Islamic State leaders make a surprising political move that severed part of President Obama’s plan for U.S. led military action against the group.
The news comes just as Secretary of State, John Kerry winds down his visit to various Middle Eastern nations in an attempt to rally support for a U.S. formed coalition of allies against the Islamic State militant group.
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Sunday- ISIS had signed a cease fire agreement with the Syrian Revolutionary Front rebel group in the suburbs of Syria’s capitol. The agreement was reported to have been mediated by the al-Nusra front. The al-Nusra is an Al-Qaeda led group operating in northern Syria.
The Syrian Revolutionary Front is reported to control an estimated 25,000 fighters and to be a major part of the Free Syrian Army. The Syrian Revolutionary Front is known to have close bonds with the Syrian National Coalition, another huge group that helps make up the Free Syrian Army. The Syrian Revolutionary Front has been used as a tactical ally of the United States in the modern past.
The Free Syrian Army is the same Syrian rebels the president was relying on, to be the troops on the ground in his attempt to ‘destroy’ ISIS. In part of the presidential plan, he laid out before the American people on Wednesday night; the president stated the U.S. would provide arms and training to the rebel army. The rebels have been engaging in massive conflict with ISIS fighters, while being locked in previous and ongoing combat with the Syrian government. The president seemed hopeful in his speech, which outlined his plan; that the Free Syrian Army would serve as a major part of the U.S. coalition’s ground campaign against ISIS fighters.
The Syrian government is currently controlled by Bashar al-Assad, who was suspected by the U.S. of orchestrating chemical attacks on Syrians in the Ghouta Suburbs of Damascus in April 2013. The Free Syrian Army has been fighting Bashar al-Assad’s Regime since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. When ISIS fighters began taking major control of vast areas of Syria, serious clashes broke out between the ‘jihadist’ fighters and the rebel army. President Obama was hoping U.S. aid to strengthen rebel opposition against the radicals, would allow the rebels to act as the initial troops on the ground in the U.S. formed coalition against ISIS.
The rebels announced on Saturday they would not agree to be part of the U.S. plan, unless assured that Assad’s regime would be toppled. This came as a previous announcement to the unexpected signing of a cease fire treaty with the Islamic State militants. Rumors surrounding announcement of the treaty, include talk of the rebels and ISIS agreeing al-Assad was the more important enemy in both of their fights. The rebel stance has always been that al-Assad was the greater enemy to their cause and the threat they took up arms to fight. Fighting extremist such as ISIS was never a top priority concern for the Syrian rebels. The signing of a cease fire seems to be no surprising arrangement on the part of the rebels.
However, on the part of ISIS leadership it comes as a shock. The militants have shown the world their declaration of a holy war has no boundaries. International war treaties or humanitarian rules do not apply to their fighters according to previous statements. Their atrocities flourish in the headlines of major news sources, daily- flaunting a medieval level of violence they use to accomplish their goals of forming an empire from conquered lands. In a region where IS has showed they fight anyone and everyone who stands in the way of its ideology. Why would ISIS show regards for a cease fire agreement, now?
Is this move really an attempt by Islamic State leaders to use political maneuvering as a strategic tactic against the U.S. pre-war staging? It would come as no surprise as the Islamic State has used many uncanny resources to help strengthen the claim as a legitimate world state. A cease fire treaty allows ISIS to get some breathing room from the ethnic and territorial infighting, while giving necessary time for reorganization and repairing of troops and equipment. It also could provide the group with a small moment to quickly try to secure complete control of their captured territory. It allows tactical preparation for the militants, as they attempt to settle in for a long war against the U.S. and its coalition of allies.
Obviously, these points were a factor in the Islamic State leadership’s decision to sign, but just an additional bonus to the strategic purpose. The real major political tactic perpetrated from the signing of the temporary treaty could sabotage the Obama administrations joint coalition forces plan. This shows skillful political savvy by Islamic State leaders. This signing, very well, could be an attempt to show the world it understands the use of political strategy as a tool of war. Politics can be a powerful beauracratic device with the ability to allow combat staging and prewar preparation. It allows a response and rebuttal as a blockade to enemy political action- an ancient tool in modern warfare. It seems very possible the extremist are using the cease fire agreement as a political strategy against the U.S. plan.
This move could have a major impact on president Obama’s plan to use the ‘moderate’ rebels as the initial ‘boots on the ground’ in his operation. The cease fire also offers ISIS leadership an opportunity to push the U.S. into a ground troop commitment, which ultimately would bolster recruitment numbers for their ranks and increased civil support for their goals of forming a Muslim empire called the Islamic State. Could this be the true motivation behind this agreement? It was an unprecedented and unexpected move by Islamic State leaders, but strategically intelligent.
Update: Although reports of the cease fire have reached the White House, the Obama administration shows no change on their stance to arm the various Syrian army rebel groups making up the Free Syrian Army. Could al-Assad also be in the U.S. crosshairs?