Syria Airstrike in Iraq Complicates ISIL Equation

Syria Fighter JetFollowing early reports that U.S. drones had struck targets in northern Iraq on Tuesday, it turns out that Syrian aircraft had executed the attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant. Pentagon officials would old say the U.S. has “no reason to dispute these reports.”

The brazen attack inside Iraq is a signal how  Syria and northern Iraq have devolved into one battlefield, a defense analyst said.

“The border between Syria and Iraq has effectively been erased,” said Colin Kahl, a senior fellow and director of Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “There is one battle space, so I would expect that you would see Syrian forces who are battling [ISIL] hit on both sides of the border.”

This is especially complicated should those battles take place in the air. The U.S. is already flying surveillance flights over northern Iraq to monitor movements of ISIL. The U.S. military is also scouting potential targets for airstrikes should President Obama order them.

President Obama said airstrikes are on the table, but yesterday Secretary of State John Kerry said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must pursue a unified government and lessen the Shia influence before U.S. airstrikes would be ordered.

But now Syria has beaten the U.S. to the punch raising the question whether a U.S. airstrike in northern Iraq means the U.S. is supporting Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.

And don’t forget Iran. The predominantly Shiite country of Iran has interests in stamping out the potential threat of ISIL. There are reports that Iranian special forces have again flooded over the Iraqi border to bolster Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia to ensure ISIL does not take down Baghdad.

So if the U.S. launches airstrikes, there’s a possibility a U.S. fighter could fly by an Iranian F-14 and a Syrian MiG-25 on the way to northern Iraq.

Syria’s strike changed the equation and made a complicated situation even tougher for the U.S. to navigate.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • Dickie Cockpit

    I’m looking for the establishment of a greater Kurdistan.

  • jamesb

    Obama is patiently waiting ……
    No diplomatic deal on the religious issue?
    No US stuff….
    Sounds Good to me…..

    • jack

      Obama is a coward. He’s scared to take any action and waiting for someone else to do it.

    • dj

      Although the Kurds may be the best soloition for northern Iraq, there human rights records aren’t that great. Also if the Iranians and Syrians are helping Iraq and the Americans launch an airstrike and happen to run into a Syrian or Iranian jet. Who’s to say they wouldn’t shoot the US jet down or at least try to. I think the answer is not to intervene. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Let them kill each other for a while, while we protect Israel, put pressure on the Iranian nuclear program, and make sure this thing doesnt spill into Europe. We may not like it but we are at war with an enemy who does not in the foreseeable future look as though they will be giving up.

  • Lance

    Why not we allied with Japan in WW1 and with Soviet Russia in WW2 why not Syria now to crush AL Qaeda. Think take out the real enemy first Syria was never a attacker on the US despite Obama Sunni support.

    Bet MiG-29s where used in attack strikes or SU-17s. MiG-25s are short range interceptor not a attack plane.

    • ronaldo

      Was I asleep when someone brought up the relevancy of a Mig 25 in this thread ?

      You people are just whacko sometimes.

  • BlackOwl18E

    This is another situation where Arab-Islamic forces are fighting each other and we should just sit back and watch. The more they spend fighting each other the less they spend focusing on us.

    We need to sit back, let them fight it out, and deal with the winners. Best case scenario: the winners are reasonable people. Worst case scenario in most instances: the winners hate our guts and want to fight, but they’ll at least have been weakened from killing off the losers, leaving less work for us.

    • deusvolt

      Assad is not Islamic. Unfortunately US government is friends with the most fundamentalist extreme Muslim rulers on the planet – Saudi Arabia, Qatar &co, and are helping them supply arms to Islamist armies such as ISIS.

      • BlackOwl18E

        I said ARAB-Islamic forces. ISIS was a Saudi project. The Syrians are not our friends, the new Iraqi government is not our friends (at least not until they need us), and Iran is the only one that seems to have the ability and the will to beat ISIS. Oh, I don’t think Iran is our friend either.

        There are no good guys in this fight. We should just let them destroy each other to their heart’s content.

        • blight_

          In Game of Thrones terms, we should be Varys, not Ned Stark.

    • “Worst case scenario in most instances: the winners hate our guts and want to fight, but they’ll at least have been weakened from killing off the losers, leaving less work for us.”

      Didn’t work with Germany when they invaded Poland, France, Russia etc. Didn’t work in Syria as we saw the Islamists hijack a secular rebellion that has now jumped a border.

      Sometimes the bad guy gets better at waging war and develops better weapons, organizations and an overall capacity to wage war.

      Isolationism isn’t wisdom.

      • Guest

        Actually Major Rod, if the US would have stayed out of WW I, Vietnam and Iraq (in 2003), the US and the rest of the World would be a lot better off.

        WW I was the # 1 disaster because US intervention in WW I led to Hitler, the Nazi Party and WW II. Both Europe and the rest of the World, would have been much better off, if Germany Won WW I.

        Following the French into South East Asia was another blunder and I believe, the start of America’s economic and moral downfall.

        75% of the American People now believe that the US (Bush) Invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a major blunder.

        The so called Spanish-American War was another total lie. It was a “Land Grab”,
        plain and simple.

        • You ignored all me historical examples.

          Isolationists wanted us to stay out of WWII.

        • blight_

          It would have been better off if Austria and Serbia hadn’t called in their friends. You don’t think Germany started WW1 do you?

    • Iamme

      A clear winner between these 2 will leave them to focus and would enable them to concentrate on what they really want. May be this ends up as a operation clean up, and then they do not have to worry about any rats among the. Nice thinking but this may not work. There are 2 planners, and THE ONE has a better plan, Always.

    • blight_

      The Middle East is a complex soup of petty dictators who want land and power and will manipulate ancient religious grudges to stay in power and to expand their own. The Saudi princelings who come to the US aren’t all crazy Salafis. But back home there are plenty of those, exploiting sympathetic people with money.

      It’s like a more radical version of the United States. Our country is divided ideologically which feeds two parties’ of think tanks and consultancies (and some religious denominations). But these factions don’t overtly go out of their way to inspire holy war for Ayn Rand or birth control overseas.

      The winner might be in a position to rapidly consolidate gains and become dangerous. Most likely the Gulf States and Iran/Iraq/Syria will pump money into their respective proxies just to avoid going head to head with each other. Both nations will be heavily bled, but neither will really pay the price for their sins. It does give Iran and Iraq excuses to suppress their Sunnis and Kurds, and gives the Gulf States excuses to crack down on their Shia.

      In the game of thrones, guess who suffers?

  • tlc

    Syria use of chimerical weapons propaganda did not get much milage.
    Plan B. The Ol’ Zion cross boarder Syrian Jet attack……where’s the beef? Oops! Where is the evidence? AWACS systems grounded?

  • Jerry

    The comments here suggest that more understanding of Syria is in order. No chemical weapons use by the Syrian govt. has ever been shown to be a fact. Those closest to the sites found it likely that sarin gas had been used by the Syrian rebels. The charges came at a time when the Syrian govt. forces were mopping up much of the country; the last thing they needed was gas–and the obvious invitation from the charges to get the US involved in aiding the rebels. That is, the govt. had nothing to gain and everything to lose by using gas, while the rebels had everything to gain from trying to pin it on the Assad people. This civil war, which is now mostly over–won by the govt. which is largely popular in the country–would probably never have started without the opposition’s expectations that the US would get involved as it had just before in Libya. Assad is not the demon he is projected by the media as being. He just got re-elected overwhelmingly (and incl. support from refugees in neighboring countries). Syria passed a new constitution shortly before the war began–a constitution that assures all sorts of freedoms lacking in the Arab countries supported by the US (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Qatar). The Assad govt. is secular and has protected Christian and other minorities. A radical Islamimic govt. is what would most likely take over were his govt. to fall. The US should withdraw its covert support for the rebels and support Assad.

    • Peter

      That is one of the truer posts I’ve seen about the Syrian situation. To my mind a group of discontented people jumped on the Arab Spring bandwagon expecting Western support. OK, I’ll admit, they may well have grievances but there is no way that the “rebels” were a majority. At least until outside Jihadists started joining in. Part of the problem is that we always seem to want to side with the underdog, even when they’re in the wrong.

    • Dave

      Assad is not the demon he is projected by the media as being? OMG, are you 12? You are so far off base here. You couldn’t prove anything you just said. Not a single word. Assad is dropping barrel bombs indiscriminately all over Syria. What a guy! And then Peter chimes in and shows his ignorance as well. No wonder America is as weak as it has ever been.

  • Juramentado

    The US will mostly limit airstrikes to Southern Iraq and immediate areas around Baghdad. Without extensive Tanker Support, long range strikes in the hotspots North and West would put most tactical aircraft (in this case US Navy strike fighters are the primary asset currently in the area) at the very edge of their operational radius. Putting tankers over hostile territory is not recommended. So by virtue of those circumstances, the US has built themselves a kill box limitation, so it’s highly unlikely a SuperBug would pass an Iranian or Syrian jet on the way to a strike.

  • hibeam

    I guaran-damn-tee you that Syrian airstrikes in New York City would be frowned upon by this administration. Severely frowned upon.

  • blight_

    They’ve learned from our mistake in Vietnam. Take the fight to the border-crossing enemy. Leave none alive.

  • James Moore

    Wasn’t it proven it was the rebels who used the chemical weapons in an effort to get the U.S involved?

  • Hank

    Obama and his stooges support ISIS. They provided training and support for these rodents. Now that ISIS/ISIL are attacking Iraq he doesn’t know what to do. LOL!

    • hibeam

      So true but few Americans know this stuff. When did the news media become a branch of the Democratic party?

      • ronaldo

        About the same time as Fox news went Duck Dynasty in it’s relevance

  • Rob

    if the hardline extremists are now concentrated in this area, it may be worth it if Syria Jordan Turkey USA Saudi Arabia Iran and Iraq just unite, end this madness

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    I am wondering something here….as i understand it…the ISIS is an organization fighting and dying for Allah/God/Universal super being…i also understand ISIS stated the infidels tools i.e. weopons/medical supplies, thoughts/religion and etc are un-clean to their Allah/god/super-being…

    Question here is…why are they using un-clean weopons / medical supplies / treated water / radio equipment / etc that was use or produced by the un-clean….by using, does that not make ISIS leaderships/warriors of super being un-clean themselves….ISIS should use their own manufactured weops and supplies….if they have to make their own steel schimitars/sabre or wholly own manufactured needle + cow string to sew up wounds etc …their super being will find them to be true warriors/followers of his truth….

    Isn’t that so….all you clean brave warriors of your Allah.


    • Rob

      Because they are scavengers living off whatever they can find or take. Current situation gives them no political status & it is common for an enemy to use weapons taken from battles. Further complicated by Sunni militia that once fought Al quada now some crossed over to fight the Iraqi government. It’s all a lose/lose scenario for them any ways. If they take over Iraq we will come back in full force. At best they will become another left over terror group forced to do only random attacks.

    • blight_

      You underestimate their perception of the west and western-derived goods.

      They have no interest in returning to the 10th century…only imposing 10th century values on a 21st century world.

    • Rhys F

      What is even more cynical of the mullahs is their take on “martyrs” Suicide bombers are just that, Suicide, and hence sent under the Koran to serve Shaitan in hell. The praise for martyrs in the Koran dying in battle comes from the concept of a rear guard, i.e. 50 martyrs staying in a pass to block and stay a superior enemy (say 1000) while the rest of the group (200 maybe) use the time to get out of range and regroup elsewhere for a new campaign/attack.
      Suicide bombers walking calmly into a crowd and detonating a du-pont vest on the other hand are not Martyrs by the Korans definition but Suicides. And there’s no way to argue the religious leaders sending out suicide bombers don’t know that.

    • Auyong is wrong

      ISIS is an American/Israeli proxy to do the dirty work of their foreign policies which are about “regime change”. There is nothing genuinely Islamic about such a proxy.

  • TonyC.

    Complete chaos and breakdown in security. At least Sadam kept a lid on it.

  • Guest

    Too many cooks in the kitchen, that’s a pretty dry tinderbox already, It’ll take a really small spark for this to get even more out of hand.

  • Aatif Rahman

    ISIL end up conquering Syria and set up tone for WW3.

  • Aatif

    Things will continue like this until there is a clear winner, Europe herself is weak now only one who is expected to put up good fight is USA, but doubts are will they set foot on grounds on trust air strikes only. Secondly, USA army have not came across ground battle with good fighters in recent history, leave out Afghansitan they have a lot of home work done and experience from USSR’s defeat in Afghanistan this is completely different field, and different race. Finally, what if Afghans joins hand in hand with ISIL and engage a good amount of USA army in Afghanistan. Winter is just around the corner and Afghans have been more active during this time, it seems we may have a clear winner this time but I see blood a lot of blood.

  • Auyong is wrong

    rosy, it did in the 1980s, when America helped Saddam in his war against Iran. Anyway, who used chemical weapons in Syria, has not been proven.

  • Rob

    Militants are now using some of our hardware & vehicles. We should be doing more