MOSCOW, August 28 (RIA Novosti) - Washington should establish a new Syrian army in order to fight both the Islamic State and Bashar al-Assad, allowing the US to end the Syrian war "on its own terms," believes Kenneth M. Pollack, a former CIA intelligence analyst and Senior Fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
"There is, in fact, a way that the United States could get what it wants in Syria – and, ultimately, in Iraq as well – without sending in US forces: by building a new Syrian opposition army capable of defeating both President Bashar al-Assad and the more militant Islamists," he writes in his article "An Army to Defeat Assad," which was recently published by Foreign Affairs.
"Since the fall of Mosul in June 2014, the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars have become entangled," claims Kenneth Pollack, presenting a detailed road map for creating a new Syrian fighting force. The author insists that the strategy "would serve the US interests" in both Syria and Iraq.
According to the former CIA analyst, the military group should be initially created and trained outside Syria: for instance, in Jordan, "where the United States is already providing some aid to rebels," and in Turkey. In order to launch an offensive, Washington should amass at least two or three brigades, each consisting of 1,000 – 2,000 servicemen, and provide this military contingent with heavy weapons, "including tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery and surface-to-air missiles," Mr. Pollack stresses. However, the strategy could also require support from the US Air Force. Pollack believes that the Syrians, who are tired of both "Assad's tyranny" and "Islamist fanaticism," would likely to support the new army and join it as volunteers.
As they moved deeper into Syrian territory, the opposition leaders could proclaim "a new provisional government" in Syria and receive recognition from the United States and its allies, the political analyst writes. After the new government is proclaimed, the US Department of Defense would openly train and advise the army of the "legitimate" Syrian authorities. Pollack emphasizes that since establishing the new government could take years in postwar Syria, "a special representative of the UN secretary" would "retain sovereignty" of the state until a new leadership was grown "from the bottom up." At the same time, according to the strategy, the US would actively assist in Syria's economic and political reconstruction. It should be noted that the scheme described by Mr. Pollack looks similar to that implemented in Kosovo, where the United Nations Interim Administration Mission was established in 1999, while the region was turned into a NATO stronghold in former Yugoslavia.
In other words, the former CIA analyst, who represents a policy center which was created under the aegis of the Brookings Institute by ardently pro-Israeli Jewish media tycoon Haim Saban in 2002, is proposing a plan to seize the territory of a sovereign state, which is governed by an internationally-recognized President, Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Pollack underscores that the military campaign would take two to five years and cost $18-$22 billion per year. The expert suggests that since the Persian Gulf states are interested in ousting al-Assad, they could provide the US with substantial financial support. It's worth mentioning that "they have already spent billions of dollars backing various Syrian militias," he notes.
Pollack admits that the US may pay some unexpected costs and it "would need to be prepared to lose some American lives." "US pilots could be shot down and US advisors could be wounded, killed, or captured." (This notion of Mr. Pollack may remind one of the disturbing incident in Benghazi.)
Kenneth Pollack notes that the involvement of US-backed forces in the Middle East may provoke a sharp escalation of the conflict in the region, engaging both Iran and Hezbollah. He also admits that the new Syrian army may even lose the war or fail to secure postwar Syria, which could fragment and become a failed state. Since there would be no American boots on the ground, Washington would be able to choose whether to involve itself deeper in the conflict or walk away, Pollack explains. Although his "ambitious proposal" looks exceptionally risky, the cost of inaction would be much higher, insists the policy analyst. One obvious beneficiary of this expensive plan would be Israel, which would understandably prefer an American client state on its border to Al-Assad or a fervently anti-Israeli Islamic Caliphate.
The comments of Foreign Affairs' readers regarding Mr. Pollack's plan are as interesting as the article itself. "In what way is Assad a threat to the US? In no way whatsoever! To oust him will create carnage on an imaginable scale," writes a user named Alterity. "Pollack advocates for a strategy which has failed in the past, most notably in Afghanistan in the 80s, in training a mercenary army to complete US goals," notes another user. "To summarize the below post… the US taxpayer should be prepared, for the next decade, to shoulder an additional $175 billion just in civil assistance/security for Syria and Ukraine," underscores a user named Alexis Pleshcoy.
Alarmingly, the number of experts advocating a "double strike" on the Islamic State and Bashar al-Assad is growing. Moreover, a theory, allegedly created by the Syrian opposition, that Assad was supporting ISIS, has appeared recently in the reputable Western media. "The Assad regime played a key role in ISIL's rise… The Syrian regime fostered the growth of terrorist networks," claimed Marie Harf, a US State Department spokeswoman and former CIA spokeswoman, as cited by the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is considering a 'limited' air assault on jihadi fighters in Syria. The question remains open whether the 'limited' assault will turn into a large-scale military operation against both the Islamic State and Bashar al-Assad.