Barack Hussein Obama and Bashar al-Assad
by, DEBKA File
Shortly before US President Barack Obama was to unveil his strategy for tackling ISIS in Iraq and Syria on Wednesday, Sept. 10, US and Syrian officers held secret talks for coordinating their military efforts against the common foe, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This is revealed exclusively by DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources.
The Syrian officers, on the authority of President Bashar Assad, met on the quiet several times with American officers in the capital of one of the Gulf emirates – most probably Muscat in Oman – to prepare the ground for the US and coalition to extend the military campaign against IS into Syria. Tehran was almost certainly in on the dialogue, which brought together US and Syrian officials for the first time in the nearly four years of the Syrian civil war.
Our military experts say that the US campaign will be a lot more complicated militarily on the Syrian side of the the Islamic State than parallel operations in Iraq – although IS strongholds in northern and eastern Syria should not be hard to bomb from the air.
But it must be taken for granted that the ISIS commander, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who has proved to be a competent military tactician, will not leave his troops in place to wait for US bombers, but has already moved them to safe hideouts, either in the mountains of northern Syria, the Syrian desert that spreads over into Iraq, or in the dense vegetation on the banks of the Euphrates River, good places from which to conduct protracted guerilla warfare.
Our military sources believe that Baghdadi has probably discovered that the US-led military campaign against him will lead off in Iraq – and only then expand into Syria. To prevent an IS counteroffensive taking off and gaining more ground straight after the Obama speech, the US military must go into action against its strongholds in Iraq – and only then turn to Syria.
This will also be the message US Secretary of State John Kerry conveys to Arab foreign ministers when he meets them in Jeddah Wednesday and Thursday in an attempt to draw them into a coalition for fighting the Islamists. Before his speech, President Obama put in a call to Saudi King Abdullah, the key to an Arab lineup behind the effort.