Friday, May 20, 2016

Russia wants joint strikes with the United States to target al-Nusra and other rebels in Syria

Vladimir Putin meets with his generals. Reuters. 

Russia once again has called for joint airstrikes in Syria targeting al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra, and other rebels. Reuters. Russia hopes to implement the plan by the 25th of May. The targets will include al-Nusra and other rebel groups that are not abiding to the ceasefire. Russia would also strike convoys carrying supplies into Syria from Turkey. Though Russia is talking to the United States, the government has expressed little interest in working with the Russians. All that the United States is willing to do is taking steps to make sure that neither side gets in each others way. Russia and the United States are both against al-Nusra Front, but Russia supports the Assad regime while the US supports rebels fighting the regime. 

My Comment:
This isn't exactly a new story, Russia has been calling for cooperation with the United States since they joined the war. But it does go to show how terrible our foreign policy is in the region. In a sane world, Russia and the United States would work together against al-Nusra and ISIS. Obviously that is not happening. And given the threat that al-Nusra presents it is infuriating to me that we won't do what makes sense. 

After all, Al-Nusra is a major threat in Syria. I have said this dozens of times before, but it pays to repeat it. ISIS may get the headlines with their flashy executions and destructive terrorist attacks, but al-Nusra is still a dangerous terror organization. If ISIS hadn't risen, after splitting off from al-Nusra, they would be getting the headlines. Indeed, before ISIS split off, al-Nusra did gather the headlines.

Al-Nusra is dangerous for many reasons. There are the standard ones that you could level against ISIS. They are brutal, they hate anyone that isn't a Sunni Muslim, they use terrorist tactics, they could grow into a international terrorist threat, and so on and so forth. But one thing makes al-Nusra arguably even more dangerous then ISIS. 

They are willing to work with other groups. Unlike ISIS, al-Nusra has many allies in their fight against the Assad regime. They have been known to work with ISIS, who they are usually enemies with, when their interests intersect. Al-Nusra also has many allies among the rebels fighting the regime. Most of those are the more moderate Jihadists, but even many of the secular rebels work with them as well. 

This ability to work with others makes al-Nusra an even larger threat then the run of the mill terror groups. It makes it very hard to support the rebels, morally and logistically, when they are working with this terror group. There have been many cases of US allied rebels either crossing over to join with al-Nusra, or surrendering their arms and supplies to them. 

This also explains partially why the Obama administration is so unwilling to strike al-Nusra, compared to ISIS. Yes we have sent some airstrikes against them, but it has had a high political cost. Doing so alienated al-Nusra's allies. making it harder for the US to get support in their efforts to overthrow Assad.

Of course, the effort to overthrow Assad is misguided at best. Though Assad is a brutal dictator, he is also one of only a few groups that is fighting against ISIS and al-Nusra effectively. By fighting him, we are essentially helping ISIS and al-Qaeda, who are supposed to be our sworn enemies. 

There is also the current administrations zero-sum treatment of Russia. One of the main reasons we are opposing Russia's strikes in Syria is because doing so helps Russia. Propping up the Syrian regime gives Russia access to their port in Tartus and some power and prestige in the region. Obama can't have that so he is going against our countries best interest and is refusing to work with the Russians.

I am hoping that the next president we get has a better attitude when it comes to the Russians. I don't want a pushover, but it seems like we should be able to work with Russia when our interests meet. Both of our governments share an interest in destroying al-Nusra and ISIS, so we should be working together in Syria. Donald Trump would probably give the Russians a fair shot, while Hillary Clinton would probably just do what Obama is doing, or even escalate the situation by creating a no-fly zone....

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