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An 'ISIS-free Zone' Is Nothing but a Road to US Mission Creep

July 30, 2015 in Economics

By Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford

The US war against Isis is being fought on autopilot, with little thought given to whether our actions will hurt or help American interests in the long-run. This weeks’ agreement between the United States and Turkey to create an ill-defined “Isis-free zone” in the north of Syria is just the latest example of this problem. Not only will it fail to reconcile the vastly different goals sought by America and its allies, it also risks mission creep, increasing US involvement in the Syrian conflict with little chance of success.

According to US officials, the joint creation of a 68-mile Isis-free zone within Syria is supposed to provide a space where coalition airstrikes eliminate Isis forces and cede control to moderate Syrian rebels focused on combating Isis. It’s still unclear precisely what form this will take, and the confusion rises to the highest levels of Washington and Ankara. Turkish spokesmen, for example, have described it as a safe zone for refugees, a description refuted by US officials.

The US’ involvement in Syria displays no strategy, no boundaries and no clear goals. The only viable long-term solution to Syria’s problems is diplomacy.”

US officials have also been clear that the agreement will not encompass a no-fly zone. Since Isis possesses no air power of any kind, the US has previously refused the demands of states like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to create a no-fly zone — similar to that put in place in Libya in 2011. A no-fly zone would prevent Assad from carrying out airstrikes, benefiting anti-government Syrian rebels, but would be extremely costly and bring the US into direct conflict with the Assad regime. Here we see a familiar conundrum: the United States says it is only engaged in fighting Isis, but its Middle Eastern allies also aim to overthrow the Assad regime.

The US refusal to impose a no fly-zone is a wise policy. There is no doubt that Bashar al-Assad’s regime is monstrous, but a violent overthrow would create a power vacuum which would primarily benefit Isis, al-Nusra and other extremist groups operating in Syria. This is where US wisdom begins to wane: even without a formal no-fly zone, the creation of a US-backed Isis-free zone moves us closer to direct confrontation with the Assad regime.

Furthermore, the ambiguity around the ‘Isis-free zone’ creates a clear risk of escalation. It’s unclear, for example, whether groups engaged …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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