By Daniel Lazare
Attentive viewers may have noticed something curious about last week’s presidential debate. Asked if she would send troops to help stabilize Iraq once ISIS has been expelled from of the northern city of Mosul, Hillary Clinton replied that U.S. intervention would only make matters worse by providing Islamic State with a rallying point.
But then she said: “The goal here is to take back Mosul. It’s going to be a hard fight. I’ve got no illusions about that. And then [we should] continue to press into Syria to begin to take back and move on Raqqa, which is the ISIS headquarters. I am hopeful that the hard work that American military advisers have done will pay off and that we will see a really successful military operation.”
Move on Raqqah? What did that mean – that Clinton wants to follow up victory in Mosul with a push into Syria? That she envisions a coordinated military thrust into Syria from Iraq? The answer is not quite, although the results could hardly be more dangerous than if she did.
While the press focuses on the latest Donald Trump groping scandal, few reporters have noticed the explosion of violence from Mosul all the way to Afrin, a Syrian Kurdish stronghold some 380 miles to the west. What Clinton sees as a simple two-pronged assault – first the U.S. and its allies wrest back Mosul, then they take Raqqah, and then they mop up whatever remains of ISIS in between – is already turning into something far messier, i.e., a multi-sided power struggle among Kurds, Turks, Shi‘ites, and Sunni Salafists. All are terrified that they will be shut out of the new post-ISIS order, and all are scrambling to gain an edge on their rivals.
Ironically, the winner could well turn out to be Islamic State, as ISIS is also known. The group is hyper-alert when it…