French President François Hollande entering into an alliance with the Russian President Vladimir Putin with the objective to build a global military coalition to defeat Islamic State following the Paris attacks has unnerved the USA. This is yet another major setback for the USA. The two leaders agreeing to share intelligence information and cooperate on selecting targets in the fight against ISIS has turned the Obama administration scared of losing its authority and policy of hegemony.
The French president has won public approval and international backing for his handling of the crisis so far. His poll ratings are up by eight points to 33 per cent. Foreign leaders have lined up to express solidarity. For the USA coming together of the leaders does not augur well. So far France has been close to the USA. France was also under illusion that the USA was serious in its fight against ISIS. But the Paris attack proved to the turning point and it became clear to Hollande that USA was simply interested in pulling down Bashar al-Assad and not in fighting the ISIS. Actually this was the reason that Hollande tilted towards Russia.
Strategically neither Putin nor Hollande intend to isolate the USA at this stage and have even willing to more broadly coordinate the military action in Syria with the U.S.-led coalition. However both the leaders are sure that Turkey would not have shot down the Russian warplane without the concurrence of the USA, purely with the aim to send the message that the US led coalition would not like to associate with them. In fact both Putin and Hollande harshly criticized Washington for failing to prevent the downing of the Russian warplane by NATO member Turkey. Hollande said shoot-down of the jet was a “serious incident, obviously regrettable” that underlined the need for closer coordination between the nations which are fighting ISIS
Shooting down warplane clearly manifests that it has a design. It was not a spontaneous Turkey action. Putin dismissed the Turkish claim and held the U.S. responsible for failing to rein in its ally, saying that Russia had informed the U.S. about its military flights in advance in line with a recent agreement between Moscow and Washington aimed at preventing clashes between their aircraft. No doubt as the leader of the anti-ISIS coalition, the U.S. should have made sure that the Russian warplanes aren’t targeted by its members. Though Hollande does not share and endorse the Russian stand on Assad, he has adopted the pragmatic approach on fighting ISIS. Instead of putting across the condition, like the USA, that Assad should first step down, he has come out with the suggestion that troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad could be used to fight Islamic State.
While Putin holds:“I believe that the fate of the president of Syria must stay in the hands of the Syrian people,” Hollande believes Assad “does not have his place in Syria’s future”. Nevertheless using Syrian army would be the part of the move to forge a common front against ISIS. Significantly at a joint news conference with Putin, the French President said: “What we agreed, and this is important, is to strike only terrorists and Daesh and to not strike forces that are fighting terrorism. We will exchange information about whom to hit and whom not to hit.”
It is quite interesting to notice that in spite of this nature of difference with Hollande, the Russian President is steadily going ahead with his task to finish the ISIS. On his part Hollande too has been fully cooperating. But Obama administration continues to adopt a dogmatic approach; unless Assad steps down he would not join hands with Russia. It simply reinforces the general perception that the USA was least interested in fighting ISIS and its claim to fight terrorism iks purely an eye wash.
It is worth mentioning that Putin and Hollande stressed the need to increase airstrikes against vehicles transporting oil across ISIS-controlled territory. It is beyond comprehension how Turkey or the NATO countries are not aware of this. Turkey turning a blind eye to oil smuggling by ISIS speaks a lot of the intentions of the USA administration and machinations of the NATO. It is unbelievable, rather not possible, that Ankara was unaware of oil supplies entering its territory from ISIS-controlled areas of Syria. Why the USA was not trying to stop and cut fund channel of the ISIS?
This stance of the USA has been quite intriguing. This has been happening at the time when Barack Obama is under pressure to do more in Syria from Republicans and his own side, including the Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. European leaders and diplomats are confused and in fact complain that the USA does not appreciate the severity of the twin terrorism and refugee crises facing Europe. After waiting for long, Britain eventually on its own decided to plunge into the Syrian war.
With Obama adamant that the US will not deploy the ground soldiers in Syria, Hollande is set to get disappointed in his mission to evolve a global coalition against ISIS. No doubt Obama’s refusal to cooperate militarily with the Russians may be his best diplomatic move but it is also a fact that the USA is losing a considerable global goodwill. The countries are feeling let down. There are some who nurse the feeling that the bitter military fight outs in Afghanistan has turned Obama reluctant to intervene militarily in Syria.
True enough sensing a chance to outmanoeuvre the USA, Putin has been busy giving a shape to the political line of Russian solidarity with France. Hollande’s global anti-ISIS coalition idea legitimises Russia’s role in Syria, takes the spotlight off Assad, and relegates Crimea episode. In a strategic move Putin made it clear that Russia is ready to both cooperate bilaterally with France and with the U.S.-led coalition so that to “determine the territories which could be struck, as well as those that must be spared, exchange information on various issues and coordinate action on the battlefield.”
It is an irony that even the Americans have started feeling that the administration is not sincere in fighting the ISIS menace. The former secretary of defence Robert Gates urged President Obama to speed up his strategy to fight ISIS in the Middle East.
“I think it does need to be sped up and intensified,” he said in an interview. He said, “I think that while ISIS is a long-term problem for us, we have near-term issues associated with it.”