President Obama on Sunday once again vowed to destroy Islamic State during a meeting with Asian leaders in Malaysia.
“Destroying (Islamic State) is not only a realistic goal, we’re going to get it done,” Obama said optimistically, while adding:
We will destroy them. We will take back land they are currently in, take out their financing, hunt down leadership, dismantle their networks, supply lines and we will destroy them.
During the same meeting, Obama rejected ISIS’ claim that the United States is at war with Islam. The President said the notion that the U.S. was against a single religion undermines national security because the United States is made up of people from different religions. He claimed that this kind of discrimination and prejudice helps Islamic State.
“I want to stress on this – prejudice and discrimination helps IS and undermines our national security. There’s a difference between being vigilant – having smart applications of law enforcement and military intelligence – and succumbing to the kind of fear that leads us to abandon our values, how we live or how we treat each other,” Obama told reporters.
Obama also lectured Russian President Vladimir Putin on the war against Islamic State. The American president said that Russia needs “to make a strategic decision to go after the Islamic State group, not the moderate opposition forces trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad,“ the Associated Press reported.
While Obama was in Malaysia, the Russian army claimed to have carried out the most devastating attack on Islamic State in Syria thus far. The British newspaper The Sunday Express, quoting high-ranking Russian army officials, reported that more than 600 ISIS terrorists were killed in a single strike with a cruise missile.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Saturday that Russian warplanes had carried out a staggering 394 sorties in Syria in just three days. The Russian jets hit 731 rebel targets in the country, but it was not clear how many ISIS targets were hit by the Russian air force.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond apparently doesn’t share Obama’s criticism of the Russian actions in Syria. Hammond made it clear that he sees signs that Russia had indeed turned its fire in Syria on ISIS last week. While in Cyprus, Hammond said: “We have seen over the last 48 hours that the Russians are clearly focusing more effort on counter-ISIL (ISIS), which is good.”
“I don’t doubt that the Russians believe every bit as much as we do in the need to destroy ISIL (ISIS). And in fact, Russia is every bit as threatened by ISIL (ISIS) and the ideology behind it as we are,” he added.
At the same time, it became clear that Obama’s own anti-ISIS strategy prevents the U.S. air force from effectively striking the Islamic State.
Nearly 75% of all U.S. warplanes that were sent on bombing runs against Islamic State targets in the first four months of this year returned to their bases without dropping a single bomb or firing a rocket.
“The U.S. conducted 7,319 sorties over Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in the first four months of 2015. Of those, only 1,859 flights — 25.4 percent — had at least one ‘weapons release’…That means that only about one in every four flights dropped a bomb on an Islamic State target,” according to the Washington Times in a report on May 31st of this year. The paper based its conclusions on data that it received from the United States Air Force Central Command.
The reason the planes didn’t drop their bombs on the designated ISIS targets has to do with Obama’s apparent stubbornness, and not with a lack of intelligence as was suggested by some of the media in May.
Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon reported last week that U.S. air force pilots had told Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, that the Obama administration policy intended to prevent civilian deaths and collateral damage in Iraq and Syria is to blame for the lack of effective bombing of Islamic State targets.
“You went 12 full months while ISIS was on the march without the U.S. using that air power and now as the pilots come back to talk to us they say three-quarters of our ordnance we can’t drop, we can’t get clearance even when we have a clear target in front of us. I don’t understand this strategy at all because this is what has allowed ISIS the advantage and ability to recruit,” Royce fumed.
The Obama administration, however, was unfazed by Royce’s criticism. A spokesman for the administration defended Obama’s zero civilian deaths policy:
“The bottom line is that we will not stoop to the level of our enemy and put civilians more in harm’s way than absolutely necessary. The fact that aircraft go on missions and don’t strike anything is not out of the norm,” the official said. “Despite U.S. strikes being the most precise in the history of warfare, conducting strike operations in the heavily populated areas where ISIL hides certainly presents challenges. We are fighting an enemy who goes out of their way to put civilians at risk. However, our pilots understand the need for the tactical patience in this environment. This fight against ISIL is not the kind of fight from previous decades.”
Jack Keane, a retired four-star U.S. general, shared Royce’s criticism of Obama’s handling of the air campaign against ISIS.
“This has been an absurdity from the beginning. The president personally made a statement that has driven air power from the inception,” Keane told Royce in a response to questions posed by the congressman.
“When we agreed we were going to do airpower, and the military said, this is how it would work, he (Obama) said, No, I do not want any civilian casualties,” Keane told Royce. “And the response was, but there’s always some civilian casualties. We have the best capability in the world to protect from civilians casualties,” he added.
Keane then told Royce that Obama’s response was, “No, you don’t understand. I want no civilian casualties. Zero.”
“So that has driven our so-called rules of engagement to a degree we have never had in any previous air campaign from desert storm to the present,” the retired general told Royce.
The result of the administration’s strategy in the air campaign against ISIS has not only been a lack of effectiveness, but also a sharp decline in U.S. dominance of airspace in Syria–and, to a lesser degree, in Iraq.
The Russians now control airspace in Syria because they have deployed the S-400 air defense system in the country that effectively enables them to control all air traffic above Syria. Also, the Russians have carved out corridors for their warplanes in Syria and Iraq that are in fact off-limits for the U.S.-led coalition airplanes.
What this means is that, as Western Journalism predicted earlier, less than three months after the Russian intervention, Syria now indeed has no-fly zones–but not for Assad’s murderous air force that has a tendency to target civilians only.