Friday, November 27, 2015

How did the US help create IS/ISIS/Daesh?

Russia Says U.S. Policies Helped Islamic State, Interfax Reports
U.S. actions in the Middle East helped Islamic State to gain influence, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, according to Interfax.

The strengthening of Islamic State “became possible partly due to irresponsible U.S. politics” that focused on fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad instead of joining efforts to root out terrorism, Medvedev was cited as saying in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. President Barack Obama earlier on Sunday said that Russia is facing a strategic choice as Assad can’t stay. The Obama administration declined to comment Sunday on Medvedev’s statement. [...]

Another article I read earlier in the week, would seem to support the idea of bad US policy being partly responsible for helping create IS (Daesh). This is from an interview with Robert Ford, former US ambassador to Syria:

Why we’re not doing a better job destroying ISIS, according to the former U.S. ambassador to Syria
[...] Looking back on our policy toward Iraq and Syria, did the Obama administration do enough?

Well, the administration I think made one major mistake in both countries. Which is that it didn’t seek to implement policies that would help address underlying Sunni-Arab grievances. For example, Assad's unbelievable brutality in Syria. Removing sarin gas was a small step, but the regime still uses chemical weapons. On the Iraq side, there was a similar problem. There the administration in 2010 strongly backed Nouri al-Maliki returning as prime minster. There were some in the administration who thought that was not a good idea because he was very sectarian, but the administration went ahead anyway.

The problems that Maliki caused among Iraqis combined with Bashar al-Assad's actions in Syria created this devil’s brew that is the Islamic State. The administration is trying to address it now. They finally dropped their support of Maliki, and they’re trying to address it in a very narrow way in Syria, but it got very bad before the administration started to make changes. [...]
Sunni Muslims in both Syria and Iraq were not being represented, so they joined forces and became IS/ISIS/Daesh.

The Russians have an interest in solving this, because it's unfolding on their doorstep, and they don't want it spreading to the large Muslim population in their own country. And while Assad has been brutal, he was also fighting Sunni Muslims, many of them brutal, who became IS/ISIS/Daesh fighters.

Assad and his followers are of the Alawite Muslim sect, which are more westernized than the Sunnis. The Alawites are only around 10% of the Syrian population, whereas the Sunnis are about 74%. Historically,Sunnis have persecuted Alawites. The Sunnis outnumbered them and tried to take over, and Alawites defended themselves.

The Alawites have Iran and Russia as allies, who support keeping Assad in power.

The US got rid of Saddam in Iraq, and destabilized it. The US got rid of Qaudaffi in Libya, and destabilized it. Now the US is demanding the removal of Assad. Is it any wonder the Russians support him? Perhaps they have had enough of the US destabilizing the Middle East. One only has to look at a map to see why it matters more to Russia; it affects them more directly by proximity.

If the US wants to try to negotiate the eventual removal of Assad, they can try. But to insist on it as they are doing may be a mistake, because Russia and it's allies don't want it, and it looks as if they are going to try to use the UN to support that position as well. If they succeed at the UN, and can't be persuaded to change their minds, then continuing to insist on Assad's removal just becomes a block to further progress. Maybe the US needs to be more flexible and bend a little?

Russia may try to go it alone, but they may ultimately find they need more allies. Ideally, we should have a coalition to fight IS/ISIS/Daesh. Russia it seems, does not want to join a US led coalition. Fine, even understandable. But Russia may well find that few want to join a coalition lead by Russia.

The US and Russia would be stronger working together. But it won't happen unless both sides can learn to bend, to compromise on particular areas of concern they each have, that they currently can't agree on. That must be overcome before they can work together. Can they do it? Will they?


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