The much ballyhooed air and cruise missile attacks President Barack Obama ordered on the Islamic State in Syria Sept. 22 were designed to minimize terrorist casualties, Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, a retired Army intelligence officer, told Fox News.
The proof is that the attacks were at night.
“There was no air-defense threat,” Lt. Col. Peters noted. “If you wanted to kill terrorists, you would have hit those headquarters and compounds and logistic sites at 10 or 11 in the morning when they were crowded with leaders, staff officers, flunkies, etc. Instead, we hit empty buildings at night. We knocked down antennas, we blew out windows.”
“IS forces used to be there, but they left, so [air strikes] haven’t helped us,” Ismat Sheikh Hassan, the defense chief for Kobane, a town on the Turkish border besieged by IS terrorists, told The Independent. The Kurds defending Kobane have only AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades with which to fight off IS tanks and armored personnel carriers.
Pulling our punches may explain why, despite six weeks of bombing, IS forces — having routed the Iraqi army yet again — are now within a mile of Baghdad.
But even when we try to kill terrorists, there’s a limit to what air power alone can do. In their first five missions in Iraq, British RAF Tornados returned to base without dropping bombs.
Because we lack a reliable partner on the ground to flush the enemy and force him to concentrate forces, the president’s “strategy” for fighting the Islamic State doesn’t have “a snowball’s chance in hell” of succeeding, Gen. James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant during Mr. Obama’s first term, said at a recent conference in Washington, D.C.
Even strikes conducted chiefly to mollify his domestic critics would have been more effective if the president hadn’t pulled our punches. Why did he?
The answer may lie in Mr. Obama’s bizarre insistence that the Islamic State isn’t Islamic. Most Muslims don’t share their extreme interpretation of Islam. But it’s dangerous to deny their motivation is religious.
The IS creed stems from Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (1703?-1792), who demanded a return to how he imagined Islam was practiced in the seventh century. Muslims who didn’t agree were “infidels” who should be killed, he wrote. His followers called Wahhab’s creed Salafism (Salaf means “ancestor” in Arabic).
Salafism is heresy, Muslim scholars said in his day and since.
It is well-funded heresy, though, because Salafism is the state religion of Saudi Arabia. Wahhabis once were wildly unpopular beyond the Arabian peninsula, but oil money has magnified their influence.
Every Sunni Islamist militant is a Salafi. The Islamic State, al-Qaida, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood all seek a worldwide “caliphate” ruled by Islamic law. There are disputes among them, but these are like turf battles between Crips and Bloods.
“The militant Islamists believe in a master faith,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the United Nations Monday. “They just disagree who among them will be the master of the master faith.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama has been slow to provide heavy weapons to the Kurds as they try to defend themselves in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State onslaught.
“The administration has not only refused to send [heavy] arms, but is exerting pressure both on our NATO allies and on Israel not to send any,” wrote Robert Zubrin in National Review.
Islamic State leaders have adopted word for word the language of Abd al-Wahhab, which indicates they intend to seize Mecca and Medina, wrote former MI-6 operative Alastair Crooke in The World Post. For the Saudi royal family, the Islamist monster they’ve fed for decades has become an existential crisis.
“Saudi Arabia will deconstruct and the Middle East will be unrecognizable,” Mr. Crooke wrote.
To defeat an enemy, you must identify him properly, understand what motivates him. Our president doesn’t.