New Conflicts On The Horizon In Syria And Iraq; Pentagon Contemplates Sending U.S. Ground Troops

 

The Trump administration is contemplating sending U.S. ground troops to Syria and Iraq to step up the war effort against the Islamic State, Defense Secretary James Mattis said during his first ministerial meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

The U.S. defense chief said that the Pentagon is currently discussing the deployment of conventional ground forces in both war-torn countries, and said he would first talk to the NATO allies and then take up the matter with President Trump.

Mattis also said he would discuss the issue with Middle Eastern allies after his visit to Germany where he will attend a security summit.

 

At the NATO meeting Mattis emphasized the need for orchestrated international pressure on the Islamic State in order to enhance the chances that the Jihadist organization will be defeated in the near future.

“This is not something that will be over with quickly, but we certainly intend to accelerate this fight, one of the reasons we’re here today is to lay this out to you,” the secretary of defense said.

The most recent events in the war against the Islamic State show that Mattis was right when he said “this is not something that will be over quickly.”

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As Western Journalism reported on Feb. 7, ISIS recently scored unexpected victories in central and eastern parts of Syria including areas in the vicinity of Syria’s capital Damascus.

Another serious problem is a looming conflict between Turkey and the Trump administration over the war effort against ISIS in northern Syria and the Raqqa Province where the self-proclaimed Caliphate has its capital.

This conflict could seriously hamper the planned operation to liberate Raqqa.

 

Turkey wants its forces and its Islamist allies to dominate the upcoming offensive against ISIS’ stronghold in Raqqa, while the U.S. is convinced the Kurdish- dominated Syrian Democratic Forces are best equipped to lead the battle against the capital of the Islamic State in Syria.

U.K. General Rupert Jones, the deputy commander in the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, the coalition fighting against the Islamic State said during a press conference this week that “the force that looks most likely capable to conduct the liberation of Raqqa remains the SDF.”

“Are we confident in the SDF? Absolutely we are,” Jones added “we’ve seen their fighting spirit, we’ve seen what they’re capable of doing. They re-took Manbij (an ISIS-held border town that liberated late last year), a very tough fight, and they prevailed in the face of a tough, tough opposition.”

A State Department spokesman later confirmed that the U.S. has not changed its position on the role of the SDF in the imminent offensive against ISIS in Raqqa.

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Turkey, however, now threatens to shift its focus from battling the Islamic State to the Kurdish YPG militia which has shown to be the most effective fighting force against ISIS.

The Turkish dictator wants to prevent the YPG from uniting the three Kurdish cantons along the Turkish Syrian border.

The Turkish Army, meanwhile, is lying about its successes in the war against the Islamic State and especially about what’s going on in al-Bab.

The Turkish government and a senior Turkish general claimed Wednesday that the Turkish army was in full control of al-Bab.

Foreign reporters and members of the moderate Syrian opposition, however, disputed this claim with some of them describing it as a 100 percent lie.

A spokesman for the opposition forces in the al-Bab region said the Turks had only liberated 40 percent of the ISIS-held border town and had not been able to make any progress over the past few days.

In Iraq, meanwhile, the Iraqi army supported by an odd coalition of Iranian-backed Shiite militias and the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS is preparing to retake western Mosul, ISIS’ last stronghold in the country.

The Islamic State, however, appears to have adjusted its strategy in Iraq and has increased its suicide car bomb attacks on the Iraqi capital Baghdad over the past week.

On Thursday ISIS killed at least 51 people and injured 60 others when a car bomb exploded at an car dealership in Baghdad.

The attack was the deadliest ISIS carried out this year in Iraq and followed two other blasts in the Iraqi capital on Tuesday and Wednesday in which 24 people were killed.

The Trump administration condemned the attacks and said it once again showed ISIS’ utter contempt for human life and its efforts to sow discord and division among the Iraqi people.

The administration kept mum on another worrying development in Iraq that doesn’t bode well for the future of the country.

The Institute of War reported that pro-Iranian militias launched rockets on targets in Baghdad this week and said that the Shiite militias are increasing the ongoing intra-Shi’a competition in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

This development could be a harbinger of things to come after the battle against the Islamic State is over.

The driving force behind the Shiite militias is Iran that is heavily involved in Iraq’s internal affairs and seems determined to use the chaos in the country to create another proxy state just like it did in Lebanon and Syria.

It is therefor reasonable to assume that Iraq will see continuing sectarian violence until Iran has realized its goals in the country.

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