Monday, September 22, 2014

On attacking ISIL in Syria and Iraq

I find the Western, English-speaking media neglects reporting what is printed in Middle Eastern publications when it comes to international conflict and criticism of America. Some people in the West argued that we should intervene against ISIL in Iraq in order to "rescue" the oppressed minorities - Kurds, Yazidis, and ethnic Christians- threatened by the group. Taking the fight to Syria in an attempt to destroy their bases of support appears to be a logical extent of this thinking--to quote Clausewitz, make sure ISIL is "reduced to such a state as not to be able to prosecute the war."  But what do people in the Middle East think of our policies as outlined by President Obama and Secretary Kerry?

I found this interview from Turkey with purported "moderate opposition rebels" rather enlightening, and recommend reading it.They ask "Why get involved in Syria now, after all these years of genocide?"

"(I)s it because this is really a terrorist group that terrorizes people in Syria? If so, then the (Assad) regime has committed more crimes than ISIS. With much cruelty. People are dead in the prisons by the thousands. What about this? Human Rights Watch has a report that documented almost 12,000 people dead under torture in prisons of the security forces. So what about this? Isn’t it terror? It’s not obvious that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons to kill more than 1,400 people at the same time [in the regime’s infamous attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in August 2013]? That was more than a third of the people who died in the twin towers on 9/11.
“So why now? And why [did Obama announce the strikes] on this dramatic date, on the same eve of 9/11, so that no American can criticize it and say ‘no.’ And what about the people who are facing Assad airstrikes? Now the same civilians will face the American airstrikes? We all know that ISIS puts its headquarters among civilians. What can America do about it? Nothing. They are going to bombard the good with the evil. That’s why I’m angry about it. ISIS are criminals, but the solution is not to kill them with airstrikes." 

Similarly, many Muslims point out that America showed no outrage or interest in stopping genocides until Christians were reportedly being beheaded in Iraq. The war in Syria has gone on for years and cost roughly 200,000 lives. So, how else do you explain Southern Baptists signing petitions to the government for armed intervention against ISIL after a few hundred Christians were threatened? Assad, meanwhile, is seen as the protector of both Alawite and Christian minorities in Syria, therefore Christian nations dare not lift a finger against him. I believe most Americans are unaware of this perspective; Thomas Friedman's cab driver does not exist in their world, and the Western journalists who no doubt here these conspiracy theories do not relay them.  

Some of my Turkish nationalist friends believe there is a Jewish-directed conspiracy to weaken Israel's Muslim enemies by creating a Kurdish state that incorporates Kurdish sections of Turkey. A united Kurdistan between Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Opinion pieces citing evidence of this are printed often in Turkish "news" outlets, but Western journalists ignore them, probably because it's crazy. However, it doesn't matter if it's crazy or not-- what matters is if people who live in these places believe it. These people see it as no wonder we come to the defense of the Kurds, and are skeptical of our true motives.

*UPDATE* For those skeptical of my assertions, Joshua Landis, a Middle East expert at the University of Oklahoma basically said the same thing on PBS NewsHour last night, addressing Sunni conspiracy theories that we are seeking to weaken Sunni powers:
"the big challenge for the United States is to convince Sunni Arabs that we’re not attacking them and we’re not against Sunni Islam. Many people, many Sunnis suspect we... have a war against Islam, because we threw the Sunnis out of power in Iraq and catapulted the Shiites into power. And they have been persecuting the Sunnis ever since. We said we were going to bring Sunni rebels to a victory in Syria, or we implied it when we said Assad had to step aside, and we did nothing."

Ask yourself this: If arming the "moderate opposition" in Syria is such a good idea now, then why not two years ago when they held more territory and had functioning infrastructure? And why is it suddenly a good idea just weeks after President Obama called the idea "horse****?"What does the endgame look like this time?

No comments: