New Eastern Outlook
by Tony Cartalucci
A recent US Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing considering the nominations of General Joseph Votel and Lieutenant General Raymond Thomas for command of US Central Command and US Special Operations Command respectively, exposed the absurdity of America’s war on the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS).
While the Syrian Arab Army backed by Russian airpower successfully cuts off entire armies of terrorists from their supplies abroad, while encircling and eradicating them within Syrian territory, the US appears instead to be attempting to stretch out ISIS’ existence while maintaining the illusion of fighting the terrorist organization for as long as possible.
During the hearing, several times US senators including US Senator John McCain (R-AZ) would credit US operations for the recent setbacks faced by ISIS, including pressure recently placed directly on Al Raqqa – the defacto capital of ISIS in eastern Syria.
In reality, all of these setbacks are instead a result of Syrian and Russian efforts to interdict supplies flowing into Syria primarily from NATO-member Turkey, US-ally Jordan, and back and forth from Iraq. Beyond allegedly high-profile targeted killings, little to nothing has been done by the US to actually degrade ISIS’ fighting capacity.
Russian warplanes have in particular, mercilessly bombed ISIS and Al Qaeda logistical networks to the point of drawing out from the geopolitical shadows their foreign sponsors, including Turkey which went as far as downing a Russian jet as it operated along the Syrian-Turkish border.
As Syrian and Russian forces choke off supplies crossing Syria’s borders bound for ISIS and Al Qaeda positions, the West and its regional partners have become increasingly desperate and transparent in their efforts to reverse what is the inevitable end of the conflict.
Senators and Generals Show No Interest in Stopping ISIS
The SASC hearing was particularly telling, because while ISIS was regularly brought up, it was clear from listening to the senators and the two generals providing testimony, that the real goal was still overthrowing the Syrian government and rolling back the influence of Russia and Iran in order to maintain American hegemony in the region and around the world. ISIS is merely an excuse to remain in the region to continue pursuing these goals.
Despite US participation in the recent Syrian ceasefire and upcoming peace talks, both the senators and the generals talked about removing Syrian President Bashar al Assad, as well as the next iteration of America’s train and equip program for fighters being sent into Syria to perpetuate the violence.
And even as the entire committee plotted the overthrow of the Syrian government, they continuously acknowledged not only ISIS’ presence in the country, but its expansion into other nations, including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya – three nations the US has destroyed – with Libya being the latest and regarded several times during the hearing as “ungovernable.”
Libya’s “ungovernable” present state was cited as the primary reason for ISIS’ “sudden” appearance in the North African nation. None of the senators nor the two generals, however, mentioned just how Libya became ungovernable in the first place – not even Senator McCain who literally walked, hand-in-hand, with the future rank and file of ISIS in Libya as they took over the country after the overthrow of the government in Tripoli.
The failure of the US military for 16 months to target and destroy ISIS’ oil infrastructure in Syria was also mentioned, though the rest of their logistical network in Syria or beyond, or their foreign sponsors, were never brought up.
What the hearing illustrated once again was that it is the US plowing the fields – turning nations into failed-states – and then sowing the seeds of perpetual chaos with heavily armed, well-funded, and well backed mercenary forces to transform entire regions of the world into divided, weak, and perpetually fighting, perpetually shifting conflict zones from which the West’s enemies can be removed, and regimes more to their liking can be installed.
In the one hour plus hearing, nothing resembling a tangible strategy for confronting and defeating ISIS was discussed.
Generals who have spent their lives in the military, from military families talked about the impotence of airstrikes alone in Syria to degrade ISIS’ fighting capacity – never once mentioning the fact that they have standing armies both in Turkey and Jordan more than capable of strangling completely ISIS’ logistical lifelines and preventing the torrent of foreign fighters repeatedly referenced during the hearing from reinforcing ISIS positions in Syria.
Instead of holding accountable US’ allies who are clearly underwriting ISIS’ continued and formidable fighting capacity as well as its expansion beyond Syria’s borders, several times the committee agreed to work even closer with these allies in what is clearly a disingenuous war on ISIS.
It is unlikely General Votel or Lieutenant General Thomas do not know how to identify the source of an enemy’s fighting capacity or how to effectively cut it off. Indeed, they know precisely how to defeat ISIS, but anyone can still watch the hearing – archived online on the US government’s own website for all to see – and understand that the goal is not to fight and defeat ISIS – it is to reorder the region in such a manner as to maintain US influence and protect US “interests” across it.
Fighting ISIS is but a pretext to remain involved in Syria, Iraq, and now Libya and Afghanistan. Both the senators of the committee and the two generals present all agreed that Nigeria, Somalia, and perhaps nations beyond would also see ISIS gaining footholds within their borders giving the US a free hand to pursue them in what they called “transregional” operations.
While nations like Russia and China are building economic relationships with the nations of the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA), giving them footholds and influence throughout it, the US seems to be predicating their continued presence in MENA upon addressing perpetual chaos.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that this chaos they are “addressing,” is chaos of their own intentional creation. It is difficult to imagine that this sort of foreign policy is sustainable, and in a way, the committee acknowledged that too. When asked by the committee if they also believed that it looked like Russia was going to achieve its goals in Syria, both generals without hesitation agreed.
Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine“New Eastern Outlook”.