D. SUBA CHANDRAN
September 22, 2014
ReutersCOMPLEX: Closing down IS’s network requires significant international and regional cooperation, which poses another challenge. Picture shows a Kurdish fighter at a spot overlooking Baretle village on the edge of Mosul, and which is controlled by IS.
Bridging the trust deficit in West Asia is among the major challenges to the U.S. President’s new strategy against the Islamic State
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama outlined a new strategy to meet the challenge of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. In reality, the four-pronged approach would mean the return of the U.S. to the Middle East.
At the outset, it is a brave decision for which Mr. Obama deserves to be congratulated. Only a few weeks ago did he accept that the U.S. lacked a policy to deal with IS. Given the larger global implications and fallout of IS’ successes, it is imperative that there is coherent action taken to neutralise it. Will Mr. Obama succeed in his objective? There are at least five major challenges to the U.S. President’s new strategy.
Relying on air support
There is little doubt that this will be a long-drawn war. Though public opinion has turned around after the brutal killing of two journalists by IS, it may take yet another turn. Also, Mr. Obama, who is now being provided the necessary support of the U.S. Congress to arm the Syrian opposition to fight IS would need this to continue. But there is a larger debate taking place with the U.S. on the nature and extent of an American military presence.
There are already differences between Mr. Obama and his military on the use of ground forces in Iraq. Mr. Obama wants to rely only on “tightly controlled” air strikes whereas the military leadership would like to keep the option of engaging U.S. ground troops open. Military officials who have served under him have been quoted as saying in an Intelligence Committee of the House that “half-hearted or tentative efforts, or air strikes alone, can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes.”
Second, Mr. Obama aims to weaken IS through “a systematic campaign of air strikes.” He has cautiously avoided deploying U.S. ground troops in Iraq, though he has also announced that American non-combat service members to “support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment” would be increased.