“As the Obama administration rethinks its Syria strategy, it should start by redefining U.S. interests in the face of an increasingly fractured Syrian conflict and adopting a new strategy that seeks to immediately reduce the level of violence by enforcing a pause on offensive operations by all sides in Syria.”
That goal is lofty, but at this point there’s nothing to induce that Syrian/Russian/Iranian alliance nor the assorted Syrian rebel groups to agree to a ceasefire. I wrote my plan in the comments, it’s a repeat, so just skip it if you’ve been reading my posts the last couple weeks:
libertybelle October 20, 2015 – 12:08pm
The US calling for a ceasefire will fall on deaf ears at this point. I believe we should be formulating a plan to attack ISIS from the east, as the Syrian/Russian/Iranian alliance moves eastward from western Syria. We should discuss our plan to roll back ISIS with our allies and the Russian led alliance and while we should not become part of the Russian alliance, we should maintain open dialogue with Putin on our aims. It’s imperative that we talk to Putin, but the US must maintain total control over our plan. We should emphasize the urgency of getting to a ceasefire in Syria quickly with the more “moderate” Syrian rebels and the US should work with Putin to insure that safe zones can quickly be set up, with the aid of the international community, to protect civilians and those who put down their arms. Pouring more arms in to “moderate Syrians” will prolong the carnage.
We must recognize that Assad is a second tier problem compared to ISIS. If a “Russian-friendly” regime is in the wings to replace Assad, then Putin may be willing to let the good folks in Brussels deal with Assad. Syria has been a Russian client-state for decades and we lose nothing if a Russian-friendly government replaces Assad, but we will lose a great deal if ISIS fills a power vacuum should Assad fall first.
If we demonstrate an ability to implement a plan to work with forces in Iraq to really tackle ISIS, many of our traditional allies may prefer to align with the US rather than the Russian/Iranian/Syrian alliance, and this would counter the growing Iranian influence. We might be able to restore American credibility in the process too, which would aid us long-term. This plan would require deft diplomacy, speedy action and a willingness to use adequate military force to a clearly defined mission – defeat the Islamic State.
A pitfall to avoid would be to invest too many American boots on the ground and end up in an occupying mode in Iraq again, which would not help our long-term strategy in the region, which should be promoting REGIONAL STABILITY.
There was a 2014 paper in SSI by General Huba Wass de Czege ( http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/Issues/Winter_… ),which had some ideas on how to prevent power vacuums as we progress, by relying on local and tribal leaders to create grassroots law and order as we learn and grow our capacity. We need to utilize new ideas and be open to change, while keeping in mind that as ISIS is rolled back, quickly establishing local security capacity is vital and since the “national government” has demonstrated no ability to do this, in addition to the ethnic divide between the national government and local population in ISIS territory, perhaps working with local leadership might work better. This is just an idea. There was July 2015 SSI paper by Dr. Robert E. Lamb,”Strategic Insights: Fragile States Cannot Be Fixed With State-Building” (http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/index.cfm/articles/Fragile…), which explains this common pitfall with international efforts at “nation-building”.
Expecting a ceasefire, absent any real US plan, especially with the US reputation at a low-ebb, will get us nowhere.
I believe this “ceasefire first” plan relies on magical thinking and a lot of glossing over the serious problems with our Bosnia efforts, which this author seemed to be unaware of or ignored. “Moderate Syrian” rebels will not agree to a ceasefire immediately and frankly, the Assad regime, in an existential struggle, likewise, at this point has no incentive to agree to one. It seems to me like a retread of the Bosnia Plan. My idea apparently seems too controversial for consideration – oh no, we can’t talk to Putin, but the only way to have a seat at the table or to counter the Russian/Iranian moves is to be relevant. Expecting the “international community” or in this case, the writer listed regional powers, to tighten the diplomatic screws enough to force compliance to a ceasefire seems unlikely to work, imho.