We need a Syrian rebel force to defeat the terror group—but they're too occupied with their primary enemyby Iyad el-Baghdadi / December 4, 2015 / Leave a comment
On Thursday, four RAF Tornadoes took off from Cyprus to target oil facilities in IS-held eastern Syria. This came mere hours after UK lawmakers voted in favor of bombing IS targets, after a 10-hour debate. With this, the number of countries bombing IS targets rises to 15—not counting those offering support, training and logistics.
The British decision to intervene may be politically significant, but militarily it’s expected to have no more than a marginal effect. After all, the international intervention is 18 months old now, and there’s little signs of an imminent breakthrough. There are few assets that can be bombed within IS territories that haven’t been bombed. IS had anticipated such a bombing campaign, and either destroyed or hidden its heavier armor, knowing that it can’t use it.
It is important to note that IS has evolved far beyond a “classical” terror organization with a few scattered camps—we must think of its military capacity not as that of a terror organization but as that of a proto-state. In short, IS cannot be “bombed away,” it must be replaced on the ground. A campaign of aerial bombardment alone—no matter how intense—will not deprive IS of territory. A bombing campaign will only work if done strategically to assist boots on the ground.
History, common sense, and political realities tell us that this ground force cannot be a foreign army. It has to be a disciplined, legitimate, and effective force—but most importantly, it has to be a native force that is seen by the local population not as occupiers, but as liberators.
Read more on Syria:
Will bombing ever get rid of Islamic State?
Syria: Cameron’s Iraq?
Five things we learned from the air strikes debate
Assad’s army is none of these. Consider, to start with, the issue of legitimacy: Russian president Medvedev has recently called Assad’s regime “legitimately elected,” but as this poignant chart shows, Syrian elections under the Assad regime were mostly a charade that ends with predictable results. The fact is that Assad hasn’t only lost most of Syria’s territory, he has also lost the consent of most of Syria’s population, not least because of his string of unpunished war crimes, that included a deliberate chemical weapons massacre of civilians.
Just as importantly, though, Assad’s army…