By Sal Bommarito
The ISIS War has become a huge public relations problem for all the interested parties, as the definition of “winning the war” is becoming more elusive over time.
The U.S. is in a precarious position because the president said ISIS would be defeated. Most believe this means the terrorists will be killed and will no longer threaten the Middle East.
It is not happening up to this point. ISIS is recruiting new fighters and selling more commandeered oil every day to finance its operations. Everybody (including the president and his aides) knows that effective ground support for U.S. bombing sorties is not going to materialize. Winning the war without boots on the ground will be impossible.
President Obama said no U.S. ground forces would be deployed. Frankly, Americans cannot stomach another occupation and inevitable casualties, so it is easy to appreciate the decision to withhold soldiers. However, the mission is to kill off ISIS, but that’s not realistic because ISIS fighters will annihilate ground troops supplied by any of the countries in the region. Sadly, the American people have been misled, once again, about the rationale and resolution of yet another conflict.
So, what’s next for America? Hostilities will likely continue so long as the U.S. continues to bomb ISIS forces. At some point, the U.S. will retreat and allow the Arabs to fight it out. This eventuality extends the current losing streak to four in a row for the U.S., Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq twice.
Iraq is also a loser no matter what happens to ISIS. The country, or what will be left of it after ISIS annexes large chunks of it, will experience a continuation of the year’s old civil war pitting embedded Shiites (supported by Iran) against the rebel Sunnis (supported by Saudi Arabian insurgents).
Syria will also be in total confusion after the ISIS crisis. Currently, Bashar al-Assad and rebel Sunnis are busy fighting ISIS. If they survive the onslaught, they will reengage with each other in civil war. The rebels will likely receive support from Turkey, maybe the U.S. and other Arab countries. Assad will be aided by both Iran and Russia. It’s unclear how this imbroglio will play out.
Nothing will change for Israel after the war ends. Arab nations are united in their hatred for the Jewish state. The Israelis will continue to battle with Palestinians in perpetuity and refocus on Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear capability.
Some say Iran is obsessed with the wrong issues. It wants the U.S. to rescind economic sanctions and increase flexibility relating to nuclear material in exchange for support against ISIS. Rather, Iran should direct its efforts towards ISIS exclusively, as it is already close to its border. The ability of Iran’s military to repel an ISIS invasion is not a sure bet. Iran does not have a good track record in overt conflicts. Its specialties are insurgency and internal security.
The major concern is that Israel might attack Iran if the U.S. is too lenient with Iran. The development of a nuclear bomb is the only way that Iran can gain parity with Israel militarily. No way will Israel allow this to happen, in the opinion of many.
Turkey is a wild card. It hates ISIS, Syria (and Assad) and Kurds. Its president, Erdogan, has stated publicly that each of these situations is of equal importance to his country. In effect, fighting three individual wars will dilute Turkey’s strength and its diplomatic clout. It has been a totally unreliable ally of the west and not deserving of NATO membership. The Turks should recalibrate their focus on ISIS, which is mustering its strength in nearby Kobani.
The final piece of the puzzle is Saudi Arabia. It represents the biggest prize for ISIS. It’s not clear what countries would come to Saudi Arabia’s rescue if ISIS approaches the country. The disruption of an overthrown regime on oil reserves would be devastating globally.
ISIS will soon redraw the map of the Middle East because of the lack of commitment to destroy it by the U.S. and its allies. When the ISIS war ends, hostilities will continue as old feuds, resentment and threats are responded to. The Middle East will not see peace for at least another generation. Unfortunately, allowing ISIS to grow and finance itself has created grave new concerns.