If ISIL falls before November, how will it affect the US Election?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump openly attributes his success at the polls to the terrorist attacks on Paris last fall, in which Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) was involved. Ever since Mosul fell to the organization (originally al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia) in June of 2014, it has provoked great concern in the American public, especially because of its beheadings, but also because a new “state” was alleged to have arisen in the heart of the Middle East, which is at war with the United States. (In fact, it is just a congeries of juvenile delinquents with Kalashnikovs, engaged in human and drug trafficking). In the presidential campaign, Daesh has loomed large. Ted Cruz appears to want to carpet bomb Mosul or use a nuclear bomb on it (‘let’s find out if the desert can glow in the dark’), while Trump has gone back and forth on whether to give Syria to Russia or to send 30,000 US troops in.

But what if Daesh falls this summer or autumn? It has already lost much of northern al-Raqqa province in Syria to the left-leaning, US-backed Kurds. Then the Syrian Arab Army took Palmyra back away from it and talks about going on to al-Raqqa city, the Daesh capital.

And even the Turkey-backed Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi militias of the Free Syrian Army have focused in on Daesh in Syria’s far north, perhaps in a quest to hold as much territory as possible before a permanent ceasefire sets in.

In Iraq, the Iraqi army has taken Ramadi back away from Daesh, and just this week with the help of US airstrikes marched into the center of the al-Anbar city of Hit, a former Daesh HQ and key entrepot in the Syria-Iraq supply line. Fallujah is under siege, and if it falls, daesh will have nothing significant in northern Iraq save Mosul itself, on which all forces will converge.

The rolling up of Daesh has created alliances and alliances-of-convenience among strange bedfellows. The US and Vladimir Putin’s Russia are now more or less allied, as Russia-supported Syrian troops close in on Daesh in al-Raqqa.

In Iraq, Iranian support for Baghdad has been central to the fight against Daesh, as has American support to Baghdad, making the US and Iran de facto battlefield allies.

Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise stop in at Baghdad this week, having met with the Gulf oil states in Bahrain just before, in an effort to enlist the latter in the fight against Daesh in northern Iraq. He also seemed to propose that Iran become part of a new security architecture in the region if it would cease support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

This talk of a grand alliance may be a bit fantastical, but it nevertheless does seem possible that Russia and Iran and Hizbullah in Syria, and Iran and Baghdad in Iraq, will cooperate with the US and NATO in delivering the coup de grace to the phony caliphate of Daesh during the coming months.

It would be overly cynical to suggest that President Obama is angling for this outcome (he could not have expected the Russian intervention, e.g., so these changes in Syria are not his doing alone).

But if al-Raqqa and Mosul fall, it seems inevitable that this development would much help the Democrats, since it will be the achievement of a Democratic president and his slow, careful strategy. It would deprive the GOP standard bearer of a key foreign policy talking point.


Related video:

Euronews: “Kerry salutes Iraq’s progress in retaking ground from ISIL”

10 Responses

  1. Auto-correct at work? In the third to the last paragraph, “delivering the coup de grace to the phone caliphate of Daesh” should undoubtedly be “delivering the coup de grace to the phony caliphate of Daesh.”

    Otherwise, very good, very wise for all involved — and that would be all of us — to be looking ahead to new possibilities. Thanks again Juan for your excellent work.

  2. The notion that either of the two main political parties in the States could claim some kind of success in the event of the complete downfall of ISIS, seems rather far fetched to me. Had the Russians not taken over the task of supporting Assad and driving ISIS from the main cities and towns in Syria, the situation there would be very grave today. ISIS would certainly be running the show. America and her token allies have been supposedly challenging ISIS from the air for some four years or so prior to the Russian intervention, with very little impact. Of course, politicians will turn any event to their advantage no matter how tenuous their connection to it is.

    • Not exactly. Obama’s overtures to Iran preceded Russian intervention. And Obama has taken advantage of the situation by going easy on Russia for intervening, then tacitly coordinating air strikes, despite the media’s constant critique that Russia was not going after ISIS but militants like the US supports – like Al Queda perhaps?

  3. Hillary Clinton’s pipe dream of imposing a no-fly zone to stop the Russians from flying in Northern Syria might be a major embarrassment for her even before November if Daesh is crushed in Syria.

  4. Daesh may fall, but it will no doubt morph into a new form in a new place with a new name — and perhaps be even more barbaric, if that’s possible — as long as the U.S. continues its neocon policies in the Middle East.

    • or maybe morph into something with a different name in the exact same place as has already happened three times in 13 years. saddam fedayeen. al quaeda in iraq. isis.

  5. The Republicans are very good on pivoting. Remember how it was all Benghazi, Benghazi all the time? Well, after all the investigations and inquiries turned up nothing, then they trumped up the email “scandal” and convinced their followers that Clinton is going to prison. So, they will make up some other scare even if Daesh/ISIS is crushed. The economy and any terror attacks will probably be more important.

  6. I have read that US and Iraqi generals estimate that the effort to take Mosul will take a year, based on the Ramadi experience. Some of this has to do with the fact that it seems that only the most elite Iraqi forces are able to go on the offensive, and there are tons of booby traps to slow down any large forces moving in. Also, for those of us paying attention, perhaps progress against ISIL would figure into our voting calculus, but I doubt that many Americans follow these things too closely. For most, “Islamic Extremism” is a vague, unchanging, ever-present, always growing threat. The political culture supports the notion that the Republicans are strong against it, because they are not so PC as to hide their Christian chauvinism, and the Democrats are weak coddlers. By election time, I predict that the narrative will still be that ISIL is a huge threat and Obama isn’t doing anything about it. Likely 60% of people will agree with this, regardless of the protestations of the Democratic candidate, who will anyway also repeat that they are a huge threat and we need to move heaven and earth to stop them.

  7. Even if IS and al-Qaeda were completely and utterly destroyed and demolished along with their allies and affiliate groups around the world, the media and the politicians will still find stuff to fear monger over. It always does and the always do. Decades ago people wondered what life now would be like in a world without the specter of Communism and the Soviet, not exactly what they had in mind though.

    There are lots of active wars and conflicts in the world American politicians will probably be waiting to intervene in as well. Each and every war is a political oppurtnuity for hawkishness and war mongering.

    Monmouth University polling on a three way race found Hillary Clinton 42%, Donald Trump 34%, Gary Johnson 11%, and Undecided 13%. Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party are campaigning on a non-interventionist foreign policy. John McAfee, Austin Petersen, Darryl W. Perry, and Marc Allan Feldman are also trying to get the Libertarian nomination, but Gary Johnson is the front runner. The LNC (Libertarian Natuona Convetion) will nominate on May26-30 in Orlando, Florida. Non-interventionism, IRV as voting reform, LGBT rights, marijuana legalization, pro-immigration rights, pro-choice on abortion, anti-death penalty, etc are descriptions of the Libertarian Party platform.

    Will this election bring the Libertarians to center stage this time? (Pun intended as classical liberals or libertarians are the center of the political spectrum.) Will Gary Johnson reach 15% or more in the polls and get invited to the debates?

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