By Nicholas Bostick
On Sept. 8, a cease-fire was declared between the Russianbacked forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels who’ve fought against his regime since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011.
The cease-fire marked a possible turning point in the tangled web of wars currently ravaging the Middle East. This lets parties on both sides of Syria’s civil war stop to turn their focus toward the currently reeling Islamic State group.
In recent years, IS has lost ground on all sides, according to the Associated Press. Iraqi soldiers liberated Fallujah, Iraq in June 2016. Kurdish factions in Iraq and Syria captured Sinjar – where IS executed 5,000 Yazidi men in 2014 – and Tal Abyad in summer 2015. Syrian government forces, along with Russian support, recaptured the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.
The cease-fire could have been the beginning of the end for IS. An opening for coalition forces to set their differences aside and give the amalgam of Iraqi Security Forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga and tribal fighting groups a central figure, as their guns surround the IS-held city of Mosul, Iraq.
But Sept. 9, eight days after the cease-fire was struck, a U.S. airstrike killed 62 of Assad’s troops and wounded 100 more.
“Coalition forces believed they were striking [an IS] fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike,” read a statement from U.S. Central Command soon after.The airstrike was stopped once Russian officials informed U.S. officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military.
The airstrike marks the first time U.S. forces have directly attacked Syrian government forces, according to Fox News. And heads are already spinning.
This attack, accidental or not, illustrates not only our own country’s seemingly uncertain position in a war we’ve not declared, but the precarious nature of this war itself.
The Syrian government declared the cease-fire over Sept. 26, according to CNN. They punctuated their message with an airstrike on the rebel-held portion of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, killing 85 and wounding 300, all while claiming the U.S. was protecting IS when they attacked Syrian soldiers 10 days before.
We aren’t protecting IS. However, after previously bungling airstrikes, including one in July, which according to the Guardian, reportedly killed 73 Syrian civilians, and another in 2015 where, according to news organization Agence France- Presse, the U.S. allegedly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital that killed 22, it’s unclear whether we are protecting anyone.
The complexities of religious and political rivalries in the Middle East, along with domestic instability in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, have muddied our nation’s involvement in the war on terror.
With the Syrian Center for Policy Research reporting 11.5 percent, roughly 470,000 people, of Syria’s population have been either wounded or killed since 2011, we can’t afford the luxury of a divided mission statement as the U.S. sends more resources into the fray.
Assad has utilized chemical weapons to kill nearly 1,500 of his own people, according to a White House statement in 2013. Russia has bombed multiple anti- Assad outposts that were used by American and British forces. And all the while, IS is consolidating its power in Mosul for an attack Iraqi military leaders set for Oct. 15, according to the Business Insider.
Losing a crucial cease-fire between Syria’s Russia-backed government and its U.S.-supported rebels seems too risky a move to make while IS still has a strong foothold in Syria.
We better start learning how to aim instead of worrying about restarting the Cold War. Right now we should be focusing on helping Iraq regain the independence we worked so hard to give them.
Assad can wait for now, IS can’t.