EIGHT TAKEAWAYS FROM THE BAGHDADI RAID

Still image taken from video of a man purported to be Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi making what would be his first public appearance in Mosul in 2014.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Trump says that the eight helicopters had to fly over an hour to their target. This has led to speculation about where they came from. Martin Chulov at The Guardian says that the raid began just before 3:30 a.m. and the copters flew from Erbil in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region. It was a 70-minute flight. But Trump, in subsequent comments to the press on October 27 said the copters landed in a “friendly country” in a “port.” The port comment has led to a bit of a mystery, and it’s also not entirely clear if Trump would refer to Iraq as a friendly country.

Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq and the Syrian Kurds were all given thanks for their support. The Syrian Democratic Forces have been warning for months about Baghdadi trying to get to Idlib province in northwest Syria, where he was eventually found. In March, they had indicated that he might be there. The SDF is the main partner of the US on the ground in Syria, but Trump’s decision to leave Syria enabled a Turkish attack on the SDF.

In 2014, Turkey enabled tens of thousands of people to cross its border to join ISIS – and after Raqqa fell, may ISIS members appeared to flee to Turkey. ISIS has even kidnapped Yazidis and taken them to Turkey or smuggled them to Idlib. This shows that Turkey does not appear to be pursuing the jihadist group.

The raid comes as the US is searching for strategy in Syria. Trump says the US is only staying in Syria for the oil now and that Turkey and others have been fighting each other for centuries. He wants to bring US troops home. He said on October 6 that the US would withdraw from part of Syria, then on October 13 from all of Syria, except for the base at Tanf. Then he said the US created a ceasefire on October 17, then praised Russia’s ceasefire on the 22nd and also spoke to the Kurds, who he appeared to have first betrayed, inviting their leading commander to Washington. He said on October 24 that the US will stay for the oil, and now he says the Kurds should help the US guard it. On October 27, he said that America might develop the oil and use it to pay for the war.

The whole changing strategy seems ad hoc. It’s not even clear if Trump discusses it with some senior advisors.

Article URL : https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Eight-takeaways-from-the-Baghdadi-raid-606025

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