Worrisome turn in the ‘fight against ISIS’

This article is a translation of "Zorgwekkende wending in de ‘strijd tegen ISIS’"

After the disaster with the Russian Airbus over Sinai on 31 October the double standards in world politics have been underscored once again. No tears over the victims in our media, instead we are mocking Russia for its position of wanting to wait for the outcome of the investigation before making public its explanation of the cause.

Of course with MH17 we were perfectly happy to have to wait for more than a year for the cause, including the content of the flight data recorders, which in the case of the Russian Airbus (as is normal) was available within a few days.

Meanwhile all parties, even the military regime in Egypt, are now in agreement that this was a bomb attack by ISIS. But that is not the only turn in the ‘struggle against ISIS’.

As far as the accident is concerned, the Americans and British immediately claimed that this was a bomb attack on account of so-called intelligence from their own security services. It has now transpired that they actually heard this from Israel. The Israeli intelligence services collaborate closely with Egypt to get the jihad in Sinai under control and listen to ISIS communication round the clock. Not only did they pick up congratulations over the ‘success’ of the attack but they also had information beforehand that ‘something big’ was about to happen.

This takes us to the question whether there is cooperation with Russia in the ‘fight against ISIS’ or whether in reality (hence the quotation marks) there is a complex set of different conflicts at play After all, the anti-ISIS coalition of 65 countries so far has hardly made an impact, whereas the Russian air campaign, launched only recently, has made a renewed offensive of Syrian government troops possible.

And now we learn from reports, on Antiwar.com among others, that both Russia and the US are raising the stakes of their involvement in Syria and are deploying weapons that raise the question against whom they are actually intended. This especially concerns ground to air missiles, whilst the US at the request of Turkey also has sent F-15C fighter planes into Syrian airspace.

ISIS has no planes so ground to air missiles are neither useful for the Syrian-Iranian-Russian coalition, nor are they for the groups supported by the US in their ‘fight against ISIS’. The F15C in addition is a plane best used against other fighter planes, so there too it cannot be that the ‘fight against ISIS’ is what they are meant to support.

Syrian government troops of course can now ward off Israeli air attacks, but otherwise it really seems that both parties, the Syrian-Iranian-Russian and the Turkish-Saudi-American (and 62 more members of this coalition) are in fact targeting each other’s planes.
Since the latter group excels in ineffectiveness because the differences of interest within it are far too large for it to be able to act in unison, the ground to air missiles and F-15Cs are aimed at the Syrian air force and at the Russians. Turkey after all has threatened to shoot down any Russian plane that strays over Turkish territory—something NATO has been quick to endorse.

Since practically all weapons that are supplied to the so-called moderate opposition, in practice are sold on to ISIS and other jihadists, we will soon have to count with new air incidents over Syria or in other ISIS-controlled territory. As in Libya, where large stocks of ground to air missiles were dropped for the benefit of the militias which meanwhile have divided the country among themselves, weapons are ending up in the hands of an uncontrolled rebellion and the question where they can possibly have gone, will come up later.

However, the greatest danger is that Russian and/or American fighter planes will be downed with weapons delivered by the other party.
A ceasefire and a political solution are therefore more urgent than ever.

Kees van der Pijl

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