Obama's Flawed Strategy Faulted as ISIS Gains Allies in Region
September 15, 2014
Zenon Evans / Reason & Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Middle East Eye & Zenon Evans / Reason
As rebels and Islamic State fighters sign a historic ceasefire in Damascus, civilians and IS militants alike evacuate Raqqa fearing US airstrikes. Rep. Justin Amash notes: "When our government orders our young men and women into harm's way, our leaders have a duty to define the mission, set a plausible strategy, and explain why the risk of our children's lives and our citizens' resources is justified. President Obama has failed to fulfill those obligations."
Obama's War Speech Leaves
'Basic Questions Unanswered,' Amash Slams
Zenon Evans / Reason
(September 11, 2014) -- President Barack Obama declared war, or something like it, on the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS or ISIL): hundreds of additional ground troops in Iraq, a plea for congressional funding of anti-ISIS rebels in Syria, and more. You can read it all here.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is not happy. He wrote a 300-word response on Facebook:
When our government orders our young men and women into harm's way, our leaders have a duty to define the mission, set a plausible strategy, and explain why the risk of our children's lives and our citizens' resources is justified. President Obama has failed to fulfill those obligations.
The president boldly claimed, contrary to the Constitution, that he alone can order our Armed Forces into a protracted war. And he left unanswered the basic questions responsible Americans and their representatives must ask before going to war.
Whom, specifically, will the mission target and what, specifically, is the threat to our homeland?
For how long do we expect to put our young people's lives at risk? The administration leaked to newspapers Wednesday morning that Americans must prepare for at least a three-year war, long after the president has left office. In his address, the president did not limit his proposed war to even that time frame.
Who are our partners and what resources will they commit? Will the president stop our military involvement at air strikes regardless of how our allies are faring?
Which rebel groups does the president intend to arm in Syria and Iraq? How do we know that those weapons won’t be turned against us and our allies?
When will we have accomplished our objectives? After we've successfully occupied northern Iraq and installed a more functional government? After the United States has done the same in Syria? Does this disregard the lessons we should have learned from the president’s war in Libya or the previous war in Iraq?
Before risking our young people's lives, the president must analyze the serious actions he proposes our country take. He must engage the public in a frank assessment of the objectives and grave risks. The Constitution and the American people demand it.
Amash has, in the last day, been very outspoken about his opposition to getting tangled up in this war, the president's supposed authority to do so, and the hawkishness of a few fellow Republicans like former Vice President Dick Cheney.
He isn't the only one speaking out. As Reason's Robby Soave reports, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says this war is technically unconstitutional.
Former Democratic congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich jabbed at Obama with one his own quotes from 2007: "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
Constitutionality aside, who can blame these guys for opposing war with ISIS? After all, the group does not [>i>See last story on this posting -- EAW] pose a credible threat to the US homeland, according to the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
'Moderate’ Syria Rebels Sign
Non-Aggression Pact With ISIS
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(September 12, 2014) -- Over the past few months, the Syrian Civil War has taken a back seat to the “war within a war” of faction fighting between ISIS and various other rebel groups. That seems to be coming to an end.
Today, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that ISIS and other significant rebel factions, including both Islamist and “moderate” groups, have signed a mutual non-aggression pact in a Damascus suburb.
The pact was said to have been brokered by al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra, and agrees that all sides will respect a truce until the destruction of the “Nussayri” regime, a pejorative term for Alawites.
The move comes as the Obama Administration pushes to provide more arms to the various non-ISIS rebel factions, on the notion that those rebels can be used against ISIS. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the plan as far as those rebels are concerned, though they will no doubt accept the US arms and, as usual, share them with ISIS.
Civilians and Islamic State
Ship Out of Raqqa Ahead of Syria Airstrikes
Middle East Eye
(September 12, 2014) -- Huge numbers of people have continued fleeing areas of Syria controlled by militants from the self-styled Islamic State (IS), in advance of planned US-led airstrikes on IS strongholds.
Thousands have joined a mass exodus that began on Wednesday, as US President Obama announced in a televised speech that his plan for confronting the IS threat includes launching airstrikes on its militants within Syrian territory.
Residents have been leaving towns in IS strongholds in droves, fearing that the bombardment will cause civilian casualties as well as targeting militants.
Ferat al-Wafa, head of Broadcasters Without Borders who hails from al-Raqqa province, told Anadolu that residents of the area, “who buried around 50 martyrs killed by Assad’s planes on Thursday, are living every day in a state of fear.”
“The city of Raqqa has seen an active wave of fleeing to rural areas, which they see as being safer, in order to be further from the sites where IS are amassed.”
According to Wafa this wave of flight will exacerbate an “appalling” health situation in the city, where several of the hospitals are out of service.
“There is a lack of healthcare workers, and of materials -- the hospitals are unable to cope with critical conditions at all. Such cases are transferred in Turkish hospitals” over 100 kilometres north across the border.
As families flee the city of Raqqa, there are also reports that IS militants are vacating their headquarters, looking to move their bases to more fortified areas.
Opposition activists told Anadolu that IS have been withdrawing their machinery and heavy weaponry from the city of al-Ashara, 200 kilometres south-east of Raqqa, for the past two days, heading for an unknown location.
Activist Yassin Abu Raid told Anadolu that IS militants have also been leaving the city of al-Bab, just north of Aleppo and 180 kilometres west of Raqqa.
“Militants have been sending their families to other areas” outside al-Bab, which are under control of rebels fighting against forces allied to President Bashar al-Assad.
Rebels and IS Forge Non-aggression Pact
Amid reports that IS is regrouping ahead of expected IS attacks, an alliance of rebel groups bashed out a “non-aggression” with IS pact on Friday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that moderate and Islamist rebels had signed a ceasefire deal for the first time in a suburb of the capital Damascus.
“The two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found, and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy” to be Assad’s government and his forces.
News site Orient Net published a list of the 11 clauses to the ceasefire agreement, which aims to halt the fierce clashes that have broken out between rebels and IS in and around Damascus over the past 45 days.
The site reported that al-Nusra Front -- the militant group that on Thursday released 42 UN peacekeepers captured in the Golan Heights, had mediated between the two sides.
Charles Lister, an analyst at the Brookings Institute, reported that the alliance on the rebel side was made up of four distinct groups, among them the US-backed Syria Revolutionary Front.
Islamic State originally fought alongside the rebels but soon began attacking rival groups, before officially splitting with the Nusra Front earlier this year. Since then the two sides have been clashing frequently, allowing Assad's forces to regain momentum.
ISIL Poses 'No Credible' Threat,
But Obama Plots 3-Year War Campaign
Zenon Evans / Reason
(September 8, 2014) -- President Barack Obama is planning a war against the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIL or ISIS) that will likely outlast his own presidency.
There's been a great deal of chatter about the potential threat the terrorist group poses to the United States, especially as the anniversary of the September 11 attack approaches. Last week House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) warned during a CNN interview that the US ought to be on "high state of alert" because "they take anniversaries very seriously in terms of choosing when to attack in the United States."
This is hogwash, says House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.). Today he told CNN, "No, we don't have any information about credible planning for an attack" particularly around 9/11.
He isn't the only cutting through the hype on how dangerous ISIL is to America. "The FBI and Homeland Security Department say there are no specific or credible terror threats to the US homeland from the Islamic State militant group," the Associated Press recently reported. Though, "as a result of recent American airstrikes in Iraq, officials remain concerned that Islamic State supporters could attack overseas targets with little warning."
Disconcertingly, even Royce, who understands that the Islamic State isn't a threat to American soil and is wary of putting troops on the ground, still supports expanding more confrontation through airstrikes. But that might be just the first phase of Obama's plans for fighting ISIL.
Despite the fact that prodding the terrorist group is a great way to turn the Islamic State's regional conflict in Iraq and Syria into an international one, the Obama Administration today suggested that the US may begin "a sustained effort that could last until after President Obama has left office." From The New York Times:
The first phase, an air campaign with nearly 145 airstrikes in the past month, is already underway to protect ethnic and religious minorities and American diplomatic, intelligence and military personnel, and their facilities, as well as to begin rolling back ISIS gains in northern and western Iraq.
The next phase, which would begin sometime after Iraq forms a more inclusive government, scheduled this week, is expected to involve an intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and possibly members of Sunni tribes.
The final, toughest and most politically controversial phase of the operation -- destroying the terrorist army in its sanctuary inside Syria -- might not be completed until the next administration. Indeed, some Pentagon planners envision a military campaign lasting at least 36 months.
This Wednesday, on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, the president will give a national speech about his military plans.
The US's mission in Iraq has been rapidly creeping into a bigger, vaguer war, and although Obama insists "this is not the equivalent of the Iraq war," he gives little reassurance by also saying that America will "hunt down" terrorists "wherever they are," and apparently, regardless of how little of menace they are to the country.
Zenon Evans is a staff writer and editor.
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