Shortly before President Barack Obama was to unveil his strategy for tackling ISIS in Iraq and Syria Wednesday, Sept. 10, US and Syrian officers held secret talks for coordinating their military efforts in Syria against the common foe, DEBKAfile reveals exclusively. The Syrian officers, on the authority of President Bashar Assad, met on the quiet several times with American officers in the capital of one of the Gulf emirates – probably Muscat in Oman. The Syrian side of the US campaign is judged to be more complicated than the operation in Iraq.
Yesterday’s big report was that much of the weaponry that ISIS is using, both small arms and anti-tank missiles, were actually provided by the US, for the “moderate” Syrian rebels.
It wasn’t a big surprise that this was going to happen, though the White House tried to spin this as vindication for their decision not to send even more weapons to the rebels, because they had to be super careful to avoid the arms falling into ISIS hands. Which they did anyway.
But they did manage to avoid making matters much, much worse, an oversight that President Obama is seeking to correct with today’s announcement that he’s going to push Congress to dramatically increase funding for the arms for the Syrian rebels.
With US arms sent to Syria and US vehicles stolen from Mosul the bulk of the ISIS arsenal, the Obama Administration now believes that the solution to the ISIS problem would be to throw even more arms at Syrian rebels, and even more vehicles to Iraq, doubling down on that problem.
A bombing tore through a house in northwestern Syria’s Idlib Province today, where the leaders of the Islamic Front’s largest faction, Ahrar al-Sham, had organized a meeting.
The blast killed at least 28 of the faction’s 50 attending leaders, and its chief, Hassan Aboud, was either seriously wounded or killed in the incident as well.
Ahrar al-Sham led the Islamic Ahrar al-Sham led the Islamic Front’s charge into ISIS territory earlier this year, and has accused ISIS of targeting their leadership in the past. There seems to be little question that today’s attack was more of ISIS handiwork.
The Ahrar al-Sham is funded predominantly by GCC member nations, primarily Kuwait, and aims to implement a strict form a Sharia law in Syria. Members of the group’s leadership have stated their long-time membership in al-Qaeda.
The leader most public in his al-Qaeda affiliation, Abu Khalif al-Suri, was assassinated by ISIS back in February, which led the group to push a more intense offensive against ISIS. It is unclear how well they will rebound this time, after losing such a large portion of their key leaders.
The president vowed to expand the air campaign beyond its original two missions: protecting Americans and providing humanitarian aid. Instead, airstrikes will be used a part of a broader effort to roll back ISIS in Iraq.
The military will not be constrained by the Syrian border, Obama said.
“We will hunt down terrorist who threaten our country, wherever they are,” he added.
The administration will work with DOD to develop and advance whatever options are necessary to take targeted action wherever ISIS is – whether in Iraq or Syria.
The president plans to send an additional 475 US service members to Iraq to assist Iraqi and Kurdish forces there. Troops will build on the work of assessment teams already in place in Baghdad and Erbil, teams embedded with Iraqi security forces, and existing surveillance assets, but will not be introduced into combat.
Calling for Congress to authorize and resource a train and equip mission for Syrian opposition. We have support from key countries in this effort. The president spoke with King Abdullah on this today.
The U.S. will draw on a range of counter-terrorism tactics to prevent attacks on the homeland.
It will also take steps to counter ISIS’ “warped” ideology, Obama vowed.
“Let’s make two things clear,” said the president. ISIL is not ‘Islamic’ … it was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate.”
The U.S. will work to stem the flow of fighters traveling to and from the region.
In the interest of protecting ancient communities, such as Iraqi Christians, the United States’ humanitarian efforts will continue, Obama said.