Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Listen to Sepp! We need Syria to exist, because it provides a way out of this (13)

   Jeff White, who served 34 years at the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he specialized in Middle Eastern military affairs, and is now a defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Iraq and Syria still exist and U.S. strategy should recognize that. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) operates without ...

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Flickr user comedy_nose

 

 Jeff White, who served 34 years at the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he specialized in Middle Eastern military affairs, and is now a defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

Iraq and Syria still exist and U.S. strategy should recognize that. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) operates without regard to the established border and needs to be fought accordingly; but Syria and Iraq are distinct theaters of war, with different political, military, and social contexts and different requirements and opportunities for U. S. military action.

In Iraq, ISIS can be fought, using coalition and a combination of various Iraqi forces, as the single opponent, and with the support of the Iraqi government.

In Syria, coalition goals should include both degrading ISIS and weakening regime forces. The U.S. needs to conduct operations with an awareness that there is a largely separate war underway between rebel and regime forces; that is, ISIS is not the only game in town. U.S. operations in Syria, in addition to degrading ISIS, should aim to limit the ability of regime forces to conduct operations against the rebels, for example through the imposition of no-fly zones and/or the destruction of regime air assets. This would bolster the Syrian resistance and bolster its support for coalition operations against ISIS. And it would set the stage for increased cooperation when U.S.-trained Syrian rebels were ready for operations.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1
Tag: Syria