Amid the smoking ruins of Obama’s sophomoric attempts to stem the progress of ISIS, one of the few bright spots is the performance of the Kurds. Iraqi Kurds in particular but the Kurds in general have been our most reliable ally. Where the Iraqi army did a re-enactment of Johnny Hortons’ description of the British in his song, The Battle of New Orleans and the resistance we’ve tried to train in Syria has shown an inclination to switch sides to ISIS, the Kurds have held fast. So it comes as both a surprise and not a surprise when a major conference convened in London to discuss a strategy for defeating ISIS that the Kurds were not invited.
World leaders from 21 coalition states met on Thursday in London to discuss tactics for defeating ISIS, particularly in regards to airstrikes. Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, and U.S. Secretary of State [mc_name name=’Sen. John Kerry (D-MA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’K000148′ ] were among those in attendance.
Representatives of one group were notably missing: the Kurds. The organizers of the anti-ISIS conference did not extend an invitation to Kurdish leaders, even though Kurdish forces have been essential in battling the militants on the ground.
This is a surprising decision only if one is surprised at the utter incompetence and duplicity of the Obama administration. The organizing principles of the administration in foreign policy have been twofold. First, reduce direct American influence wherever possible, ideally by terrifying our allies. Second, place American power in the service of anyone who appears to have a clue. In the case of the Kurds, we’ve decided that it is a good thing if they are exterminated in Syria because the Turks would rather see ISIS in Syria, an organization they support while pretending to fight, than a strong Kurdish national presence.
A key difference between the new US war strategy in Kurdish-majority parts of the region was Washington’s decision to bolster its Kurdish partnerson the ground in Iraq but not in Syria. In Iraq, the US not only carried out air strikes but also armed the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga and sent military “advisors”. As a result, the peshmerga were able to provide ground intelligence to guide US air strikes, and, in conjunction with Kurdish fighters from Turkey and Syria, they followed up on the ground to retake important territories lost to Isis.
In Syria, the US has been more hesitant to develop such a bold Kurdish partnership. At first glance, the Kurdish fighting force in Syria – the People’s Defence Units (YPG), linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which the US designates as a terrorist group due to its decades-long war with Turkey – is a less natural partner than the widely recognized Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq. Yet it was YPG and PKK forces that provided the decisive support on the ground to the Iraqi Kurds, allowing KRG peshmerga to regain territory lost to Isis in Iraq. The US in great part owes the limited success of its airstrikes in north Iraq to the PKK and YPG.
What makes this so ludicrous is that even as the conference was underway, the administration is tacitly arming Iranian militias in Iraq:
U.S. weapons intended for Iraq’s beleaguered military are winding up in the possession of the country’s Shiite militias, according to lawmakers and senior officials in the Obama administration. These sources say that the Baghdad government, which was granted $1.2 billion in training and equipment aid in the omnibus spending bill passed last month, is turning hardware over to Shiite militias that are heavily influenced by Iran and have been guilty of gross human-rights violations.
One senior administration official told us that the U.S. government is aware of this, but is caught in a dilemma. The flawed Iraqi security forces are unable to fight Islamic State without the aid of the militias, who are often trained and sometimes commanded by officers from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. And yet, if the U.S. stopped sending arms to the Iraqi military, things would get even worse, with IS overrunning more of the country and committing human-rights horrors on a broader scale. The risk of not aiding them was greater than the risk of aiding them, the official said, adding that this didn’t mean the administration was unconcerned about the risks involved.
Iran is still listed as a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department.
One hopes the new GOP controlled Congress holds hearings to shine the light of truth on the ineptitude and cravenness of the clowns running our national security strategy.