‘No moderate forces in Syria to rely on’
RT:With this UN resolution adopted, are we going to see more travel ban legislation? How is it going to work?
Max Abrahams: That it’s a good step, to make it illegal for Westerns to join up with these groups, to travel there. Once they do, to remove their citizenship [means] they are essentially stranded there. I support these initiatives, I certainly believe that one of the things that makes ISIS so scary for the West is that there are 3,000 Europeans there, over 100 Americans and they can return home. And when they do, they will be further radicalizing in terms of their ideological views but also they may learn some additional techniques in terms of bomb-making – that’s one of the very big concerns these days. So basically one thing that we could do is just sever geographically all these fighters in the Levant, in the Gulf, from the West. I would approve of [that].
RT:Why do you think the US refuses to cooperate with Damascus when it comes to eradicating terrorists?
MA: I wrote a piece in The New York Times about a month ago, advocating stronger relations between Washington and Damascus. It is useful to consider the Iraqi theater versus the Syrian theater. In Iraq the US has a lot of options, we essentially don’t need US ground forces there, because we already have them in the form of Peshmerga fighters, who were arming the PKK. We have good relations with the Iraqi federal forces, the government, there are some Shia militia – basically, they are all sorts of people we can cooperate with to do a ground portion of the counter-insurgency campaign.
In Syria, by contrast, there are no such people to work with. The Obama administration is putting everything into this notion that the US can essentially provide the air power, and we can rely on so-called moderate rebel forces to take on ISIS. But there are many problems with that. For one, the so-called moderate rebel forces aren’t that moderate, not from the Western prospective. Many of them have ties with Al-Nusra. Furthermore, they are very weak, they don’t have weapons, they are small in number, they are frankly not as good at fighting. And historically the US has not done very well in terms of building up these kinds of groups. So that gives us either the US is not having ground troops and is just relying on its airpower – which never works in counter-insurgency – relying on these moderates who are unreliable and not very strong. Or perhaps Washington could work with Damascus, and that’s the approach that I favor, but it has been rejected quite clearly by Washington.
RT:British Prime Minister David Cameron said that decisive steps should be taken and all weapons must be used to destroy ISIS. Could the UK be joining air strikes against jihadist positions?
MA: I think that he will. There is already a coalition that is frankly a little bit bigger than I expected in terms of the five Arab countries coming onboard. I know that the UK really likes to side with the US in times of trouble – there is a long history of that. I’m not sure intellectually Britain can say, “Yes, we are going to help militarily in Iraq, but not in Syria.” So I would certainly expect a greater contribution from Britain in Syria.
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