Mark Collins – Sunni Arab Boots on the Ground vs ISIS: How?

It seems to me that the commonly-expressed idea that Arab Sunni troops in some numbers are needed–AND CAN BE MADE AVAILABLE–to combat ISIS is a pipe-dream not thought through.  For starters many of those Arab states are already pretty well involved in Yemen.  But even more important the Shia-dominated Iraq government (and its main backer, the Iranians–who already have their own boots in both Iraq and Syria) will not accept foreign Sunni troops on its territory; neither will the Alawite-dominated Assad government.  Do people expect those Arab Sunnis to fight Iraqi and Syrian forces to get at as ISIS?  Moreover the Turks, for their part, are darn unlikely to want Arab troops based on their soil.

Besides which the Saudis and Gulfies have not exactly shown in the past that they can cut much mustard in serious ground fighting.  With all that in mind consider this piece by George Petrolekas at the Globe and Mail online.

Very relevant:

What Future For the Sunni Arabs of the Levant and Mesopotamia? What State(s)? And the Caliphate

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


7 thoughts on “Mark Collins – Sunni Arab Boots on the Ground vs ISIS: How?”

  1. Meanwhile the internal Syrian oppostion–at the London Review of Books:

    ‘After the Vote
    James Meek
    on the bombing of Syria

    [PM David] Cameron’s claim that an army of 70,000 moderate Syrian rebels is available to turn its attention from Assad to IS was startling. Soon after the prime minister’s statement, Charles Lister, a conflict analyst at the Doha branch of the Brookings Institution think tank who specialises in the Syrian civil war, put up a guest post on the Spectator’s website, headed ‘Yes, there are 70,000 moderate opposition fighters in Syria.’ Cameron’s estimate, Lister said, came from the Joint Intelligence Committee, but it chimed with his own work. He put the figure higher, at 75,000, spread out across more than a hundred different factions, many of them already vetted by the CIA and reckoned non-Islamist enough to be given US weaponry (including the TOW anti-tank missile, the weapon whose effectiveness partly triggered Assad’s plea for Russian support). But Lister pointed out that, besides them, there were another 27,500 fighters in two ‘supergroups’, Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, which were anti-Assad, anti-IS, unacceptably Islamist to the Americans, and too powerful to be left out of peace talks.

    Still, it sounded quite positive for Cameron. Until I contacted Lister. It turned out he wanted to step back from the use of the word ‘moderate’, preferring ‘mainstream’ – ‘mainstream’ in local Syrian terms, in other words, which could, from the point of view of Notting Hill, be very Islamically conservative indeed. Western rebel-counters, he said, required only two things of a mainstream rebel – that they be anti-IS, and that they had a role in a peace settlement. Which leaves a lot of room for enthusiasts of beheadings and Salafist mischief overseas; and which explains the Joint Intelligence Committee’s coyness about the breakdown of the prime minister’s 70,000 figure. One MP, Louise Haigh, interpreted a briefing from Mark Lyall Grant, the cabinet’s national security adviser, as government acceptance that 30,000 of the 70,000 were radical Islamists. Others at the briefing disputed her take, but the government has yet to offer a clear account of who the 70,000 are.

    It got worse. ‘Almost none of these groups will be dropping their fight against the Assad regime any time soon,’ Lister said.

    Fighting Assad, Iran and now Russia is their foremost priority. Isis comes second … This makes some of the PM’s claims highly questionable within existing dynamics. It is only the socially rooted, largely Sunni mainstream opposition that has the true potential to defeat Isis in Syria. But they will not realise that potential with the Assad regime in power. That’s where the British ‘Isis first strategy’ falls apart.

    In an analysis in October, Jennifer Cafarella and Genevieve Casagrande of another US think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, were more pessimistic still. They tracked the way Russian intervention in Syria had obliged many Syrian rebels – they listed 228 separate factions – to cut deals or make alliances with the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra. Their report described al-Nusra as ‘one of the most capable groups on the battlefield’, and characterised Ahrar al-Sham as its ally. ‘I am not arguing … that all of the 70,000 are somehow ideal partners,’ Cameron said before the vote [in the UK Commons on bombing Syria]. Indeed…’

    Mark Collins

  2. Iraq and Syria as we knew them are a done deal, the way to strangle ISIS is to turn the tribes in Anabar region. However to do this you need a guarantee from Saudi/Kuwait to defend and support them. this may start out as a “Iraqi Anabar autonomous zone” and slowly morph into a state. KSA might like this as it will create a buffer to help keep a Shiite Iraq and it’s Iranian backer off their border. lesser Syria in the North will stabilize and the 2 Kurdistans will survive the Syrian one playing nice with the Syrian regime and it’s patron Russia. The Iraqi Kurdistan will continue to evolve into a true state which is what it is doing now. That leaves a region not formally under anyone control. Possible the Syrian regime will make a deal with some of the tribes to “self-police” as a nominal province of Syria in name only.

  3. Paks staying away from anything–at Foreign Policy’s “South Asia Daily” (further links at original):

    Pakistan surprised by inclusion in Saudi anti-terror alliance

    On Wednesday [Dec. 16], Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry expressed surprise that Pakistan had been included in a list of 34 countries announced as part of an anti-terrorism alliance by Saudi Arabia (ET, Dawn). Chaudhry said he had learned of the inclusion by reading the news and that he had tasked the Pakistani ambassador to Saudi Arabia to obtain clarification. According to another senior Pakistani official, Saudi Arabia did not consult Pakistan before including it on the list. Pakistan has previously rejected calls to join military coalitions against ISIS. Last month Army Spokesman Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa stated: “We are not looking for any involvement outside our region.”..’

    Nice tweet on Saudi initiative:

    Mark Collins

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