FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS

David Cameron’s plan for joining the war in Syria is a worrying document, full of wishful thinking about the political and military situation on the ground. It is a recipe for repeating past failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, by misjudging the strength of potential enemies and allies alike.

Mr Cameron presents a picture of what is happening in Syria and Iraq that reflects what the Government would like to be happening. If he and those responsible for carrying out British policy truly believe these  views, then we are in for some nasty surprises

It is important to know if Isis is getting stronger or weaker in Iraq under the impact of more than 5,432 air strikes, 360 of them by British aircraft, carried out by the US-led coalition. The RAF has launched 1,600 missions, showing how difficult it is to target a guerrilla force from the air and it will face the same problem in Syria.

Mr Cameron says that with coalition air support, Iraqi forces have halted Isis’s advance and “recovered 30 per cent of Iraqi territory”. In reality, the situation is much worse. Isis captured Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, in May, routing the Iraqi army despite strong air support from the US. The territory it has lost is peripheral to its core areas in Mosul and along the Euphrates.  The strongest anti-Isis forces in Iraq are the Shia militias backed by Iran, which the coalition does not support with air power.

In Syria,  allies on the ground are going to be the armed opposition who are supposedly fighting both Isis and Bashar al-Assad. These forces are dominated by the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni hard-line group allied to Nusra. The one place where the “moderates” had some strength was in the south where they launched a much-heralded offensive called “Southern Storm” this summer, but were defeated.

Mr Cameron’s explanation of his strategy is peppered with references to “moderates” whom he wisely does not identify because their existence is shadowy at best. It would, indeed, be very convenient if such a powerful group existed, but unfortunately it does not.

Mr Cameron’s Government does not seem to have taken on board that it is intervening in a civil war of great complexity and extreme savagery. There is a supposition that, if Assad were to depart, there could be a transitional Syrian government acceptable to all Syrians. A more likely scenario is that the departure of Assad would lead to a collapse of the state and the triumph of Isis and the self-declared caliphate.

Britain may only be contributing minimal forces to the war against Isis, but it should not be fighting such a dangerous antagonist without a better knowledge of the battlefield.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail