Iraq: The More The Merrier

There has not been much in the news about the battle for Mosul in Iraq during the first days of this new year….

Last year I was concerned that the slow uptick of US troops would once again be a problem for the US….I still think that the problem is still growing…..

As Iraq continues to try to get their military offensive against the ISIS-held city of Mosul going, the Pentagon has announced that the US has doubled the number of advisers embedded with Iraqi forces in the area, saying there are “about 450” advisers now involved in the fight.

Military spokesman Col. John Dorrian further confirmed that there are an “unspecified,” but expanding number of US “advisers” embedded inside the city of Mosul itself, where heavy fighting is constantly ongoing. Iraq claims to have about 60% control over eastern Mosul, the less populace half of the city.

Despite repeated reports out of Mosul portraying the situation as non-stop fighting in the city, Dorrian was quick to reiterate that none of the US troops are technically involved in “direct combat,” and are simply deployed into combat areas in support roles.

Which is misleading at best, as was the Pentagon’s report that 4,935 US troops are currently in Iraq. The number of troops “officially” in Iraq is a carefully negotiated figure between the US and Iraqi governments, and officials have repeatedly admitted that the US has made a habit of keeping large numbers of troops in Iraq off the books by labeling their deployments as “temporary.” Though there is no accurate figure on the total number of US troops in Iraq, most estimates put it around 6,000.

(antiwar.com)

We keep adding troops …slowly…..the added troops will make the chances of Americans being killed more likely with each new report.

How many more will it take before too many is enough?

How About a Federalized Iraq?

I am slowly returning to my main focus…..conflicts and their resolution….it has been a long thoroughly hilarious 6 months…..now back to work.

We invade then occupied Iraq in 2003….after the major hostilities were over there were some that were calling for a federal republic for Iraq….among those was VP Joe Biden…..most people scoffed at the idea for various reasons…..I for one was not convinced that it would be a good idea….but as time went on I came around to the idea.

Iraqis did not have much input back in those days….was going to be up to the US and its allies to decide the course for a new government for Iraq.

My op-ed on this subject are pressed below…….

Source: Rethink Iraqi Federalism – In Saner Thought

I bring up this bit of Iraqi history for good reason….it seems that the tribes of Anbar province are thinking that federalism would be a good idea at this time…..

For much of Iraq, the ISIS war is seen as just a continuation of the sectarian warfare between Sunni Arabs and Shi’ite Arabs which has raged in the country since the US occupation. Iraq’s Shi’ite-dominated government has long sought to dispel this notion by recruiting Sunni allies.

They haven’t had much success, but the Sunni Arab tribal factions they have managed to recruit are seen as key allies against ISIS. At the same time, the tribal leaders warn that Iraq needs massive reforms, not just a military victory, to end these conflicts.

The Lions of the Tigris faction are urging federalization as a solution to the ongoing tensions. They are far from the first to suggest this, but as allies in the current war, they may have the government’s ear more than some others.

(antiwar.com)

With the divides in the country…Kurds, Sunni and Shia, federalism may be the only way to bring stability in Iraq again.

But because it has worked well for the US does not mean that it will be so for Iraq…..there are so many other situations developing in the country that could prove hazardous to the federal experiment……problems like the Assyrians, Chaldeans and Yazidis…just to mention a few.

Two Big Battles

The news out of the Middle East is always taking a back seat to the antics of politicians and celebs…..but regardless how much we try it is impossible to ignore the big battles taking place…..

First, the one that is making all the news so far….Aleppo, Syria.

It appears as if the battle for Syria’s largest city is about to draw to a close….if so….what is next for the city?

What are the immediate implications of the regime’s victory in Aleppo?

Aleppo illustrates the bleak state of the Syrian war, more than five years into the conflict. The regime and its allies are defeating rebel groups by employing an expanded version of their long-favoured military approach: massive collective punishment, including siege tactics and relentless bombardment targeting civilians. With crucial support from Russian air power and Iran-backed foreign fighters, this set of tactics has enabled the regime to compensate, for now at least, for its eroding military and limited base of reliable Syrian fighters.

Source: What Comes After the Bloody Battle for Aleppo? | Crisis Group

The next major battle is in Iraq….in and around the city of Mosul….first reports were that the Iraqi army and its militia allies were making great headway against the forces if ISIS…..but those glowing reports have ceased….why?

Since the battle to retake Mosul began in mid-October, Iraqi and coalition spokesmen have touted the significant number of villages retaken around the periphery of Mosul by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and the fact that they reportedly recaptured Mosul’s al-Salam hospital, barely a mile from the Tigris. Yet an examination of the battlefield reveals that from the perspective of ISIS, it could be argued that the fight is going better than expected. Such a belief is not without substance.

Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi claimed last week that he was very pleased with his troops’ progress. “We have seen the whole organization collapsing in terms of standing in the face of our own armed forces,” he said, adding that the “success of liberating a huge area indicates that Daesh does not have the gut[s]” to stand and fight. Yet the number of villages and square kilometers of land retaken tells only part of the story, and may be deceptive by itself.

Source: Is the Battle for Mosul Doomed? | The National Interest Blog

These are the foreign policy situations that Trump and his gang will be dealing with….does anyone see a light at the end of this tunnel?

Where’s The Iraqi News?

AS the battles rage across Iraq….the military and militias are attempting to put an end to ISIS in Iraq…..the conflict has had many set backs in recent years….but with the help of US and its allies the conflict is swinging in the direction of the Iraqis.

I usually get some first hand news out of Iraq for I still have a few friends that I made when I worked in the country in the 1980’s and they, when possible, keep me informed and I then try to pass on to my readers the news that seems to escape the MSM of the West.

Recently, for about a  month, my friends have been slow to get me any news….at first I thought it was because they might be in danger and were laying low to avoid any complications.

Over last weekend I finally got to hear from one of my friends and he said that ALL news about the conflict was being censored in many ways….especially on bloggers and people not associated with the government….

He then sent me a piece written up in a region news source……

The Iraqi government is keeping an eye on local and foreign media outlets that are covering security events in the country, especially the war against the Islamic State (IS), namely in the battle to liberate the city of Mosul.

On Dec. 3, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) rectified its previous report on the violence against civilians in Iraq, following the criticism of the report by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, which requested it to be amended. UNAMI admitted that the number of casualties mentioned in the report was incorrect and was not collected from reliable sources.

This was not the first time that media outlets or humanitarian organizations corrected their reports following requests by Iraqi authorities. Since the launch of the Mosul operation, the Iraqi government is keeping an eye on media outlets and humanitarian organizations covering the battle of Mosul to prevent them from publishing false reports.

Appears the Iraqis have learned a lesson well from their American friends….that on how to control the info on the battles as they rage….

Iraq/Syria Update–12Dec16

Since the MSM feels there is not much news in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria—I have taken it upon myself to try and keep my readers informed…..at east they will know……these are the run downs that Western media gives its readers….this is the news that most Americans try to forget…..

Iraq

Iraq’s parliament speaker says an airstrike targeting an Islamic State-held town in western Iraq near the Syrian border has killed and wounded “dozens” of civilians. – Associated Press

The spiritual leader of Iraq’s Yazidis said his people need international help to recover from the worst atrocities they have suffered in more than a century and to reintegrate thousands of women who were enslaved by Islamic State. – Reuters

Bernard-Henri Levy writes: The fire must be stamped out. And very soon. To bring this about, one looks to Barack Obama, who might prove willing to quicken the pace so as to end his second term with a victory for civilization over the pseudo-state that presently threatens every real state in the world. Failing that, we might have to hope that, come Jan. 20, Donald Trump remembers the speech he delivered the day after his Super Tuesday victory in the Republican primary. In that speech he said of ISIS: “Their days are numbered.” – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Iraq’s Kurds, having played a major role in the fight against Islamic State, are banking that the incoming Trump White House will expand U.S. military and political support for Iraq, taking on a larger role in stabilizing the country after the defeat of the terror group in Mosul. – Washington Times

U.S. warplanes carried out a deliberate bombing of a hospital Wednesday at the request of Iraqi forces who were under attack from Islamic State fighters in the building, a military spokesman said Thursday. – Military.com

With the Islamic State group’s “caliphate” seemingly nearing its downfall in Iraq, the country’s security agencies are preparing for a different fight against the militants, shifting away from ground offensives to a focus on intelligence work, surgical airstrikes and a higher level of cooperation with the West. – Associated Press

Iraqi troops who briefly seized a Mosul hospital believed to be used as an Islamic State base were forced to withdraw from the site, but managed to establish a base for army tanks nearby after days of fierce back-and-forth fighting, residents said. – Reuters

Syria

Syrian government forces swept through the Old City of Aleppo on Wednesday as rebel forces — besieged and facing certain defeat — debated when to withdraw from their shattered stronghold. – Washington Post

Syria’s Sunni opposition doesn’t have many reasons to be optimistic these days as the reinvigorated regime conquers Aleppo amid international indifference. But leaders of the rebel alliance cling to the hope that when Donald Trump tackles the Syrian crisis, his longstanding hostility to Iran will offset his desire to improve relations with Russia. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Syrian rebels and six western governments have called for an urgent ceasefire in Aleppo as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces edge closer to taking the opposition stronghold. – Financial Times

Russia raised hopes on Thursday for a deal to end the fighting in Aleppo, the Syrian city battered by a weeks-long assault by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces aimed at recapturing it from rebel fighters. – Financial Times

Russia said late Thursday that the Syrian military has suspended its combat operations in eastern Aleppo to allow civilians to leave the city and that it had reached agreement with the United States to negotiate the safe departure of rebel fighters. – Washington Post

The State Department on Thursday indicated there could be some imminent progress between the U.S. and Russia on a way to restart negotiations over how to reduce the violence in Syria, and specifically in Aleppo. – Washington Examiner

Syrian government forces pressed an offensive in Aleppo on Thursday night and into Friday with ground fighting and air strikes, Reuters witnesses, rebels and a monitoring group said, part of a push to retake all of the city’s besieged rebel-held east. – Reuters

And then for those that actually care…..

Some 200 US troops will be sent to Syria to help an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters seize the Islamic State group bastion of Raqaa, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said on Saturday.

The new batch of fighters will complement 300 American special forces already in Syria to assist US-backed Kurdish-Arab fighters who in recent weeks began their offensive on Raqqa.

“I can tell you today that the United States will deploy approximately 200 additional US forces in Syria,” Carter told Gulf policymakers in the Bahraini capital Manama.

Then news from the 82nd Airborne….more troops to Iraq……

Early next year, roughly 1,700 soldiers from the brigade will begin to deploy to Iraq to assume the train, advise and assist mission alongside their Iraqi counterparts.

Col. J. Patrick Work, commander of the Falcon Brigade, held court from the center of the swarm of paratroopers, who gathered together following a 4-mile brigade run and a surprise event – a brigade-wide tug-of-war tournament in which the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment emerged victorious.

It seems that every month or so the troops deployed to Iraq and Syria tick up and up…..and NO one seems to notice….

On a very sad note…..another American soldier has died because of his service in Afghanistan….

A Fort Hood soldier from Maryland died this week from the injuries he suffered when an improvised explosive device went off in Bagram, Afghanistan, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday.

Sgt. First Class Allan E. Brown, 46, was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, according to a news release.

He died Tuesday at Walter Reed National Medical Center, in Bethesda, Maryland. His hometown is listed as Takoma Park, military officials said.

The IED went off Nov. 12. Two other soldiers — Sgt. John W. Perry, 30, of Stockton, Calif.; and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois — died in the same incident on the day it happened.

IST sends our condolences to the family…may your family member rest in peace.

Iraq/Syria Update–07Dec16

How soon our minds wander……

As an analyst of the Middle East I am ashamed of myself for allowing the silliness around the election and the after math to consume my thoughts…..I will try to make things right….today I will start a regular update on the situations in Iraq and Syria…and the region.

Iraq

As Iraqi security forces wage a grinding house-to-house battle to push the Islamic State out of Mosul, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is rushing to prepare for a potential mass exodus of up to 700,000 mainly Sunni civilians. But winter is closing in, funds are short, and the head of the UNHCR mission is worried that the international community and the Iraqi government could be overwhelmed by events, possibly setting the stage for renewed sectarian tension. – Foreign Policy’s The Cable

Iraqi army said on Wednesday that Islamic State militants launched an overnight attack against security forces in the southeastern part of Mosul, a day after the troops advanced deeper into the city. – Associated Press

Syria

Syrian government forces pushed deeper into Aleppo on Wednesday, seizing areas around the medieval citadel whose narrow streets had long given rebels cover, pro-government websites and conflict monitors reported. – New York Times

The United States is discussing with Syrian rebels their surrender and evacuation from Aleppo, as Russia on Tuesday threatened the imminent “elimination” of anyone who refuses to leave the city. – Washington Post

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he and his Russian counterpart will speak this week as a fierce bombing campaign backed by Moscow continues in Aleppo, fueling diplomatic arguments and straining prospects for talks. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The House passed a defense bill last week that included language giving the incoming Trump administration the authority to send shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles to rebel groups fighting in Syria. While the bill provides certain restrictions for transferring the controversial weapons, known as MANPADS or Man Portable Air Defense Systems, it represents a significant shift from prior iterations of the legislation. – Washington Post

Vladimir Putin is seizing on President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to reverse U.S. policy on Syria to press for a military victory that could mark Russia’s return as a great-power rival in the wider Middle East. – Bloomberg

Secretary of State John Kerry has resumed bilateral negotiations with Russia over the Syrian civil war, despite Russia’s refusal to make the policy changes that Kerry demanded when he canceled talks in October – Washington Examiner

Israel’s military attacked an airport in Damascus near Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s palace early on Wednesday morning, Arab media reported, in what appeared to be the second air strike by Israel inside Syrian territory in less than a week. – Financial Times

Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan write: Deterrence, by way of fait accompli, has worked so far. Explicit deterrence will work still better. At the end of the day, the choice is not whether the U.S. stays in Syria or leave, it is whether it stays or, eventually, is forced to come back. – The Daily Beast

I shall try to keep my readers updated as often as possible…..it is important because we have troops fighting and dying in these regions….but I am assuming that Americans actually give a crap……

Why Saddam And Gaddafi Failed To Get The Bomb

Earlier this year while I was lecturing a student asked me this very same question…..she said that since Libya and Iraq had massive oil money they could afford the trip….

I told her that Iraq had tried to build a nuke facility and the Israelis destroyed it….

Then she asked …so then is Israel the force to worry about?

Yes and no…..no they are not a power in the region….only in their own minds….and yes they are a force because the West is deathly afraid if being criticized for not supporting Israel…..you would be surprised the weight that a call of antisemitism can be…..

The more I thought about it I decided that it is an excellent question that needs an answer……

I recall reading an article recently that asked this question and gave an excellent explanation…..

Imagine if Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi had nuclear weapons in 2003. The invasion of Iraq may not have been possible, and states would have been much more reluctant to bomb Libya in 2011. The Middle East would be a very different place today. As it happens, both leaders had sought nuclear weapons for decades, but neither got the bomb. Why?

In fact, Iraq came close to the nuclear weapons threshold. If Saddam hadn’t invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, Iraq would most likely have acquired nuclear weapons during the mid-1990s. In contrast, Libya’s program failed, over and over again, for three decades before the Gaddafi regime ultimately abandoned the program in late 2003.

Source: Why Saddam and Gaddafi Failed to get the Bomb