Politico quotes VP and Scowcroft Center Director Barry Pavel on the strategy President Obama announced for combating the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham:
Barry Pavel, director of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, said Washington must make the future of Assad part of its strategy up front, or risk leaving a Syrian “petri dish” for extremist groups like ISIL, also known as ISIS.
“What I fear the most is … if we’re in Syria and we’re trying very hard to take out ISIS targets and we don’t do anything against Assad, then I fear that in six months or a year or two years the next ISIS that sprouts up will be even more virulent and more dangerous than the current ISIS.”
Whether he meant to or not, Pavel said, Obama has sent Syrians this message: 200,000 deaths in the civil war can’t prompt U.S. action, but the deaths of two Americans — journalists beheaded in gruesome ISIL online videos — were enough to tip the scales. Washington needs a comprehensive plan for Syria, he said, because without it people there have no incentive to repudiate extremist groups.
“They’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost their jobs, their dignity, they’ve lost everything — and they have probably little left to lose,” Pavel said. “You’re talking about a significant population that Assad’s been attacking for over three years that’s probably in a stage of rage, and that rage is the kind of feeling that has fueled ISIS and Assad’s been exploiting that.
“While we’re there,” he said, “if we don’t deal [with the] Free Syrian Army to make progress on that course, on that line of activity, we could end up making things worse in Syria even as we’re achieving tactical victories in Iraq.”