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Author Topic: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR  (Read 55897 times)
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« Reply #450 on: September 02, 2014, 04:29:37 PM »
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« Reply #451 on: September 03, 2014, 10:38:10 AM »
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« Reply #452 on: September 03, 2014, 02:16:31 PM »

Posted June 30, 2014
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« Reply #453 on: September 04, 2014, 06:16:15 AM »

Brutal Efficiency: The Secret to Islamic State's Success
Group Blends Military Tactics With Conventional Terrorism, Tribal Ties, Coercion and a Highly Organized Structure
by Siobhan Gorman, Nour Malas and Matt Bradley
Updated Sept. 3, 2014 9:35 a.m. ET

A militant Islamist fighter waves a flag as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province in June. Reuters

Islamic State's stunning success this summer as it swept across northern Iraq and Syria flows from a highly organized structure controlled by a tightknit cadre led by an Islamist zealot who learned from the mistakes of his al Qaeda predecessors.

Blending familiar terrorist acts such as car bombings with conventional military tactics, the group bolsters its strength with local tribal connections and the skills of former generals in Saddam Hussein's army, said Western and Middle Eastern officials tracking the extremist movement.

Thrown into the mix is an effective recruitment strategy—join us or die, some young men in captured areas are told—along with wealth from the extortion of local businessmen and the appeal to religious fundamentalists of having a new Islamic "caliphate" on occupied land. To its supporters, Islamic State has effectively portrayed the quest for territory as an existential fight for Sunni Muslims world-wide.

A video recently uploaded to YouTube purports to show al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announcing the militant group's expansion into the Indian subcontinent. It is not known when then the video was filmed, but the announcement could be seen as an attempt to counter recent propaganda efforts by the Islamic State. The Wall Street Journal has not independently verified the video.

The result is a new breed of terror organization. "They have just improved on what al Qaeda has done, and they have done it on a much larger scale," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism specialist at Georgetown University.

The organization is led by a core group of leaders who have known each other for years, with anyone of dubious loyalty long since eliminated.

Like top Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, many of those in the inner circle spent time in American custody at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. From detention, "they emerged even more radical," said Hasan Abu Hanieh, a Jordanian expert on al Qaeda.

Islamic State has a tight command and control structure with about a dozen leaders at the top, said Western and Arab officials and Syrian rebels who have watched the group evolve. Emulating an army operation, the group sometimes pauses its military operations to consolidate gains and shore up logistical infrastructure.

"They adopted a structure of governance that the others did not," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee. He noted that Islamic State recently appointed an oil minister to coordinate the captured energy facilities.

By contrast, al Qaeda—of which Islamic State once was a part but no longer is—generally doesn't occupy territory. In a video in July, a man jihadist watchers said was Mr. Baghdadi demanded that Muslims swear allegiance to his caliphate.

Mr. Baghdadi in 2010 took over a group once known as al Qaeda in Iraq, which had been founded after the U.S. Iraq invasion and led by the militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. AQI grew to as many as 10,000 guerrillas in 2006-07, by which time a U.S. airstrike had killed Mr. Zarqawi.

During part of that time, in 2004, Mr. Baghdadi was confined in Camp Bucca, a facility that held more than 20,000 detainees at times.

In 2007, Mr. Baghdadi joined al Qaeda's Iraq branch, at the time known to its members as the Islamic State in Iraq, which was the seed for today's organization. That year, the branch began shrinking, and it was only 5% or 10% of its peak size by the time American forces left Iraq, U.S. intelligence officials said.

In taking over al Qaeda in Iraq, Mr. Baghdadi inherited an organization with a pyramidlike structure, according to Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. While analysts are still trying to clarify chains of command and operational details of the group—in flux as it both grows and develops—some details are emerging.

Now playing a role approximating that of a second-in-command is a former Iraqi Army officer with the nom de guerre Abu Ali al-Anbari. He largely manages the group's Syria operations, some analysts said. That includes directing battle against other Syrian rebels who oppose both President Bashar al-Assad's regime and Islamic State.

Mr. Anbari rose through al Qaeda in Iraq after being ejected from another Iraqi radical Sunni group, Ansar al-Islam, amid financial corruption allegations, according to Syrian and Iraqi militants. His knowledge of Shariah Islamic rules isn't considered as extensive as that of other senior leaders, according to these militants, who said he now acts as a kind of political envoy.

Another important Baghdadi lieutenant is Fadel Ahmed Abdullah al-Hiyali, according to Hisham al-Hashimi, a Baghdad-based expert on militants.

Mr. Hiyali—nom de guerre Abu Muslim Al Turkmani—is, like Mr. Anbari, a former general under Saddam Hussein. He once practiced a moderate form of Islam. Decommissioned from the Iraqi army after U.S. forces arrived, he joined Sunni Muslim insurgents to fight the Americans, Mr. Hashimi said. Some analysts describe Mr. Hiyali as equal in stature to Mr. Anbari.

Mr. Baghdadi has a war cabinet and a Shura council, or collection of religious scholars to legislate, said Mr. Lister of Brookings.

In addition, the Islamic State leader has a cabinet of ministers and a council of provincial governors.

The leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delivers a sermon at a mosque in Iraq in July. Associated Press

Mr. Baghdadi acts as a commanding general and doesn't micromanage, U.S. officials said. He has a courier service to deliver messages such as religious decrees and military commands.

His leadership is infused with "a real sense of paranoia and a focus on outright loyalty," according to Mr. Lister. He said that when Mr. Baghdadi took the reins four years ago, he presided over an assassination campaign against any of his commanders suspected of potential disloyalty. The military command now is in the hands of men Mr. Baghdadi knows and trusts intimately.

Among foreign fighters, only the best are permitted to take on a high public profile. These include the red-bearded Abu Omar al Shishani, an ethnic Chechen who once served in an intelligence unit of the Georgian army and now is based in Syria. That strategy, experts say, is finely curated to sustain the group's global jihad appeal.

As it takes territory, Islamic State has left much of the work of governing to local officials, helping it avoid unduly alienating the population. Its capture of territory, including oil fields and bank branches, also has left it financially flush.

In taking land, said Mr. Hashimi, the strategy is to exploit alliances with local tribal leaders—who either are like-minded allies or have been intimidated, bribed or coerced to provide sanctuary and support.

The group capitalized on Sunni groups' disaffection with now-departing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose approach favoring Shiite Muslims drove sectarian divisions.

Islamic State also has developed a pattern of operating within striking distance of those it regards as its enemies, particularly Shiites, to provide fighters with an ideological animus.

"Their strategy is always that they will fight within a Sunni environment near a Shiite enemy that gives them motivation," Mr. Hashimi said.

Islamic State's ability to hold territory has furthered the perception it has momentum and is winning, U.S. intelligence officials say. Among other effects, that fuels recruitment.

The group's comeback, after its decline, began around 2012. By June of this year, before Islamic State blazed across Iraq and took control of Mosul and Tikrit, its numbers were again up to 10,000 fighters, U.S. intelligence officials said,

It employs a range of recruitment tactics, often coercing new recruits. Just since July, more than 6,000 fighters have joined Islamic State, nearly 5,000 of them Syrians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Syrian opposition watchdog.

Islamic State trains recruits in two camps, in Aleppo and Raqqa, said the Observatory. It called this summer's recruitment the heaviest since April 2013, when the group once called al Qaeda in Iraq adopted the names Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In late June 2014, it shortened its name to simply Islamic State, though it is sometimes still referred to as ISIS or ISIL.

Of this summer's recruits, the Observatory estimated 1,300 were from outside Syria and Iraq.

U.S. officials say roughly a dozen Americans have gone to fight with Islamic State militants, with at least two killed recently while fighting with the group. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is tracking more than 100 Americans who have gone to Syria to fight with different jihadist militant groups, though the FBI has said it doesn't know how many Americans it has missed.

Many more fighters have come from other Western countries. British security officials estimate 500 Britons have joined militant groups in Syria, and officials believe the more recent recruits have largely been drawn to Islamic State.
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« Reply #454 on: September 08, 2014, 08:48:11 AM »
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« Reply #455 on: September 08, 2014, 12:58:14 PM »
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« Reply #456 on: September 09, 2014, 10:31:49 AM »

Glad to see us working with the Kurds, bummed we are imposing upon them support of Baghdad.  IMHO it will likely prove to be an error to pretend that Iraq still exists.


Before U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani warned U.S. officials of jihadists approaching Erbil. Reuters

ERBIL, Iraq—The anti-Islamic State strategy the U.S. is developing first began to take shape a month ago after a series of increasingly urgent phone calls from this Kurdish city.

In one, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani told Vice President Joe Biden the jihadists were within 25 miles of Erbil, which is both the capital of the Kurdish region and home to U.S. military, intelligence, diplomatic and corporate offices. The message: Unless the U.S. stepped in, Erbil could fall in days.

"Something in Barzani's voice made [Mr. Biden] think, 'We need to do something here,' " said a U.S. official describing the call, which Kurdish officials also confirmed.

Later that day, President Barack Obama, who had long resisted pressure from the government in Baghdad to help fight the Islamic State menace, authorized airstrikes on the militants approaching Erbil. He also approved both overt and covert programs to resupply the Kurdish fighters known as the Peshmerga against the jihadist threat spanning the Syria-Iraq border.

The airstrike campaign spread this past weekend as the U.S. sought to stop jihadists threatening a dam on the Euphrates upriver from Baghdad. The administration also is seeking to form an international coalition to fight Islamic State, which Mr. Obama is expected to elaborate on in a speech Wednesday. As the intense telephone contacts with Erbil a month ago show, the Kurds, a people with whom the U.S. has had a decadeslong but sometimes wary partnership, play a central role in U.S. plans to combat the jihadist threat.

Experts say the terrorist organization calling itself the Islamic State is operating like a government, with a bureaucratic hierarchy. Here's how it is structured. Reported by WSJ's Jason Bellini and Reem Makhoul.

In Iraq, administration officials envision Kurdish fighters as a leading edge in a potential ground campaign against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Officials also think that Kurdish fighters in Syria may be critical in battling the jihadists in that country, where the Defense Department is drawing up options that include airstrikes.

In return for the American military help last month, Kurdish and U.S. officials said, the Kurds postponed plans for an independence referendum and agreed to work more closely with the Iraqi government in Baghdad. Kurdish parties on Monday said they had agreed to join the new government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi despite retaining serious concerns over power sharing with Baghdad. The shift was an illustration of how the Islamic State threat, while tearing at the fabric of the Iraqi state, is also in some ways repairing it.

Complicating the U.S. strategy, one Kurdish fighting force is classified as a terrorist organization by Washington, based on its violent campaign for greater autonomy in Turkey. The U.S. won't work with that group, the PKK, and has long shunned a Syrian Kurdish group that is close to it. Yet recently, the administration has quietly reached out to the group in Syria.

The administration came to the defense of Erbil for a range of reasons, said U.S. and Kurdish officials. It already saw the Peshmerga as trusted allies in a volatile region. The Peshmerga—literally, "those who face death"—aren't a standing army but a collection of militias loyal to political factions in the Kurdish-dominated part of northern Iraq.

The president's most immediate concern, U.S. officials said, was to protect U.S. personnel in the oil-rich area, which is home to billions of dollars of U.S. investment. He also authorized strikes to protect the region's Yazidi religious minority from potential slaughter by Islamic State fighters.

"The U.S. is betting big on the Kurds," said Aaron Stein, a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank. "Their fates in this theater have become intertwined."

American ties to the Kurds, who live in parts of Iran, Turkey and Syria as well as Iraq, weren't always close. In the 1970s, the U.S. stood by while Iraqi and Iranian forces teamed up to crush Kurdish forces.

But over succeeding decades, enduring bonds between U.S. and Peshmerga commanders formed, when the U.S. intervened to protect the Kurds against Saddam Hussein in the 1990s and again after its 2003 invasion to topple the dictator. Youthful U.S. military officers who later rose to high posts in the White House, Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency came away from encounters impressed with "how brave the Peshmerga were," recalled a veteran U.S. diplomat, James Jeffrey.

In 2003, then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus's 101st Airborne Division took responsibility for security in Iraq's three Kurdish provinces and formed a strong bond with Mr. Barzani, said a former senior U.S. officer. Every month or so, the two met for lunch in a field tent on a Kurdish mountain to discuss military strategy and battles Mr. Barzani had fought against Mr. Hussein's forces. The Army division began building the region's two largest landing strips—now used in part for arms deliveries and U.S.-Kurdish joint collection of intelligence on the jihadists.

Mr. Barzani also forged ties to a generation of U.S. diplomats. Among other things, he went hiking with Mr. Jeffrey, a former ambassador both to Iraq and Turkey.

U.S.-Kurdish tensions flared early in Mr. Obama's tenure. Kurdish leaders weren't pleased by the administration's embrace of Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite Muslim prime minister who led Iraq for years until the U.S. and others soured on him this summer and he left under pressure. Obama administration officials, for their part, were alarmed by what they saw as efforts by Kurdish leaders to put northern Iraq on a path to independence.

In deciding which Kurdish groups the U.S. would work with, the U.S. has long taken cues from Turkey. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally has spent decades fighting the PKK, formally the Kurdistan Workers' Party. The U.S. wouldn't work with it.

The U.S. had also kept at arm's length a Kurdish force inside Syria called the Democratic Union Party. It is close to the PKK but says it is independent. Although the group has fought jihadist groups inside Syria for years, last year it was unable to get a U.S. visa for its leader, Saleh Muslim, to visit Washington to discuss cooperation.

The U.S. strategy began to shift in June, when jihadist fighters from what was then known only as ISIS or ISIL marched across northern Iraq and took the cities of Samarra, Mosul and Tikrit. Iraqi government forces largely melted away.

The U.S. military's Central Command prepared options to build up the Peshmerga defenders of Kurdistan, an island of stability in northern Iraq.

Mr. Barzani's chief of staff, Fuad Hussein, and Falah Bakir, the top diplomat for the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, met at the White House in early July with officials including Mr. Biden, a leading U.S. voice on Iraq policy. The Kurds said Mr. Barzani would support a push the U.S. was making for an Iraqi government more inclusive than Mr. Maliki's. But if that effort failed, said a longtime adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government, Mr. Barzani would hold a referendum on independence, a threat to break Iraq apart.

A week into August, the equation changed. Islamic State fighters stormed into Iraqi towns directly abutting Iraqi Kurdistan. The Peshmerga, heavily outgunned, retreated. Kurdistan suddenly had a 600-mile front line with the jihadist group.

Kurdish officials continually updated their American counterparts, including State Department official Brett McGurk and Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of Central Command. "We were talking to the Americans every hour," said Mr. Hussein.

Mr. Barzani mobilized the Peshmerga in preparation to take the fight to the jihadists. Islamic State didn't wait. On Aug. 7, hundreds of its fighters smashed through Kurdish defenses at the towns of Makhmour and Gwair, opening a direct route into Erbil.

"We didn't sleep," Mr. Hussein said. "They were 30 minutes from Erbil."

Most Western oil and other companies in Erbil had by this time evacuated foreign workers. Many expatriates still present followed residents fleeing north.

Kurdish officials redeployed elite Peshmerga units from nearby cities. They also called in a controversial force: guerrillas from the PKK—the group on U.S. and Turkish terrorist-organization lists—and from the Democratic Union Party in Syria, who are commonly known by the initials PYD.

"They took up position in what we call 'the suicide area,' which is the first line of defense. They made a real difference," said Koshan Gaff, a Peshmerga fighter. They also punched through Islamic State lines to form a corridor that helped save members of the Yazidi minority trapped on a mountainside.

Away from the chaotic front lines, U.S. intelligence officers in Erbil echoed Mr. Barzani's calls for an emergency ammunition resupply, U.S. officials said, and the White House tapped the CIA to launch a covert resupply mission. The administration was having trouble getting the Iraqi government to let the Pentagon directly rearm the Kurds, U.S. officials added, because Iraqi leaders in Baghdad wanted supplies to go through them to avoid fueling Kurdish efforts to gain greater autonomy.

While Mr. Barzani and his aides worked the phones, lobbyists for the Kurds and for U.S. companies roamed Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to press the administration to step up support. Some did so, concerned about the Kurds and U.S. investments.

Mr. Biden had kept in touch with Mr. Barzani since meeting him in 2002 while still a senator. "It's a very friendly relationship," said Mr. Hussein. "They don't just talk about politics, they talk about their grandchildren." In recent years, Mr. Biden frequently made requests of the Kurdish leader and was used to hearing him ask for help on various matters.

This time was different, U.S. officials said. With darkness falling in Erbil on Aug. 7, Mr. Barzani's tone grew more urgent as Islamic State moved an artillery piece close enough to reach the city's suburbs. Mr. Biden sought details about where Peshmerga forces were fighting or fleeing, to help the U.S. determine the urgency and how to respond, said U.S. and Kurdish officials.

Mr. Obama had just decided to use airstrikes to protect the Yazidis. Shortly after the Biden-Barzani call he also directed action to protect Erbil, citing, in particular, concerns about American personnel in the city, according to U.S. officials.

Aides said Mr. Obama had been worried about launching strikes in heavily populated areas. Pentagon planners said Islamic State positions were in relatively open areas near Erbil, minimizing the risk.

At 4:30 a.m. in Erbil on Aug. 8, Mr. Barzani and his advisers watched live TV coverage of Mr. Obama's announcement that the U.S. would strike jihadists approaching the Kurdish capital.

Later that day, U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets began pounding jihadist positions with 500-pound laser-guided bombs, the first hitting the artillery piece in range of Erbil suburbs. The combination of bombing runs, replenished ammunition and help for Peshmerga from guerrillas of the PKK and the group in Syria changed fortunes on the ground. The jihadists were pushed out of the towns on the road to Erbil and then from the Mosul Dam, which they had seized earlier.

The Kurds have since received some light weapons, such as rifles, mostly through European countries, in deliveries coordinated with the U.S. The Kurdistan Regional Government has sent the U.S. a list of gear it wants, including heavier weapons such as anti-artillery systems, in a request that is pending.

The airstrikes and other aid have given the Kurds time to regroup. But the scrambled political situation poses tricky new questions about the road ahead.

One is to what extent the U.S. might work with the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, the Kurdish fighting group in Syria that has long confronted jihadists is Syria but is close to the terrorist-designated PKK.

A representative of the PYD in France, Khaled Issa, met in recent months with American officials to discuss possible military cooperation. The U.S., which notes that it doesn't have formal relations with the PYD, has informed Turkey of the informal discussions.

Mr. Barzani, who likewise previously kept his distance from the Syrian Kurdish fighters, also has started cooperating more closely with them, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government adviser. It is an example of how the Islamic State threat has drawn disparate Kurdish groups closer.

Some U.S. lawmakers are pressing the administration to arm the Kurds in Syria. A U.S. official said Turkey may be close to cutting a deal with the PKK guerrillas, which could increase the U.S.'s room to maneuver. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said reaching a peace deal was a top priority.

Erbil's main airport has become a center of the battle against Islamic State. During the Iraq war, the U.S. established its own facility there, including private taxiways and hangars with communications gear. Now, Kurdish officials say the facility is rapidly being expanded, reflecting Washington's commitment to what has become a joint U.S.-Kurdish campaign against the jihadists.

"Everything changed in 48 hours" in early August, Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, said of the role of the Kurds. "Now we're fighting ISIS on behalf of the world."

—David Gauthier-Villars contributed to this article.

Write to Joe Parkinson at and Adam Entous at
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« Reply #457 on: September 09, 2014, 11:21:49 AM »

This one was worth the time, I thought...

Europe blind to Islamic State's true threat

The progression of Islamic terror brings us to Jorge Luis Borges' writing. In his elegy “The Modesty of History,” the Argentine author wrote about the elusive nature of significant historic events. “I have long suspected that history, true history, is far more modest,” wrote the blind genius, “and that its essential dates may well be, for a long time, secret as well. A Chinese writer of prose has observed that the unicorn, for the very reason that it is so anomalous, will pass unnoticed. One’s eyes see what they are accustomed to see.” Borges went on to recall that the famous Roman historian Tacitus did not understand the Crucifixion, failing to grasp its significance at or around the actual time of the event.

The opening salvo of World War II was fired at Hitler’s failed 1923 beer hall putsch in Munich. At the time, the world reacted much like Tacitus did to the Crucifixion. It failed to notice it. World War III began with a boom on Sept. 11, 2001, when the world felt the first shot of global jihad. Nevertheless, over time, it preferred to ignore it or suppress thoughts of it. The Western world had forgotten the power of an unrestrained mass movement drunk on the successes of its brutality.
According to some estimates, Islamic State (IS) members now number as many as 20,000. The rate of people joining the movement is alarming. The percentage of people supporting it in the Muslim world and in Europe is horrifying. Its power, influence and draw are increasing with the speed of an untamed brushfire.
IS is jihad adapted to the age of the technological revolution. It is an amalgam of medieval ideas and 21st-century gadgetry. In effect, it is a closed circuit: IS makes clever, sophisticated use of technology as a magnet to attract young recruits, but it is also a product of the technological revolution. That is why it is so attractive, not only to Muslim youths, but to youths in general throughout the West.
IS is a dangerous, sadistic version of Che Guevara's appeal. It glorifies the anarchic warrior, whose pure ideals threaten the existing order in the West, an order that lacks spirit and meaning, an order that consists of credit cards and individual rights. That world is trapped in a spiritual vacuum and suffers from perpetual attention deficit disorder. It is a world that lives online, a world of computer games in which the heroes are gangsters. It is a world of hard-core porn for all and of TV series like "Game of Thrones," which sometimes almost appears to be the cinematic inspiration for IS videos. In such a world, a perverted, sadistic movement like IS is the real thing. It offers young Muslims, including some Westerners, a nihilistic, anarchistic adventure with pretentions of holiness in an amusement park of decapitations and rape. After all, young males have always been driven by testosterone and adrenaline.
In the 19th century, the West buried God somewhere, and since then all traces of him have been lost. God is alive and well, however, in the East, offering absolute answers to his devotees. Since the 1950s, the dominant ideology of the West has been a liberal one, especially among cultural and intellectual elites. This is an ideology that sanctifies individual freedoms and human rights to sometimes absurd levels. A malformed postmodernist discourse has inundated Western thought, blaming all the faults and failings of the developing world on Western colonialism and imperialism. While this approach is in the private sphere, it is equally valid in the international realm. From its perspective, there can be no crime that lacks justification in the perpetrator's eyes. The thief is a byproduct of a capitalist system, the rapist is a victim of sexual assault in childhood, and so on.
The same is true in the realm of international affairs. Jihadist terror is seen as a byproduct of the struggle by developing nations in general, and the Arab world in particular, against its historic oppressors. What is truly remarkable, however, is that of all places, multicultural Europe — a Europe that celebrates the saccharinity of multiculturalism, a Europe that opened its gates to tens of millions of immigrants — now lives in dread of IS emissaries and rightfully so. This year, maybe next year, we are likely to see a mass terrorist attack conducted by an IS alumnus in one of Europe’s capitals. That attack is certain to be filmed from every possible angle and edited into a lively, rhythmic video fit for any major network. As is so common in international relations, the actual schedule and the game pieces can be confusing.
How do young people from Europe arrive in the Syria of IS' proclaimed caliphate? By land, via Turkey. Yes, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, the American ally and NATO member, is the crossing point, back and forth, between Syria and Europe. It's not up to US President Barack Obama alone to complete the job against IS. All of Europe must wake up. It must shake off its pacifist naphthalene and collect itself. The cancer must be amputated. Europe must find the strength to live.
As far as values go, the sanctity of individual rights does not supersede the most basic right to live. Only integrated action from within and without will remove the danger. A relentless war should be launched against IS in Syria and Iraq, and Europe must adopt a zero tolerance policy toward the group and its supporters. Otherwise, Europe will face unspeakable tragedy. The pendulum will swing from progressive inclusionism, which sanctifies human rights, to classical European nationalism. We all remember how that ended last time.

Read more:
« Last Edit: September 09, 2014, 11:26:12 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #458 on: September 09, 2014, 11:33:02 AM »

Good one Mike.  BTW, please use the Subject line (I have filled it in for you in this case).

Here's a major one from a major player:

Islamic State Is Getting Stronger, and It's Targeting America
U.S. air strikes in Syria are essential to defeating IS, but we should not cooperate with Iran or its militias.
By Ryan Crocker
Sept. 8, 2014 7:21 p.m. ET

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that an international coalition is forming to confront the terrorists of the Islamic State. President Obama plans to address the nation Wednesday night, as he said over the weekend, to get "the American people to understand the nature of the threat and how we're going to deal with it." His strategy is expected to involve an emphasis on a U.S.-led coalition and a reliance on airstrikes in a campaign that could take years, not months. Less clear is whether the president will commit to strikes inside Syria and substantially expanded special-forces deployments to Iraq and as soon as possible to Syria. We will not win unless he does.

There is no time left to argue, dither and wonder what should be done about those who are butchering Americans— and anyone else they care to—across a growing portion of the Middle East.

The enemy has no such doubts. They are not going away. They are getting stronger. The war, ladies and gentlemen, is truly on. We're just not a meaningful part of it yet.

A name can say a great deal about the intentions of our enemy today. The group on the march in the Middle East began calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Then it chose the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the latter term including Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Syria. Now it's simply the Islamic State, geography unspecified. They already are a state, in that they carry out government functions in occupied territory. You can bet that their aspirations include Saudi Arabia and its holy cities of Mecca and Medina. With their gains in Iraq, nothing but sand separates them from the Saudi border.

It is hard to overstate the threat that this organization poses. I call it al Qaeda Version 6.0. The Islamic State is far better organized, equipped and funded than the original. They are more experienced and more numerous. Several thousand carry Western passports, including American ones. All the terrorists have to do is get on a plane and head west. But perhaps the most important asset they possess is territory. For the first time since 9/11, a determined and capable enemy has the space and security to plan complex, longer-range operations. If we don't think we are on that list, we are deluding ourselves.

So how do we deal with a looming regional and international disaster? First, we must understand that we are facing an army that will have to be confronted militarily. The pace of airstrikes in Iraq needs to be increased dramatically. Our actions thus far are not extensive enough to change the balance.

Second, we need to move immediately to strike Islamic State targets in Syria. These terrorists cannot be allowed a haven anywhere. Third, we need to increase special-forces advisers with loyal Iraqi units, with the Kurds and with Iraqi Sunni tribes who have been fighting the Islamic State for months. As we proceed with an air campaign in Syria, we need to look at possibilities for similar deployments with moderate opposition forces there.

Finally, we have to understand that military force is necessary but not sufficient. We will need to continue an intensive, high-level political effort to help the Iraqis form an inclusive government that will bring Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds into a unified front to confront a common enemy. We will have to ensure that they have the weapons to prosecute a successful campaign.

(MARC:  AS I have already written, I have considerable doubts about the feasibility of this.)

There are several things that we should not do. We should avoid any appearance of cooperation with Iran and the extremist militias they support. Otherwise, we would further alienate Iraq's Sunnis, already disaffected by the sectarian policies of the government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It also would estrange key regional allies such as Saudi Arabia. Similarly, we must also avoid giving the impression that military action in Syria is intended to support the regime of Bashar Assad.

The Islamic State has arguably done more damage to other elements of the Sunni opposition in Syria than to Assad. And there are many Syrians who stand with him not out of loyalty but fear of the alternative: an ascendant Islamic State. Degrading the forces of radical Islam may change the political dynamics among the different factions in a way that may make it possible to begin a political process: Moderate Sunni forces should be strengthened—and with a lessened threat from the Islamic State, those around Assad may be persuaded that it is time for him to go.

Neither in Iraq nor in Syria can stability come through military force alone. But military force may create conditions that enable political deals.

Just as the Islamic State is a threat to the region and the world, it must be met by the region and the world. The decision at the NATO Summit in Wales last week to form a Western coalition against the Islamic State is encouraging. The planned visit of Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel to the region is equally important. Our partners there face the most immediate threat from the Islamic State, and they must be in this fight too. Among other reasons, it is crucial to show that this is not a Muslim-Christian confrontation. Instead, show that it is a fight with a truly evil entity against which the forces of moderation and order, both Muslim and Christian, will stand.

But all of this—military action, political engagement, effective coalition-building—will require something that has been in short supply in this growing crisis: American leadership. This country, and the president personally, must step forward and show the world that we can and will move decisively, collectively and immediately.

Mr. Crocker is dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. He is a former ambassador to Iraq and Syria.
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« Reply #459 on: September 09, 2014, 09:38:02 PM »

Click here to watch: ISIS Flaunts Captured Jets, Drones and Artillery

Israel has provided the US with intelligence and satellite images on Islamic State positions, as well as information on Westerners joining its ranks, to assist Washington in its ongoing operation against the Islamic State, Reuters reported Monday, citing an unnamed Western official. Israeli spy satellites were said to have greater access to the region, allowing the US to “fill out its information and get a better battle damage assessment” in the aftermath of its airstrikes, the diplomat said, according to the report. The news came as a State Department spokeswoman said that more than 40 countries have already indicated a willingness to help out in some way against the militants, who have seized a swath of Syria and northern Iraq. “What the goal of the coalition is is to coordinate on the threat that ISIL poses,” Jen Psaki said, adding that the allies would have differing roles and that not all would offer Iraq direct military support. “There are obviously a range of capabilities or capacities that different countries have,” she said, adding that the coalition would seek to cut off IS from funding, foreign reinforcements and ideological support.

Watch Here

The US has already begun to form alliances in battling IS, though officials have had to walk a tightrope between long-held regional alliances and sensitivities in the Middle East. Reuters reported Washington handed over the Israeli satellite evidence to Turkey and other Arab countries, but only once it was cleared of any information that could link it to Israel. The intelligence arrived “with the Hebrew and other markings scrubbed out” to avoid conflict with the other IS-opposed countries that may be bothered by Israel’s role in combating the jihadists, according to the diplomat cited by Reuters. The diplomat indicated Israel had also helped identify potential Western collaborators with the terror group. “The Israelis are very good with passenger data and with analyzing social media in Arabic to get a better idea of who these people are,” the source said. The Defense Ministry refused to comment on the report to Reuters. Secretary of State John Kerry is to set off Tuesday on a trip to Jordan and Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to build an international coalition to counter the jihadists of the Islamic State. “Secretary Kerry will also consult with key partners and allies on how to further support the security and stability of the Iraqi government, combat the threat posed by ISIL, and confront Middle East security challenges,” according to a State Department statement.
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« Reply #460 on: September 09, 2014, 10:59:54 PM »

Third post of the day

The Moderate Middle East Must Act
How the U.A.E. and others in the region can aid the international fight against the Islamic state.
By Yousef al Otaiba
Sept. 9, 2014 7:15 p.m. ET

Over the past few weeks the international community has been stirred to action against the rising threat of extremism—the most destabilizing and dangerous global force since fascism. From Libya to the Levant and from Iraq to Yemen, violent Islamic extremists are overwhelming the broader popular will and menacing those committed to moderation and tolerance. It may not yet be a new world war, but it is already a raging war of competing world views.

In Iraq, Yazidi girls become war prizes to be sold as wives to fighters of the Islamic State, sometimes known as ISIS. In Syria, "infidels" are beheaded in the streets. In Egypt, rampaging jihadists massacre police recruits. In Libya, extremist groups launch the country toward anarchy. In Nigeria, Boko Haram kidnaps 200 schoolgirls. In the United Kingdom, college students are recruited online to take up jihad.

Islamic extremism has long been a Middle East problem but it is now the world's problem too. It is a transnational cancer that has already metastasized into sub-Saharan Africa. Radicalized fighters returning home present a security threat to every country from the Americas to Asia.

At the NATO summit and again this week, President Obama and other Western leaders have described their interests in this struggle. But no one has more at stake than the United Arab Emirates and other moderate countries in the region that have rejected the regressive Islamist creed and embraced a different, forward-looking path.

Now is the time to act. The international community needs an urgent, coordinated and sustained international effort to confront a threat that will, if unchecked, have global ramifications for decades to come.

Any action must first begin with a clear assessment of the enemy. The Islamic State may be the most obvious and dominant threat at present, but it is far from the only one. An international response must confront dangerous Islamist extremists of all stripes across the region. This includes many groups already designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government: Al Nusra Front in Syria, Ansar al Shariah in Libya and Tunisia, Ansar Bayt al Maqdis in Egypt, AQAP in Yemen and AQIM in North Africa.

Second, there must be a clear plan for direct intervention. It must include strengthening local forces on the ground that already are directly engaging the extremists. This means training, weapons, logistics and communications. It also means supplementing local forces with assets like air support, surveillance and special forces. It is a role the U.A.E. has consistently taken on before in international counterterrorism and peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Somalia.

Third, the coalition must confront not just the fighters but the support networks too. A successful campaign to defeat Islamist extremism in the long term must confront the transnational networks and organizations that breed and support hatred and violence in the name of religion.

Backing these support networks and organizations is a sophisticated ideological, financial and communications complex that includes countries, charities, companies and individuals. It uses social media, religious centers, banks and false fronts. It must be choked off through an organized program of better intelligence, more-aggressive law enforcement and tougher sanctions.

Fourth, if we have learned anything from the recent transitions in the region, it is that proselytizing ideology is no substitute for creating opportunity. Young people need hope and jobs, but stagnant economies, high unemployment and poverty fuel radicalization. Extremist groups prey on these vulnerabilities.

Finally, and perhaps most important, radical Islam is an existential threat to those of us who believe in the true nature of Islam as a religion of peace. We must do more to promote the voices of compassion and respect over the shouts of hatred and fanaticism.

In this spirit, the U.A.E. has built a model of tolerance and moderation in a region of extremes. Over the last generation the U.A.E. has undergone massive change without violence or radicalism, establishing itself as a haven in a very tough neighborhood. It is a way of life and a set of values we will fight to protect.

Noting the rapid rise of ISIS, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that "extremists are defeated only when responsible nations and their peoples unite to oppose them." We agree and are ready to join a coordinated international response. But to be effective, the fight must be against more than ISIS. And it must be waged not only on the battlefield but also against the entire militant ideological and financial complex that is the lifeblood of extremism.

Mr. Otaiba is the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States.
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« Reply #461 on: September 10, 2014, 12:39:38 PM »

Considerable overlap with my proffered strategy  wink


The virtue of subtlety: a U.S. strategy against the Islamic State
The American strategy in the Middle East is fixed: allow powers in the region to balance against each other. When that fails, intervene.
George Friedman | 10 September 2014
comment | print |

balance of power


U.S. President Barack Obama said recently that he had no strategy as yet toward the Islamic State but that he would present a plan on Wednesday. It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted. A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it.

This is particularly true because, in a certain sense, Obama has a strategy, though it is not necessarily one he likes. Strategy is something that emerges from reality, while tactics might be chosen. Given the situation, the United States has an unavoidable strategy. There are options and uncertainties for employing it. Let us consider some of the things that Obama does know.

The Formation of National Strategy

There are serious crises on the northern and southern edges of the Black Sea Basin. There is no crisis in the Black Sea itself, but it is surrounded by crises. The United States has been concerned about the status of Russia ever since U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905. The United States has been concerned about the Middle East since U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower forced the British to retreat from Suez in 1956. As a result, the United States inherited -- or seized -- the British position.

A national strategy emerges over the decades and centuries. It becomes a set of national interests into which a great deal has been invested, upon which a great deal depends and upon which many are counting. Presidents inherit national strategies, and they can modify them to some extent. But the idea that a president has the power to craft a new national strategy both overstates his power and understates the power of realities crafted by all those who came before him. We are all trapped in circumstances into which we were born and choices that were made for us. The United States has an inherent interest in Ukraine and in Syria-Iraq. Whether we should have that interest is an interesting philosophical question for a late-night discussion, followed by a sunrise when we return to reality. These places reflexively matter to the United States.

The American strategy is fixed: Allow powers in the region to compete and balance against each other. When that fails, intervene with as little force and risk as possible. For example, the conflict between Iran and Iraq canceled out two rising powers until the war ended. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to overturn the balance of power in the region. The result was Desert Storm.

This strategy provides a model. In the Syria-Iraq region, the initial strategy is to allow the regional powers to balance each other, while providing as little support as possible to maintain the balance of power. It is crucial to understand the balance of power in detail, and to understand what might undermine it, so that any force can be applied effectively. This is the tactical part, and it is the tactical part that can go wrong. The strategy has a logic of its own. Understanding what that strategy demands is the hard part. Some nations have lost their sovereignty by not understanding what strategy demands. France in 1940 comes to mind. For the United States, there is no threat to sovereignty, but that makes the process harder: Great powers can tend to be casual because the situation is not existential. This increases the cost of doing what is necessary.

The ground where we are talking about applying this model is Syria and Iraq. Both of these central governments have lost control of the country as a whole, but each remains a force. Both countries are divided by religion, and the religions are divided internally as well. In a sense the nations have ceased to exist, and the fragments they consisted of are now smaller but more complex entities.

The issue is whether the United States can live with this situation or whether it must reshape it. The immediate question is whether the United States has the power to reshape it and to what extent. The American interest turns on its ability to balance local forces. If that exists, the question is whether there is any other shape that can be achieved through American power that would be superior. From my point of view, there are many different shapes that can be imagined, but few that can be achieved. The American experience in Iraq highlighted the problems with counterinsurgency or being caught in a local civil war. The idea of major intervention assumes that this time it will be different. This fits one famous definition of insanity.

The Islamic State's Role

There is then the special case of the Islamic State. It is special because its emergence triggered the current crisis. It is special because the brutal murder of two prisoners on video showed a particular cruelty. And it is different because its ideology is similar to that of al Qaeda, which attacked the United States. It has excited particular American passions.

To counter this, I would argue that the uprising by Iraq's Sunni community was inevitable, with its marginalization by Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite regime in Baghdad. That it took this particularly virulent form is because the more conservative elements of the Sunni community were unable or unwilling to challenge al-Maliki. But the fragmentation of Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions was well underway before the Islamic State, and jihadism was deeply embedded in the Sunni community a long time ago.

Moreover, although the Islamic State is brutal, its cruelty is not unique in the region. Syrian President Bashar al Assad and others may not have killed Americans or uploaded killings to YouTube, but their history of ghastly acts is comparable. Finally, the Islamic State -- engaged in war with everyone around it -- is much less dangerous to the United States than a small group with time on its hands, planning an attack. In any event, if the Islamic State did not exist, the threat to the United States from jihadist groups in Yemen or Libya or somewhere inside the United States would remain.

Because the Islamic State operates to some extent as a conventional military force, it is vulnerable to U.S. air power. The use of air power against conventional forces that lack anti-aircraft missiles is a useful gambit. It shows that the United States is doing something, while taking little risk, assuming that the Islamic State really does not have anti-aircraft missiles. But it accomplishes little. The Islamic State will disperse its forces, denying conventional aircraft a target. Attempting to defeat the Islamic State by distinguishing its supporters from other Sunni groups and killing them will founder at the first step. The problem of counterinsurgency is identifying the insurgent.

There is no reason not to bomb the Islamic State's forces and leaders. They certainly deserve it. But there should be no illusion that bombing them will force them to capitulate or mend their ways. They are now part of the fabric of the Sunni community, and only the Sunni community can root them out. Identifying Sunnis who are anti-Islamic State and supplying them with weapons is a much better idea. It is the balance-of-power strategy that the United States follows, but this approach doesn't have the dramatic satisfaction of blowing up the enemy. That satisfaction is not trivial, and the United States can certainly blow something up and call it the enemy, but it does not address the strategic problem.

In the first place, is it really a problem for the United States? The American interest is not stability but the existence of a dynamic balance of power in which all players are effectively paralyzed so that no one who would threaten the United States emerges. The Islamic State had real successes at first, but the balance of power with the Kurds and Shia has limited its expansion, and tensions within the Sunni community diverted its attention. Certainly there is the danger of intercontinental terrorism, and U.S. intelligence should be active in identifying and destroying these threats. But the re-occupation of Iraq, or Iraq plus Syria, makes no sense. The United States does not have the force needed to occupy Iraq and Syria at the same time. The demographic imbalance between available forces and the local population makes that impossible.

The danger is that other Islamic State franchises might emerge in other countries. But the United States would not be able to block these threats as well as the other countries in the region. Saudi Arabia must cope with any internal threat it faces not because the United States is indifferent, but because the Saudis are much better at dealing with such threats. In the end, the same can be said for the Iranians.

Most important, it can also be said for the Turks. The Turks are emerging as a regional power. Their economy has grown dramatically in the past decade, their military is the largest in the region, and they are part of the Islamic world. Their government is Islamist but in no way similar to the Islamic State, which concerns Ankara. This is partly because of Ankara's fear that the jihadist group might spread to Turkey, but more so because its impact on Iraqi Kurdistan could affect Turkey's long-term energy plans.

Forming a New Balance in the Region

The United States cannot win the game of small mosaic tiles that is emerging in Syria and Iraq. An American intervention at this microscopic level can only fail. But the principle of balance of power does not mean that balance must be maintained directly. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia have far more at stake in this than the United States. So long as they believe that the United States will attempt to control the situation, it is perfectly rational for them to back off and watch, or act in the margins, or even hinder the Americans.

The United States must turn this from a balance of power between Syria and Iraq to a balance of power among this trio of regional powers. They have far more at stake and, absent the United States, they have no choice but to involve themselves. They cannot stand by and watch a chaos that could spread to them.

It is impossible to forecast how the game is played out. What is important is that the game begins. The Turks do not trust the Iranians, and neither is comfortable with the Saudis. They will cooperate, compete, manipulate and betray, just as the United States or any country might do in such a circumstance. The point is that there is a tactic that will fail: American re-involvement. There is a tactic that will succeed: the United States making it clear that while it might aid the pacification in some way, the responsibility is on regional powers. The inevitable outcome will be a regional competition that the United States can manage far better than the current chaos.

Obama has sought volunteers from NATO for a coalition to fight the Islamic State. It is not clear why he thinks those NATO countries -- with the exception of Turkey -- will spend their national treasures and lives to contain the Islamic State, or why the Islamic State alone is the issue. The coalition that must form is not a coalition of the symbolic, but a coalition of the urgently involved. That coalition does not have to be recruited. In a real coalition, its members have no choice but to join. And whether they act together or in competition, they will have to act. And not acting will simply increase the risk to them.

U.S. strategy is sound. It is to allow the balance of power to play out, to come in only when it absolutely must -- with overwhelming force, as in Kuwait -- and to avoid intervention where it cannot succeed. The tactical application of strategy is the problem. In this case the tactic is not direct intervention by the United States, save as a satisfying gesture to avenge murdered Americans. But the solution rests in doing as little as possible and forcing regional powers into the fray, then in maintaining the balance of power in this coalition.

Such an American strategy is not an avoidance of responsibility. It is the use of U.S. power to force a regional solution. Sometimes the best use of American power is to go to war. Far more often, the best use of U.S. power is to withhold it. The United States cannot evade responsibility in the region. But it is enormously unimaginative to assume that carrying out that responsibility is best achieved by direct intervention. Indirect intervention is frequently more efficient and more effective.

The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State is republished with permission of Stratfor.
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« Reply #462 on: September 11, 2014, 12:43:28 PM »

Sep. 11, 2014
Turkey refuses US permission for combat missions against ISIS
« Last Edit: September 11, 2014, 07:33:21 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #463 on: September 13, 2014, 09:02:55 AM »

Maybe the WSJ has been reading my posts here?

Our Non-Ally in Ankara
Turkey bugs out of the anti-ISIS coalition. Why not a base in Kurdistan?
Sept. 12, 2014 6:37 p.m. ET

Was it only a week ago that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listed a "core coalition" of 10 countries willing to join the U.S. effort to destroy the Islamic State? Since then Britain has categorically ruled out military strikes in Syria, while Germany has ruled out any use of force. Now Turkey is bugging out.

The Turkish abdication goes a step further than the Brits or Germans. Not only will Ankara take no military action, it will also forbid the U.S. from using the U.S. air base in Incirlik—located fewer than 100 miles from the Syrian border—to conduct air strikes against the terrorists. That will complicate the Pentagon's logistical and reconnaissance challenges, especially for a campaign that's supposed to take years.

The U.S. military will no doubt find work-arounds for its air campaign, just as it did in 2003 when Turkey also refused requests to let the U.S. launch attacks on Iraq from its soil in order to depose Saddam Hussein. Turkey shares a 750-mile border with Syria and Iraq, meaning it could have made a more-than-symbolic contribution to a campaign against ISIS. So much for that.

Harder to get around is the reality of a Turkish government that is a member of NATO but long ago stopped acting like an ally of the U.S. or a friend of the West. Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone declared this week that the Turkish government "frankly worked" with the al-Nusrah Front—the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria—along with other terrorist groups. Ankara also looked the other way as foreign jihadis used Turkey as a transit point on their way to Syria and Iraq. Mr. Ricciardone came close to being declared persona non grata by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government last December.

This history—along with the Erdogan government's long record of support for Hamas in Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt—explains why the excuses now being made for Turkey's nonfeasance ring hollow. ISIS has taken Turkish diplomats and their family members hostage in Mosul inside Iraq, but Turkey is not the only country whose citizens have been taken hostage. Ankara also fears that arms sent to ISIS opponents may wind up in the hands of the PKK, the Kurdish terrorist group. But that doesn't justify shutting down Incirlik for a U.S. operation.

The unavoidable conclusion is that the U.S. needs to find a better regional ally to fight ISIS. True to type, Arab states such as Saudi Arabia are proving to be reluctant partners, at least in public, and it's unclear how much the new government in Baghdad can contribute before its army regroups.

The better bet is with the Kurds, who have the most on the line and are willing to provide the boots on the ground that others can't or won't. Incirlik has been a home for U.S. forces for nearly 60 years, but perhaps it's time to consider replacing it with a new U.S. air base in Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. America may no longer have friends in Ankara, but that doesn't mean we don't have options in the Middle East.
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« Reply #464 on: September 13, 2014, 09:27:45 AM »

Second post

 Kurdish Peshmerga Forces Have Room to Grow
September 12, 2014 | 0456 Print Text Size

Though a limited force, the Kurdish peshmerga could prove critical against Islamic State


As the United States prepares for more aggressive action against the Islamic State, one of the key pillars of its strategy is to work with indigenous armed groups that can roll back the militant group's gains. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces, despite their fabled reputation, have diminished as a fighting force over the last decade of relative peace in Iraq's Kurdistan region. With serious training and significant foreign support, however, the Peshmerga fighters can still play a critical role in the overall strategy against the Islamic State.


Considerable divisions exist within the organizational framework of the Peshmerga forces. Indeed, to a large extent, the Peshmerga concept remains an idea based around a shared goal, rather than a single monolith. The term is essentially a catchall for the armed forces of the various Kurdish factions, rather than the name of a single army.

At the highest level, the Peshmerga forces can be primarily divided into two main factional fighting groups, one reporting to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the other to the Kurdistan Democratic Party. These factions operate in largely distinct territorial areas, and their command and control and logistics structures differ. Within the two broader groupings there are also many families, clans and individuals that invite their own loyalties. Estimates generally indicate that some 60,000 fighters fight under each party, with the Ministry of the Peshmerga Affairs claiming an additional 50,000 fighters. These estimates include a large number of veterans and untrained civilians who have rushed to the lines to repel the Islamic State.

The rivalries within the Peshmerga groups have led to poor coordination on the battlefield between Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party units. This has even been the case in the Regional Guard Brigades, a force that combines fighters from both factions into single units. In locations where Regional Guard Brigades have failed, less professional but more highly trusted Peshmerga units that remain under party control have performed better. No effective command structure exists across the entire Peshmerga force due to the split of prevailing loyalties among the two factions. There is also a marked divide in sharing logistics and supplies, which diminishes the effectiveness of both factions. The involvement of People’s Protection Unit forces from Syria as well as Kurdistan Workers' Party forces from Turkey, particularly in the north and northwest, has further complicated the situation on the ground, even though these fighters add considerable force and much-needed combat experience.

While most of the Peshmerga fighters (particularly those in the Regional Guard Brigades) have received some amount of training, the units as a whole are inexperienced. Many of the older commanders gained experience fighting former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s army. However, that fight involved using guerilla tactics against a mechanized conventional army. Those skills do not necessarily translate into an ability to operate against a fluid opponent that is proficient in light infantry maneuver warfare, or an ability to effectively carry out counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. In addition, the bulk of the ranks have very little combat experience and have mostly been involved in garrison duty over the last decade. U.S. Special Forces operating alongside Peshmerga forces in a more conventional way in 2003 also described them as "wild" and said they were forced to organize the Peshmerga fighters into assault units to prevent friendly fire incidents. Finally, none of the senior Peshmerga officers have experience with modern combined arms offensives.

As mentioned, the much younger rank-and-file fighters lack combat experience as a whole. They also lack Arabic language skills, adding to their alienation from Sunni tribes. These younger recruits have cultural backgrounds that differ from those of the once-fabled Peshmerga fighters, who were viewed as tough boys from the mountains born with rifles in their hands. Instead, the average Peshmerga fighter is now an urban youth with little to no experience in handling weapons or living in rough mountain terrain. In fact, notable portions of current Peshmerga fighters are volunteers from the Kurdish diaspora.
Logistical Shortfalls

Peshmerga equipment consists of significant amounts of heavy weaponry including tanks, rocket artillery and howitzers, but the force lacks the ammunition and the logistical and maintenance support required to sustain offensive operations. This is not the only shortfall; the level of sophistication of the weapons systems available to the Peshmerga fighters also poses a setback. The vast bulk of Peshmerga heavy weaponry derives from old Warsaw Pact supplies captured long ago from Hussein's forces. The deployed equipment's age and lack of maintenance have already resulted in a number of reported breakdowns and malfunctions.

Peshmerga forces also lack the appropriate communication tools to allow them to convey information within and among units. This limits fighters' ability to respond to Islamic State activities in a timely manner or to convey orders or intelligence in a secure manner.

On the whole, the Peshmerga forces remain particularly effective in core Kurdish areas, especially in defensive operations in the mountainous regions dominated by Kurdish populations with terrain that is well known to the Peshmerga fighters. The Peshmerga forces have not fared as well in the open plains, where the Islamic State's superior mobility has proved a key advantage against the slower-moving Kurds.

Indeed, considering all the challenges faced by the Peshmerga fighters, they have shown themselves to be an effective defensive force and have held back the Islamic State after initial tactical retreats in Arbil province. These tactical withdrawals have allowed Peshmerga forces to regroup and correct their dispositions, although in doing so they still have faced significant planning and management shortfalls.

The Peshmerga forces are far better prepared to carry out defensive operations than to take the fight to Islamic State militants. However, with adequate support -- air power, supplies, equipment and perhaps even advising -- they might be able to carry out effective offensive operations. The more time the Peshmerga fighters have to train, especially if they get foreign advisers, intelligence, and air support, the better they eventually will be able to operate. Training and foreign support are crucial to bolstering the force's offensive capabilities; even now, the Peshmerga forces can perform some offensive operations with proper support. This was evident during the Mosul Dam operation in which the Peshmerga fighters, led by the Iraqi Golden Brigades and supported by American air power, smashed through Islamic State defenses. Though the Peshmerga forces currently have some serious limitations in offensive operations beyond their core territory, their capabilities can grow with enough international support.

Read more: Kurdish Peshmerga Forces Have Room to Grow | Stratfor
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« Reply #465 on: September 13, 2014, 05:37:00 PM »
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« Reply #466 on: September 14, 2014, 07:43:26 AM »

If this report is to be believed, ISIS is a billion dollar +/year enterprise. Potential for a lot of mischief.

Islamic State's war chest grows by $3m daily
WASHINGTON: Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to US intelligence officials and private experts.

The extremist group's resources exceed that “of any other terrorist group in history,” said a US intelligence official who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments.

Such riches are one reason that American officials are so concerned about the group even while acknowledging they have no evidence it is plotting attacks against the United States.

The Islamic State group has taken over large sections of Syria and Iraq, and controls as many as 11 oil fields in both countries, analysts say.

It is selling oil and other goods through generations-old smuggling networks under the noses of some of the same governments it is fighting: Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.

While US intelligence does not assess that those governments are complicit in the smuggling, the Obama administration is pressing them do to more to crack down.

The illicit oil is generally transported on tanker trucks, analysts said. “There's a lot of money to be made,” said Denise Natali, who worked in Kurdistan as an American aid official and is now a senior research fellow at National Defense University.

“The Kurds say they have made an attempt to close it down, but you pay off a border guard you pay off somebody else and you get stuff through."

The price the Islamic State group fetches for its smuggled oil is discounted $25 to $60 for a barrel of oil that normally sells for more than $100 but its total profits from oil are exceeding $3 million a day, said Luay al-Khatteeb, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution's Doha Center in Qatar.

The group also has earned hundreds of millions of dollars from smuggling antiquities out of Iraq to be sold in Turkey, al-Khatteeb said, and millions more from human trafficking by selling women and children as sex slaves. Other revenue comes from extortion payments, ransom from kidnapped hostages, and outright theft of all manner of materials from the towns the Islamic State group has seized, analysts say.

“It's cash-raising activities resemble those of a mafia-like organization,” a second US intelligence official said, reflecting the assessment of his agency. “They are well-organized, systematic and enforced through intimidation and violence."

Even prior to seizing Mosul in June, for example, the group began to impose “taxes” on nearly every facet of economic activity, threatening death for those unwilling to pay, US intelligence officials say.

An analysis by the Council on Foreign Relations estimated the group was reaping $8 million a month from extortion in Mosul alone. Once the group took over Mosul, in northern Iraq, and other areas, it grabbed millions of dollars in cash from banks, though not the hundreds of millions initially reported, US intelligence officials say.

This spring, four French and two Spanish journalists held hostage by Islamic State extremists were freed after their governments paid multimillion-dollar ransoms through intermediaries. The Islamic State group “has managed to successfully translate territorial control in northern Syria and portions of Iraq into a means of revenue generation,” said a third US intelligence official.

Analysts say the group is relying on the fact that the area along the border between Iraq and Turkey has long been a smugglers haven, and was made more so by the fall of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2003. Generations of families have illicitly moved goods through the region.

The Islamic State is the successor to al-Qaida in Iraq, which was founded by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. For a time, the group was allied with the Nusra Front, the al-Qaida affiliate that is a key player among the rebels battling Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Islamic State group has since broken with the Nusra Front and al-Qaida.

In the early days of the Syrian civil war, the Islamic State group was funded in large part by donations from wealthy residents of Gulf States, including Kuwait and Qatar, American officials have said.

“A number of fundraisers operating in more permissive jurisdictions, particularly in Kuwait and Qatar, are soliciting donations to fund al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” David Cohen, the Treasury department's top counterterrorism official, said in a speech in March. ISIL is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.

That stream of funding has diminished in recent months as the group's violent tactics have drawn worldwide attention, US intelligence officials say.

The group's reliance on oil as its main source of revenue could easily be disrupted by American airstrikes, officials say. But so far, no decision has been made to target Iraqi or Syrian oil infrastructure, which is serviced by civilian workers who may have been conscripted.
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« Reply #467 on: September 14, 2014, 12:15:32 PM »

Middle Eastern Powers Consider Their Roles Against the Islamic State
September 14, 2014 | 0808 Print Text Size
Middle Eastern Powers Consider Their Roles Against the Islamic State
A video still shows Islamic State fighters with a tank. (Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama has committed the United States to the task of heading a multiyear international campaign to defeat the transnational jihadist movement the Islamic State. However, the U.S. contribution to this effort will be limited in that there will not be any major ground operations. More important will be the actions of regional players after the United States weakens the Islamic State. Countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar will have to take responsibility for any long-term management of the area given their geographical and historical connections to Iraq and Syria. Their conflicting interests probably will aggravate the regional situation.


Thirteen years after the start of the war against radical Islamism, the United States has embarked upon the mission to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State -- a transnational jihadist movement that has accomplished al Qaeda's goals of undermining Muslim regimes and re-establishing the caliphate. Fighting the Islamic State, which controls large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, will be much more difficult than combating al Qaeda's terrorism-based tactics, and this time around, Washington has said it will restrict itself to air operations. This means that the bulk of the struggle will fall to the actors within Syria and Iraq and, more important, to their patrons among the regional powers who will likely face a multidecade struggle in combating the Islamic State.

Air Base Locations of Core Coalition Countries
Click to Enlarge

Put differently, the U.S. role will be minor and limited in scope and time frame compared to that of the four main Middle Eastern countries -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. Any long-term balance in the region, whether peaceful or violent, is going to draw in these regional powers because of their ability to employ direct capabilities and the direct threat the Islamic State poses to their security and interests. Still, each country has different goals in reshaping the region with regard to the fight with the Islamic State and in the event of the group's defeat. Given that all main players, even the three Sunni states, disagree and compete significantly with one another, the Islamic State and other like-minded non-state actors will likely be able to endure into the foreseeable future.
Iran's Goals

For the Islamic republic, it is critical that its Shiite allies (working with the Kurds) continue to dominate Iraq and that the Alawite-led government in Syria not collapse. Toward this end, the Islamic State must be dislodged from Iraq. Iran faces a dilemma in Syria; the Islamic State must be weakened so that it cannot project power into Iraq, but it should not be eliminated because it keeps the main Sunni rebel groups from posing a threat to Bashar al Assad's regime in Damascus. Keeping the Islamic State in the mix serves Iran's objectives of keeping the rebels divided and portraying the rebellion as a jihadist enterprise which, in turn, would limit U.S. support for the rebels and deny its main regional rival, Saudi Arabia, the ability to use Syria as a launch pad for undermining Tehran's influence in Iraq and Lebanon. For this reason, while Iran is happy to see the United States strike at the Islamic State in Iraq, it is deeply concerned about any U.S. moves in Syria.
Saudi Arabia's Interests

The Saudis are in the worst position in the region. Between the Iranian/Shiite threat, the Arab Spring, the rise of republican Islamism in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State-led jihadist surge, Riyadh is in a geopolitical maelstrom. Ideally, the kingdom would like to harness the power of a virulently anti-Shiite group such as the Islamic State to topple the Syrian regime and weaken the Shia in both Iraq and Lebanon, thus forcing the Iranians back into their Persian core. The problem is that the Saudis do not control the Islamic State. Moreover, Riyadh is competing with groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda for a monopoly over the concepts of Salafism and jihad. This is why the Saudis have been putting together a coalition of Syrian rebels, many of whom are Salafist-jihadists who do not share the Islamic State's ambition to establish a caliphate and are willing to go only as far as the Saudis command them to. Saudi Arabia is thus hoping that U.S. military power will help neutralize the Islamic State and allow its proxies to take over the territories currently under the jihadist group's control. This way the transnational jihadist threat will be removed and the kingdom can make progress toward ousting al Assad.

Concentration of Activity by the Islamic State
Click to Enlarge

Turkey's Stakes

Turkey is the largest Muslim military power in the region and wants to see the al Assad regime replaced by a Sunni regime that can facilitate Ankara's ambition of regaining influence in the Arab world. However, the Turks do not share the sectarian zeal of the Saudis, nor are they as vulnerable to the Iranian threat as the kingdom is. In addition, Turkey has a unique geopolitical position: Iran holds the upper hand in the two Arab states it borders -- Iraq and Syria -- and on both borders there are Kurdish populations that embolden Kurdish separatism within Turkish territory. Moreover, since the eruption of the sectarian war in Syria that allowed for the emergence of the Islamic State, Turkey has been coping with jihadists on both borders. Knowing that Iraq's ethno-sectarian makeup gives Iran more influence there, the Turks are more interested in U.S. military action in Syria than in Iraq. Turkey would like to see Muslim Brotherhood-type Islamists and Syrian Sunni nationalists fill the vacuum created by the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State. However, it knows its interests will collide with those of Saudi Arabia, for whom the toppling of the al Assad regime would be a victory in its proxy war with Iran -- something the Turks have no interest in. Therefore, the Turks can be expected to work with the Qataris, given their shared outlook for the region.
Qatar's Position

Doha's strategic outlook is based on two principles: It does not want to accept Saudi hegemony of the Sunni Arab world, and Qatar wants to be a regional player. Doha's main instrument to achieve these ends has been its support for the Muslim Brotherhood groups throughout the region. Qatar and Turkey are in agreement on this issue, and they more or less would support the same types of actors in Syria. That said, Qatar also has influence over Salafist-jihadist groups including al Qaeda's Syrian node, Jabhat al-Nusrah. While Qatar is not as opposed to the Iranians as the Saudis are, it wishes to see the United States destroy the Islamic State so that nationalist Islamist forces can rise in Syria and eventually enter a power-sharing arrangement with the al Assad camp.

These competing visions for a post-Islamic State Syria show the complexity of the eventual tug-of-war among these four actors. The United States might be able to help loosen the Islamic State's grip in Syria and Iraq, but it is unlikely the regional players will simply move forward and seamlessly establish a new regional order to contain the sectarian conflict.

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« Reply #468 on: September 14, 2014, 05:09:49 PM »

Try figuring out the maze of enemies, allies, and neutrals in the Middle East.

In 2012, the Obama administration was on the verge of bombing the forces of Syrian president Bashar Assad. For a few weeks, he was public enemy No. 1 because he had used chemical weapons on his own people and because he was responsible for many of the deaths in the Syrian civil war, with a casualty count that is now close to 200,000.

After Obama’s red lines turned pink, we forgot about Syria. Then the Islamic State showed up with beheadings, crucifixions, rapes, and mass murders through a huge swath of Iraq and Syria.  Now the United States is bombing the Islamic State. Sometimes Obama says that he is still seeking a strategy against the jihadist group. Sometimes he wants to reduce it to a manageable problem. And sometimes he says that he wants to degrade or even destroy it.

The Islamic State is still trying to overthrow Assad. If the Obama administration is now bombing the Islamic State, is it then helping Assad? Or when America did not bomb Assad, did it help the Islamic State? Which of the two should Obama bomb — or both, or neither?

Iran is steadily on the way to acquiring a nuclear bomb. Yet for now it is arming the Kurds, dependable U.S. allies in the region who are fighting for their lives against the Islamic State and need American help. As Iran aids the Kurds, Syrians, and Iraqis in the battle against the evil Islamic State, is Teheran becoming a friend, enemy, or neither? Will Iran’s temporary help mean that it will delay or hasten its efforts to get a bomb? Just as Iran sent help to the Kurds, it missed yet another U.N. deadline to come clean on nuclear enrichment.

Hamas just lost a war in Gaza against Israel. Then it began executing and maiming a number of its own people, some of them affiliated with Fatah, the ruling clique of the Palestinian Authority. During the war, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian state, stayed neutral and called for calm. Did he wish Israel to destroy his rival, Hamas? Or did he wish Hamas to hurt his archenemy, Israel? Both? Neither?

What about the Gulf sheikdoms? In the old days, America was enraged that some of the Saudis slyly funneled cash to al-Qaeda and yet relieved that the Saudi government was deemed moderate and pro-Western. But as Iran gets closer to its nuclear holy grail, the Gulf kingdoms now seem to be in a de facto alliance with their hated adversary, Israel. Both Sunni monarchies and the Jewish state in near lockstep oppose the radical Iran/Syria/Hezbollah/Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas axis.

But don’t look for understandable Shiite–Sunni Muslim fault lines. In this anti-Saudi alliance, the Iranians and Hezbollah are Shiites. Yet their allies, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, are Sunnis. The Syrian government is neither, being Alawite.

They all say they are against the Sunni-extremist Islamic State. So if they are enemies of the Sunni monarchies and enemies of the Islamic State, is the Islamic State then a friend to these Gulf shiekdoms?

Then there is Qatar, a Sunni Gulf monarchy at odds with all the other neighboring Sunni monarchies. It is sort of friendly with the Iranians, Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas — all adversaries of the U.S. Why, then, is Qatar the host of CENTCOM, the biggest American military base in the entire Middle East?

Is Egypt any simpler? During the Arab Spring, the Obama administration helped to ease former president and kleptocrat Hosni Mubarak out of power. Then it supported both the democratic elections and the radical Muslim Brotherhood that won them. Later, the administration said little when a military junta displaced the radical Muslim Brotherhood, which was subverting the new constitution. America was against military strongmen before it was for them, and for Islamists before it was against them.

President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan were said to have a special friendship. But based on what? Erdogan is strangling democracy in Turkey. He is a big supporter of Hamas and at times a fan of Iran. A NATO ally, Turkey recently refused to let U.S. rescue teams use its territory to stage a rescue mission of American hostages — two of them eventually beheaded — in Syria.

Ostensibly, America supports moderate pro-Western consensual governments that protect human rights and hold elections, or at least do not oppress their own. But there are almost no such nations in the Middle East except Israel. Yet the Obama administration has grown ever more distant from the Jewish state over the last six years.

What is the U.S. to do? Leave the Middle East alone, allowing terrorists to build a petrol-fueled staging base for another 9/11?

About the best choice is to support without qualification the only two pro-American and constitutional groups in the Middle East, the Israelis and Kurds.

Otherwise, in such a tribal quagmire, apparently there are only transitory interests that come and go.
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« Reply #469 on: September 15, 2014, 11:11:37 AM »

Yeah, let's spill our blood, sweat, tears, and treasures to put these fukkers back in charge , , ,
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« Reply #470 on: Today at 03:02:58 AM »

Given the fustercluck Baraq has created I surely don't envy him the choices he faces now.   That said, I continue to think the strategy I offered is better than this.


U.S. Efforts to Build Coalition Against Islamic State in Iraq, Syria Are Hampered by Sectarian Divide
Russia Warns Against Strikes on Syria Without Regime's Consent
By Stacy Meichtry, Jay Solomon and Maria Abi-Habib
Updated Sept. 15, 2014 10:19 p.m. ET

A conference to discuss how to combat the Islamic State is under way in Paris. Made up of 26 countries, including the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Russia, it aims to show a united front on fighting the militant group. WSJ's Mark Kelly reports

U.S. efforts to build a broad coalition to combat Islamic State on Monday ran straight into the sectarian chasm that has divided the Middle East for centuries, with Arab allies disagreeing over whether Iraq's neighbors—particularly Iran and Syria—should have a role in any military campaign.

A group of 26 countries gathering in Paris—including the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Russia—vowed to back the fight against the Sunni extremist organization "by any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance."

But a day after the U.S. said Arab states were willing to participate in airstrikes, Arab countries attending the Paris meeting gave no sign they were ready to join the military campaign. The U.S. also faced criticism from Russia, Syria's top international ally, which insisted airstrikes on Syria must be coordinated with Damascus and Tehran.

After the international meeting concluded, the U.S. military said Monday night it made its first airstrike in Iraq targeting Islamic militants as part of the expanded mission announced last week. The airstrike hit a single fighting position set up by Islamic State militants that was firing on Iraqi security forces southwest of Baghdad, officials said.

Previously, the military was limited to strikes designed to assist with humanitarian missions, such as driving militants from Sinjar, to defend Iraqi infrastructure, or to protect U.S. personnel and facilities.

The hesitancy of many of the Middle East's major Sunni leaders, including in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, to back military operations is driven, in part, by a belief American airstrikes against the Islamic State will benefit the region's three main Shiite-dominated governments in Iran, Iraq and Syria, according to U.S. and Arab officials involved in the deliberations.

That debate highlighted how the Obama administration's plans to lead the international coalition against Islamic State have plunged it more deeply into a regional feud between Sunni and Shiite states.

Sensitive to Sunni Arab states' concerns, Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials have publicly ruled out in recent days cooperating militarily with Tehran and Damascus in rooting out Islamic State, though Washington acknowledged private discussions have been held with Iran's rulers.  Such a stance raises the possibility that Iran's Islamist rulers and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime could attempt to sabotage U.S. military operations, as they did in Iraq in the years following the George W. Bush administration's overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

In recent days, leaders of Iraqi Shiite militias close to Tehran, including Kata'b Hezbollah and the Mahdi Army, have publicly warned Washington that U.S. soldiers could be targeted if the White House pushes ahead with its military offensive against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

"If you come back, we will be back too," radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who commands the Mahdi Army, said in a televised statement Monday.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei put the Obama administration on the defensive ahead of the talks by publicly claiming his government has rejected numerous overtures from Washington to jointly cooperate against Islamic State.  Iraq's new leaders reprimanded the U.S. and its European and Arab allies for not inviting Iran to attend the Paris conference.

"We had insisted for Iran to be there and we regret their absence," Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in Paris, adding that Tehran had provided his government with "significant support" in fighting Islamic State.

Mr. Kerry acknowledged private discussions with Iran about Iraq and said the U.S. remained open to future discussions, including next week at the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York.  But the American diplomat ruled out any military cooperation with Iran in Iraq and Syria and intelligence sharing. He also acknowledged that his opposition to Tehran attending the Paris conference was driven, in part, by threats made by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to boycott the meetings if Iranian officials attended.

"We're not coordinating with Iran, but as I said, we're open to have a conversation at some point in time if there's a way to find something constructive," Mr. Kerry said Monday.

The role of the Assad regime in combating Islamic State is also presenting a dilemma for the Obama administration.  U.S. officials have rejected Syrian overtures to coordinate military strikes against Islamic State.  But Mr. Assad's allies, particularly Russia, warned on Monday that excluding the Syrian government risks fueling more conflict in the region.

"One cannot but feel concerned by publicly stated intentions to attack the [Islamic State] positions in Syria's territory without interaction with the Syrian government," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Paris. "Syria, as well as Iran, are our natural allies in the fight."

Mr. Kerry, as in the case with Iran, offered somewhat contradictory statements on the U.S. positions toward Syria. He ruled out cooperation, but also said the U.S. would "communicate' with Mr. Assad's government to avoid any potential clashes with Syrian forces as the campaign against Islamic State gathered momentum.

"There are all kinds of ways of communicating to avoid mistakes or disasters," Mr. Kerry said.

Administration officials said at a briefing in Washington later Monday that American forces would respond if Mr. Assad used antiaircraft weapons against U.S. planes.

Current and former U.S. officials and Arab diplomats worry the buildup of the military campaign against Islamic State risks mirroring Washington's interactions with Tehran and Damascus in the months both before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  At the time, the Bush administration held extensive talks with Iranian officials to discuss the creation of a stable Iraq in the wake of Hussein's fall. U.S. officials also discussed Iraq with Mr. Assad's government, particularly concerning the flow of foreign fighters.

As the U.S. occupation of Iraq dragged on, however, Iran and Syria actively worked to undermine the U.S.'s goals of creating a stable and democratic government in Iraq, according to current and former U.S. officials. Iran and Syria have denied supporting extremist groups in Iraq.

U.S. officials said so far, Iran's government hasn't attempted to interrupt American military operations against the militants.  One U.S. official said intelligence showed that the commander of the Revolutionary Guard's overseas operations, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, has explicitly ordered Iraqi Shiite militias not to target American personnel, arguing the weakening of Sunni militant groups was in Tehran's interest.

Still, U.S. officials have voiced concerns that Iran could change its stance if they view American military operations in Iraq and Syria as posing a threat to Iran's core objectives and the rule of Mr. Assad.  Mr. Khamenei on Monday indicated that this could eventually be the case.

"I said we will not accompany America in this matter because they have got dirty intentions and hands," Iran's most powerful figure said in a televised address. "They see pretexts to interfere in Iraq and Syria, just as they did in Pakistan, where [the U.S.] can commit any crime it wants."

At Monday's session, key U.S. allies, particularly those in the Middle East, gave no sign they were ready to commit to a military campaign in Iraq or Syria.

Even the U.K., one of Washington's most reliable allies, is hesitant. U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said his country would play a "leading role" in the fight against Islamic state but conceded: "We haven't made a decision yet about how we will best contribute to the coalition."

French President François Hollande, who hosted Monday's conference, said Syria's "democratic" rebel forces "must be supported by all means."

So far, France has answered Washington's call for military intervention. The French began to mobilize their Air Force on Monday, deploying reconnaissance jets over Iraq, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

"Get ready to intervene," Mr. Le Drian told French forces gathered at the Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates.

—Carol E. Lee and Julian E. Barnes contributed to this article.
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« Reply #471 on: Today at 08:31:37 PM »

Interesting analysis of the meaning of Baraq's "advice" to ISIL too.

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