One year ago the Obama administration was doing their very best to build up public support for U.S. military intervention in Syria. Even though that attempt failed, no one who has been following this crisis closely believed for a moment that this was the end. They would regroup and try again from another angle.
The angle they chose was surprising. Iraq has been off the media radar for so long that almost no one was factoring it in as an important geopolitical variable. ISIS (or ISIL) changed that.
In our video “The Fall of Iraq What You’re Not Being Told” we covered the history of U.S. tinkering in Iraq dating back to 1963, and showed how the U.S. government’s push to topple Assad by funding and arming extremists in Syria enabled ISIS to gain a foothold in the region. At the end of that video we pointed to how this latest crisis in Iraq was likely to be used as a pretext for U.S. strikes in Syria.
The Obama administration confirmed this when questioned yesterday on whether the U.S. military intervention in Iraq would be extended to Syria. Their response: “We don’t restrict potential U.S. action to a specific geographic space,”
“The president’s made clear time and again that we will take action as necessary, including direct U.S. military action, if it’s necessary to defend the United States against an imminent threat,” the official said.
“Clearly we’re focused on Iraq. That’s where our ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] resources have surged. That’s where we’re working to develop additional intelligence,” the official added.
“But the group [ISIS], again, operates broadly and we would not restrict our ability to take action that is necessary to protect the United States.”
Oh, and this time Obama is not going to ask for permission from Congress.
No one is talking about how the Syrian government (and the Washington’s desire to topple it) fits into this, but once the U.S. is carrying out airstrikes in Syrian territory, it would be trivial to expand the scope of the mission to include Syrian military targets. That way there would be no need for debate on the topic. The public would just find out we were at war after the fact (and probably via youtube). It’s a backdoor approach.
Another variable that has changed in the equation since last year is Russia’s involvement. Due to the crisis in Ukraine, Russia has been placed on the defensive diplomatically, and as of yet it seems to be too tied up with disputes with Kiev to take an active role in the deliberations over ISIS. In the first round of the Syrian crisis both China and Russia warned the U.S. several times against military intervention, and Russia threatened that it could lead to a nuclear conflict.
At this point, it’s not clear whether Russia and China see where Washington is planning to take this, or if they will back up their previous threats when the time comes. It is also yet to be seen whether the relentless anti-Russia propaganda campaign that western media outlets have been pushing since the Ukraine crisis will affect Putin’s ability to influence the outcome diplomatically. The annexation of Crimea will definitely be used to discredit Putin if he attempts to block airstrikes in Syria.
However, perhaps the most important variable here is whether the public will react in a timely manner.