Michael Weiss, the co-author with Hassan Hassan of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror," had some sobering thoughts on Sunday about the current state of affairs in the Mideast, particularly in Syria.
And he thinks the United States doesn’t have a clear strategy for what it wants to accomplish, in part because so many of the people on all sides of the equation are not exactly someone you want to support.
It’s sort of a mess just to figure out who’s fighting whom. Weiss says that Russia is firmly on the side of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and that it’s targeting rebels who oppose Assad – the same people who are fleeing the country, in part because they’ve been persecuted by Assad’s regime. Russia, however, is not targeting ISIS, Weiss said. "Russia’s goal is to destroy any credible alternative to Assad," he said.
Meanwhile, the United States backs the rebels fighting Assad and prefers to defeat ISIS, Weiss said. But the United States doesn’t really know "what happens if we defeat ISIS. We don’t understand that," he said.
He’s not arguing that the U.S. shouldn’t defeat ISIS, of course. But he notes that ISIS has lots of members from the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and that they felt humiliated when Hussein’s ouster by the U.S. –led coalition.
He also pointed out that defeat of Hussein "basically turned over Iraq to Iran," where Shia (or Shiite) Muslims are in control. The struggle between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims is at the heart of the Syrian conflict as well. And how their rivalry is settled will probably shape the future of the Mideast.
Weiss said he knew that some people in the United States are tired of what they call endless war and advocate withdrawing from the conflicts. But Weiss said he didn’t think that was a good idea.
"You may not be interested in the Middle East, but the Middle East is interested in you," he said.
And Weiss thinks ISIS must be defeated. He said he sees them as similar to the Nazis in Germany and the Stalinists in Russia. "That’s the lens through which you have to view them."