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Published On: Sun, Sep 28th, 2014

Ignoring Syria: Failure By Design

TND Exclusive:  Terry Schofield | isil isis

Saudi Arabia hosted a conference on September 11th, inviting the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), along with Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United States. Saudi Arabia’s English language daily, the Saudi Gazette, published an editorial (“Arab coalition vs. IS“) that called for the forces against the Islamic State (IS) to be led by 10 Arab members of the coalition, asserting that “…the time has come for the Arabs to lead the charge.”

There are many in the West, if not indeed the vast majority, who share this view and sincerely welcome this development. It is indeed an Arab problem (arguably an Iranian, Turkish, and Israeli one as well) and requires an Arab (Iranian, Turkish, and Israeli) solution. Western “solutions” to the region, no matter how well crafted, amply financed, and faithfully pursued, are still external to the region. As such, they are doomed to fail. But that Arab solution has to include the Syrian state, and not the terrorists operating in Syria. Where was Syria in the conference held in Jeddah on September 11th? They were not even invited.

More disturbing, however, is that the editorial went on to cite a UN Security Council Resolution (ostensibly UNSCR 2170), asserting that since the resolution falls under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and can be enforced militarily, “That would give Obama and his allies the legal cover and broad international backing they desire to launch airstrikes.”

Good people of the Middle East, SW Asia, South Asia, and North Africa, please be advised that we in the West are not your military servants. We will do what any good ally, and, indeed, what any decent human being would do to help combat this evil. But you have to stand up militarily, especially when, not if, the time comes to conduct ground operations. Previous reports of mass desertions by Iraqi soldiers in the face of ISIL attacks is not encouraging.

Several of the non-U.S. member states that were invited to the conference have ample military assets, training, and combat experience. Any one of those states could deal a devastating blow to a non-state actor such ISIL and ANF. With all due respect, what the Arab states need to find is the will to conduct their own battles and stop imploring those of us in the West to shed our blood and treasure on what is, fundamentally, their problem.

The UN Security Council unanimously approved Security Resolution 2170 on August 15, 2014. The United States, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, approved the resolution. The resolution expressly acknowledges the sovereignty of Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic. It also specifically cites the following:

Expressing its gravest concern that territory in parts of Iraq and Syria is under the control of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al Nusrah Front (ANF) and about the negative impact of their presence, violent extremist ideology and actions on stability in Iraq, Syria and the region…”

That Syria was not invited to participate in the September 11th conference was to be expected.  The United States and Gulf state allies have supported factions seeking to overthrow the Syrian government.  Appearing on the September 21st “Face The Nation” television program, U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power stated:

“But I would note that Iran’s behavior and its actions in Syria have been very destructive from our perspective, supporting Hezbollah, supporting the Assad regime, which itself has both been complicit with ISIL, not exhibiting any energy or intensity in going after ISIL, spending much more time going after civilian neighborhoods and the moderate opposition than going after such a profound, monstrous terrorist threat. And that they have received the full support of Iran, as you know, throughout this conflict. So that — those actions would have to change, really, if we’re going to deal with ISIL in a comprehensive way. Assad is not somebody who can be relied upon in a — as a partner in the effort against ISIL.”

Power’s statement implies U.S. policy envisions a full and “comprehensive” address of the ISIL threat ultimately requires a change in the Assad government.  But the United States voted for UNSCR 2170, which expressly recognizes the sovereignty of Syria.

Why is the United States contradicting its own vote in the UN? The most likely answer may be that the United States has been providing support to terrorist factions operating in Syria, directly and indirectly, including the ANF.The United States has been supporting the so-called “rebel” factions in Syria, even though these so-called “rebels” target and attack civilians, the very hallmark of terrorism. The stark hypocrisy of the United States’ actions versus its rhetoric is appalling, if not borderline schizophrenic. The New York Times recently reported that Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to both Syria and Iraq and arguably one of the most experienced United States diplomats in the region, candidly admits “Frankly, we don’t have a clue…” which factions in Syria may or may not be “moderate.”

The people of the Syrian Arab Republic reelected Bashar al-Assad and the Ba’ath Party last June in what was the first multi-candidate electoral ballot since the Ba’ath Party assumed power in a 1963 coup d’etat. This was per the new Syrian Constitution, adopted in June 2012.The elections were independently observed by over 30 nations that declared that the elections were “free, fair, and transparent.” The United States, the EU, and the GCC member states all dismiss the election as being illegitimate and the UN Secretary General criticized Syria for conducting an election in the midst of a civil war. All of which further begs the question why the United States, et al, approved a resolution that specifically acknowledges the sovereign state of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Be that as it may, it is well beyond time to withdraw any and all U.S. support to the terrorist factions operating within Syria, acknowledged or otherwise. UNSCR 2170 is equally clear in this regard, citing that:

“… any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivations, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”

On September 18th U.S. Senator Rand Paul delivered an impassioned speech before the US Senate (click here for video and here for prepared remarks).  Sen. Paul argues the United States should stop supplying the “rebels” in Syria and for Arab states to lead this battle, with direct engagement by the Saudi Arabians, Qataris, Iraqis, and Kuwaitis. Sen. Paul described the U.S. president’s planned actions regarding Syria to be “illegal and unconstitutional”and said that there is “great disagreement” between the speeches of candidate Obama and the actions of President Obama, regarding the process under which the United States can decide to engage in war.

On the United States policy of continued efforts to destabilize Syria, Sen. Paul asked: “What are the odds that the moderate rebels, who have lost every battle they’ve ever engaged in, will be the rulers in Syria?” He asserted that should the United States succeed in removing Assad from power, “We’ll have ISIS in charge of Syria.” (PDF Page 6, Congressional Record)

He went on to state “Toppling Assad will lead to more chaos and greater danger to America from the jihadists” and, finally, that “Sending arms to so-called moderate Islamic rebels in Syria is a fool’s errand and will only make ISIS stronger.” (PDF Page 7, Congressional Record)

Sen. Paul implored the U.S. Senate to “think about the insanity of this” regarding the United States’ self-defeating policies. Nevertheless, the U.S. Congress voted to go forward and, on September 23rd the United States and its “partners” launched airstrikes into Syria, having only provided “notification” to Syria of its pending action. Syria and its close allies have thus far shown remarkable restraint for what amounts to a gross violation of its sovereignty.

It is past time for the Arab states to publicly stand up to this fight and acknowledge the legitimacy of the Syrian Arab Republic, in accordance with UNSCR 2170. It is also past time for the United States to cease and desist providing succor to the terrorist factions operating in Syria in an effort to destabilize the freely elected Syrian government. As a nation that prides itself on its compassion, and as a signatory to UNSCR 2170, the United States owes the good people of Syria and Iraq no less.

Moreover, it is simply in the United States’ own best interest to pursue a strategy that is calculated to defeat ISIL in as expedient a manner as possible. Reconciling with Syria and building upon the intelligence it has gained combatting terrorism over the past 3 years is, clearly, the best strategy – anything less may constitute failure by design.

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About Terry Schofield:

Mr. Schofield is an independent analyst with more than 40 years experience providing services under contract to the U.S. Government, including 8 member agencies of the U.S. Intelligence Community. From 1972 through 1979, he completed tours of duty in Europe, the South Atlantic, Micronesia, and the Middle East, with subsequent extended travel to the Philippines and Brazil. He holds a degree in psychology, has graduate studies in engineering, and completed multiple topic studies in counterterrorism, intelligence analysis, and asymmetric warfare, through the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and other like institutions. Mr. Schofield delivered a briefing on automating terrorism analyses to the Draper Laboratory at MIT, conducted innovative research in autonomous space systems for the U.S. Air Force Phillips Laboratory, and served as an invited panel reviewer at the National Science Foundation.

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