Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Iraq / Syria Regional War Updates and tweets of the day ( September 19 , 2014 ) -- Senate Okays Obama Bill Arming Syria Rebels, Delays Vote on War Plan Aims to Create New 5,000 Troop 'Rebel' Force in One Year .......... Hagel: Military, Not Obama, Will Make Decisions on Syria Strikes Obama Gave Centcom Authority to Carry Out Strikes ........ ISIS unbowed as attacks in Baghdad and Syrian Kurdish villages occur ........... Kerry Accuses Syria of Violating Chemical Arms Treaty Cites Claims of Chlorine Gas Use
In a 78-22 vote today, the Senate passed the same bill the House of Representative passed yesterday approving the Obama Administration’s plan to train and arm a new faction of some 5,000 “vetted and moderate” Syrian rebels.
The plan is to recruit various existing Syrian rebels to go off and train as a new force fitting the US ideal of a “moderate” rebel faction to back, and then in a year send them back to Syria to fight ISIS.
Despite considerable reticence about the plan apparent during Secretary of State John Kerry’s testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, the votewas not particularly close.
The vote is expected to be the only ISIS-war related vote the Senate will address before the November elections, with senators very keen to delay any broad resolution on the war itself until after the election.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R – CA) offered the same assessment in his own comments earlier this week, saying that there would likely be some sort of debate on an Authorization for Use of Military Force some time after November.
The Obama Administration insists they don’t need any authorization for the war at all, and by the end of November the war is going to be extremely entrenched and difficult to roll back.
Many Congressmen likely to vote for the war fear a backlash from voters if they do, and so are waiting for the post-election period, in hopes that the vote won’t be a political issue.
Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY) was harshly critical of the plan to arm the Syrian rebels, criticizing the Senate’s “barnacled enables (which) have never met a war they didn’t like.”
Testifying to the House Armed Services Committee today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel insisted that Wall Street Journal reports that Obama will personally sign off on every US airstrike in Syria were untrue.
Hagel insisted that President Obama had given the authority for such strikes over to Centcom chief Gen. Lloyd Austin, and that Austin hasfull authority to carry out strikes inside Syria without the president’s say so.
The White House said the same thing, saying the Syria strikes will mirror the policy in Iraq, and insisting President Obama did not sign off on each of the 160+ US airstrikes launched in Iraq so far in the past few weeks.
The comments aimed to reassure Congress that the president and the military are on the same page in the war on ISIS, though several times comments have emerged that suggest a fairly broad divide between the two, particularly on the question of ground troops.
Despite the indications that ISIS forces in Raqqa were moving underground in anticipation of US attacks, the group continues to remain on the offensive across Northern Syria, and is once again pressing Kurdish territory.
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has once again issued a “call to arms” to Kurds in both Syria and Turkey to defend Ayn al-Arab. Such calls have worked in the past at securing large numbers of volunteer fighters to fend off ISIS threats.
As the fighting ratchets up around the city, an unidentified drone looms overhead. The drone is likely to be part of the US surveillance operation in the area, in anticipation of expanding the air war into Syria.
Though many have touted Secretary of State John Kerry’s threats to attack Syria and the subsequent deal on chemical weapon disarmament as a success story, albeit an accidental one. Kerry’s still resenting the deal, however.
Instead of hyping the US finishing up the disincorporation of the last of Syria’s chemicals, Kerry accused Syria of “violating”the Chemical Weapons Convention by rehashing the same old months-old claim of chlorine gas use.
Kerry’s comments appear aimed at adding momentum, with the US moving against ISIS in Syria, to go after the Assad government as well. Israel chimed in today as well, claiming they believe Syria secretly kept some chemical weapons no one knew about, though they declined to provide any evidence of that beyond claims that Israel figured they had more than what was destroyed.
According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Syria shipped the last of its chemical arsenal abroad in June. This last shipment took months longer than expected, because the stockpile was located in the middle of contested territory, and rebel threats to attack the shipment made it unsafe.
In a new interview with the Associated Press, Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder Abadi ruled out any move to send ground troops to Iraq to engage in combat, insisting they would be unwelcome.
“We don’t want them. We won’t allow them,” declared Abadi, who said he was fine with the ongoing US airstrikes against ISIS but found it “puzzling” that the US had excluded Iran from the Paris summit on ISIS Monday.
Abadi’s comments come just days after Iraqi President Massoum had commented that the US recruitment of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to join the air warwere likewise unwelcome.
That suggests a growing disconnect between the partnership the Iraqi government is envisioning in the ISIS war, and what the Obama Administration intends to do.
Internally the US appears divided on the ground operation, with President Obama continuing to rule out any ground combat, despite sending 1,600 ground troops, and more and more Pentagon officials saying they believe such a shift is likely or, according to Army Chief Gen. Ray Odierno, inevitable.
That Iraq might not want the US to resume its ground operations in the country doesn’t appear to have entered into the calculation so far, as officials have seemed to take Iraqi acquiescence to whatever they choose to do for granted, thus far without very good results.