When the first group of US-trained fighters were inserted into Syria on Friday, Washington experienced a great shock. Tasked with fighting alongside al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, the Nusra Front, Washington’s newest proxy army in Syria was expected be welcomed by the group. Instead, Washington’s proxies, known as Division 30, were attacked by the Nusra Front with several fighters taken hostage. Quoting a senior Obama Administration official, the New York Times reported that Washington “expected the Nusra Front to welcome Division 30 as an ally in its fight against the Islamic State.”
Said another US official: “This wasn’t supposed to happen like this.”
Let’s pause for a moment and think about US strategy in Syria. Fourteen years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, it is official Washington policy to create armed and trained al-Qaeda allies in Syria. Yes, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
The attack on Washington’s proxy army shocked Washington’s “experts,” but it did not shock them enough to re-think the four year long effort to oust Syrian President Assad. It was this effort, of course, which created the atmosphere in which ISIS has over-run much of the country and threatens to take the rest of it as well. There was no ISIS in Syria before the US decided on regime change. This is similar to Iraq, where it was only the US invasion that produced a working al-Qaeda presence in the country. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq prior to the US “liberation.”
But as according to past practices in Washington, when a particular foreign policy produces results counter to stated goals it not time to re-think the strategy but to double-down.
Therefore, as the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend, President Obama has for the first time authorized the US military to attack Syrian government forces if they threaten Washington’s regime change army. The battle has been joined.
While it has been expected that Turkey’s opening up Incirlik airbase to US jets attacking ISIS in Syria signaled a move toward a “no-fly zone” in a small part of northern Syria, President Obama has upped the ante considerably and declared that the Syrian military is a fair target wherever it roams inside the country.
This move is a declaration of war on Syria, while Congress continues to be completely uninterested in its Constitutional obligations. Indeed in this new war it is Congress that is AWOL.