Here is a very thoughtful response to the previous post by Mark Lynch on how the Arab Spring was analyzed as it unfolded.
“It is not difficult to understand this intense urge to take stock, given the sorry state of the region and catastrophic results of virtually every one of the 2011 uprisings. The overblown criticisms of the field of Middle East political science over its failure to predict the uprisings have been thoroughly aired by this point. But what about the field’s performance during the Arab uprisings? Academics have written an unprecedented amount of real-time analysis and commentary over the last few years. What did we miss, misinterpret, exaggerate or rush to premature judgments about along the way?”
Once a war starts, sifting through the spin, propaganda and general confusion becomes a daunting task. The war on IS is only just beginning, and the “fog of war” is already setting in. Here are a few of the conflicting reports coming out of Iraq and Syria:
According to one source, the US already needs a new, more ambitious strategy:
“Critics will call this strategy too costly, alleging that it will push the United States down a “slippery slope” into another ground war. But while this approach will undoubtedly incur greater financial cost and higher risk of casualties, the present minimalist strategy has scant chance of success and risks backfiring — the Islamic State’s prestige will be enhanced if it withstands half-hearted U.S. airstrikes. Left unchecked, the Islamic State could expand into Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, making a major ground war involving U.S. troops more likely.” See The U.S. strategy against the Islamic State must be retooled. Here’s how.”, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-us-strategy-against-the-islamic-state-must-be-retooled-heres-how/2014/11/14/7972e50c-6b8a-11e4-a31c-77759fc1eacc_story.html
According to another the war is going fine, and IS is nothing but “a bunch of midgets running around with a really radical ideology”. See “Battle turning against IS, says US Gen Martin Dempsey”, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30067485
And, according to Kurdish sources there are a lot more of those radical “midgets” than we originally thought, perhaps “seven to eight times more than Western intelligence estimates”, numbering as many as 200,000. see “IS seven times bigger than Western estimates: Kurds claim”, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/uk/IS-seven-times-bigger-than-Western-estimates-Kurds-claim/articleshow/45165857.cms
There have also been reports that the US bombing campaign in Syria is driving the previously fragmented Islamist groups back together in a broad anti-western Salafi/Jihadi alliance. This analysis suggests these reports are unreliable: The Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra: A Looming Grand Jihadi Alliance?, http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/islamic-state-jabhat-al-nusra-looming-grand-jihadi-alliance/
Finally, if you still had any faith in YouTube, see “#BBCTrending: Syrian ‘hero boy’ video faked by Norwegian director”, http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-30057401
“Is it right for Western nations to intervene abroad using military force? There are few questions in our time that are as incendiary.
There are also few questions where both a yes and no answer can lead to comparably catastrophic consequences.”
“the only way we can get a solution in Syria is some kind of political compromise between moderate elements of the opposition as well as the moderate elements of the government.”
“We don’t think it’s possible to bring the diverse elements of Syria together unless you have both sides come together in some way, that a victory of one side over the other is just not a realistic or desirable outcome.”
Interesting comment from Stephan Harper. He is openly talking about a post-civil war Syrian political system that includes elements of the current regime. I wonder if that includes Assad?
Someone once said politics makes for strange bedfellows: “Shiite militias are making inroads into the mainly Sunni province of Anbar. Previously Anbar’s Sunni tribes have not allowed the controversial militia groups in but now one tribe has invited them to help. Things are becoming ever more complex in Anbar and the arrival of US troops, who, it seems, will be staying at the same base as the Iran-sponsored militias, are complicating things further.”
The reports below both focus on how the formation of an anti-ISIS alliance seems to be impacting the balance of power in Syria, putting the Assad government and the ‘moderate’ opposition in a position where compromise may be possible. However, the anti-ISIS alliance is fundamentally unstable, and several of its members (Turkey, Saudi Arabia) are operating on the premise that Assad regime will be the next target after ISIS. It is not clear how they would react to a truce. Moreover, the battle lines in Syria have shifted time and time again. One has to be cautious about drawing too many conclusions about what the short term trends mean.
“While events on the regional diplomatic scene are moving rapidly, there is renewed momentum to draw the outlines of a final endgame in Syria. This momentum is boosted by the imminent historic agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which if concluded will convince the world that Iran can negotiate in good faith, and the Iranians can become key partners in working out solutions to the region’s other pressing issues, the war on the Islamic State (IS) and the Syrian conflict.”
Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/syria-decisive-battles-south-north.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=b5b7b970e5-November_11_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-b5b7b970e5-93109553#ixzz3IoFS486b
“The UN mediator in the Syrian conflict, Staffan de Mistura, has told the BBC he believes there is a fresh opportunity to resolve the country’s crisis… Mr de Mistura said that rival sides, namely the moderate rebels and government forces, were starting to question why they were engaged in a conflict that was being taken advantage of by IS and Nusra Front jihadists.”