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​‘US has no idea how to deal with Islamic State’

Published time: August 27, 2014 03:59
AFP Photo / HO

The US and the UK face a dilemma in battling the Islamic State, because it would likely mean siding with Assad in Syria against an enemy they helped create and against wishes of their allies in the region, political analyst Chris Bambery told RT.

RT: Do you think America will limit its anti-Islamic State operation in Syria to simply drone surveillance?

Chris Bambery: I think the Americans aren’t really in control of this intervention. They don’t really know what to do. There are increasing voices inside the United States and in Britain that they should side with the Assad regime against ISIS because the Islamic State is now the main enemy.

Though, I would like to point out, they can't do that because that would mean a break with their allies, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. The American really have got no idea, I think, how to deal with it. Because they know well, as their military chiefs have pointed out, airstrikes alone aren't sufficient to defeat ISIS, whether those strikes are in Syria, or whether they are in Iraq.

And they have to find a force on the ground which can match and defeat ISIS. The Kurdish fighters can capture most of the dam, but that does not compare to capturing of the city of Mosul which is a major operation, which will involve heavy losses and will require heavy weaponry, none of which the Peshmerga have.

I think the US are kind of casting around, trying to come up with something to show they are dealing with the ISIS as a threat. And sending drones will of course increase surveillance. But I think there is a sense as well in the US and in Britain that the increased involvement of the West in this region can lead to accidents happening.

We should remember that in Vietnam it began with American training troops being sent in and specialist forces being sent in. But actually as the Vietnamese began to attack them, the Americans had to send in the ground troops to protect their own advisers.

And I think it is that kind of feeling here in Syria and Iraq that they are on a slippery slope; and really this can lead quite easily to a Western intervention which both Obama and British PM David Cameron say they don't want.

RT: Why is Washington so reluctant to openly unite with Damascus in the face of a common and serious threat?

CB: Well it would mean that if the US sided with Damascus, it would mean a break with the Saudi Arabia which is a very important ally and of course a major investor and a trade partner of the US. It would mean a break with Turkey, a key member of the NATO alliance and probably less important Qatar. That would be a really big shift in American foreign policy.

Also it would involve a really big retreat by President Obama, who previously made it clear he wants to overthrow the Assad regime. Remember it was only last summer, Obama wanted cruise missile strikes in Damascus to help the rebels topple Assad.

So I think it is very difficult for the Obama administration to suddenly support Assad against ISIS. But this is what is being argued by many in the American military and by people at the former British foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind's, who points out that “Churchill and Roosevelt said they would support Stalin in WWII, why can't we recognize ISIS as our main enemy we face in the region and ally with Assad who at least got the capability of defeating these people on the ground.” But I think this is too much for Obama to take.