Tags: Syria | Obama | military | ISIS

Allies Withhold Military Power to Get Obama to Do More in Syria

Wednesday, 04 February 2015 04:09 PM EST

(Bloomberg) U.S. allies in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) extremists are withholding military capabilities as leverage on President Barack Obama to do more in Syria.

The tensions between the U.S. and two allies, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, have become public as they have set conditions for some military cooperation.

At issue are calls from the U.A.E. for U.S. pilot-rescue teams to be positioned closer to the Syrian battleground, where they’d be primed for quicker action, and from Turkey to impose a protected safe zone in Syria. Their demands create problems for Obama, who officials have said is wary of drawing the U.S. more deeply into Syria’s turmoil.

The U.A.E., an Arab partner whose involvement was heralded by the U.S. early in the campaign against Islamic State, suspended its airstrikes in December after militants in Syria captured a Jordanian pilot, according to a U.S official who asked not to be identified discussing military operations.

In addition, Morocco, which hasn’t said publicly that it participates in airstrikes, has suspended flights by its F-16s in coordination with the U.A.E., Casablanca-based Medias24 and Rabat-based Alyaoum24 reported, without saying how they got the information.

Six Moroccan F-16s carried out at least 20 missions against Islamic State through December, the news organizations reported. Morocco government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Islamic State released a video Tuesday showing the Jordanian pilot, Moath al-Kasassbeh, being burned alive inside a cage. Jordan said the pilot, who was captured after his plane crashed in Syria during a bombing raid against the jihadists, was killed a month ago.

The U.A.E. is pressing for the U.S. to position search-and-rescue capabilities closer to the battleground to reduce potential response times, according to The New York Times, which reported the U.A.E.’s decision earlier. The Emirates wants those missions, now based in Kuwait, shifted to northern Iraq so that they could move more quickly to rescue downed pilots, the Times said.

The U.A.E. won attention in September for having a female F-16 pilot, Major Mariam Al Mansouri, leading airstrikes.

The Pentagon gave no public sign about the U.A.E. decision to suspend airstrikes, and the U.S. military has continued to state in daily news releases that the Persian Gulf nation is among coalition partners "conducting airstrikes in Syria."

The U.A.E. continues to assist the coalition in targeting and airspace coordination, the U.S. official said.

The dispute with the U.A.E. follows inconclusive U.S. efforts to get Turkey’s approval to fly combat missions from the Incirlik Air Base near Syria. Turkey has conditioned that on the U.S. agreeing to an expanded military mission in Syria, an escalation of military operations that Obama has so far opposed because of its increased risks and uncertain consequences.

"To use our air base, we want to see an integrated strategy — to create a no-fly zone and a safe haven for refugees so that there will be no more refugees in Turkey," Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a Washington Post interview published Jan. 23.

Underlying that issue is disagreement over Obama’s decision to make fighting Islamic State the priority over efforts to remove the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Obama so far has opposed Turkey’s proposals, which would draw the U.S. more deeply into the Syrian civil war against Assad and raise the risks for U.S. pilots and others involved in enforcing a safe zone.

In congressional testimony on Tuesday, Marine Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, confirmed a trend that troubles regional allies Turkey and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia.

"We assess the conflict is trending in the Assad regime’s favor," he told the House Armed Services Committee.

On the U.A.E., State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the U.S. isn’t concerned that the Jordanian pilot’s death will limit the willingness of other Arab countries to participate in the anti-Islamic State coalition.

Jordan, “the country that was most impacted” by the killing, “intends to intensify its efforts,” Psaki said.

With assistance from Nafeesa Syeed in Dubai, Nicole Gaouette in Washington and Souhail Karam in Rabat.

To contact the reporters on this story: Terry Atlas in Washington at [email protected]; Tony Capaccio in Washington at [email protected] To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Walcott at [email protected] Larry Liebert, Justin Blum

© Copyright 2024 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

(Bloomberg) - U.S. allies in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) extremists are withholding military capabilities as leverage on President Barack Obama to do more in Syria.
Syria, Obama, military, ISIS
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 04:09 PM
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