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The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
Topic: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR (Read 74939 times)
Reply #500 on:
October 16, 2014, 08:20:56 AM »
U.S.-led airstrikes and Kurdish forces are continuing to push back Islamic State militants from the predominantly Kurdish Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), near the border with Turkey. As of Wednesday, coalition forces had conducted over 100 strikes around Kobani, which the Pentagon reported had killed several hundred Islamic State fighters. A Kurdish official reported militants are retreating from parts of the town, though U.S. military officials cautioned Kobani could still fall to the Islamic State group. Additionally, the retired general leading the coalition, General John Allen, noted Islamic State militants have made "substantial gains" in Iraq's western Anbar province, despite U.S.-led airstrikes. He mentioned, however, that coalition forces had pushed militants back in other areas of Iraq.
• Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expected to nominate a candidate from the Iranian-backed Shiite militia the Badr Corps as interior minister. (Well, that will sure help persuade Sunnis to work with the Govt. of Baghdad)
FSA? Who? Never heard of them , , ,
Reply #501 on:
October 17, 2014, 11:36:10 AM »
Arm the moderate Syrian rebels, they said. Then we'll be able to counter ISIL effectively, they said. Well, say goodbye to the Free Syrian Army as an American ally. "John Allen, the retired Marine general in charge of coordinating the U.S.-led coalition's response to the Islamic State, confirmed Wednesday what Syrian rebel commanders have complained about for months: that the United States is ditching the old Free Syrian Army and building its own local ground force to use primarily in the fight against the Islamist extremists," reports Stars and Stripes. The reasons are simple and entirely predictable. The FSA suffered from "a lack of cohesion, uneven fighting skills and frequent battlefield coordination with the al-Qaida loyalists of the Nusra Front." The Obama administration is going to have a tough time explaining how, without American boots on the ground, we're going to select, form and train an army to oppose ISIL in Syria
Kobani ensnares ISIS
Reply #502 on:
October 21, 2014, 01:18:14 PM »
Kurdish People's Protection Units and Free Syrian Army forces continue to battle Islamic State fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The United States announced Oct. 19 that U.S. Air Force C-130 transport aircraft dropped containers of weapons, ammunition and medical aid to the town’s defenders. Washington reportedly informed Turkey of the move in advance. Now, Ankara has said it will allow Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters to cross Turkish borders and move into Kobani to bolster the town's defenses.
Given Turkey’s previous reluctance to support Kurdish fighters, Ankara appears to be altering its approach following considerable pressure from Washington and other allies. Turkey is keen to maintain strong ties with the United States and is willing to make compromises, which will also help preserve the integrity of its alliances in Europe and the Middle East. Despite this shift, however, Ankara remains wary of directly aiding the People's Protection Units, commonly viewed by the government as terrorists and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK. Regardless, allowing Kurdish fighters to cross the border will only make it harder and costlier for the Islamic State to take Kobani.
The Islamic State arguably accomplished its objectives in Kobani weeks ago when it seized virtually all of the area except for the town itself. This allowed Islamic State fighters to shorten the route between the captured border crossing towns of Jarabulus and Tal Abyad by not having to circumvent Kobani. Stratfor previously noted that Kobani is of very little strategic or even operational value to the Islamic State, and the taking of the town will have extremely little effect on the direction of the conflict in Syria. Numerous Islamic State fighters apparently recognized this fact early on and reportedly sought to prioritize other battlefronts, but were overruled by top Islamic State commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Nevertheless, it is clear by now that the Islamic State -- perhaps for symbolic reasons or because of operational momentum -- has greatly prioritized the seizure of Kobani and has devoted significant resources and manpower to the effort.
Kobani's Fatal Lure
Click to Enlarge
Echoing Germany's disastrous obsession with Stalingrad in 1942, despite having already isolated and reduced the city, the Islamic State's leaders have elected to continue pouring hundreds of fighters into Kobani. They now face a difficult urban battle against determined fighters who are entrenched in prepared positions and supported by coalition air power. By assembling large numbers of fighters and equipment, the Islamic State has created a target-rich environment for the U.S.-led coalition. From the start of the battle, weeks ago, surveillance and reconnaissance overflights have progressively improved the coalition's situational awareness, leading to airstrikes of more damaging accuracy and intensity. Over the last four days alone the United States and its Arab allies executed more than 60 airstrikes in Kobani.
The strikes have been disastrous for the Islamic State, which has lost hundreds of experienced fighters. Reports indicate that the group is doubling down on its flawed strategy by sending further reinforcements from its bastions of Raqaa and Tabqa to continue the assault. Ankara's decision to open a route for Kurdish reinforcements into Kobani further hinders the Islamic State's mission, but it is not as damning for the extremists as a Turkish committal of ground forces. Such a move appears unlikely for the time being. Although Turkey has significant amounts of men and materiel amassed on the border, there is no political will to become embroiled in the Syrian conflict. Ankara will make limited concessions, stopping short of full engagement against the Islamic State. With a coalition willing to maintain air operations and facilitate training for select rebels, Turkey can afford to bide its time for now while dealing with more pressing domestic issues.
A Risky Strategy
The Islamic State has mired itself in a foolhardy frontal assault against a marginal objective, and in doing so it has failed to address ominous developments in more vital Islamic State-controlled areas of Syria. In particular, Syrian forces have capitalized on a weak extremist presence in the critical and far larger city of Deir el-Zour, launching attacks against a reduced enemy. These attacks have enjoyed considerable success, driving Islamic State fighters from several neighborhoods in the city and destroying a number of bridges critical to the jihadists' logistical operations.
The Islamic State continues to make gains in Iraq's Anbar province, mainly because of its superior tactical skill and operational acumen against Iraq's security forces. Had the Islamic State elected to send hundreds or thousands of fighters to Anbar instead of exposing them to the concentrated attacks in Kobani, it is highly likely that the jihadist organization would have been able to achieve considerably more success in a far more vital region.
The battle for Kobani is not yet over, and there remains the possibility that the Islamic State could prevail and seize the town. Were that to happen, however, the damaging truth is that the Islamic State’s obsession with Kobani has already set the group back considerably. With world media focused on the defensive Kurdish and Free Syrian Army fighters holding out against repeated Islamic State attacks, the extremists are handing a propaganda victory to their enemies. Even when the Islamic State does take ground, any success turns into a rallying cry for its opponents. Most important, replacing the severe losses it has already suffered will be difficult for the Islamic State. By devoting disproportionate resources and personnel to seize a town of marginal importance, the Islamic State has distracted itself from more pressing issues in Syria, thereby missing opportunities to achieve further success in Iraq.
Read more: Kobani Ensnares the Islamic State | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
The fog of war at Kobani
Reply #503 on:
October 21, 2014, 11:10:52 PM »
U.S. Cooperated Secretly with Syrian Kurds in Battle Against Islamic State
Kobani Became too Symbolically Important to Lose
Kurds at a cemetery Tuesday mourn three fighters who died in clashes with Islamic State in Suruc, Turkey, near the Syrian border. ENLARGE
Kurds at a cemetery Tuesday mourn three fighters who died in clashes with Islamic State in Suruc, Turkey, near the Syrian border. Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Joe Parkinson and
Julian E. Barnes
Updated Oct. 21, 2014 9:35 p.m. ET
In public, the Obama administration argued for weeks that Kobani wasn’t strategically vital to the air campaign against Islamic State extremists. Behind the scenes, however, top officials concluded the Syrian city had become too symbolically important to lose and they raced to save it.
As the U.S. role rapidly evolved, U.S. and Syrian Kurdish commanders began to coordinate air and ground operations far more closely than previously disclosed. A Syrian Kurdish general in a joint operations center in northern Iraq delivered daily battlefield intelligence reports to U.S. military planners, and helped spot targets for airstrikes on Islamic State positions.
In contrast to the lengthy legal debate over U.S. aid to rebels fighting the Syrian regime, U.S. airdrops of weapons to Kobani got a swift nod from administration lawyers—a sign of its importance to the administration.
Syrian Kurdish Forces Assess Air-Dropped Supplies
Cost of War Against ISIS So Far: $424 Million
The change in thinking over the fate of one city, described by U.S., Kurdish, Turkish and Syrian opposition officials, shows how dramatically U.S. war aims are shifting. After Islamic State made Kobani a test of its ability to defy U.S. air power, Washington intervened more forcefully than it had initially intended to try to stem the group’s momentum.
In doing so, the U.S. crossed a Rubicon that could herald a more hands-on role in other towns and cities under siege by Islamic State at a time when some U.S. lawmakers question the direction of American strategy and warn of mission creep.
“This is a war of flags. And Kobani was the next place Islamic State wanted to plant its flag,” a senior U.S. official said. “Kobani became strategic.”
The U.S. now is relying on two separate, stateless Kurdish groups in Iraq and Syria as ground forces to back up its air campaign against the extremists.
This has strained U.S. relations with another strategically important ally, Turkey. The U.S. has conferred newfound legitimacy on the Syrian Kurdish militia fighting in Kobani, which is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in neighboring Turkey. The U.S. and Turkey both list the PKK as a terrorist group.
Washington’s decision to send in supplies by air to fighters loyal to the Democratic Union Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PYD, followed a U.S. assessment that the Syrian Kurdish defenders would run out of ammunition in as little as three days.
Iraqi Kurdish leaders told American officials they were considering sending reinforcements from their region to Kobani. To reach the town, they would have to pass through other parts of Syria. U.S. defense officials looked at the route and told the Kurds it would be a suicide mission.
The U.S. asked the Turkish government to let Iraqi Kurdish fighters cross through Turkish territory to reinforce Kobani. U.S. officials said Turkey agreed in principal and that Massoud Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, proposed sending a specially trained force of Syrian Kurdish refugees.
But events on the ground forced Washington’s hand. U.S. contacts in Kobani sent out an urgent SOS.
“We needed weaponry and fast,” said Idris Nassan, the deputy foreign minister of the Kobani regional government.
To tide the Kurds over until Turkey opens a land corridor, U.S. Gen. Lloyd Austin, who runs the air campaign against Islamic State, decided on a delicate plan: dropping supplies using C-130 cargo planes.
The U.S. didn’t think Islamic State fighters had sophisticated antiaircraft weapons, but the Pentagon decided out of caution to fly under cover of darkness.
Gen. Austin presented the proposal to the White House on Friday. President Barack Obama approved it immediately, U.S. officials said.
Until recently, the White House wouldn’t even acknowledge U.S. contacts with the PYD because of its close ties to the PKK and the diplomatic sensitivities over that in Turkey.
At the White House, Gen. Austin argued last week for resupplying Kobani without Turkey’s consent, U.S. officials said. He warned that the city’s fall would be a recruitment bonanza for Islamic State, leading to an infusion of fresh fighters and newfound momentum while reinforcing its narrative of inevitable expansion.
Resupplying fighters in Kobani wouldn’t normally be a quick decision, both for logistical and political reasons. But administration officials said they saw few alternatives. The U.S. had long kept the Syrian Kurds at arm’s length out of deference to Turkey.
But officials were desperate for partners on the ground on the Syrian side of the border. In recent days, the Kurdish fighters had made gains.
U.S. contacts with the Syrian Kurdish leadership began as indirect and secret.
Then-U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, during stops in Paris, started meeting in early 2013 with an intermediary there of the PYD. After each contact, U.S. officials briefed Turkish counterparts. Daniel Rubinstein, Mr. Ford’s successor, and other officials expanded the dialogue.
Embattled Kobani DigitalGlobe/UNITAR/UNOSAT
The Syrian Kurdish group’s objective during the talks was to persuade the Americans to provide them with military support to fight Islamic State.
“If there is one moderate force in Syria, that’s us,” said Khaled Saleh, the group’s representative in France who took part in many of the preliminary discussions.
For the Syrian Kurdish leaders, progress at first was frustratingly slow.
The U.S. became more responsive over the summer, after Islamic State seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
U.S. intelligence officers were impressed with the Syrian Kurdish fighters’ track record in combating Islamic State. When the fighters crossed the border into Iraq to help save members of the Yazidi religious minority, policy makers in Washington took note, U.S. officials said. Some Syrian Kurdish commanders are Yazidis by religion.
The Syrian Kurds had other appeal to U.S. policy makers. The fighting force is avowedly secular and pro-Western. It fields female fighters and is committed to combating Islamic State. Kurdish officials say several Americans, including two ex-marines, and dozens of European volunteers, have enlisted to fight alongside the Kurds in Kobani.
Impressed by its military performance, the U.S. decided to invite a representative of the group to sit in the coalition’s joint operations center in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, to liaise with special military units in Kobani collecting battlefield intelligence and coordinates for airstrikes.
Kurdish officials said Islamic State turned its sights on Kobani to make an example of the Syrian Kurdish fighters, whose battlefield successes in Iraq had embarrassed the group.
When the U.S. first started bombing Islamic State targets near Kobani, the goal was to kill as many Islamic State fighters as possible.
“When we see them in great numbers, we take them out,” a senior U.S. official said, adding that extremists “kept coming, so we kept hitting them.”
As Islamic State poured resources into the battle, views in Washington of Kobani’s importance began to change.
Mr. Obama’s special envoys in the campaign against Islamic State, Gen. John Allen and Brett McGurk, arrived in Ankara Oct. 9 for talks. By then, the U.S. already had planned to step up the pace of airstrikes in Kobani, but also knew that wouldn’t be enough.
Turkish officials made clear to the U.S. delegation that they didn’t want Kobani to fall—but they didn’t want to inadvertently empower Kurdish fighters close to the PKK. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish fighters as one in the same.
The Turkish and American officials agreed broadly that the Iraqi Kurdish forces known as Peshmerga should play a significant role in Kobani’s defense, but the details about how to bring Kurdish reinforcement to Kobani still needed to be worked out.
After the talks in Ankara, Secretary of State John Kerry called Mr. Barzani, who proposed sending the special security force made up of Syrian Kurdish refugees who had been trained in northern Iraq.
The U.S. and Turkey disagreed about how long Kurdish forces in Kobani could hold out, with the U.S. assessing it would be only a few days while the Turks thought it could be longer.
When Kurdish commanders sent out their urgent appeal, Gen. Austin decided the U.S. couldn’t afford to wait, officials said.
He saw an opportunity, defense officials said.
“By stopping them, and by doing tremendous damage to them, you begin to blunt the sense of momentum, particularly in Syria,” a senior administration official said.
The proposal drew legal scrutiny from lawyers at the White House, State Department and Pentagon. Technically, the Syrian Kurdish leadership wasn’t on the terror list, as was the PKK, they said.
The lawyers also found that the legal bar was lower in this case because the U.S. would be sending Mr. Barzani’s arms, rather than delivering U.S. weapons. There was little debate, meeting participants said.
In the final White House meeting, National Security Adviser Susan Rice laid out the potential diplomatic and legal implications of the airdrop. She didn’t say ‘no’ but she wanted concerns to be raised, a senior U.S. official said. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Mr. Obama the operation was urgently needed.
The equipment that was to be delivered beginning on Sunday was shipped from Erbil to Kuwait, the major U.S. logistics hub in the Middle East. There, soldiers prepared packages for the airdrop, defense officials said.
Medical supplies were rigged to drop with high velocity parachutes that are accurate, but that hit the ground with force. Ammunition, however, would be at risk of exploding if dropped with a high velocity chute. So soldiers in Kuwait rigged the ammunition packages with equipment known as the Joint Precision Airdrop System, or JPAD. The JPADs are guided by GPS, making them highly accurate despite the fact they drop slowly from over 10,000 feet.
As planes crossed over Kobani, nearly all of the high velocity parachutes hit their mark.
At least one of the JPADs sustained a malfunction in its parachute, drifting away from its target zone and into an area controlled by Islamic State.
Turkey on Monday confirmed it would allow the Peshmerga to cross its territory but as of Tuesday, no forces had reached Kobani and talks on the parameters of their mission were ongoing, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.
U.S. officials said the outcome in Kobani remains far from certain but the operation could have implications for fighters in other towns facing Islamic State.
“Given where we are now, we’re there to help the people who are able to resist,” a senior U.S. official said.
General Nagl: Coming soon Iraq War 4
Reply #504 on:
October 22, 2014, 01:22:56 PM »
One of the most influential Army officers of the Iraq theater on why the United States seems destined to repeat the mistakes of the past.
• BY John A. Nagl
• OCTOBER 21, 2014
The United States is now at war in Iraq for the third time in my lifetime, and after being in the middle of the first two I'm planning to sit this one out.
The first Iraq war was necessary and conducted well, as wars go; the second was unnecessary and conducted poorly at first, but ended up in a reasonable place given what a fiasco it had been at the start. This third war was entirely preventable, caused by a premature departure of U.S. troops after the second. Although it's too soon to say how it will turn out, it is not too early to say that unless we get the endgame right, the United States will fight yet another war in Iraq before too long.
My first Iraq war was Operation Desert Storm, when half a million U.S. troops joined an international coalition to expel Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait in 1991.
Although that war appeared to settle some things at the time, within months of the cease-fire it became clear that Saddam had survived the thrashing we had given his army and was not going to fall to indigenous rebel forces as we had hoped. Instead, we began a decade of containment called Operation Southern Watch, with American war planes flying combat missions around the clock to deter Saddam from further adventurism.
Southern Watch continued until March 2003, when the tempo of combat operations increased sharply during the second Iraq war. Operation Iraqi Freedom began in an air of national panic after al Qaeda's attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the unrelated but frightening anthrax attacks on the U.S. capital. Saddam was working to develop weapons of mass destruction, we were told, and the United States did not want to discover that he had completed them only after seeing a mushroom cloud over Washington or New York. Throwing aside generations of deterrence theory -- which predicts correctly that states will not deploy weapons of mass destruction against another state that possesses them for fear of reprisal -- we invaded Iraq again, this time unnecessarily.
(MARC: He is correct that “States will will not deploy weapons of mass destruction against another state that possesses them for fear of reprisal” but this misses the point with regard to NON-state actors to whom chem, radioactive, and bio weapons could be handed off—as we were seeing for example with the anthrax attacks. The author apparently has fallen here into the mistaken meme that Iraq War-2 was purely about WMD. This is not right, the list of reasons was quite wrong; WMD was simply the one of them used to seek legal cover/approval from the UN)
Not just unnecessarily, but also poorly. Iraq was three nations inside a single state, held together by a brutal dictatorship. Although there were prewar warnings that hundreds of thousands of troops would be required to police Iraq after the government collapsed, we invaded with a fraction of that number. We had no plan to create a new order in postwar Iraq or even to secure the weapons-storage depots that were the supposed reason we were invading. Decisions made in the immediate aftermath of the invasion to disband the Iraqi Army and forbid any former members of the ruling Baath Party from again holding positions of influence poured fuel on the embers of a Sunni insurgency that burst into flames.
(MARC: True enough, but completely fails to address the concerns of the Shia—whom along with the Kurds Bush-1 had left to be brutalized by Saddam after encouraging them to rise up. Understandably the Shia wondered as to our intentions this time around—seeing that the Sunnis would not continue to oppress them in a new form was a logical concern on their part and one which we had to address.)
Rather than coming home by Christmas, the invasion force called for reinforcements, including my tank battalion.
We arrived in Anbar province in September 2003, right in the heart of the insurgency, and immediately discovered that our prewar training to fight other armies would be of little help. We were fighting insurgents who, in Mao's clever phrase, were fish swimming among the sea of the people -- Sunnis who hated us and their new Shiite overlords in Baghdad, whom they saw as collaborators with the occupiers.
It got worse. We had been told that Saddam was collaborating with al Qaeda, which was not true, but in the power vacuum that followed his demise, radical Islamists found a toehold. They named themselves al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and increased the sophistication of the weapons they deployed against U.S. troops. Simple improvised explosive devices made of the artillery rounds that literally littered the desert were replaced by sophisticated AQI car bombs like the one that destroyed the Khalidiya police station one Sunday morning, killing 34 Iraqi police officers we had trained and equipped. When my tank battalion left Anbar after a year of fighting, we made coffee cups that said "Iraq 2003-2004: We Were Winning When I Left."
We weren't, and we knew it. I went to work in the Pentagon and became reacquainted with my former West Point professor David Petraeus, who was then a lieutenant general returning from his own second combat tour in Iraq. In 2006, I helped him write an Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual that suggested fighting a very different kind of war from the one we were then waging. Appointed to command the whole Iraq war effort shortly thereafter, General Petraeus put the new counterinsurgency doctrine into practice, building an Iraqi Army and eventually persuading the Sunnis who had been our enemies to switch sides and fight with us against the increasingly brutal AQI. Within 18 months, violence dropped by two-thirds, and we put Iraq on a path to stability (if not perfect democracy).
We seized defeat from the jaws of not-quite victory by not leaving behind a force of some 20,000 American advisors to stiffen the spine of the Iraqi Army and, perhaps more importantly, moderate the anti-Sunni tendencies of the Shiite politicians. But once he came into office, U.S. President Barack Obama overruled the advice of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Petraeus, who had since become director of the CIA. Obama's advisors urged him to keep troops in Iraq. Instead, the president chose to fulfill a campaign promise that he would end the war in Iraq during his first term. He abandoned a country in which Americans had been working and fighting continuously for more than 20 years in an effort to build a stable state.
In our absence, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave in to his worst sectarian tendencies, firing Sunni leaders of the Iraqi Army and replacing them with incompetent Shiite cronies. Al Qaeda in Iraq staged a comeback across the border in Syria, where another civil war raged without American involvement to moderate it. And this year, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham came roaring to life, seizing most of the Sunni territory in Iraq. Maliki's stooges abandoned their units under fire, and the Iraqi Army, built with billions of U.S. dollars and at the cost of many American soldiers' lives and limbs, crumbled in the absence of American air power and advisory support. Two years without Americans engaged in combat in Iraq ended in tragedy, and last month the president announced that U.S. combat troops were returning to Iraq to fight yet another war there, this time against the Islamic State.
With luck, we have learned a few things from these decades of war in Iraq: that the enemy has a say about when wars end, that in the absence of American leadership such evil forces will rise to power that we get dragged back in to fix things again, that wars are messy and slow and last a long, long time. Unless we finally get it right, I expect a fourth war in Iraq. I'm not optimistic.
Reply #505 on:
October 22, 2014, 01:31:40 PM »
Before we get to today's news, KP's Kate Brannen has an interesting tidbit on how the air campaign against the Islamic State is being fought. When the Obama administration announced the start of a U.S.-led air campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria last month, much was made of the five Arab states recruited to confront the group. According to Kate, the role these nations are playing in the coalition is now less transparent.
"In fact, the Pentagon won't be talking about allied contributions anymore at all: On Tuesday, in a quiet change, the Defense Department said it would no longer provide daily information on what its coalition partners were doing in the fight against the Islamic State.
"U.S. Central Command announced the shift Tuesday in its daily update about airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. 'Beginning with this news release, out of respect for participating nations, U.S. Central Command will defer to partner nations to publicly comment on their airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq,' the release said.
"The policy change comes after a week's gone by without any mention of participation by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan or Bahrain in airstrikes in Syria. The last day it noted help from coalition partners was Oct. 14."
Now, on to the news.
A report in the Washington Post indicates that the United States and Iraq are planning an offensive to take back territory won by the Islamic State. From WaPo's Karen DeYoung: "The plan, described as methodical and time-consuming, will not begin in earnest for several months and is designed to ensure that Iraqi forces¬ do not overextend themselves before they are capable of taking and holding territory controlled by the militants." More here.
The devil is in the details. According to the Post, this new campaign might require "U.S. advisers in the field with the Iraqis, should that be recommended by American military commanders." This could represent an escalation of the American role in the conflict, as well as a potentially explosive political issue for the White House; President Obama has consistently maintained that no American boots would be on the ground in Iraq. But there is growing doubt that this promise will be kept: a new survey of Militarytimes.com readers show that 54 percent believe American troops will return to Iraq.
Iraq's new defense minister has strong words for the Islamic State. Al Awsat's story: "In his first televised speech following his appointment on Saturday, Iraq's new Defense Minister Khalid Al-Obeidi pledged that Iraqi forces would retake all areas of the country that have been taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 'We are committed to the liberation of the provinces that have fallen under ISIS control and securing the return of refugees to their homes, securing peace and stability for our country,' the new defense minister pledged on Tuesday." More here.
Meanwhile, the fallout from the Arab spring continues. Four year ago, the Arab Spring was celebrated in the west as the potential birth of new democracies across the Middle East. Now, it's clear that the protests-and the issues that drove them-are much more complex that Western media made them out to be at the time. Tunisia is the latest example.
Tunisia is among the Arab world's most educated countries, but militants are recruiting heavily there. The NYT's David Kirkpatrick: "Nearly four years after the Arab Spring revolt, Tunisia remains its lone success as chaos engulfs much of the region. But that is not its only distinction: Tunisia has sent more foreign fighters than any other country to Iraq and Syria to join the extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State.
nstead of sapping the appeal of militant extremism, the new freedom that came with the Arab Spring revolt has allowed militants to preach and recruit more openly than ever before. At the same time, many young Tunisians say that the new freedoms and elections have done little to improve their daily lives, create jobs or rein in a brutal police force that many here still refer to as 'the ruler,' or, among ultraconservative Islamists, 'the tyrant.'" More here.
Not only is it wrong to blame the Islamic State's rise on the U.S. failure to secure a two-state solution-it's also flat-out dangerous. Aaron David Miller for FP: "In any conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian problem, I'd be the first to concede that failure to resolve it damages U.S. interests in the Middle East and undermines American credibility. But what has become even more stunningly clear in recent years is that even if the United States could fix the Palestinian issue and produce a two-state solution, that accomplishment alone would not stabilize the angry, broken and dysfunctional Middle East. The region is already in the process of melting down for a tsunami of reasons that have nothing to do with the Palestinians. But talking about the consequences of not fixing the Palestinian issue, particularly in Chicken Little the 'sky is falling' terms, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been wont to do, doesn't help matters-it makes them worse." More here.
One of the most influential Army officers of the Iraq theater on why the United States seems destined to repeat the mistakes of the past. For FP, John Nagl reflects on his experiences during the 2003 Iraq War: "The United States is now at war in Iraq for the third time in my lifetime, and after being in the middle of the first two I'm planning to sit this one out...Although it's too soon to say how it will turn out, it is not too early to say that unless we get the endgame right, the United States will fight yet another war in Iraq before too long.
"...With luck, we have learned a few things from these decades of war in Iraq: that the enemy has a say about when wars end, that in the absence of American leadership such evil forces will rise to power that we get dragged back in to fix things again, that wars are messy and slow and last a long, long time. Unless we finally get it right, I expect a fourth war in Iraq. I'm not optimistic." More here.
Kobani has become the focal point of the fight against the Islamic State. This Syrian border town has emerged as the most important battle of the American campaign. Whether or not it's strategically important-and DOD officials insist it isn't-the optics of the fight have elevated it in the eyes of the international press.
If Kobani wasn't strategically important to begin with, it is now. FP's Brannen and Gopal Ratnam: "The Obama administration's rapidly intensifying efforts to prevent Kobani from falling into the hands of the Islamic State have backed the United States into a corner. While Pentagon officials maintain that the town isn't strategically significant, the United States has invested so much in saving Kobani that its fall would hand the Islamic State a publicity win and deal a symbolic blow to the U.S.-led war effort.
Shashank Joshi, a senior fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London to FP: "I think the U.S. was caught between trying to discount the significance of Kobani and then realizing that it had no choice but to be drawn in, because Kobani has become a token for the campaign's ability to succeed with airpower alone... I think against their better judgment the U.S. found itself compelled to provide greater and greater airpower, even when that came at the expense of more consequential areas like Anbar province." More here.
From WSJ, U.S. Cooperated Secretly with Syrian Kurds in Battle For Kobani. More here.
Turkey has been a reluctant participant in the fight against the Islamic State. But with Kobani on the brink, there are new signs that Ankara might be forced to do more. Here's the latest evidence: A kidnapping in Turkey shows the Islamic State's broad reach. More from WaPo here.
Reply #506 on:
October 23, 2014, 10:39:55 PM »
Hard to imagine what these people went through
Reply #507 on:
October 26, 2014, 01:23:14 AM »
POTH catches up with my posts of nearly two years ago
Reply #508 on:
October 27, 2014, 01:33:16 PM »
In the aftermath of the fall of Kaddaffy in Libya I noted several times with vigor the importance of the many, mnay MANPAD anti-aircraft missiles from Kaddaffy's armory that were falling into AQ hands and the dangerous implications thereof.
Note too how the Russians may be adding to the problem.
Missiles of ISIS May Pose Peril for Aircrews
By KIRK SEMPLE and ERIC SCHMITTOCT. 26, 2014
BAGHDAD — From the battlefield near Baiji, an Islamic State jihadist fired a heat-seeking missile and blew an Iraqi Army Mi-35M attack helicopter out of the sky this month, killing its two crew members.
Days later, the Islamic State released a chilling series of images from a video purporting to capture the attack in northern Iraq: a jihadist hiding behind a wall with a Chinese-made missile launcher balanced on his shoulder; the missile blasting from the tube, its contrail swooping upward as it tracked its target; the fiery impact and the wreckage on a rural road.
The helicopter was one of several Iraqi military helicopters that the militants claim to have shot down this year, and the strongest evidence yet that Islamic State fighters in Iraq are using advanced surface-to-air missile systems that pose a serious threat to aircraft flown by Iraq and the American-led coalition.
As the counteroffensive against the Islamic State enters a more aggressive phase in Iraq, allied airstrikes will also intensify. American officials say they fully expect that the push will bring out more proof of the jihadists’ antiaircraft abilities, with potentially serious consequences for how the Iraqis and their coalition partners wage their war.
“Based on past conflicts,” said one senior American military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss delicate intelligence assessments, the missiles “are game changers out there.”
The proliferation of antiaircraft weaponry has also heightened concerns about the vulnerability of Iraq’s airports, particularly Baghdad International Airport, the country’s most important transportation hub and a lifeline for military supplies and reinforcements to Iraq.
Signaling its intent to challenge American supremacy in the skies, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, recently published an online guide describing how to use shoulder-fired missiles to shoot down an Apache attack helicopter, one of the most fearsome weapons in the United States Army’s conventional arsenal.
“Choosing the launching spot: Preferably somewhere high,” the guide says in Arabic. “The roof of a building or a hill with a solid surface to prevent the appearance of dust following launching.”
The authors urged “strong confidence in God and composure,” and certainty “that this operation will cause a disaster to the foes and destroy their arrogance.”
The United States has stationed about a half-dozen Apaches at Baghdad International Airport, but they have been used only rarely in the two-and-a-half-month-old aerial campaign against the Islamic State, in part because of worries about their vulnerability to ground fire and because of a lack of American search-and-rescue teams in Iraq that could respond to downed aircrews. The concerns also reflect the White House’s insistence on limiting the number of American troops in Iraq and their exposure to hostile fire.
This month, Apaches entered the battle for the first time, in coordination with United States Air Force jets, to carry out four airstrikes on a large Islamic State force northeast of Falluja, in the sprawling desert and agricultural province of Anbar. The militants have established several strongholds there, and have continued to gain ground there against Iraq’s security forces in recent weeks.
Now, though, the Iraqi military is beginning to mount larger and more complex efforts around the country to retake territory from the Islamic State, including a counteroffensive that began a week and a half ago to break the militants’ stranglehold on a key refinery in Baiji, north of Baghdad. The new phase will mean an increase in the frequency of combat missions by coalition aircraft, and will likely demand a greater use of lower-flying American attack helicopters and gunships, which have important advantages in urban warfare.
Since much of the most difficult fighting in the coming months is expected to unfold in the towns and cities of Anbar, American generals may be inclined to order more Apaches to support Iraqi ground troops. They may also make greater use of AC-130 gunships, a lumbering, propeller-driven plane bristling with cannons that circles at altitudes at the outer limits of some shoulder-fired missiles.
As Iraqi and American officials weigh the added risk to their aircrews and, potentially, to civilian aircraft, they are particularly concerned about the threat of shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles, commonly known as Manpads, short for Man-Portable Air Defense Systems.
Syrian rebels have amassed multiple Manpad models since 2012, and the Islamic State has generally had little trouble acquiring any weapon used by Syrian rebels either through purchase or capture, military analysts say. Though the Pentagon’s Central Command acknowledges this concern, it said it had no conclusive evidence yet that the Islamic State had such weapons.
The maximum ranges and altitudes of Manpads vary from system to system, but they are generally used against low-flying aircraft, such as fixed-wing aircraft soon after takeoff or shortly before landing, or helicopters.
Sunni militants in Iraq have long maintained a limited, aging stock of SA-7 Manpads, a ubiquitous Soviet-designed system that they periodically used during the American occupation from 2003 to 2011, said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar.
Since at least late 2013, however, the Islamic State’s forces in Iraq appear to have acquired more sophisticated antiaircraft missile systems, including the Chinese-made FN-6, originally provided by Qatar and possibly also Saudi Arabia to Syrian rebels.
In the images purporting to show the shooting down of the Iraqi attack helicopter, on Oct. 3 in Baiji, the militant, a scarf wrapped around his face, is wielding a Chinese-made FN-6 missile system — apparently the first documented use of the weapon by Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, analysts said.
The militants claimed to have shot down several other Iraqi military helicopters this year, most recently a Bell 407 on a surveillance mission near Baiji on Oct. 8.
“Judging by reports from Iraq, and in particular Anbar Province, over the last three to four months, it would seem ISIL have been using Manpads far more frequently and more successfully than Syrian rebels have ever done,” Mr. Lister added.
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An even greater potential concern is that militants might get their hands on SA-24’s, a more sophisticated system that Russia recently sold to Iraq, and first showed up in militant videos in September, said Matthew Schroeder, a missile proliferation analyst at Small Arms Survey, an independent research project based in Geneva.
The SA-24’s have a longer range than older models and use faster and more maneuverable missiles, Mr. Schroeder said.
Newer systems also have a greater ability to hit targets from a wider range of angles, such as a perpendicular shot at a moving target like a plane on its approach to a runway.
As Iraqi and United States officials have weighed the threats to their military aircraft, they have also taken steps to safeguard the nation’s airports. The protection of Baghdad International Airport, on the western edge of the capital, has been of special concern, especially since the early summer when the Islamic State’s advances in Anbar and on the western fringes of greater Baghdad brought it to within 15 miles of the airport.
Officials acknowledge that any disruption to the airport’s services by an insurgent attack of any type would have an outsize psychological and logistical impact.
In July, the Pentagon rushed the Apaches, plus Shadow surveillance drones and 200 American soldiers, to the airport based on a classified intelligence assessment that the sprawling complex was vulnerable to attack, American officials say.
But although the Islamic State has continued to score victories in nearby Anbar, the militants have not advanced closer to the city since the summer, easing fears that the airport was going to be overrun. Iraqi and American military officials have insisted in interviews that they have taken the necessary precautions to protect the airport and aircraft there, and that there is not an imminent danger of attack.
Vehicle access to the passenger terminal area is tightly controlled with special permission granted on a case-by-case basis. The airport is bordered on the east and northeast by a large military complex. In the farmlands that abut the rest of the complex, the government has militarized the roads with a heavy police and military presence and checkpoints, and, officials said, infiltrated the neighborhoods with intelligence officers.
“We’re very sure that Baghdad International Airport is safe for departure and for arrival,” said Capt. Saad M. Saeed, the general director of Iraqi Airways, Iraq’s national carrier. “I’m a pilot. If I know there’s one-in-a-million chance, I won’t take the risk.”
Yet in August, an Iraqi Airways captain told colleagues that his plane had been hit by gunfire as it approached the airport from the north, a route that would have passed over the restive Sunni district of Abu Ghraib. The plane, which landed safely, was hit by at least two bullets, according to two Iraqi Airways pilots who said they had been told about the shooting.
Ali al-Bayati, deputy director of Iraqi Airways, denied that such an event had occurred. Rumors, he said, were part of the Islamic State’s arsenal. “Considering that the airport is a very high-value target for them,” he said, “they’re spreading a lot of rumors.”
Kirk Semple reported from Baghdad, and Eric Schmitt from Washington and MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Reporting was contributed by C.J. Chivers from the United States, Kareem Fahim from Baghdad, Karam Shoumali from Istanbul, and Rena Netjes from Amsterdam.
Children of the Caliphate
Reply #509 on:
October 27, 2014, 11:34:13 PM »
Children of the Caliphate
The Islamic State is raising an army of child soldiers, and the West could be fighting them for generations to come.
BY Kate Brannen
OCTOBER 27, 2014
They stand in the front row at public beheadings and crucifixions held in Raqqa, the Islamic State's stronghold in Syria. They're used for blood transfusions when Islamic State fighters are injured. They are paid to inform on people who are disloyal or speak out against the Islamic State. They are trained to become suicide bombers. They are children as young as 6 years old, and they are being transformed into the Islamic State's soldiers of the future.
The Islamic State has put in place a far-reaching and well-organized system for recruiting children, indoctrinating them with the group's extremist beliefs, and then teaching them rudimentary fighting skills. The militants are preparing for a long war against the West, and hope the young warriors being trained today will still be fighting years from now.
While there are no hard figures for how many children are involved, refugee stories and evidence collected by the United Nations, human rights groups, and journalists suggest that the indoctrination and military training of children is widespread.
Child soldiers aren't new to war. Dozens of African armies and militias use young boys as fighters, in part because research has shown that children lack fully formed moral compasses and can easily be persuaded to commit acts of cruelty and violence.
The young fighters of the Islamic State could pose a particularly dangerous long-term threat because they're being kept away from their normal schools and instead inculcated with a steady diet of Islamist propaganda designed to dehumanize others and persuade them of the nobility of fighting and dying for their faith.
"[The Islamic State] deliberately deny education to the people who are in the territory under their control, and not only that, they brainwash them," said Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who's tasked with thinking about future threats and planning for the Army's future. "They engage in child abuse on an industrial scale. They brutalize and systematically dehumanize the young populations. This is going to make this a multigenerational problem."
Ivan Simonovic, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights, recently returned from a visit to Iraq, where he interviewed displaced Iraqis in Baghdad, Dohuk, and Erbil. He said there is a "large and dangerously successful recruitment" program.
Speaking to a small group of reporters at the U.N., he said the fighters "appeal" to some of the youngsters and that they have approved adept at "manipulating young men and children." He explained that "they project an image of being victorious" and offer the promise that those who fall in battle will "go straight to heaven."
"What is striking for me is to meet mothers who [tell us], 'We don't know what to do,'" he said. "Our sons are volunteering and we can't prevent it."
On the front lines of Iraq and Syria, the boys who join or are abducted by the Islamic State are sent to various religious and military training camps, depending on their age. At the camps, they are taught everything from the Islamic State's interpretation of sharia law to how to handle a gun. They are even trained in how to behead another human and given dolls on which to practice, Syria Deeply, a website devoted to covering the Syrian civil war, reported in September.
Children are also sent into battle, where they are used as human shields on the front lines and to provide blood transfusions for Islamic State soldiers, according to Shelly Whitman, the executive director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, an organization devoted to the eradication of the use of child soldiers.
Eyewitnesses from the Iraqi towns of Mosul and Tal Afar told United Nations investigators they have seen young children, armed with weapons they could barely carry and dressed in Islamic State uniforms, conducting street patrols and arresting locals.
U.N. human rights experts have "received confirmed reports of children as young as 12 or 13 undergoing military training organized by ISIL in Mosul," according to a report written jointly by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the human rights office of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq.
In al-Sharqat district in Salah al-Din, the number of youngsters manning checkpoints "drastically increased" during the last week of August, the report said. And in the Nineveh Plains and Makhmour, male teenagers were swept up in August in a recruiting drive by advancing fighters from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Some of these boys reported that they "were forced to form the front line to shield ISIL fighters during fighting, and that they had been forced to donate blood for treating injured ISIL fighters," according to the report.
Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, the pseudonym of a 22-year-old man who lived in Syria until about a month ago, is the founder of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a Twitter account and Facebook page that documents the brutality of life in Raqqa, the city where he grew up. In addition to him and three others now living outside of Syria, there are 12 people inside of Raqqa, who contribute photos and information about what's going on inside the city.
Reached via Skype, he told Foreign Policy that the Islamic State has stepped up its youth recruitment program, including a boot camp for young boys where they're taught combat skills.
He said teenagers from Raqqa were being trained and then quickly sent to fight in Kobani, the Syrian-Turkish border town where the Islamic State has been in a brutal fight with Kurdish fighters for several weeks. U.S. and coalition aircraft have conducted more than 135 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in and around the town, killing hundreds of the militants.
In Raqqa, where poverty is widespread after more than three years of war, the group often persuades parents to send their children to the camps in exchange for money, Raqqawi said. Sometimes, the Islamic State appeals directly to the children themselves, holding public recruiting events or parties and then offering the children money to attend training. With all of the schools closed in Raqqa, there is little else for children to do, Raqqawi said.
There are several well-known youth training camps across Raqqa province, he said, including al-Zarqawi Camp, Osama Bin Laden Camp, al-Sherkrak Camp, al-Talaea Camp, and al-Sharea Camp.
Raqqawi estimated that there are between 250 and 300 children at al-Sharea Camp, which is for kids under the age of 16.
He provided photos of children at this camp, including one of young boys sitting down to a meal together, and another of a young boy smiling as he completed an obstacle course.
When there is a big battle, like the one in Kobani, the training is accelerated, Raqqawi said.
In Iraq, there is also substantial evidence that children are being forced into military training.
Fred Abrahams, special advisor at Human Rights Watch, interviewed Yazidis in Iraq who had escaped Islamic State detention. They said they had witnessed Islamic State fighters taking boys from their families for religious or military training.
One Yazidi man who escaped said he watched his captors separate 14 boys ages 8 to 12 at a military base the Islamic State had seized in Sinjar and take them off to learn how to be jihadists.
One Yazidi man who escaped said he watched his captors separate 14 boys ages 8 to 12 at a military base the Islamic State had seized in Sinjar and take them off to learn how to be jihadists.
This summer, Vice News gained extraordinary access to the Islamic State, producing a five-part video documentary about life under the group's control. The second installment focused on how the Islamic State is specifically grooming children for the future.
"For us, we believe that this generation of children is the generation of the caliphate. God willing, this generation will fight infidels and apostates, the Americans and their allies," one man tells Vice.
The video shows a 9-year-old boy saying that he's headed to a training camp after Ramadan to learn how to use a Kalashnikov rifle.
An Islamic State spokesman told the Vice journalists that those under 15 go to sharia camp to learn about religion, but those older than 16 can go to military training camp.
The Islamic State's command of social media also helps it convince people from all over the world to travel to Iraq or Syria to join the group.
Part of this effort involves using children as propaganda tools, posting photographs on social media sites of them dressed in Islamic State uniforms marching alongside grown-up fighters. "In mid-August, ISIL entered a cancer hospital in Mosul, forced at least two sick children to hold the ISIL flag and posted the pictures on the internet," the U.N. report said.
The Islamic State's online recruitment has proved successful, drawing more than 3,000 Europeans. The FBI says it knows of roughly a dozen Americans fighting with the group, but acknowledges there could be more.
Three American high school girls from Colorado were caught last week in Frankfurt, Germany, apparently on their way to join the Islamic State in Syria. Reports say they were radicalized online.
The Vice News video shows a Belgian man who traveled to Raqqa with his young son, who appears to be 6 or 7 years old.
The father coaches his son to tell the cameraman that he's from the Islamic State and not Belgium, and then asks him whether he wants to be a jihadist or a suicide bomber. The young boy says, "Jihadist."
Raqqawi told FP that when he was still living in Raqqa he saw an American woman, her Algerian husband, and their daughter, who looked to be about 4 years old.
He says he also saw a French fighter with two kids: a blond boy who looked to be 6 years old and a daughter who was about a year old.
"We see a lot of foreign fighters inside the city. It is shocking," he said.
In Syria and Iraq, children are not just being radicalized, but are also being exposed to extreme levels of violence every day.
Raqqawi provided FP photos he took while still living in the city, of children watching crucifixions.
He said the children have become so accustomed to these executions that the sight of a head separated from a human body no longer seems to faze them.
"The Islamic State destroys their childhood, destroys their hearts," he said.
Misty Buswell, who's based in Jordan as the Middle East regional advocacy officer for Save the Children, said, "It's not an exaggeration to say we could lose a whole generation of children to trauma."
Buswell said the child refugees she's interviewed are having nightmares, avoiding interactions with their peers, and showing signs of aggression toward other children.
"I have met children who have stopped speaking, and who haven't spoken for months, because of the terrible things that they witnessed," Buswell said. "And those are the lucky ones who actually made it across the border to safety."
With time and the right kind of intervention those children can be helped and can be able to have somewhat more of a normal life, Buswell said. "But for the kids who are still inside and who are witnessing this on a daily basis, the long-term effects are going to be quite significant."
Buswell said that refugees almost always want to return home once the situation there stabilizes and peace returns.
When she asked refugees from Sinjar that question a few weeks ago, however, she was surprised by their answer. "It's one of the first times I've actually heard people telling me that the things that they saw and experienced were so horrific and traumatic -- and the things that their children saw -- that they didn't want to go back, because there are too many bad memories."
Colum Lynch contributed reporting to this article.
Govt of Bagdhad prepares ISIS offensive with US help
Reply #510 on:
November 03, 2014, 06:23:56 AM »
Iraqis Prepare ISIS Offensive, With U.S. Help
By MICHAEL R. GORDON and ERIC SCHMITTNOV. 2, 2014
WASHINGTON — Iraqi security forces, backed by American-led air power and hundreds of advisers, are planning to mount a major spring offensive against Islamic State fighters who have poured into the country from Syria, a campaign that is likely to face an array of logistical and political challenges.
The goal is to break the Islamic State’s occupation in northern and western Iraq, and establish the Iraqi government’s control over Mosul and other population centers, as well as the country’s major roads and its border with Syria by the end of 2015, according to American officials.
Iraqi and Kurdish forces have made inroads in recent weeks in securing territory threatened or captured by the Islamic State, including the Rabia border crossing with Syria, the oil refinery in Baiji north of Baghdad, the northern town of Zumar, and Jurf al-Sakhar southwest of Baghdad.
But the major push, which is being devised with the help of American military planners, will require training three new Iraqi Army divisions — more than 20,000 troops — over the coming months.
"It is a balance between letting them develop their own plan and take ownership for it, and ensuring that they don’t stretch themselves too far and outpace their capability,” said one United States military official, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing war planning.
Though the United States began to carry out airstrikes to protect Erbil in August, the longer-term campaign plan has remained under wraps. Now that the planning has advanced, more than a dozen Iraqi and American officials provided details about a strategy that is certain to become increasingly visible.
The basic strategy calls for attacking fighters from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, with a goal of isolating them in major strongholds like Mosul.
That could enable Iraqi troops, Kurdish pesh merga units and fighters that have been recruited from Sunni tribes to take on a weakened foe that has been cut off from its supply lines and reinforcements in Syria, which are subject to American airstrikes.
To oversee the American military effort, a new task force is being established under Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, who oversees Army forces in the Middle East and who will operate from a base in Kuwait. Maj. Gen. Paul E. Funk II will run a subordinate headquarters in Baghdad that will supervise the hundreds of American advisers and trainers working with Iraqi forces
As the push to train Iraq’s military gathers momentum, the American footprint is likely to expand from Baghdad and Erbil to additional outposts, including Al Asad Air Base in Iraq’s embattled Anbar Province in the west, and possibly Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad.
The effort to rebuild Iraq’s fighting capability faces hurdles, including the risk that the Islamic State will use the intervening months to entrench in western and northern Iraq and carry out more killings.
The United States currently does not plan to advise Iraqi forces below the level of a brigade, which in the Iraqi Army usually has some 2,000 troops. Nor is it clear under what circumstances the White House might allow American advisers to accompany Iraqi units on the battlefield or to call in airstrikes, as Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has indicated might be necessary.
Iraq’s recent history suggests that such a battlefield advisory role is likely to be needed. Iraqi forces faltered during their 2008 offensive against Shiite militias in Basra until American commanders sent their troops to advise Iraqi forces below the brigade level and facilitate airstrikes.
As the plan stands now, no American agency has been assigned to train Iraq’s police, although they will be responsible for protecting areas that have been cleared by the army.
Iraq’s Shiite militias, some of which have been supported by Iran, pose another obstacle. Antony J. Blinken, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said last week that it was important that the Shiite militias be withdrawn, disband or have their members integrated into Iraq’s security forces.
But Fuad Masum, the Iraqi president, has suggested that the militias could be needed until the Islamic State was thoroughly defeated.
A major challenge will be synchronizing the Iraqi campaign with the American effort to train the beleaguered moderate Syrian opposition. The Pentagon’s program to train 5,000 Syrian rebel fighters a year in Saudi Arabia and Turkey has yet to get underway, which raises the possibility that Islamic State fighters could be pushed back into Syria well before there is a trained and equipped Syrian rebel force to oppose them.
Another constraint is self-imposed. Military officials say the White House has limited the number of United States advisers, analysts and security personnel in Iraq to 1,600. There were 1,414 troops in Iraq as of Friday, about 600 of whom were acting in advisory roles from joint operations centers in Baghdad and Erbil, and at division and higher headquarters.
A White House spokesman, Alistair Baskey, said the figure was not a limit, just the number of troops required for the current missions. One senior United States official, who asked not be identified because he was discussing internal planning, said it was likely that the number would need to be raised. Army planners have drafted options that could deploy up to an additional brigade of troops, or about 3,500 personnel, to expand the advisory effort and speed the push to rebuild the Iraqi military.
The Iraqi military has been active in recent weeks, but these operations have taken a toll on its forces. United States officials say that the initial force they are planning to advise consists of only nine Iraqi brigades and three similar Kurdish pesh merga units — roughly 24,000 troops.
The counterattack plan calls for at least doubling that force by adding three divisions, each of which could range from 8,000 to 12,000 troops.
The United States is relying on allies to augment American trainers. Australia, Canada and Norway have committed several hundred special forces to one or more of the training or advisory missions, a senior United States military official said.
The national guard initiative has been promoted by American officials as a way for Sunnis in western and northern Iraq to play a major role in defending their territory, which would ease sectarian frictions.
But the Iraqi Parliament has yet to enact legislation to establish the brigades, which would still need to be trained and equipped.
As a result, a “bridge” policy would be needed so that the Iraqi government, with American help, could work directly with Sunni tribes in the meantime, Mr. Blinken said at a conference hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last week.
General Dempsey said Friday that ISIS’ recent gains in Anbar show “why we need to expand the train, advise and assist mission into” Anbar Province.
A senior United States official said that much of this bridging initiative has yet to be defined. But an early test is expected to unfold soon in Anbar, where about 5,000 Sunni tribesmen could join the fight against the Islamic State in a replay of the pivotal American effort in 2007 to enlist Sunni tribal leaders to turn against Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, the forerunner of the Islamic State.
Overcoming Sunni wariness of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad will be challenging, American officials said.
James M. Dubik, a retired three-star Army general who oversaw training of the Iraqi military during the surge in 2007 and 2008, said the most critical part of the campaign would be the effort to win the allegiance of Iraqis after the Islamic State is routed.
“Behind it has to come some reasonably legitimate, evenhanded and nonsectarian governance over those areas that are taken back from ISIS,” he said.
Even if the overall Iraqi plan succeeds by the end of 2015, American officials say, pockets of resistance could remain. American commanders acknowledge that the effort to defeat ISIS will be lengthy.
“This is not going to happen in three weeks, a month, two months,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff and a former top commander in Iraq, told CNN on Wednesday. “It’s a three- to four-year effort.”
The Syrian half of Obama's strategy gets its ass kicked by AQ
Reply #511 on:
November 03, 2014, 07:18:10 AM »
The Govt of Baghdad is one half of Obama's strategy.
Here is how it is going with the other half:
Re: The Syrian half of Obama's strategy gets its ass kicked by AQ
Reply #512 on:
November 03, 2014, 08:03:16 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on November 03, 2014, 07:18:10 AM
The Govt of Baghdad is one half of Obama's strategy.
Here is how it is going with the other half:
Remember when the left laughed off concerns about Obama's lack of experience....
Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
Reply #513 on:
November 03, 2014, 10:33:40 PM »
They called it "smart diplomacy" , , ,
Would that be a bad thing?
Reply #514 on:
November 14, 2014, 10:20:56 AM »
Daniel Serwer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and author of Righting the Balance, who blogs at
and tweets at @DanielSerwer:
"Conceding on this point would be a major concession to the Islamic State that would be unwise and completely counterproductive if we want to defeat it. If eastern Syria and western Iraq break off from their respective states, there will be precious little to prevent IS from dominating the resulting "caliphate," which would have few resources but big ambitions. Most of Iraq's oil is in its southern "Shiastan." The Kurds would control most of the remainder. Syria's eastern oil fields are declining rapidly. The caliphate would be a mostly desolate, non-viable rump Sunnistan with ambitions to capture Baghdad and Damascus, which are the historical capitals of past caliphates. It would also be a haven for international terrorists.
The result would be a war of all against all to determine the borders of the caliphate and other states emerging from Syria and Iraq. The Kurds would likely want part of northern Syria and possibly part of Turkey as well. Kurds in Iran would want to join any sovereign Kurdistan. Turkey would oppose such a "greater Kurdistan," as would Iran. Saudi Arabia would be unhappy to see the formal emergence of Shiastan on its border (it already regards the Iraqi government as such). The Alawites in western Syria would seek to collapse the Lebanese state and incorporate much of its Shia-controlled territory. The Alawite state would be a firm ally of Iran and Russia.
The notion that this process can be managed to American advantage is nonsense. We saw what a comparable effort to redraw boundaries to accommodate ethnic differences did in the Balkans in the 1990s. The chaos emerging in the Levant would be many times worse, and far worse than anything we have seen happen so far."
Kurds and Baghdad take a shaky step toward compromise
Reply #515 on:
November 15, 2014, 08:58:41 AM »
Iraq's Kurds, Baghdad Take a Shaky Step Toward Compromise
November 14, 2014 | 1536 Print Text Size
Iraq's Kurds and Baghdad Take a Step Toward Compromise
Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani speaks during a press conference in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on Sept. 18, 2013. (SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leadership and Iraqi Oil Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi announced Nov. 13 that they have reached an agreement for the KRG to send 150,000 barrels per day of oil to the central government and for the central government to send $500 million to the KRG to pay salaries for civil servants for the month of October. Financial stress has pushed the Kurds to negotiate with Baghdad, but the core points of contention between Baghdad and Arbil that hamper a more comprehensive and enduring compromise remain.
Despite the KRG's repeated claims that it can develop enough energy revenue to exist independently of Baghdad, financial and political factors keep Arbil from having that option. Without a deal with Baghdad, the KRG is losing out on roughly $1.2 billion per month, the bulk of which goes toward paying the salaries of civil servants -- a critical component of the patronage networks underpinning the KRG's two main parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. The lack of budget allocations has put the KRG in more than $9 billion of debt. The KRG claimed in September that it has made only $1.3 billion from the legally questionable export of 14 million barrels of oil over the course of eight months. As of October, the KRG has shipped a total of 17 million barrels of crude from Ceyhan, in Turkey, and is pumping about 300,000 barrels per day through the KRG-Turkey pipeline.
The KRG had to sell its oil at a sizable discount -- at least 15 percent below market value, on average -- due to the legal risk of defying Baghdad's authority and the insurance premium on crude cargoes sitting for months in tankers in search of willing buyers. With the price of Brent crude now below $80, the profits are becoming even slimmer. This financial strain is intolerable for the KRG: It has to pay the monthly salaries of peshmerga fighters on the front line with the Islamic State, pay off debt to international oil companies and contractors operating in the region and manage the growing financial burden of a large influx of refugees.
Baghdad has also lost out on revenue from Kirkuk crude sales while its conflict with the KRG has persisted, but southern Iraqi oil production continues to grow at a steady pace, with southern terminals averaging 2.55 million barrels per day for October. Baghdad could certainly use extra revenue from northern oil exports to help manage growing costs from the war against the Islamic State, but the central government is under far less financial stress than the KRG. Thus, the burden of the compromise lies on Arbil.
The New Agreement's Limitations
The central government and the KRG have kept the details of the preliminary agreement vague, but it is unlikely that Baghdad would agree to release funds without the KRG conceding that at least a portion of the oil exported from the KRG be marketed through the Baghdad-controlled State Oil Marketing Organization and that Baghdad distribute the revenue from those exports. Knowing that the KRG will be loathe to give up physical control of the export and marketing of this oil, Baghdad will have the right to restrict budget allocations at any time. And knowing that Baghdad will be able to withhold payments at any time, the KRG will resist sacrificing full authority to the State Oil Marketing Organization and will seek additional funding sources to scrape by and maintain some leverage in its ongoing negotiations with Baghdad. (The KRG has been rumored to have negotiated a $5 billion loan with Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank to help create a financial buffer.) This is the state of limbo in which the preliminary deal has been set.
But the complications do not end there. The status of Kirkuk will continue to be a major impediment to a lasting deal. During the Islamic State siege, Kurdish peshmerga occupied the Baba and Avana domes of the Kirkuk field and the nearby Bai Hassan field. These fields are still legally under Baghdad's control through the North Oil Company but are now under the Kurds' physical control. Without Baghdad's permission, the KRG reportedly has been producing roughly 120,000 barrels per day from the Avana dome and Bai Hassan field collectively and has been blending that crude for both domestic use and export. The KRG was already facing legal challenges in exporting crude from the Tawke, Taq Taq and Shaikan fields that lie indisputably in KRG territory, but exporting crude from clearly disputed fields will only add to the legal ambiguity surrounding KRG exports, even as the KRG will try to use the preliminary deal with Baghdad to convince investors of a new level of Kurdish energy autonomy.
The Outside Players
Turkey will also be a key factor in determining just how far KRG energy autonomy will expand. Ankara sees the need to keep the KRG dependent on Turkey for export routes and ultimately its economic survival. Though Turkey is eager to exploit Kurdish energy and is building out infrastructure to this end, its strategy toward the KRG is still driven by containment as Ankara struggles to limit a kaleidoscope of Kurdish factions seeking autonomy through political, financial and militant means within and beyond Turkish borders. It is no coincidence that the KRG-Baghdad preliminary agreement came after Turkey hosted Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari on Nov. 7 in Ankara, where Turkey made a point to reiterate its respect for Iraq's territorial integrity.
What remains to be seen is whether Baghdad and Ankara come to an agreement on how revenue from KRG oil export sales will be handled. To date, Turkey has deposited revenue in a Halkbank account, parsing it out in small amounts to the KRG but keeping the Kurdish region financially strapped. Ankara and Baghdad will want to maintain that financial leverage over the KRG, but Baghdad will not allow Arbil to export its own oil while Turkey determines revenue distribution. The KRG naturally would prefer to control its own revenue, but deprived of that option, it will demand that Turkey or another outside arbiter manage the account to avoid being held hostage to Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the evolution of the battle against the Islamic State will have a degree of influence over the level of cooperation between Baghdad and Arbil. The Islamic State threat has placed the United States at the center of Iraq once again, and Washington's interest is to maintain Iraq's cohesion and instill enough cooperation among factions to develop a ground fighting force capable of containing jihadist forces. Indeed, the KRG has tried to leverage any peshmerga support it would offer in an offensive to retake Mosul in its energy negotiations with Baghdad. The Islamic State threatens both the KRG and Baghdad sufficiently to compel the two sides to cooperate for now. But as the jihadist movement weakens over time, so will this aspect of their cooperation.
The thorniest details have yet to be sorted out, and those details strike at the fundamental issue of sovereignty and territorial integrity for Arbil, Baghdad and Ankara alike. Though constraints have pushed the KRG to the negotiating table with Baghdad, this highly tenuous agreement still faces many hurdles.
Read more: Iraq's Kurds, Baghdad Take a Shaky Step Toward Compromise | Stratfor
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Iran bombs ISIS
Reply #516 on:
December 04, 2014, 07:57:21 PM »
By David Francis and Sabine Muscat
Iran asserts its power with airstrikes against the Islamic State. U.S. officials insisted there was no coordination between Washington and Tehran. Iran's actions against the Islamic State show a willingness to openly engage in military operations. They also force Washington to acknowledge the United States and Iran are fighting a common enemy.
The New York Times' Tim Arango and Thomas Erdbrink: "Iranian fighter jets struck extremist targets in Iraq recently, Iranian and American officials have confirmed, in the latest display of Tehran's new willingness to conduct military operations openly on foreign battlefields rather than covertly and through proxies. The shift stems in part from Iran's deepening military role in Iraq in the war against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State. But it also reflects a profound shift in Iran's strategy, a new effort to exert Shiite influence around the region and counter Sunni powers such as Saudi Arabia. Analysts also say it follows a calculation that what Iran's rulers see as a less-engaged United States will tolerate or even encourage their overt military activities."
Israeli jets hit Assad?
Reply #517 on:
December 07, 2014, 02:40:40 PM »
'Israeli Jets' Pound sites near Damascus
Click here to watch: 'Israeli Jets' Pound sites near Damascus
Israeli fighter jets launched airstrikes on two military sites outside Damascus, Syrian state media and local activists reported Sunday. Israel made no official comment on the reports. Israeli media speculated that missiles intended by Syria for delivery to Hezbollah were targeted. The Israeli jets hit military sites at Damascus’s main airport and at the town of Dimas on a key road near the Syrian-Lebanese border, the reports stated. The alleged attack was reported by Syria’s official SANA news agency and by Shiite terror group Hezbollah’s official television station al-Manar, as well as the the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria. “The Israeli enemy attacked Syria by targeting two security areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and the area of Damascus International Airport,” said SANA, adding that no casualties were reported. SANA called the attack “an aggression against Syria.” Syrian TV and Hezbollah media outlets said the attack was intended by Israel to “help the terrorists” against whom the Assad regime is engaged in a bitter war. The Syrian armed forces’ general command said Sunday’s “flagrant attack” caused material damage, but did not provide any details.
“This aggression demonstrates Israel’s direct involvement in supporting terrorism in Syria along with well-known regional and Western countries to raise the morale of terrorist groups, mainly the Nusra Front,” the military said in a statement carried by SANA. There is no evidence Israel has provided any support to the Nusra Front, which is al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria. Israeli officials did not respond to the reports or make any comment on the alleged attack. Israel’s policy has been to prevent the transfer from Syria of long-range missiles to Hezbollah. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Dimas was a military position. The Observatory also said the strike near the Damascus airport hit a warehouse, although it was unclear what was in the building. Operations at the Damascus international airport are both civilian and military. According to the Observatory, around 10 explosions could be heard outside a military area near Dimas. It had no word on casualties in either strike. Israel has carried out several airstrikes in Syria since the revolt against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. Most of the strikes have targeted sophisticated weapons systems, including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles, believed to be destined for Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group. Other strikes have been attributed to the IDF, though officials in Jerusalem have not confirmed them. Several videos uploaded to YouTube Sunday purported to show the alleged Israeli strikes. During a cabinet meeting earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that Israel was prepared to “deal” with ongoing “threats and challenges,” though he did not specify which threats he was referring to. “We are closely monitoring the Middle East and what is happening with open eyes and ears, and a lot is happening,” Netanyahu said. “We will stay informed and we will deal with these unremitting threats and challenges. We will deal with them with the same responsibility that we have up until now.” Netanyahu’s comment was interpreted in some quarters as a hint at the imminent alleged Israeli action.
Source: Times of Israel
Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
Reply #518 on:
December 08, 2014, 11:52:09 AM »
In response to this article
(previously posted around Oct. 12th), an Special Forces friend with personal experience writes:
As I reviewed the recommended article, many of Mr. Hall’s comments relate directly to what many U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have experienced in some form or factions. Since September 11, 2001, military and governmental organizations have shifted operations in effort of addressing the unique circumstances in regions such as Afghanistan and Iraqi. What are these unique circumstances that exist? Well, first the U.S. had to address the fundamental issue of sharing of information among it’s military and civilian organizations. Military branches such as Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines now acknowledged the extreme importance of sharing of information and operations. In military terms, this means nothing more than “deconfliction” among ALL military branches with the intent of successfully initiating joint operations. In addition, joint operations among military units does not necessarily solve the information sharing issues. Therefore, joint environments now included more civilian governmental organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGO) within the battle space.
As Mr. Hall explains, ground truth always paints the picture of reality. Although much of my time was spent detailing “ground truth”, I learned early on that things are much different within specific regions and cultures. From ideology, beliefs and discontent to the outside world, people have their own specific reasons for their actions. In many ways, it is as simple as “people have their own map of reality”. In regards to Iraqi and Afghanistan, people function based on tribes, culture and their own reality or view of the world. Hall discusses ethnic cleansing within his writings, however, many of rural tribal leaders in select areas solely function from enforcing their beliefs or customs amongst its members. Furthermore, in the case of Afghanistan, many of the extremely rural areas are still influenced by Taliban leaders or lower ranking members. Why is this an important issue to analysis? Well, it’s fairly simple. If U.S. forces conduct combat operations in select areas without a follow-on Civil Affairs campaign, the creditability and efforts of the U.S. may be damaged by virtue of combat operations, and not winning the hearts and minds of the local populace. Moreover, the Taliban influence increases due to US or coalition combat efforts.
War or military campaigns will never be considered a pretty or well-balanced operation that meets the approval of all political parties, nor will it ever meet the 100% approval rating for the civilian or military members. However, any campaign that has been waged, whether with United Nations (UN) or North AtlanticTreaty Organization (NATO) approval requires in-depth political, economic and financial risk analysis at the least. These styles of risk analysis are important by virtue of organizations such as the Islamic State of Syria’s (ISIS) ability to successfully fund it’s organization and continue it’s growth through political, economic and financial gain. Under the UN Charter, Article 51, members are authorized self-defense against any threat against a region. With regards to Iraqi, the sole purpose of the war was allegedly justified to remove Saddam Hussein and the alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In this case of the UN Charter, Article 51, President Bush framed the invasion as an act of self-defense. Hall mentions the arming of so called “moderate” rebels. Although this strategy may have been successful in past campaigns, today’s conflicts do not necessary arrange agreements with U.S. allies, nor does it guarantee allegiance by any coalition that is not part of the UN or European Union (EU). Additionally, Hall discusses strategies that outline borders for Syria and Iraqi. Although this strategy may produce a border that allows a State to operate as a solidified belligerent State, it does not address the long-term allegiance by any given State. As the U.S. and the international community moves forward, at what point may ISIS contend for belligerency status. Although ISIS is considered a terrorist organizations, belligerent status means rights or duties, therefore, this action would alter all interactions with this organization and cause a major shift in the Middle East. In contrast, ISIS’s ability for belligerency is really not a question; however, if the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) can claim belligerency status, what would prevent ISIS from claiming the same status?
Moving forward, the U.S. strategy for the war on terror has to shift to a “must win” campaign. ISIS has made critical threats against the U.S. and it’s allies; therefore, the U.S. must adapt it’s strategy to an advanced Unconventional Warfare (UW) campaign that incorporates unique non-traditional tactics against an unpredictable adversary. Traditional operations or reactive campaigns against an enemy that is well-advanced in their own technology, tactics and overall strategy, its not the way to eliminate an impeding threat to U.S. national security.
US backs successful Kurd mission
Reply #519 on:
December 19, 2014, 05:22:38 AM »
Iraqi PM Abadi writes in WSJ
Reply #520 on:
December 19, 2014, 05:36:37 AM »
Dec. 18, 2014 6:46 p.m. ET
Iraqis are fighting back against the transnational terrorists on the battlefront and on the home front. As we move forward to free every inch of our territory and every segment of our citizenry from ISIS—known in Iraq by its Arabic acronym Daesh—we are also addressing the discontents that give rise to terrorism.
While military action is essential to expel ISIS from the land that we love, there can be no lasting victory without governmental reform, national reconciliation, and economic and social reconstruction. Exclusion breeds extremism, so our new government includes Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, as well as representatives of the major political parties. In order to root out terrorism and its causes, we are determined to ensure that every ethnic group, every region and every religious confession feels that it has a stake in Iraq’s survival and success.
Our government just approved a long-sought, long-term agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government. This historic understanding states that Iraqi oil belongs to all Iraqis. It provides for fair sharing of oil revenues, as well as sharing the resources and responsibilities to defend and serve all our people. As we confront our common enemy, we want to fight alongside our Kurdish brothers. This agreement provides them with the weapons and support they need.
We are restoring relationships with the Sunni tribes that are based in areas now under ISIS domination. These tribes are being armed and are currently fighting alongside Iraqi security forces.
Because Iraqis need to put the past behind us, we are amending the Accountability and Justice Law, which will provide relief from de-Baathification that took place after the fall of Saddam and his Baathist Party. Our goal is to ease the reintegration into society of a large number of former government employees who haven’t committed crimes against the Iraqi people.
Because every citizen must have confidence in our system of justice, I have signed a decree requiring our security forces and the Ministry of Justice to safeguard the constitutional and human rights of the detainees in Iraqi jails. There will be a central record for all detainees, including the reason for their arrests and the timeline for their trials.
As we rebuild our security forces, we are combating corruption, incompetence and fragmentation. We have removed about two-dozen generals, as well as 24 officers of the Ministry of Interior. There will be no more “ghost soldiers” on the payroll, no more corrupt commanding officers and no more battalions who flee from the battlefields.
We are establishing a national guard that will fight alongside the Iraqi army. And we fully support efforts to train and equip the Kurdish forces to ensure that they can work seamlessly with the Iraqi Security Forces.
We are working with the U.S. and our international partners to train and equip tribal fighters who are currently fighting alongside Iraqi security forces. Where possible, some individuals from these groups will be integrated into the Iraqi Security Forces or the national guard.
In order to guarantee respect for the rule of law, we are bringing all armed groups under state control. No armed groups or militias will work outside or parallel to the Iraqi Security Forces, and no arms will be permitted outside the control of the government.
With support from the international coalition and closer coordination with the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, the Iraqi Security Forces and their partners are pushing forward, recapturing strategic roads and other locations and liberating entire towns.
Iraqis are doing our part to defeat the best-funded, best-equipped, and best-organized terrorists on Earth. But the challenge is greater than any country can answer alone.
We need air support, training and armaments for Iraq’s security forces. We need our neighbors and allies to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq. And we need the international community, through its financial institutions, to freeze the funding of ISIS.
We also need the international community to help us assist the two million refugees within our borders who have been displaced by the terrorism of ISIS and the civil war in Syria. With winter approaching, they need humanitarian aid, as will the residents of the areas that we are liberating from Daesh.
Only by rebuilding a secure and stable Iraq can we defeat the terrorists who draw upon discontent and feed on failure. Just as ISIS is the international community’s common enemy, defeating violent extremism, on the battlefield and the home front, must be our common endeavor.
Mr. Abadi is the prime minister of Iraq.
Well, this is encouraging
Reply #521 on:
December 21, 2014, 10:57:45 AM »
WSJ: Inside the War Against the Islamic State
Reply #522 on:
December 27, 2014, 12:38:55 AM »
I have posted several rather apocalyptic posts in this thread with the rise of Isis. I am quite glad to report that I am sensing a change for the better. This interesting article captures a goodly portion of why.
Inside the War Against Islamic State
A retired four-star Marine Corps general, now the U.S. ‘special envoy’ in the war against the terrorist army, on reasons for optimism even as a long fight looms.
By Joseph Rago
Dec. 26, 2014 6:33 p.m. ET
Some six months ago, the Islamic State terrorist army poured south from Syria through Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates valleys, conquering multiple cities including Mosul and the border city of al Qaim. Iraqi army regulars disintegrated, the offensive carved out a rump state controlling somewhere between a quarter and one-third of Iraq’s sovereign territory, and mass executions, repression and videotaped beheadings followed.
Anticipating a strike on Baghdad and the potential fall of the capital, the U.S. Embassy evacuated 1,500 civilians. At the time, one measure of strategic neglect is that the U.S. was flying only a single surveillance sortie a month over Iraq, following the withdrawal of the last American troops in 2011. Saudi Arabia or Jordan were feared to be the next Islamic State targets.
Those calamities were interrupted, and now the first beginnings of a comeback may be emerging against the disorder. Among the architects of the progress so far is John Allen, a four-star Marine Corps general who came out of retirement to lead the global campaign against what he calls “one of the darkest forces that any country has ever had to deal with.”
Gen. Allen is President Obama ’s “special envoy” to the more than 60 nations and groups that have joined a coalition to defeat Islamic State, and there is now reason for optimism, even if not “wild-eyed optimism,” he said in an interview this month in his austere offices somewhere in the corridors of the State Department. He was spending a rare few days stateside by way of Brussels, among the 16 capitals he has visited (many multiple times) as he has helped to coordinate the alliance since accepting the mission in September.
At the Brussels conference, the 60 international partners dedicated themselves to the defeat of Islamic State—also known as ISIS or ISIL, though Gen. Allen prefers the loose Arabic vernacular, Daesh. They formalized a strategy around five common purposes—the military campaign, disrupting the flow of foreign fighters, counterfinance, humanitarian relief and ideological delegitimization.
Gen. Allen cautions that there is hard fighting ahead and victory is difficult to define, but he points to gradual yet tangible progress: For the first time, Islamic State has been confronted on the field and defeated, losing the initiative in battle. The Iraqi security forces are being rebuilt with a counteroffensive being planned to retake and hold terrain such as Mosul, Haditha and Beiji. This week the hundreds of members of the Yazidi sect were rescued from a long mountaintop siege.
The roughly 1,400 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria that have been conducted so far continue to pound Islamic State positions and restrict advances. The U.S. now flies 60 reconnaissance missions daily.
Gen. Allen’s assignment is diplomatic; “I just happen to be a general,” he says. He acts as strategist, broker, mediator, fixer and deal-maker across the large and often fractious coalition, managing relationships and organizing the multi-front campaign. “As you can imagine,” he says, “it’s like three-dimensional chess sometimes.”
Gen. Allen seems governed by an abiding duty to the region and, perhaps, a job left unfinished. In 2006-08, as the deputy commander of Multinational Division West, he served in Anbar, in the deserts spreading west of Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Anbar was then among Iraq’s most violent and dangerous regions, the core of the terror insurgency, and Gen. Allen played an important role in the success of Gen. David Petraeus ’s “surge.”
A scholar-soldier, Gen. Allen cultivated relationships with the Sunni tribes, immersed himself in local culture and history, and helped nurture the Anbar Awakening and U.S. reconciliation initiatives as tribal leaders allied with the U.S. to defeat al Qaeda in Iraq. “I cleaved to John Allen,” says Ryan Crocker, then the U.S. ambassador. “When I needed to know what was going on out in al-Anbar, west Iraq, the tribes—who would do what, who would not do what, what we needed to do—he was the go-to guy.”
Gen. Petraeus adds in an email that Gen. Allen “pursued this effort brilliantly” and “contributed importantly to the achievement of what we termed ‘critical mass’ in the Anbar Awakening that helped set off a chain reaction with reconciliation rippling up and down the Euphrates River Valley in Anbar.” By the time the surge ended in summer 2008, enemy attacks had fallen by more than 80%.
Gen. Allen went on to lead NATO forces in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013 and was poised to become Supreme Allied Commander Europe, among the military’s most prestigious overseas posts. Instead, after nearly 38 years in uniform, he retired, citing the strain of his deployment on his wife and two daughters.
Now Gen. Allen has returned to Iraq, where Anbar especially is once again the site of “humanitarian calamity and crisis.” There are some 20 million refugees fleeing Islamic State or the Syrian civil war. “You have Syrians who have fled to Iraq, sort of implausibly, but in fact, that’s the case,” he says.
Unlike its antecedent al Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State is something new, “a truly unparalleled threat to the region that we have not seen before.” Al Qaeda in Iraq “did not have the organizational depth, they didn’t have the cohesion that Daesh has exhibited in so many places.” The group has seized territory, dominated population centers and become self-financing—“they’re even talking about generating their own currency.”
But the major difference is that “we’re not just fighting a force, you know, we’re fighting an idea,” Gen. Allen says. Islamic State has created an “image that it is not just an extremist organization, not just a violent terrorist organization, but an image that it is an Islamic proto-state, in essence, the Islamic caliphate.” It is an “image of invincibility and image of an advocate on behalf of the faith of Islam.”
This ideology has proved to be a powerful recruiting engine, especially internationally. About 18,000 foreign nationals have traveled to fight in Iraq or the Syria war, some of them Uighurs or Chechens but many from Western countries like the U.K., Belgium, Australia and the U.S. About 10,000 have joined Islamic State, Gen. Allen says.
“Often these guys have got no military qualifications whatsoever,” he continues. “They just came to the battlefield to be part of something that they found attractive or interesting. So they’re most often the suicide bombers. They are the ones who have undertaken the most horrendous depredations against the local populations. They don’t come out of the Arab world. . . . They don’t have an association with a local population. So doing what people have done to those populations is easier for a foreign fighter.”
Among the coalition’s major goals is to prevent these vicarious jihadists from arriving in the region—or from returning to their home countries. The coalition is locking down passports and creating more stringent screening at airports and border crossings world-wide.
A similar effort is under way to interdict Islamic State’s funding, though the challenge is that the group generally doesn’t rely on outside sponsors or traditional financial institutions that can be sanctioned. Black-market oil revenues and stolen money from Iraqi and Syrian banks mean Islamic State can pay for weapons, ammunition, vehicles and salaries for mercenaries.
“We have been bombing the dickens out of the modular refineries and tanker trucks” to disrupt the illicit oil business, Gen. Allen says, but Islamic State is turning to more pernicious methods: “Massive widespread criminal activity, largely extortion, in other words, shaking down the several million people that live under their domination. Sadly, kidnap for ransom is generating a lot of money. . . . A sheik’s son will be taken and the tribe will have to raise the money ultimately to gain his freedom.”
Gen. Allen adds that “Daesh has been very clear in the last several weeks, last couple of months, in undertaking a modern slave trade, if you can imagine that.”
A more hopeful sign is that the new Iraqi government is more stable and multiconfessional after the autocratic sectarian rule of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. His replacement, Haider al-Abadi, has been “very clear that the future of Iraq is for all Iraqis,” Sunni, Shiite and Kurd. He has restored relations with Middle Eastern neighbors and believes in the “devolution of power” across Iraq’s regions, Gen. Allen says. “Maliki believed in the centralization of power.”
Critics of the Obama administration’s Islamic State response argue that the campaign has been too slow and improvisational. In particular, they argue that there is one Iraqi-Syrian theater and thus that Islamic State cannot be contained or defeated in Iraq alone. Without a coherent answer to the Bashar Assad regime, the contagion from this terror haven will continue to spill over.
Gen. Allen argues that the rebels cannot remove Assad from power, and coalition members are “broadly in agreement that Syria cannot be solved by military means. . . . The only rational way to do this is a political outcome, the process of which should be developed through a political-diplomatic track. And at the end of that process, as far as the U.S. is concerned, there is no Bashar al-Assad, he is gone.”
Defeating Islamic State inside Iraq, Gen. Allen says, is “the main effort.” A companion “supporting effort” to degrade Islamic State in Syria is under way, including bombing runs, as well as a “shaping effort” to encourage the moderate Syrian opposition to develop “a more coherent and cohesive political voice” and encourage “a political transition in Damascus.”
Gen. Petraeus says that among the “hugely impressive mix of talent, capabilities and experience” Gen. Allen brings to the mission is “a truly selfless approach to whatever task he is assigned.” Historians will debate how much the U.S. failure to obtain a status of forces agreement in Iraq after 2011 contributed to the rise of Islamic State. A residual combat force may have been an anchor and stabilizing influence, though Mr. Obama preferred to leave, and Mr. Maliki didn’t want the U.S. to stay. (I'll quibble here. Obama insisted on leaving and upon seeing this Maliki simply sought to get ahead of the curve IMHO) Gen. Allen, for his part, has articulated regret about what we left behind.
Last year, in a conversation at the Foreign Policy Initiative about the importance of American global leadership, Gen. Allen said: “We weren’t there long enough to provide the top cover for the solution of many of the political difficulties that might have resolved itself if we had been there for a longer period of time. So consequently, as we departed we have seen those tectonic plates begin to grind against each other again, and that has created instability, and the body count is going up.”
Gen. Allen speaks movingly about the tribes that allied with the U.S. amid the Awakening: The Americans and Iraqis fought alongside one another, he says, and “we, in turn, took care of tribes. We turned their electricity back on, we repaired the enormous damage that al Qaeda had done to the electrical grid. We restored the water purification systems that gave fresh water to the children. We rebuilt the schools.”
The war against Islamic State will go on long after he returns to private life, Gen. Allen predicts. “We can attack Daesh kinetically, we can constrain it financially, we can solve the human suffering associated with the refugees, but as long as the idea of Daesh remains intact, they have yet to be defeated,” he says. The “conflict-termination aspect of the strategy,” as he puts it, is to “delegitimize Daesh, expose it for what it really is.”
This specific campaign, against this specific enemy, he continues, belongs to a larger intellectual, religious and political movement, what he describes as “the rescue of Islam.” He explains that “I understand the challenges that the Arabs face now in trying to deal with Daesh as an entity, as a clear threat to their states and to their people, but also the threat that Daesh is to their faith.”
Gen. Allen says he regularly meets people who say “ ‘we want to take all measures necessary to reclaim our faith.’ . . . I recognize how central this faith is to so many people in the region, how important it is to so many people in the region, how difficult the struggle has become between those who would like to use it to justify horrendous acts and those who would like to reclaim it.”
Or as Gen. Allen put it in an essay earlier this year, “I can say with certainty that what we’re facing in northern Iraq is only partly about Iraq. It is about the region and potentially the world as we know it.”
Mr. Rago is a member of the Journal editorial board.
Bureaucracy keeps doing its thing
Reply #523 on:
January 03, 2015, 04:41:56 PM »
December 30, 2014
Bureaucracy Keeps Doing Its Thing
On the weekend, The New York Times ran an interesting story about how U.S. Army Major General Michael Nagata, the commander of our Special Operations Forces (SOF) in the Middle East, has been reaching out to experts far beyond the Pentagon, the Intelligence Community (IC), and the U.S. Government altogether, to better understand what drives the Islamic State. Since that war is clearly not going very well, and MG Nagata’s elite forces form the point of the spear there, listening to alternative voices is always commendable. As NYT noted:
Business professors, for example, are examining the Islamic State’s marketing and branding strategies. “We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it,” [Nagata] said, according to the confidential minutes of a conference call he held with the experts. “We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”
Who is we, General? This is not to pick on Nagata, whom I’ve never met but who possesses a fine reputation in the snake-eater community, but in the more than thirteen years since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, DC, the Pentagon and the IC have spent shocking sums of money trying to understand the enemy, what is properly termed Salafi jihadism. They have consulted experts, inside and outside the Beltway, constantly, for years, hiring them for every imaginable sort of briefing, roundtable, seminar, and professorial BS-session.
I know, because I’ve had a front-row seat. Before I left the IC in 2005, I was an inside expert on what used to be termed “Al-Qa’ida and Associated Movements,” and since then I’ve been an outside expert, and I’ve been called upon to offer counsel on numerous aspects of the Salafi jihad. Many and diverse are the voices that have proffered their advice to the U.S. Government since 9/11. Over the years, I’ve offered my views to various IC agencies and the Pentagon, plus Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which is charged with waging whatever we’re calling the Global War on Terrorism this week. Expert advice is one thing SOCOM cannot claim there has been any shortage of.
Frankly, if MG Nagata thinks “we” don’t understand Salafi jihadism, he’s the one who’s not been paying attention. To be fair, he’s spent the last dozen years kicking in doors rather than reading books and listening to lectures on Salafi jihadism, but this begs the question why he’s been given such an important task, heading up SOF in Central Command, when the defeat of the Islamic State is urgently required, if he’s not clear who the enemy is and what makes him tick.
Salafi jihadism is not an especially complex ideology — see my book on Al-Qa’ida’s strategic and operational thinking, and throw in my book on its development in the 1990’s for a chaser — and the Islamic State variant, which is simply a particularly virulent strain of the Salafi jihadist bacillus, is so dumbed-down for the Internet age that its barbaric essentials can be clearly enunciated in a half-hour. There are dozens of fine books, covering every aspect of the enemy’s worldview, that I can recommend to anybody who would like to read them.
You don’t get to be general in today’s U.S. Army by being a scholar or bookworm, not even in the SOF world, which is a bit more tolerant of oddballs than the regular combat arms. Acting like a scholar-warrior is sometimes beneficial — see David Petraeus, who knew how to act like one, despite because of his shake-n-bake Ph.D. and lack of scholarly output; Dan Bolger, who recently retired as a three-star, did less well as an actual scholar-warrior who wrote books and had real ideas.
The Army — the same is true, to varying degrees, of all our armed services — promotes officers on their ability to command, not their ability to know things. Whether this is wise, in the 21st century, is an open question. It seems to have gotten us nothing but strategic defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, as LTG (ret) Bolger has recently explained, painfully and accurately.
Why the U.S. military cannot process and “weaponize” the often excellent outside advice it pays large sums of money for is also an important question. Gigantism is a serious problem: DoD and the IC are so huge and sprawling that getting the right message out in a coherent fashion seems impossible. Neither do personnel policies help. The military’s professional development and assignments process makes developing serious expertise in anything challenging in the extreme, unless an officer is willing to commit career suicide. Short tours “in country” likewise prevent the development of necessary knowledge on the ground. Simply put, the Pentagon and the spooks have assembled a “kill chain” without precedent in military history, between drones, related technology, and SOF that are the envy of the world, but such tactical prowess does not strategic success make.
None of these problems can be said to be new. We have repeated many of the identical shortcomings that plagued the Pentagon in Vietnam, where knowledge of how to do counterinsurgency was never the problem: actually doing it successfully was. A key role was played by the CIA officer Robert Komer, known universally as “Blowtorch Bob” for his intellectual tactlessness; it says something that Komer relished the nickname. Komer was a very smart man whose unstated role in Saigon was that of professional gadfly/asshole.
A Harvard man with the vanity to match, after Army service in World War II Komer joined the newly established CIA and made a successful career untangling knotty problems. In Vietnam, he became the dog who caught the car, being appointed the counterinsurgency “czar” in 1967, charged with heading the multi-agency effort to defeat the insurgent Viet Cong. This he was unable to do, despite enormous energy and self-confidence, plus having the ear of President Lyndon Johnson. In the end, bureaucratic dysfunction, civilian and military, proved too great a challenge for Komer’s indefatigable energy. The Pentagon system was as much an adversary as the Viet Cong, despite — or perhaps because of — the huge sums spent on counterinsurgency in Vietnam.
As payback in the guise of analysis, he authored an epic study for RAND of what went wrong, memorably titled Bureaucracy Does Its Thing. It is required reading for anybody who wants to understand what befell American-led pacification in Vietnam, while for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan it will be an uncomfortably “living document.” To be fair to Komer, the bureaucratic mess he could not untangle in Vietnam may appear a paragon of efficiency compared to the literally incomprehensible disaster the Pentagon has made of reconstruction in Afghanistan.
American politics are often a hindrance to success too. Admiral Bill McRaven, who headed SOCOM from 2011 to 2014, representing the rare four-star man of action with a vision to match, proved unable to overcome Congress, despite having the huge cachet of being the SEAL who oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden. McRaven’s vision was to develop SOCOM into a Combatant Command actually capable of waging the war on terrorism strategically, templating what worked in the Greater Middle East globally. That admirable vision, however, broke up on the rocks of Congress.
The problem is that, thanks to an accident of history, SOCOM is headquartered in Tampa, far from the Beltway and therefore is “out of the loop” on a lot of important discussions: nothing beats face-time, as any spook will tell you. To make matters worse, SOCOM has long been a dumping ground for DoD civilians who prefer the easy life of Florida’s Suncoast to Beltway games, with the result that most of its permanent staff, its institutional memory, can be charitably termed second-rate, with a more than minor element comprised of what the Pentagon terms ROJ: Retired on the Job. It does not help matters that no snake-eater worth his salt wants to be in Tampa, thousands of miles from the action that makes careers.
To remedy this, McRaven established a Washington, DC, beachhead for SOCOM, to work seamlessly with the alphabet soup of agencies that enables its top secret mission, plus Congress too. If the Command could not be moved from Tampa, a little bit of it could move inside the Beltway. This Congress would not allow. Despite the fact that no jobs would be transferred from Tampa — the DC office would be new positions, and only a few dozen of them — Congress balked and killed the idea over the usual petty concerns. Thus does SOCOM remain out of the game on many important issues, which may partially explain why General Nagata does not know things he really should.
The problem of not knowing things they need to extends far below the general officer ranks, however. Nobody knowing anything is a broader problem, as I’ve explained before, that plagues the entire U.S. Government. The military’s version, however, is caused in large part by personnel policies that rotate officers out before they can learn much about the job and its particular problems. The old wag that America did not fight a ten-year war in Vietnam, it fought ten one-year wars, has been more or less repeated in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To provide a concrete example, a few years ago I paid a visit to a four-star “in theater” who was having problems getting a handle on the local Islamic radical network which, in customary fashion, was entangled with tribalism, organized crime, and opaque personal politics. This was a country and network I knew well so I became the small-scale Komeresque dog who caught the car, being tasked with untangling a bona fide mess.
Unlike many four-stars, this was one who, frustrated with a lack of answers to his questions from his own staff, was eager to listen to what a mere civilian/reservist had to say. He wanted to be an intelligence analyst, deep down — this is less uncommon in the top ranks than one might imagine — so we spread out a vast chart, bigger than the biggest table his command had, poring over the line-and-block diagrams elaborating various radical networks (this is the sort of thing the IC loves, an impressive-looking layout to compensate for lack of vital information). The command’s intel shop (the Two or Deuce in local parlance), a couple dozen people with reachback to all the IC agencies back home, with their vast databases, had pulled together an “order of battle” of the local radical network based on all the Top Secret SIGINT and HUMINT they could find.
While they knew who the top half-dozen radicals in-country were, there was simply nothing to link them; based on reams of most classified U.S. and Allied intelligence, obtained at vast sums of money, there was no connection: their sub-networks, of myriad thug-groups and fronts, did not touch. What was going on here, our four-star wanted to know. So I told him.
These half-dozen Islamist baddies had served together in military intelligence under the previous regime; half of them had served in the very same unit. They were old comrades.
The four-star’s face went ashen. Then a stream of expletives burst forth, beginning with “Why the f*** did you not tell me this?” aimed at his intelligence chief, and going downhill from there.
“Um, we didn’t know, sir,” was the unsatisfactory reply. The four-star pointed at me, asking: “How the hell did you know this?”
“Everybody knows this, sir,” I answered, truthfully. I explained that these connections were well known to locals, they were anything but secret. They had even been discussed in the local media. But nobody in the command bothered to read the local media in detail, or even could, so they missed what the average fruit vendor on the streets of the city was aware of.
As usual, we had a whole command full of generalists, people skilled at writing intelligence assessments but incapable of grasping how the country there were in actually functioned. In a few months, every single officer who got yelled at in that SCIF would move on, to be replaced by equally smart yet uninformed staffers who can send countless RFIs (Requests For Information) back to DIA, NSA, and CIA, but don’t actually know much about the country they’re standing in.
This is the American system. This is how we wage war. This is why we keep losing.
The U.S. military is superbly equipped and magnificently trained, at great expense. Its special operators represent a secret killing machine without equal. Our troops are intelligent and well educated. They are, however, not always informed.
Eschewing genuine expertise and knowledge is a choice. One the Pentagon keeps making. We will keep losing wars until we make different choices. In the meantime, there are platoons of outside experts willing to share their expertise, at princely sums, to generals and their staffs…over and over again. Bureaucracy will keep doing its thing.
P.S. I am aware that this piece will result in me being pronounced persona non grata at the Pentagon, but if this plea saves one American life, much less prevents a winnable war from being lost, I am happy.
Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
Reply #524 on:
January 06, 2015, 09:14:48 AM »
Kurdish forces, supported by coalition airstrikes, have seized a key district in the northern Syrian town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab), near the Turkish border, according to Kurdish officials and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syrian and Iraqi Kurdish forces overtook the security district, including the police headquarters, following clashes with Islamic State fighters that broke out on Sunday night. Kurdish forces say they control about 80 percent of the town, with Islamic State fighters still holding the eastern districts of Maqtala and Kani Kordan. Meanwhile, the Observatory reported a top official in the Islamic State’s self-declared police force was found beheaded in eastern Syria.
A suicide bombing and clashes with Islamic State fighters killed at least 23 Iraqi soldiers and pro-government Sunni militiamen in the town of al-Baghdadi in Iraq’s western Anbar province on Tuesday. The Pentagon reported Monday that U.S. troops have begun training Iraqi military forces at two bases in Iraq, in Anbar and Taji, though training was not expected to begin at bases in Irbil or Besmaya for several more weeks. On Tuesday, Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi said the Iraqi military has started rebuilding, though he noted, “We are still in the very early steps.”
Hezbollah discovers it is against Islamic Fascism when applied against Hezbollah
Reply #525 on:
January 09, 2015, 07:05:00 PM »
Time of the Assassins
Reply #526 on:
January 12, 2015, 07:19:17 PM »
Re: Time of the Assassins
Reply #527 on:
January 12, 2015, 09:23:49 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on January 12, 2015, 07:19:17 PM
The core problem is the jihadists aren't radicals, they are orthodox Muslims.
Assessing the Islamic State 2014
Reply #528 on:
January 12, 2015, 11:54:43 PM »
Jihadism in 2014: Assessing the Islamic State
January 8, 2015 | 09:00 GMT Print Text Size
By Scott Stewart
Editor's Note: The following is the third installment of a series examining how the global jihadist movement evolved in 2014.
As noted in part one of this series, the largest change in the jihadist movement in 2014 was the split between al Qaeda and the Islamic State. In part 4 of the 2013 Gauging the Jihadist Movement series, we discussed the tensions between al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, as the organization was referred to then. We also noted that the group was the most powerful of the regional jihadist franchises, that it was growing in power and that it had the potential to be the next jihadist group to establish an emirate. Finally, we noted our belief that this growing power was going to draw the attention of the Unites States and its allies, who do not want to permit the emergence of a jihadist emirate in the heart of the Middle East.
However, while we correctly outlined the general trends that were going to transpire, the actual scope of how those trends played out caught us by surprise. We simply did not foresee the organization being able to conquer as much land in Iraq as it did, with the speed that it did. Also, while Stratfor has long been concerned about the capabilities of the Iraqi security services after the U.S. withdrawal, we were surprised by how quickly the U.S.-trained and -equipped Iraqi army broke and fled in the face of attacks by a far smaller and lesser-equipped force. We were also caught off guard at the way the generally well-regarded Kurdish peshmerga was initially driven back during the Islamic State's offensive into Iraq.
In that context, we will examine the Islamic State in terms of its goals and by comparing its stated aims to insurgent and terrorist theory.
Despite its current ideological squabbling with al Qaeda, and the pointed criticism of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri that was discussed in part two of this series, the Islamic State nevertheless continues to pursue the broad strategy al-Zawahiri outlined in a 2005 letter he sent to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of the group that has become the Islamic State.
In that letter, al-Zawahiri wrote: "It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the Islamic world." He also noted that the first step in such a plan was to expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage was to establish an emirate and expand it into a larger caliphate. The third stage was then to attack the secular countries surrounding Iraq (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria and Jordan) and bring them into the caliphate. The fourth step was to use the power of the combined caliphate to attack Israel.
Inspired by al-Zawahiri's letter, and emboldened by successes on the battlefield despite the death of al-Zarqawi in a U.S. airstrike, al-Zarqawi's group renamed itself the Islamic State in Iraq in 2006, thereby declaring the establishment of a jihadist polity in Iraq. While the group was severely weakened as a result of the U.S. surge of forces into Iraq and the corresponding Anbar Awakening in the Sunni areas of the country that began in 2007, the organization never let go of its goals. It rebuilt after the 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and took advantage of the civil war in Syria. Following a successful military campaign to seize large portions of the Sunni areas in Iraq, on June 29, 2014, the Islamic State organization announced not only the re-establishment of an emirate but also of a caliphate and demanded that all Muslims pay homage to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is now known as Caliph Ibrahim.
The Islamic State currently controls large sections of Syria and Iraq, including significant portions of Syria's energy production apparatus. It also controls Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, having assembled the largest and best-equipped jihadist armed force ever. It has therefore accomplished a great deal over the past year. However, jihadist emirates have been relatively short-lived, including the previously declared Islamic State in Iraq and the emirate declared by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in northern Mali in 2012. They have also been destroyed by foreign intervention, and it is very likely that the Islamic State will find it extremely difficult to hold onto its gains in the face of the concerted international campaign against it.
Insurgency and Terrorism
The militants of the Islamic State have been fighting an insurgent war in Iraq for more than a decade now. They have also been heavily involved in the Syrian civil war since 2011. Through numerous battles in Iraq and Syria, the military leadership of the Islamic State learned hard lessons from attempting to stand toe-to-toe with the U.S. military in Fallujah (twice) and Ramadi. There have also been brutal conflicts with Syrian and Iraqi armed forces and an assortment of militant groups such as Hezbollah and Jabhat al-Nusra — the al Qaeda franchise group in Syria that split from the Islamic State. As seen from its dramatic gains on the battlefield in 2014, the Islamic State has grown quite competent at guerrilla and mobile, light infantry warfare.
Much of the Islamic State's battlefield success came from the fact that it has accepted many former Sunni Iraqi military officers into its ranks, leaders who lost their positions after Saddam Hussein fell. These former soldiers have shown the ability to plan operations, handle logistics, and even operate and maintain heavy weapons systems captured from the Syrian and Iraqi militaries. Experienced militants from Libya, Chechnya and elsewhere have also bolstered the Iraqi contingent. The Islamic State's ability to employ heavy weapons like tanks and artillery greatly assisted its offensive operations in 2014.
While the Iraqi soldiers brought a good deal of military experience to the group, they have not been able to provide much in the way of terrorist tradecraft. Indeed, the Iraqi government was fairly successful in its military campaigns against its own minorities and other regional powers, such as the Kuwaitis and Iranians. However, Iraq struggled to project power transnationally through terrorism.
Hussein's government supported numerous terrorist groups with logistics and training facilities, but others carried out much of the terrorist tradecraft training conducted in those camps. Saddam's military and intelligence personnel were masters at instilling terror in their native population, but they never really mastered transnational terrorism tradecraft themselves.
The Iraqi government's lack of transnational terrorist tradecraft was plainly evident in January 1991 when it launched a string of botched and thwarted attacks across Asia, to include Manila, Jakarta, Bangkok and Beijing. Despite having the luxury of being able to send terrorist materials to intelligence officers assigned to its embassies, for passage to their terrorist teams via the diplomatic pouch, these would-be terrorists committed egregious technical and operational security mistakes. First, because of faulty timers, their bombs either failed to go off or killed their own operatives. Second, their operatives were traveling on sequentially numbered Iraqi tourist passports, and once that sequence was discovered, their terrorist teams were quickly rounded up in a number of countries.
The Hussein government's transnational terrorism incompetence was again displayed in April 1993 when the Iraqi intelligence service attempted to assassinate former U.S. President George HW Bush in Kuwait City. The Iraqis used the same type of explosives used in the 1991 Asia attacks, PE-4A, and the explosives were even from the same manufacturer's lot number the Iraqi intelligence service had sent to Asia and elsewhere via the diplomatic pouch in 1991.
As we have previously discussed, the Islamic State and its predecessor organizations have never conducted terrorist attacks outside their region of operations, and even their efforts to launch attacks in neighboring Jordan have not been successful compared with their terrorist operations in Iraq and Syria. This lack of success stems from the challenges associated with operating remotely in hostile territory, a far more difficult task than operating locally and using internal communication lines. Indeed, projection of terrorist capabilities at the transnational level requires different elements of terrorist tradecraft than attacking locally. For example, in bombmaking it is far more challenging to construct a viable explosive device from improvised components than it is to assemble one using military-grade explosives and other ordnance.
This lack of capability to project terrorist power was evidenced by the Islamic State's call to grassroots jihadists in the West to embrace the leaderless resistance model of terrorism and conduct attacks where they live.
If the Islamic State begins working to develop the tradecraft capabilities required for transnational terrorist operations, we would expect to first see it display a greater ability to project force within its region before we would see it attempt to project force half a world away. We have recently seen reports of the Islamic State attempting to infiltrate personnel into Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, but those efforts have been amateurish, as have the group's terrorist attacks to date in Lebanon.
The Islamic State has surpassed al Qaeda's accomplishments on the battlefield, declaring a caliphate in an attempt to assume leadership of the global jihadist movement. However, as noted two weeks ago, we have yet to witness major defections of jihadists from al Qaeda to the Islamic state, outside of the Syria/Iraq theater of operations. The group's pointed criticism of al Qaeda for being too moderate and religiously flawed will likely serve to alienate those who venerated Osama bin Laden. The group's attacks on the Taliban, Mullah Omar and other Deobandi Muslims will also likely hurt the Islamic State's appeal to militants in South Asia.
It must be remembered that specific regional factors aided the Islamic State's growth — the brutal sectarianism in Iraq and Syria, for example — and the lack of those factors in other areas will continue to limit the group's ability to spread beyond its core locality.
The Islamic State has quite publicly tied its legitimacy to its success on the battlefield, essentially stating in Dabiq magazine and other outlets that its battlefield successes were a way to prove its claim to the caliphate and to show that it was being divinely favored. Yet, as the international campaign against the Islamic State progressed, the organization's offensive stalled and the Islamic State weathered dramatic losses on the battlefield in Kobani, Baji and Sinjar, to name a few. Indeed, it would seem that the reason the Islamic State continues to attack Kobani and suffer mounting casualties there is because of its propaganda claims. The city really has little strategic importance to it otherwise.
The U.S.-led coalition has also repeatedly struck at Islamic State-controlled oil infrastructure in an effort to limit the group's ability to finance itself through the black market sale of oil. Despite the Islamic State's recent public announcement of a $2 billion budget for 2015, its expected $250 million surplus for the year and John Cantlie's video assurances that the Islamic State's economy is fine, there are signs that the organization is struggling financially. Certainly, the group gained a great deal of money and goods when it seized banks, government buildings and military bases, but it is spending a lot of money to provide salaries for its fighters and services for the citizens of the cities and towns it controls. Anecdotal reports suggest that food, medicine and other essential goods are in scarce supply and that the residents of cities such as Raqaa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq are becoming unhappy with the many taxes the Islamic State has levied to support its economy. With very little other economic activity, shaking down the local population for "taxes" can work only for so long until people are bled dry.
The Islamic State also lost several key leaders, including its emir (governor) for Kirkuk, the head of military operations in Iraq, and al-Baghdadi's deputy, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a former lieutenant colonel in Iraqi special operations. While the group had some success in recruiting foreign fighters, replacing al-Turkmani, a savvy and seasoned military man with on-the-ground fighting experience, will prove difficult.
While the Islamic State will attempt to celebrate such deaths as martyrdoms, these losses, when combined with the loss of territory on the battlefield and financial hardship, will nonetheless work to undermine the carefully crafted claim that the Islamic State is a divinely favored and inexorable force.
There will be no huge surge of U.S. combat troops into Iraq to combat the Islamic State as there was the last time it established a jihadist polity in Iraq. Instead, the fighting will be done by Iraqi troops, from the national army, the Shiite militias and the Kurdish peshmerga. Because of this, it will take longer to push the Islamic State out of cities such as Mosul, especially if Islamic State fighters choose to dig in and fight to the end rather than flee. However, once its lines of communication are cut and coalition airstrikes have hampered its ability to mass forces, the Islamic State will find it very difficult to retain the caliphate it has conquered.
Read more: Jihadism in 2014: Assessing the Islamic State | Stratfor
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Reply #529 on:
January 15, 2015, 09:28:32 PM »
This sounds ominous , , , ISIS hits Saudi Arabia
Reply #530 on:
January 16, 2015, 11:11:54 AM »
Saudi Arabia Plunges into an Abyss
Posted: 15 Jan 2015 04:59 PM PST
Last week, just before the Charlie Hebdo attack, ISIS sent a suicide team across the border into Saudi Arabia. Here's what happened.
The attack was successful. The team found and killed the Saudi general (Oudah al-Belawi) in charge of the country's nothern border zone at the outpost he was visiting (here's a pic of the state funeral for some of the men killed in the attack).
The target was significant. General Oudah al-Belawi was in charge of the multi-billion dollar Saudi effort to secure the northern border against ISIS. Not only has Saudi Arabia sent 30,000 additional troops to guard the northern border, it's building a highly automated 600-mi security wall to protect itself (lots of robots and sensors). Here's a great graphic of the monstrosity from the Telegraph. My take: What a waste of time and effort. Better to spend a couple of million on military strategists who have a clue (I have a couple in mind).
It demoralized the Saudi military. This attack deeply undermines the morale of Saudi troops on the border. If ISIS can kill a top general...
Saudi Arabia on the edge
Here why this attack is signficant.
It tells us that ISIS is starting to focus on Saudi Arabia --> with good reason. The reason is that there's simply no other way to unite the various groups under the ISIS banner. ISIS, like all open source movements, needs to keep moving in order to stay alive (like a shark). Right now, ISIS has stalled. A jihad to retake the holy sites from the corrupt regime in Riyadh can serve as a simple plausible promise that can reignite the open source war ISIS started, on a global scale.
The Saudis are vulnerable. The attackers knew exactly when the general was going to be at the outpost. This tells us that the Saudi military is rife with ISIS sympathisers and/or active members. If so, the Saudi military may melt away when facing jihadis (or switch sides) in the same way 30,000 Iraqi troops did early last year a couple of hundred miles to the north.
It explains the timing of Charlie Hebdo. Not only was it an attack that has gained ISIS favor with millions of Saudis (given how racist and anti-islamic the magazine's cartoons were), it was also (and more importantly) a distraction. It has successfully distracted the collective west, by pulling them into another "war on terrorism." This attack is something I call a Red Queen's trap, since it results in damage to both the contestants in the struggle.
What does this mean for Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia knows it is in trouble, that's why the Saudis are trying to buy influence in the west through a cheap oil policy (at the same time, a low price puts the hurt on US frackers and ISIS oil smugglers alike). However, ISIS trumped this effort with Charlie Hebdo. It will be difficult for the Saudis to convince the west they are the real target after the attack in Paris. Here's what this means:
We're likely to see ISIS make a big push into Saudi Arabia this spring. This push may result in some very, very rapid gains by ISIS as Saudi troops melt away and/or join ISIS. The big question? If ISIS does gain a foothold: do the Saudi's accept foreign troops/airpower at the cost of their legitimacy, or do they go down fighting solo?
The oil price dip we're currently experiencing will rapidly reverse as soon as it's clear that ISIS is gearing up a real jihad to retake Mecca and Medina. $150 a barrel or more by the end of the year, once this gets going (or much more as it puts all of the gulf aristos in full panic mode simultaneously).
The rapid swing in oil price will plunge the perpetually stagnant western economies into a simultaneous rout. However, as bad as that will be, it will of little consequence compared to the damage the global financial system will do to us as hundreds of trillions of dollars in explosive financial derivatives topple the ziggurat of western debt we've so foolishly built.
Interesting interview with German writer after visit w ISIS
Reply #531 on:
January 17, 2015, 05:34:07 PM »
Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
Reply #532 on:
January 18, 2015, 09:20:43 AM »
If ISIS could topple the house of Saud, we will really be living in interesting times.
Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
Reply #533 on:
January 18, 2015, 11:42:03 AM »
Foreign Policy magazine
Reply #534 on:
January 19, 2015, 11:13:26 AM »
By David Francis with Sabine Muscat
Plans to expand air strikes against the Islamic State are stalled. The United States and Turkey still are unable to agree on priorities in the bombing campaign in Syria and, as a result, the expected expansion of American-led bombings is going nowhere.
The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung: Syrian President Bashar “[al-]Assad’s military surrounds, and regularly bombards from the air, Western-backed moderate opposition fighters and civilians in Aleppo, Syria’s second-largest city, in the northwest corner of the country. Turkey fears that Aleppo’s fall would not only add to the 1.6 million refugees who have already crossed its border from Syria and Iraq, but also would undermine its main priority of pushing Assad from power.” More here.
Efforts to fight the Islamic State on the ground are failing. The United States has made significant gains with some 1,700 bombs dropped on the Islamic State, turning back the terror group in some places while slowing its charge across Iraq and Syria. However, Iraqi officials and tribal leaders said the lack of a political process to accompany these strikes is driving Sunnis to join the group.
The Guardian’s Martin Chulov: “Samarra to the north of the Iraqi capital and Sunni areas just to the south remain tense and dangerous, despite more than seven months of air strikes that have supported the embattled Iraqi military and the large number of Shia militias that fight alongside it. Controlling both areas is considered vital to establishing control of Iraq.” More here.
Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
Reply #535 on:
January 19, 2015, 12:01:53 PM »
Have they tried dropping iPods with collections of Obama's speeches and coexist stickers?
POTH: US signals shift on Syria
Reply #536 on:
January 20, 2015, 08:01:05 AM »
U.S. Signals Shift on How to End Syrian Civil War
By ANNE BARNARD and SOMINI SENGUPTAJAN. 19, 2015
President Bashar al-Assad with troops in Damascus. In one Russian idea, his government and the opposition would share power. Credit Syrian Arab News Agency, via
BEIRUT, Lebanon — American support for a pair of diplomatic initiatives in Syria underscores the shifting views of how to end the civil war there and the West’s quiet retreat from its demand that the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, step down immediately.
The Obama administration maintains that a lasting political solution requires Mr. Assad’s exit. But facing military stalemate, well-armed jihadists and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the United States is going along with international diplomatic efforts that could lead to more gradual change in Syria.
That shift comes along with other American actions that Mr. Assad’s supporters and opponents take as proof Washington now believes that if Mr. Assad is ousted, there will be nothing to check the spreading chaos and extremism. American planes now bomb the Islamic State group’s militants in Syria, sharing skies with Syrian jets. American officials assure Mr. Assad, through Iraqi intermediaries, that Syria’s military is not their target. The United States still trains and equips Syrian insurgents, but now mainly to fight the Islamic State, not the government.
Now, the United States and other Western countries have publicly welcomed initiatives — one from the United Nations and one from Russia — that postpone any revival of the United States-backed Geneva framework, which called for a wholesale transfer of power to a “transitional governing body.” The last Geneva talks failed a year ago amid vehement disagreement over whether that body could include Mr. Assad.
One of the new concepts is a United Nations proposal to “freeze” the fighting on the ground, first in the strategic crossroads city of Aleppo. The other is an initiative from Russia, Mr. Assad’s most powerful supporter, to try to spur talks between the warring sides in Moscow in late January. Diplomats and others briefed on the plans say one Russian vision is of power-sharing between Mr. Assad’s government and some opposition figures, and perhaps parliamentary elections that would precede any change in the presidency.
But the diplomatic proposals face serious challenges, relying on the leader of a rump state who is propped up by foreign powers and hemmed in by a growing and effective extremist force that wants to build a caliphate. Many of America’s allies in the Syrian opposition reject the plans, and there is little indication that Mr. Assad or his main allies, Russia and Iran, feel any need to compromise. The American-backed Free Syrian Army is on the ropes in northern Syria, once its stronghold, and insurgents disagree among themselves over military and political strategy.
And perhaps most of all, the Islamic State controls half of Syria’s territory, though mostly desert, and it has managed to strengthen its grip even as the United States and its allies try to oust it from neighboring Iraq.
Still, Secretary of State John Kerry declared last week that the United States welcomed both initiatives. He made no call for Mr. Assad’s resignation, a notable omission for Mr. Kerry, who has typically insisted on it in public remarks. Instead, he spoke of Mr. Assad as a leader who needed to change his policies.
Continue reading the main story
“It is time for President Assad, the Assad regime, to put their people first and to think about the consequences of their actions, which are attracting more and more terrorists to Syria, basically because of their efforts to remove Assad,” Mr. Kerry said.
On Thursday in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy for the crisis in Syria, also signaled a tactical shift, saying that “new factors” such as the growth of the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, must be taken into account. He said there was no point in trying to organize a third round of Geneva talks before building unambiguous support from both the Syrian government and its opponents for some kind of “Syrian political process.”
The urgent search for a political solution, Mr. de Mistura said, must “bear in mind” not only the Geneva framework, “but also the need to adjust aspirations without preconditions, in line with the new factors which have come up in the reality of the area, such as ISIS.”
The shifts reflect a longstanding view among United Nations officials in Syria that the West must adapt to the reality that Syrian insurgents have failed to defeat Mr. Assad. Syrians on both sides have said frequently in interviews that they fear the growing influence of foreign militants, and while they mistrust all international players that have financed warring parties, they are willing to explore compromise with other Syrians.
Western diplomats who had long called for Mr. Assad’s immediate resignation say now that while he must not indefinitely control crucial institutions like the military, a more gradual transition may be worth considering.
One Western diplomat at the United Nations said that while a “post-Assad phase” must eventually come, “the exact timing of that, we can discuss,” as long as the solution does not “cement his position in power.”
Western leaders now openly talk about a deal allowing some current officials to remain to prevent Syria from disintegrating, like Iraq and Libya.
“The political solution will of course include some elements of the regime because we don’t want to see the pillars of the state fall apart. We would end up with a situation like Iraq,” the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told a French radio station last Monday.
At the same time, such statements have further alienated Washington from ordinary anti-Assad Syrians and rank-and-file insurgents, reinforcing the idea that the West has decided to tolerate Mr. Assad.
The view that the United States supports Mr. Assad is spreading even among the groups receiving direct American financing, groups deemed moderate enough to receive arms and work with a United States-run operations center in Turkey. A fighter with Harakat Hazm, one such group, said Wednesday that America was “looking for loopholes to reach a political solution and keep al-Assad.”
Tarek Fares, a secular Syrian Army defector who long fought with the loose-knit nationalist groups known as the Free Syrian Army but who has lately quit fighting, joked bitterly about American policy one recent night in Antakya, Turkey. “This is how the Americans talk,” he said. “They say, ‘We have a red line, we will support you, we will arm you.’ They do nothing, and then after four years they tell you Assad is the best option.”
The United Nations freeze proposal tries to improve on efforts over the last 18 months inside Syria, where the government and insurgents have reached local cease-fire deals to restore basic services and aid delivery — most recently on Thursday in the Waer neighborhood of the city of Homs.
But those cease-fires have never had the imprimatur of international bodies, and they often collapse. With a few exceptions they have amounted to insurgents’ surrender to a government strategy of siege and starvation.
Juliette Touma, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Mistura, said that his plan would not resemble the past cease-fires, and that the United Nations, not the Syrian government, would be the guarantor. Yet even the modest Aleppo proposal is on shaky ground. While Mr. Assad has said he will consider it, his government has not signed off on the plan; Mr. de Mistura’s deputy arrived Sunday in Damascus for consultations.
The Moscow talks are arguably in worse shape. While Mr. Kerry said he hoped the talks “could be helpful,” several crucial opposition groups have refused to attend and say the United States has not pressured them to go.
That leaves American policy ambiguous, offering only modest verbal support to the new mediation efforts while continuing to finance some Syrian insurgents, yet not enough to seriously threaten Mr. Assad. Even a new program to train them to fight ISIS will not field fighters until May.
Critics argue that Washington is simply trying to disengage and offload the Syria problem to Mr. Assad’s allies, Russia and Iran, even at the cost of empowering them.
Still, any attempt to bring the parties to the table should be considered constructive, another Western diplomat said. “You can’t say to the Russians, ‘Go to hell.’ ”
Anne Barnard reported from Beirut, and Somini Sengupta from the United Nations. Reporting was contributed by Nick Cumming-Bruce and Michael R. Gordon from Geneva, and Ben Hubbard and Hwaida Saad from Beirut.
ISI executes 13 boys for watching soccer on TV
Reply #537 on:
January 20, 2015, 10:31:58 AM »
Reply #538 on:
January 22, 2015, 12:18:47 AM »
Re: Canada scores!
Reply #539 on:
January 22, 2015, 02:38:21 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on January 22, 2015, 12:18:47 AM
They said if I voted for Romney, we have endless war in the middle east...
Plans to re-take Mosul
Reply #540 on:
January 23, 2015, 02:14:56 PM »
Julian E. Barnes
Updated Jan. 22, 2015 8:47 p.m. ET
TAMPA, Fla.—The U.S. and Iraq have begun preparations for an assault by summer to retake Mosul, selecting and training military units and cutting supply lines to Islamic State militants who control Iraq’s second-largest city, the top American commander in the Middle East said.
Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of the military’s Central Command, told The Wall Street Journal that the international campaign against Islamic State has inflicted significant damage. Opposing forces have reclaimed about 300 square miles of territory in Iraq and killed some 6,000 members of the Sunni radical group, eliminating about half its leadership.
U.S. defense officials have bristled under criticism from Iraqi officials and others that the campaign against Islamic State is stalled or moving too slowly. U.S. Central Command is eager to show that airstrikes are having an effect on the ground and that the American and Iraqi militaries have a plan to continue to drive fighters out of their key strongholds in Iraq.
U.S. officials said they don’t have a good estimate of the current size of Islamic State forces, although they were once estimated at up to 14,000. They concede that Islamic State fighters still control large parts of northern and western Iraq, but say much of the Kurdish-controlled areas have been reclaimed. Islamic State captured Mosul, a city of 600,000, in June at the start of its blitz across parts of Iraq.
On Wednesday and Thursday, U.S. airstrikes focused on cutting supply lines between militants who control Mosul and Islamic State’s stronghold in Syria. The planes conducted 18 strikes near Mosul and Sinjar, hitting Islamic State fighters, staging positions and armored vehicles, according to the U.S. military.
A coalition of Iraq’s most experienced military forces, including Kurdish fighters known as Peshmerga and U.S.-trained Sunni fighters, would be ready by the spring or early summer to begin the offensive to retake Mosul, said Gen. Austin, the chief architect of the international military campaign against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.
Gen. Austin, speaking at his headquarters in Tampa, addressed questions about the pace of the campaign by saying the U.S. must wait for Iraq’s forces to be ready before moving.
“If we did things alone or with some of the other allies on the ground, it could move faster,” he said. “But the Iraqis have to do this themselves.”
Gen. Austin said he had not decided whether to recommend that U.S. ground troops accompany local units pushing into Mosul, but emphasized the military would “do what it takes.”
He said there are signs that Islamic State is having trouble finding new fighters—noting their efforts to recruit child soldiers and to forcibly conscript fighters in Mosul. The group “is beginning to experience a manpower issue,” Gen. Austin said.Defense officials said the estimates of the number of militants killed comes from the battle-damage assessments done by the U.S. after airstrikes. A defense official said the U.S. has a high degree of confidence in their count and that, if anything, it is a conservative estimate. Still highlighting enemy casualties is controversial, and even Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said body counts haven’t been an accurate measure of progress in the past.
In talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London earlier Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said his forces needed more ammunition, equipment and training, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cameron said. In public comments, Mr. Abadi said the sharp drop in oil prices had devastated Iraq’s economy.
Mr. Abadi was in London for an international conference to discuss strategy in the fight against Islamic State. Secretary of State John Kerry told the conference the support for Iraqi efforts against Islamic State wouldn’t fail for want of weapons or ammunition. Mr. Kerry said a “very significant” number of M16 rifles were on the way.
In Washington, Mr. Hagel criticized earlier comments from Mr. Abadi criticizing the amount and pace of the American weapons supplies, saying the prime minister should be mindful of the efforts the U.S. and the coalition are making on behalf of Iraq.
U.S. officials say they believe the population in Mosul will support the Iraqi forces. But they expect a tough fight, with the possibility of booby-trapped houses and roadside bombs.
The U.S. has begun training new Iraqi security forces at four sites, according to military officials. There are about 1,000 Iraqis at the al-Asad base in Anbar province, 1,800 at the Besmaya base to the south of Baghdad, 1,300 at Taji base to the north of the capital, and 300 Kurds in Erbil—the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdistan region.
Those forces won’t be directly involved in the attack on Mosul. Instead U.S. commanders are urging Iraqi leaders to use those newly trained units to take over defensive positions around Baghdad and elsewhere and send more battle-experienced units to Mosul. Under that plan, Gen. Austin said two Iraqi divisions are expected to lead the force that retakes Mosul this spring, forces that will go to U.S.-run training centers in the coming weeks to prepare for the offensive. Those forces will receive four to six weeks training by the U.S. to prepare for the fight in Mosul, according to military officials.
Military officials say they face a challenge in convincing Iraqi leaders to release their best and most experienced units from the defense of Baghdad and commit them to the offensive. Senior U.S. officials have told Iraqi counterparts that the only way to ultimately ensure the safety of the capital is to push Islamic State forces out of Mosul and other key areas they continue to control.
“Most of the best Iraqi units are in Baghdad, and that is the thing we have to shake them free of,” said a senior military officer. “They are reluctant to let their best units leave.”
Last year, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised the possibility in testimony before Congress that U.S. troops might need to accompany Iraqi forces during the Mosul fight to help call in airstrikes. Gen. Austin said he had made no decision but said he may request that the White House send in U.S. advisers alongside the Iraqi divisions.
“I am going to do what it takes to be successful, and it may very well turn out…that we may need to ask to have our advisers accompany the troops that are moving on Mosul,” he said.
But Central Command will not need to make a decision on whether to request U.S. advisers accompany Iraqi troops until close to the operations, Gen. Austin said.
He predicted Islamic State’s leadership wouldn’t be able to reestablish their supply lines, opening a possibility that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader, could be forced to abandon Mosul.
“He could make a decision to fight and retake those lines of communications, which I expect him to do. I expect him to ultimately lose that fight,” Gen. Austin said. “He could make a decision to leave Mosul altogether and go back into Syria.”
—Nour Malas, Nicholas Winning and Jay Solomon contributed to this article.
Robert Spencer: The King is Dead. Long Live the King...
Reply #541 on:
January 24, 2015, 06:44:39 AM »
The King Is Dead, Long Live the King
Posted By Robert Spencer On January 23, 2015
Abdullah was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Old Abdullah was as dead as a door-nail.
So what now?
The crown prince, Abdullah’s half-brother, Prince Salman, has taken over, but it might not be that easy. After all, it wasn’t too many years ago that people were speculating about what Egypt would be like under the rule of Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal. And the accession of a 79-year-old to the throne does not give the impression that the House of Saud is vigorous and ready to take on the numerous challenges it faces.
And it faces many. This is not an optimum time for a transition. The House of Saud has headed up an obnoxious regime that has spent billions to prepare the ground for the jihad that is now aflame all over the world, by propagating its virulent view of jihad everywhere. Now the Saudis’ massive expenditures to export the jihad doctrine have come back to bite them in the form of the Islamic State, a self-proclaimed caliphate that denies the legitimacy of the House of Saud (and every other government other than its own) and has vowed to conquer it (and every other country, but it is right on the Saudis’ doorstep).
The Saudis want the U.S. to take care of their Islamic State problem for them. They can’t easily do it themselves, because they have taught their own people the idea that the umma, the worldwide Muslim community, should ideally be ruled by a caliph, the successor of Muhammad as the political, military, and religious leader of the Muslims, and so if they move too decisively against the Islamic State, they might be facing an uprising from within. Several weeks ago, a Muslim cleric from Saudi Arabia was killed while fighting for the Islamic State. And Sheikh ‘Aadel Al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, has declared: “ISIS is a true product of Salafism and we must deal with it with full transparency.”
Salafism is what the Saudis have used their oil billions to spread throughout the world. And given the fact that Saudi Arabia’s plush rehab facility for jihadists has proven to be a spectacular failure, King Salman may be spending a considerable part of his declining years battling the jihadis to whom his predecessors gave their guiding ideology.
If, on the other hand, the Saudis don’t move decisively against the Islamic State, and Obama continues his cosmetic, face-saving airstrikes and continues to reject strong action of his own, Saudi Arabia may before too long be facing an invasion from without. Maybe not a full-scale invasion, but certainly an escalation of individual acts of jihad terror. In fact, Islamic State jihadis killed three Saudi guards at the Iraq border just a few weeks ago.
The Iranians, meanwhile, are always jockeying to become the leader of the Islamic world, and in that Saudi Arabia is one of their chief rivals. But Iranian-backed Shi’ite Houthi rebels have just won a major victory in Yemen, and Iran has just concluded a military pact with Russia. This could be the Shi’ites’ moment, in a way that could bode quite ill for the House of Saud. Vladimir Putin is clearly trying to reestablish Russia as a world power, and he may think that the death of Abdullah provides him with a grand opportunity to weaken a U.S. ally (however unreliable the Saudis have actually been as an ally). Perhaps now would be just the time for an uprising of the Saudis’ considerable and harshly oppressed Shi’ite minority, emboldened by the Houthi example and backed by Iran.
Could the death of Abdullah be the Iranians’ moment? Or the Islamic State’s? Time will tell – but one thing it is almost certain not to usher in is a time of peace and stability.
"You have enemies? Good. That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
Caroline Glick: Iran, Obama, Boehner and Netanyahu...
Reply #542 on:
January 24, 2015, 08:12:58 AM »
Iran, Obama, Boehner and Netanyahu
Posted By Caroline Glick On January 23, 2015
Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.
Iran has apparently produced an intercontinental ballistic missile whose range far exceeds the distance between Iran and Israel, and between Iran and Europe.
On Wednesday night, Channel 2 showed satellite imagery taken by Israel’s Eros-B satellite that was launched last April. The imagery showed new missile-related sites that Iran recently constructed just outside Tehran. One facility is a missile launch site, capable of sending a rocket into space or of firing an ICBM.
On the launch pad was a new 27-meter long missile, never seen before.
The missile and the launch pad indicate that Iran’s ballistic missile program, which is an integral part of its nuclear weapons program, is moving forward at full throttle. The expanded range of Iran’s ballistic missile program as indicated by the satellite imagery makes clear that its nuclear weapons program is not merely a threat to Israel, or to Israel and Europe. It is a direct threat to the United States as well.
Also on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to address a joint session of Congress by House Speaker John Boehner.
Boehner has asked Netanyahu to address US lawmakers on February 11 regarding Iran’s nuclear program and the threat to international security posed by radical Islam.
Opposition leaders were quick to accuse Boehner and the Republican Party of interfering in Israel’s upcoming election by providing Netanyahu with such a prestigious stage just five weeks before Israelis go to the polls.
Labor MK Nachman Shai told The Jerusalem Post that for the sake of fairness, Boehner should extend the same invitation to opposition leader Isaac Herzog.
But in protesting as they have, opposition members have missed the point. Boehner didn’t invite Netanyahu because he cares about Israel’s election. He invited Netanyahu because he cares about US national security. He believes that by having Netanyahu speak on the issues of Iran’s nuclear program and radical Islam, he will advance America’s national security.
Boehner’s chief concern, and that of the majority of his colleagues from the Democratic and Republican parties alike, is that President Barack Obama’s policy in regard to Iran’s nuclear weapons program imperils the US. Just as the invitation to Netanyahu was a bipartisan invitation, so concerns about Obama’s policy toward Iran’s nuclear program are bipartisan concerns.
Over the past week in particular, Obama has adopted a position on Iran that puts him far beyond the mainstream of US politics. This radical position has placed the president on a collision course with Congress best expressed on Wednesday by Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez. During a hearing at the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee where Menendez serves as ranking Democratic member, he said, “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”
Menendez was referring to threats that Obama has made three times over the past week, most prominently at his State of the Union address on Tuesday, to veto any sanctions legislation against Iran brought to his desk for signature.
He has cast proponents of sanctions – and Menendez is the co-sponsor of a pending sanctions bill – as enemies of a diplomatic strategy of dealing with Iran, and by implication, as warmongers.
Indeed, in remarks to the Democratic members of the Senate last week, Obama impugned the motivations of lawmakers who support further sanctions legislation. He indirectly alleged that they were being forced to take their positions due to pressure from their donors and others.
The problem for American lawmakers is that the diplomatic course that Obama has chosen makes it impossible for the US to use the tools of diplomacy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
That course of diplomatic action is anchored in the Joint Plan of Action that the US and its partners Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia (the P5+1) signed with Tehran in November 2013.
The JPOA placed no limitation on Iran’s ballistic missile program. The main areas the JPOA covers are Iran’s uranium enrichment and plutonium reactor activities. Under the agreement, or the aspects of it that Obama has made public, Iran is supposed to limit its enrichment of uranium to 3.5-percent purity.
And it is not supposed to take action to expand its heavy water reactor at Arak, which could be used to develop weapons grade plutonium.
THE JPOA is also supposed to force Iran to share all nuclear activities undertaken in the past by its military personnel.
During his State of the Union address, Obama claimed that since the agreement was signed, Iran has “halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.”
Yet as Omri Ceren of the Israel Project noted this week, since the JPOA was signed, Iran has expanded its uranium and plutonium work. And as the Eros-B satellite imagery demonstrated, Iran is poised to launch an ICBM.
When it signed the JPOA, Obama administration officials dismissed concerns that by permitting Iran to enrich uranium to 3.5% – in breach of binding UN Security Council Resolution 1929 from 2010 – the US was enabling Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Enrichment to 3.5%, they said, is a far cry from the 90% enrichment level needed for uranium to be bomb grade.
But it works out that the distance isn’t all that great. Sixty percent of the work required to enrich uranium to bomb grade levels of purity is done by enriching it to 3.5%. Since it signed the JPOA, Iran has enriched sufficient quantities of uranium to produce two nuclear bombs.
As for plutonium development work, as Ceren pointed out, the White House’s fact sheet on the JPOA said that Iran committed itself “to halt progress on its plutonium track.”
Last October, Foreign Policy magazine reported that Iran was violating that commitment by seeking to procure parts for its heavy water plutonium reactor at Arak. And yet, astoundingly, rather than acknowledge the simple fact that Iran was violating its commitment, the State Department excused Iran’s behavior and insisted that it was not in clear violation of its commitment.
More distressingly, since the JPOA was signed, Iran has repeatedly refused to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to access Iran’s nuclear installations or to inform the IAEA about the nuclear activities that its military have carried out in the past.
As a consequence, the US and its partners still do not know what nuclear installations Iran has or what nuclear development work it has undertaken.
This means that if a nuclear agreement is signed between Iran and the P5+1, that agreement’s verification protocols will in all likelihood not apply to all aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. And if it does not apply to all aspects of Iran’s nuclear activities, it cannot prevent Iran from continuing the activities it doesn’t know about.
As David Albright, a former IAEA inspector, explained in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last May, “To be credible, a final agreement must ensure that any effort by Tehran to construct a bomb would be sufficiently time-consuming and detectable that the international community could act decisively to prevent Iran from succeeding. It is critical to know whether the Islamic Republic had a nuclear weapons program in the past, how far the work on warheads advanced and whether it continues. Without clear answers to these questions, outsiders will be unable to determine how fast the Iranian regime could construct either a crude nuclear-test device or a deliverable weapon if it chose to renege on an agreement.”
Concern about the loopholes in the JPOA led congressional leaders from both parties to begin work to pass additional sanctions against Iran immediately after the JPOA was concluded. To withstand congressional pressure, the Obama administration alternately attacked the patriotism of its critics, who it claimed were trying to push the US into and unnecessary war against Iran, and assured them that all of their concerns would be addressed in a final agreement.
Unfortunately, since signing the JPOA, the administration has adopted positions that ensure that none of Congress’s concerns will be addressed.
Whereas in early 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that “the president has made it definitive” that Iran needs to answer all “questions surrounding Iran’s nuclear program,” last November it was reported that the US and its partners had walked back this requirement.
Iran will not be required to give full accounting of its past nuclear work, and so the US and its partners intend to sign a deal that will be unable to verify that Iran does not build nuclear weapons.
As the administration has ignored its previous pledges to Congress to ensure that a deal with Iran will make it possible to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, it has also acted to ensure that Iran will pay no price for negotiating in bad faith. The sanctions bill that Obama threatens to veto would only go into effect if Iran fails to sign an agreement.
As long as negotiations progress, no sanctions would be enforced.
OBAMA’S MESSAGE then is clear. Not only will the diplomatic policy he has adopted not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons (and the ability to attack the US with nuclear warheads attached to an ICBM), but in the event that Iran fails to agree to even cosmetic limitations on its nuclear progress, it will suffer no consequences for its recalcitrance.
And this brings us back to Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu.
With Obama’s diplomatic policy toward Iran enabling rather than preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, members of the House and Senate are seeking a credible, unwavering voice that offers an alternative path. For the past 20 years, Netanyahu has been the global leader most outspoken about the need to take all necessary measures to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, not only for Israel’s benefit, but to protect the entire free world. From the perspective of the congressional leadership, then, inviting Netanyahu to speak was a logical move.
In the Israeli context, however, it was an astounding development. For the past generation, the Israeli Left has insisted Israel’s role on the world stage is that of a follower.
As a small, isolated nation, Israel has no choice, they say, other than to follow the lead of the West, and particularly of the White House, on all issues, even when the US president is wrong. All resistance to White House policies is dangerous and irresponsible, leaders like Herzog and Tzipi Livni continuously warn.
Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu exposes the Left’s dogma as dangerous nonsense.
The role of an Israeli leader is to adopt the policies that protect Israel, even when they are unpopular at the White House. Far from being ostracized for those policies, such an Israeli leader will be supported, respected, and relied upon by those who share with him a concern for what truly matters.
"You have enemies? Good. That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
Reply #543 on:
January 24, 2015, 12:34:27 PM »
As usual, Glick writes well. The point about Iran's ICBM capabilities is one that needs to be made front and center.
ISIS being driven out of Kobani?
Reply #544 on:
January 26, 2015, 12:34:37 PM »
The fustercluck of US Aid to Syrian "moderates"
Reply #545 on:
at 11:34:08 AM »
Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR
Reply #546 on:
at 11:48:24 AM »
"He is just such a bald-faced liar"
Isn't that synonymous with the Modern Democrat party?
Thank you Clinton for setting the stage for lying to be so in vogue now we have a real tyrant in the WH who has used propaganda to the max.
Most voters don't care.
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