When chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey opened the doors to a more voluptuous U.S. role in Iraq by affirming that one day the USA will think about sending ground troops to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, he affirmed that the volume of the boots on the ground would be rather modest.
Whereas an expert in international politics believes that Jordan — in order to maintain its interests — might respond to the changes that will engulf the U.S. position and that it will adapt to them, he noted that the reputation of the ruling U.S. Democratic party was at stake, after the Republicans took control of Congress, and, therefore, President Barack Obama might engage in sprints in his foreign policy, by creating ground circumstances to change the balance of forces, and to force the Syrian regime to enter a political process for the transition of authority.
At the time, Dempsey’s statements at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee last Thursday coincided with press leaks on the same day around Obama’s request to his national security squad to come forward with another revision of Washington’s Syria policy, after he realized that it will not be possible to defeat the Islamic State group without a political transition in Syria and the removal of Assad; analysts in talks with the Al Ghad newspaper believe that it is the CIA’s specialty to measure reactions to such leaks.
These analysts agreed that the change in U.S. strategy will influence Jordan, because Jordan is a partner in the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State group; however, they saw it as unlikely that Jordan will send ground forces to Syria or Iraq.
In response to that, a government source sufficed by recalling the Jordanian position which placed Jordan as a participant in the Arab and international coalition in the war against terrorism. The source told Al Ghad newspaper that the ground field operation will be executed by the Iraqi army, the Kurdish peshmerga forces and the Syrian rebels.
In addition to that, informed political sources standing close to the closed sessions of the kitchen cabinet affirmed that Jordan will not send any ground troops abroad in any given situation.
International relations professor Dr. Hassan Momani summarized the urgent change on Obama’s policy by saying that Obama’s publicized strategy is to contain and degrade the Islamic State group and his plan regarding Iraq was clear until now: “airstrikes, ground advisors, and working with Iraqi forces and the regional allies.”
As for the issue of Syria, the strategy differs and entails qualifying and arming the moderate rebels to be deployed in the war against the Islamic State group and to exert pressure on the regime. Professor Momani, from the Faculty of International Studies at the University of Jordan, believes that despite the fact that many believe there is a link between the issue of Iraq and Syria, Obama stands in front of three choices to destroy the Islamic State group.
The first is that dealing with the regime of Assad is a must and this is a dangerous option which has its consequences; if dealt with by the U.S. administration, it will raise the ire of its regional allies and the Sunni side, according to his estimation. The second choice, according to Momani, is to simultaneously fight the Islamic State group and the Syrian regime; this option in itself will create a dilemma to the international community, which is toppling the regime without finding an alternative from the moderate rebels qualified to run Syria.
The third option is the political solution for Syria, with a consensus between the USA and regional and international forces, and this requires a consensus with Russia and that Iran is present. As for Russia, it doesn’t look like it will cooperate regarding Syria in the foreseeable future. As for Iran, its position is tied to the results of the nuclear agreement.
Momani notes that the change took over U.S. internal policy due to Republican control; Obama wants to deal with this Congress during what is left of his presidency, which is two years, and due to the fact that his capabilities to make decisions has decreased, the reputation of the Democratic party in the upcoming presidential elections is what he cares about now.
In this regard, Obama might take a hawkish position toward Assad and work on creating circumstances on the ground to change the balance of power in such a way that the Syrian regime will be left with no other option but to enter a political process for the transition of authority. Momani believes that it is not a requirement that the change will entail sending ground forces, but it is possible to agree to establish isolated zones and targeting the Syrian regime forces with the pretext of protecting civilians from explosive barrels, etc., and it is possible to hasten arming the rebels and creating circumstances on the ground that will prompt the regime to enter a political solution.
On the effects of such on Jordan, the kingdom will be part of the war against the Islamic State group, and governed by this participation there will no doubt be an effect. Jordan is also the USA’s ally and is, geographically and socially speaking, closer to Syria. Momani sees it as likely that Jordan enters some kind of operation during a specific time period, and it is not a requirement to send ground forces, but out of the notion of preserving its interests it might respond to the changes which will occur on the U.S.’ stance and will adapt to them.
A political analyst, on condition of anonymity, said that the strategy announced by Obama two months ago will not succeed without the presence of ground forces in Syria and Iraq and without an agreement with Assad on a political settlement which entails his departure, for the trained opposition forces to be able to take over the fight of extremist groups in cooperation with the international coalition.
It is worth mentioning that Obama is planning to increase the number of U.S. military advisors in Iraq to 3,100; their number now is 1,400, which means more than double their current number. In an editorial in “The Atlantic,” writer Adam Chandler wondered: “So what happens if the United States does change course? There are strategic benefits to removing Assad from power, of course, but there is no end to the political and military complications either.”
In his editorial published two days ago, titled: “Can the U.S. Defeat ISIS Without Removing Assad?” he said: “While the American-led coalition has targeted Islamic State forces and installations in Syria from the sky, they’ve done so without having to confront Assad’s considerable air forces.” As a consequence, he added: “If the United States throws the Syrian regime into its crosshairs, the mission in Syria will likely get considerably thornier.”