assad, Isis’s main opponent in Syria. The rest of the Syrian armed
opposition is retreating, disintegrating or changing sides.

In the long term the US and their allies may well develop a degree of mostly covert co-operation with the Assad government but it will probably be too late.

All the attention in the last two weeks has been focused on the Isis offensive against the Kurds and Yazidis. But over the same period there has been much heavier fighting in Syria than in Iraq, with Isis storming an important Syrian army base at Tabqa on Sunday, capturing much equipment including jet aircraft. This was not a walkover as in Sinjar, but a bloody battle with 346 Isis fighters and 170 government soldiers reportedly killed.

Isis is winning victories where it counts, capturing two other Syrian army bases near Tabqa and a fourth in Hasakah province. The bottom line is that Isis fighters are now driving westwards, threatening Hama and Aleppo. They are only 30 miles from the latter, and could well take over the rebel-held part of the city. Washington, London and their allies still cling to their bankrupt policy of vainly seeking to displace Assad as Isis advances on the ground.

Patrick Cockburn’s new book is The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising,