By Sal Bommarito
Unlike other major confrontations in recent history, none of the key players in the ISIS war with the exception of ISIS itself is all-in. And, the situation is complex with many conflicting agendas, so it will be next to impossible to bring long-lasting peace to the region after hostilities end.
Underlying the ISIS conflict are many age-old feuds and much unfinished business, along with trillions of dollars of oil and gas reserves. Each of the major players in this Kabuki dance has an individual agenda.
The most important actors in this drama are the U.S., Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Israel. The extras are millions of refugees that are taxing the resources of several states that have generously accepted those who have fled ISIS oppression. In the coming months, through the winter, a humanitarian crisis is very much a possibility.
As anticipated, the U.S. evolved as the principal catalyst opposing ISIS, not the other nations mentioned above that have so much more to lose. ISIS’ only allies are the most radical Sunnis and malcontents from around the world that have enlisted with the jihadists. The jihad has no outside support so it funds itself with the spoils of war, commandeered oil and the sale of antiquities.
The U.S. observed the devastation created by ISIS in Iraq and decided to come to the rescue. This occurred even though it spent millions of gallons of American blood and trillions of dollars over the past years trying to rebuild Iraq. Frankly, the efforts of our brave soldiers were frittered away in a matter of months when the president made good on his promise and ended the Iraq occupation, prematurely. Iraq could not effectively govern or secure itself, and so the U.S. has returned for a third act.
Iraq has no effective leadership as it attempts to convert from a Sunni-dominated nation to Shite. As expected, the Shiite government disenfranchised Sunnis. It dismissed them from the military and refused to share power. The result was chaos, a place ripe for Sunni insurgents to establish a caliphate.
The joke is that the U.S. and the Shiite government expect to recruit Iraqi Sunnis to fight against ISIS Sunnis without a new arrangement that includes Sunnis in the government.
President Obama engaged America in another war and promised upfront to not use U.S. ground forces. Rather, he has a pipe dream that Iraqis can defend themselves. But, the president led us through years of frustration in Iraq, so he should know his reliance on an undependable Iraqi Army is a huge miscalculation.
Many U.S. military people, active and retired, have opined about the chances of winning the war without U.S. ground troops. Some have bravely stated the truth; it’s not likely, while others want to be loyal to their commander-in-chief. The latter skirt the issue and say the U.S. might have to reconsider its policy, even though they know effective ground forces are critical.
The most upsetting aspect of this episode is that the U.S. reengaged in Iraq without a realistic plan to complete its mission. How could our military people depend upon an army that deserted when they first faced off against ISIS? Why would our military leaders think they could create an effective fighting force in a few months when they couldn’t do it over a decade?
Politically, it will be difficult to deploy U.S. ground soldiers. But, it is the only way to end this war in the foreseeable future. From time to time, bombing sorties are successful. But, nothing in the newspapers suggest that bombing is turning the tide of the war.
Wars are not won from 30,000 feet. Arabs are not prepared to engage ISIS because they know the U.S. will do it for them. The U.S. should disappoint them, pack up its stuff and let the Arabs fight their own damn war.