The Sunday Leader

A Breakthrough By Hollande And Putin?

As horrendous scenes keep changing with rapidity, viewed In retrospect the war against ISIL (or ISIS) — the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant— is unique in modern global conflicts.

Around June last year  this unknown  organisation hit the headlines with its sweeping conquests of cities  in northern Iraq like Samara, Mosul, Tikrit, threatening  the Mosul Dam and the city of Kirkuk. It was not a state in terms of accepted norms, not having definite boundaries and only large swathes of occupied land in Syria and North Iraq. Its leader Abubakr Baghdadi was a shadowy figure who emerged from the forces of Al Quaeda, fighting the regime of Bashar al Assad. Yet he now claims to be the Caliph—ruler of the Muslim world.

The ghastly killings and slaughter of humans caused revulsion and universal condemnation. There is not yet any recognised state that openly declares its support for the ISIS.


Challenge to the West

Yet this shadowy and horrendous organisation is not only challenging powerful developed nations by wreaking havoc and causing utter confusion. These were countries that had the most orderly systems of governance but are now being invaded by tens of thousands of refugees and are shutting down metropolises for days as it happened in Belgium and to a certain extent in France, last week.

Most surprising is that the mighty military machines capable of destroying the world in a matter of seconds are doing nothing effective.


They appear to be paralysed

Their only response has been air strikes on military installations which they too admit are ineffective and counter productive. Nations that have fought two Great World Wars— even resorting to atomic weapons—   don’t want their young men in the desert sands of Iraq and Syria. ‘No boots on the ground’ is the firm resolve of all nations concerned— only air strikes. But if ISIS is to be defeated militarily, old foot soldiers are essential say Generals, military and intelligence experts and even keyboard strategists.

There is a mighty coalition of nations numbering 60+ (to date) led by the United States bombing strongholds of Isis. Russia is on its own but differing on the strategy to eliminate ISIS. But ISIS keeps hitting back as it did in Paris, Tunisia, Mali and earlier destroying a Russian plane carrying tourists over the Sinai.


Reason for impotence

What is the reason for the inability of forces opposing ISIS to strike their enemy? Analysts agree that mutually conflicting interests of the parties is the prime reason.

The Shiite- Sunni divide is one main cause. In Iraq minority Sunnis who held sway under Saddam Hussein have been replaced by the majority Shiites and that is still the problem of sectarian violence plaguing post Saddam Iraq. The Sunnis who are in the majority in northern Iraq prefer the Sunni led ISIS to the Shiite controlled Iraqi government. Shiite predominant fighters of Iran against ISIS have not been fully welcomed by Sunni Iraqis. Shiites are more in line with the Alawites ruling Assad led Syria and have been backing Assad against anti-Assad rebels who are Sunnis.

Russia and France flags

Kurdish Pershmerga forces who have been very effective against ISIS forces are being opposed by Turkey because the Kurds are demanding the creation of a separate Kurdistan established in lands of Turkey and Iraq. The anti-Assad  forces who are supported by Western nations are handicapped because of the reluctance of the West to fully back them particularly in armaments because   anti- Assad front had been infiltrated by the Al Quaeda and the possibility of Western armaments ending with the Al Quaeda. The leader of ISIS   Baghdadi had emerged from the Al-Quaeda branch of Al Nusra.

The potpourri of conflicting forces in the Middle East apparently has negated their prime aim of destroying ISIS and even removing of the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who was the origin of the whole Syrian imbroglio.

But even bigger problems may emerge with the removal of Assad and the destruction if the ISIS.


Power vacuum

President Barrack Obama in a speech last month briefly speculated on the possibility of sending in ground troops into Syria and achieving the objective of destroying ISIS and the removal of Assad. There still  would be the problem of finding those who could govern these regions in a just and democratic manner, after Assad and ISIS are removed  he said.

Obama obviously was thinking of what happened in Iraq.

It was relatively easy for US troops to enter Iraq, pull down the statue of Saddam Hussein and President George W Bush and  declare ‘Mission Accomplished.’ Bush had spoken openly of making Iraq a model of democracy in the Middle East. But 12 years later Iraq still remains a bloody basket case with sectarian violence raging among the two Muslim sects while ISIS still holds many  parts of the country. The power vacuum created by the removal of the dictator could not be filled by election of a democratic government envisaged by George Bush.

Western powers have still not spelled out what they hoped to do following the victory in Syria and defeating ISIS.


A  breakthrough?

A glimmer of hope for resolution emerged last month at the Vienna Conference held on Syria and Iraq attended by Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and presided over UN envoy for Syria Steffan de Mistura.

It was proposed  to make representatives of the Syrian government and Opposition groups meet for formal talks by January 01, install  a transition government within 6 months for constitution to be drafted within 18mths and an election held. Meanwhile a ceasefire to be arranged between warring groups. The main problem appeared to be removal of President Assad with the United States insisting that Assad has  no further role to play while Russia  appeared to shift  from  its hardstand supporting Assad to a position that the Syrian people had a right to choose their representatives.

A positive breakthrough appeared on Thursday when French President Francois Hollande met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Putin despite a Russian fighter jet being shot down by Turkey a NATO ally softened his line further when he agreed to cooperate with  France and the US led coalition on the choice of targets to determine territories that could be struck as well as those that could be spared. Putin and Hollande also agreed to an exchange of information and to co-ordinate action on the battlefield. Putin how ever has been severely critical on the failure of the United States to rein in Turkey, a member of NATO and prevent the shooting of a Russian fighter plane over Syria.

Earlier strong protests were made by the United States on Russian planes targeting anti Assad opposition groups and not so much ISIS targets.

If the diplomacy of the French Prime Minister Hollande had made Russian President Hollande to relax on  his hardline it could be a light emerging from the end of the tunnel.


2 Comments for “A Breakthrough By Hollande And Putin?”

  1. prasad kariyawasam

    Correction, “If the diplomacy of the french prime Minister Holland has made Russian Presiden ………………………………”

  2. Ananthan

    Primary of goal of NATO is removing any person who support Russia and put another Petro Poroshenko in charge. CNN and BBC successfully cooked up Dictator Assad after 2011 as you believe.
    Phase – 1
    NATO captured Afghanistan and Iraq. Mission Accomplished as stated by BUSH.
    Phase – 2
    NATO dethroned Gaddafi.
    By doing this West got under control all of oil sources in Middle East.
    Phase – 3
    Laying pipe between Europe and Middle East. This is where Russia (and Iran) has waken up and reinforcing up Syria not Assad.
    The big picture here is West try to weak Russian oil demand. That is the plan. West never consult when attacking Iraq or Libya, but it was forced to do in Syria because of Russia. Until now west never discuss how to restore democracy in Iraq and Libya, but they still insist democracy in Syria. Real topics are out of the white-blue table.
    West is talking about Democracy in Syria meanwhile Ally Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is crushing journalist and people with iron fist, west pretends it never see that.
    ISIS was accident product of west adventure to dethrone Assad. West was waiting for that day, with drama air strikes. But Situation was got out of control when Russia entered.
    Plan of soldiers in boots is very expensive option at the moment. Air strikes which is planning by Europe (London is joining) can help to contain ISIS and prevent security compromises like Paris attack.
    Meanwhile they encourage ISIS to fight with Syria (Russia) as NATO shoot down Russian Jet. Note that US is still have plan to arm ISIS on the name of moderate rebels.
    Geopolitical events cannot be viewed by naked eye, but you don’t need third eye.

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