A day after US ambassador to The UN Samantha Powers stated, "we will not do the airstrikes alone if the president decides to do the airstrikes," and Russia warned, "bombing Syria without the cooperation of Damascus can have destructive practical consequences on the humanitarian situation in Syria," it appears President Obama's grand strategy to combat IS via a 'broad coalition' of allies is flailing. While the WSJ reports, The Pentagon is preparing war plans in Syria that would include an intensive initial wave of strikes against Islamic State targets, Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier explained today that providing air support or sending ground troops to fight Islamic State is "out of the question for us." For now, it appears, the only nation involved in the 'broad coalition' is France. Why? Because as we said yesterday, this is merely over fears of more BNPs. "A key component of this would be allied participation," said a U.S. official; does '1' ally count?
The U.S. is seeking commitments from allies to join in airstrikes on Syria before it launches attacks against Islamic State targets, American officials said, reflecting concerns about acting unilaterally.
The administration hopes that one or two allies will join in the initial wave of airstrikes, which could be launched as early as next week, these officials said.
President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials are attending the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York this month, in part, to try and woo more partners to the U.S.-led coalition.
The Pentagon is preparing war plans in Syria that would include an intensive initial wave of strikes against Islamic State targets.
U.S. officials said adding allies would help spread the burden of the strikes. But far more important is the symbolism a joint strike would have, showing that the U.S. isn't acting unilaterally but has support from the international community.
"A key component of this would be allied participation," said a U.S. official.
As Bloomberg reports, Germany is "out"
Providing air support or sending ground troops to fight Islamic State in Iraq is “out of the question for us,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier tells broadcaster ARD in an intv.
Combating IS requires “separation of labor” as France, U.S. carry out air strikes.
Approach in Syria will be different, more political, as there is no single frontline as in Iraq.
Steinmeier sees no reason to lift ban on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) amid IS offensive.
And while France has helped out - fearing more $9 billion "penalties" for its banking system if it did not - even they are backing away...
France has joined the U.S. in striking targets in Iraq, but French President François Hollande has publicly said he would not extend those strikes to Syria. French officials have said they are worried striking Islamic State in Syria could bolster the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
And other nations are faltering...
Foreign ministers meeting with Mr. Kerry Friday appeared split on whether to push the war on Islamic State into Syria.
The narrow focus of the U.S. government on Islamic State militants has hampered diplomatic efforts at building up a coalition, particularly among Arab countries. Some Arab diplomats have said the U.S. should focus on attacking the Assad regime as well as extremist groups.
None of Washington's Middle Eastern allies have publicly committed to participation in military operations against Islamic State, and administration officials have tried to deflect questions about how far Arab leaders may be willing to go to support the effort.
Other nations in the region have privately raised questions about the depth of the American commitment to push back Islamic State, worried that the U.S. will pull out too quickly, and not press long enough to permanently weaken the militants.
As Russia warns...
"We are concerned about bombing Syria without the cooperation of Damascus," Russia's ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin said. "It can have destructive practical consequences on the humanitarian situation in Syria."
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So far, the 'Strategy' of a broad coalition is failing - but don't let that shake the administration's "hope" for "change."
Mr. Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, on Friday played down any potential divisions within the coalition or confusion about who would be leading the effort.
"This will be a unified coalition," Ms. Rice told reporters. "It will be cohesive. And it will be under one single command authority."
Ms. Rice reiterated the U.S. position on a ground war, saying: "Our strategy does not involve U.S. troops on the ground in a combat role in either Iraq or Syria."
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Talking-Points Mission Accomplished...
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As National Review's Victor Davis Hanson notes, for now, most allies are sitting tight and waiting for preemptive, unilateral U.S. action. If we begin defeating the Islamic State, they may eventually join in on the kill; if not, they won’t. That is a terrible way to wage coalition warfare, but we are reaping what we have sown.
Why the reluctance for allies to join the U.S.?
Most in the Middle East and Europe do not believe the Obama administration knows much about the Islamic State, much less what to do about it. The president has dismissed it in the past as a jayvee team that could be managed, contradicting the more dire assessments of his own secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
When Obama finally promised to destroy the Islamic State, Secretary of State John Kerry almost immediately backtracked that idea of a full-blown war. Current CIA director John Brennan once dismissed as absurd any idea of Islamic terrorists seeking a modern caliphate. It may be absurd, but it is now also all too real.
Such confusion sadly is not new. The president hinges our hopes on the ground on the Free Syrian Army - which he chose not to help when it once may have been viable. And not long ago he dismissed it as an inexperienced group of doctors and farmers whose utility was mostly a “fantasy.”
No ally is quite sure of what Obama wants to do about Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom he once threatened to bomb for using chemical weapons before backing off.
Potential allies also feel that the Obama administration will get them involved in an operation only to either lose interest or leave them hanging. When Obama entered office in 2009, Iraq was mostly quiet. Both the president and Vice President Joe Biden soon announced it was secure and stable. Then they simply pulled out all U.S. troops, bragged during their re-election campaign that they had ended the war, and let our Iraqi and Kurdish allies fend for themselves against suddenly emboldened Islamic terrorists.
In Libya, the administration followed the British and French lead in bombing the Moammar Gadhafi regime out of power — but then failed to help dissidents fight opportunistic Islamists. The result was the Benghazi disaster, a caricature of a strategy dubbed “leading from behind,” and an Afghanistan-like failed state facing Europe across the Mediterranean.
Now, the president claims authorization to bomb the Islamic State based on a 13-year-old joint resolution - a Bush administration-sponsored effort that Obama himself had often criticized. If the president cannot make a new case to Congress and the American people for bombing the Islamic State, then allies will assume that he cannot build an effective coalition either.
Finally, potential allies doubt that the United States wants to be engaged abroad. They are watching China flex its muscles in the South China Sea. They have not yet seen a viable strategy to stop the serial aggression of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Iran seems to consider U.S. deadlines to stop nuclear enrichment in the same manner that Assad scoffed at administration red lines. With Egypt, the administration seemed confused about whether to support the tottering Hosni Mubarak government, the radical Muslim Brotherhood, or the junta of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi — only at times to oppose all three.
Obama himself seems disengaged, if not bored, with foreign affairs. After publicly deploring the beheading of American journalist James Foley, Obama hit the golf course. When the media reported the disconnect, he scoffed that it was just bad “optics.”
There is a legitimate debate about the degree to which the United States should conduct a preemptive war to stop the Islamic State before it gobbles up any more nations. But so far the president has not entered that debate, much less won it.
No wonder, then, that potential allies do not quite know what the U.S. is doing, how long America will fight, and what will happen to U.S. allies when we likely get tired, quit, and leave.
For now, most allies are sitting tight and waiting for preemptive, unilateral U.S. action. If we begin defeating the Islamic State, they may eventually join in on the kill; if not, they won’t.
That is a terrible way to wage coalition warfare, but we are reaping what we have sown.
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