The Battle For Mosul

There is a wealth of news these days but most of it is about the election in a few days……but we should be focusing on the war raging in Iraq…..why?

This could be a situation for the ages and not just a push to destroy an enemy…..

After the battle there will be a wealth of problems that could reignite into another shooting conflict……

The battle for Mosul is as much a political endeavor as its post-conflict status will be. The entire venture pivots on the trust between the allied factions: the Kurds, the Christians, the Yazidis, and the Iraqi army which has its own Shia-Sunni divisions—not to mention the Turks hovering on the horizon threatening to join the hunt. For the ground war to work the factions need to believe that they share a common goal for the long-term future of Mosul. That’s a tall order because the major players have divergent, even opposing, agendas.

Source: The Politics of the Battle for Mosul | World Affairs Journal

Let’s look forward in time….and predict that ISIS in Mosul will be defeated….what then?

The steady erosion of ISIL’s hold on its core territories in Iraq and Syria appears to herald the final success of the US-led coalition’s effort to overthrow the self-proclaimed caliphate.

As the attack onMosul intensifies and Syrian regime forces and Kurdish fighters close in on Raqqa, ISIL is mounting a desperate defence of the shrinking area over which it still holds sway. However, it is probably far too early to write off a regional threat that can still call on clandestine, international networks of followers to sustain its fanatical and uncompromising struggle against western countries and their regional allies.

Source: What lies ahead when ISIL is finally defeated? | The National

As the battle for Mosul lingers on…the allies are at the same time preparing for a push on the capital of ISIS….Raqaa, Syria…..

Before Iraqi forces and their US backers have set foot in Mosul, the US and its allies have begun preparations to imminently wrest the Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State, a momentous decision aimed at destroying what is left of Isis’s self-declared caliphate.

The US defense chief, Ashton Carter, meeting in Paris with his counterparts in the anti-Isis coalition, vowed that Iraqi forces, Syrian Arab and Kurdish allies and US special operations troops and airpower could take away Isis’s Iraqi and Syrian capitals practically simultaneously.

“We’ve planned for that, and we have the resources for both,” Carter told NBC News early Wednesday, saying an attack on Raqqa would commence “in the next few weeks”.

Source: US and allies prepare to take Raqqa from Isis as battle for Mosul continues | US news | The Guardian

Looks like the plan is to try and catch ISIS off guard with their pants down fighting for survival in Mosul….but I question that decision……

Maybe a better idea would be to fight one battle front at a time….but still keep pressure on Raqaa…but concentrate on the elimination of Mosul first.

But let’s say we are successful and defeat ISIS in Mosul and then move on and do the same in Raqaa….will we then declare the official death of ISIS?

There may be a reason to not get too jubilant about these possible defeats.

Why so, Professor?

The US military warned today that the Islamic State continues to plot attacks against the West from its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria.

“We know this plot and planning is emanating from Raqqa,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said, according to the Associated Press.

Townsend didn’t provide any specifics, but the Islamic State has orchestrated multiple attacks from its safe havens in the past. American and European officials are constantly working to disrupt the group’s logistical support networks and uncover cells.

“We aren’t sure how pressing it is. We know they are up to something,” Townsend said, according to FoxNews.com. Townsend added that “we’ve got to get to Raqqa pretty soon” because of this anti-Western plotting.

Source: Islamic State continues to plot against the West, US military warns | The Long War Journal

As a reminder I turn your attention to an op-ed I wrote for Ace News Room…..

Source: Generation Jihad – In Saner Thought

Fore warned is fore armed!

Syria: Lies And Damn Lies

This election there is a wealth of solutions for the problems in Syria….they range from “making the sand glow” to a no-fly zone……the problem is that most of these brilliant ideas ill do nothing to solve any problems…..

Let me illustrate the 5 biggest damn lies about Syria……

1. Lie Number 1: The world will not forgive us for inaction in the face of mass atrocities in Syria. Nothing dries faster than a politician’s tear. International relations are unsentimental. The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. The world has “forgiven” us for inaction while Stalin and Mao collectively murdered over 100 million, genocides unfolded in Rwanda and Cambodia, and Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews. At present, the world is not rebuking us for inaction during the killings of more than 5 million Congolese in an ongoing civil war and during the mass atrocities and starvation that are besetting the South Sudanese people. Today, we enjoy a semi-alliance with Vietnam despite dropping 388,000 tons of napalm and killing more than 2 million civilians during the Vietnam War.

2. Lie Number 2: The carnage in Syria would be diminished if the United States provided military assistance and intervened on behalf of moderate Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad, the Russians, and Hezbollah. There are no moderates in Syria dedicated to the rule of law and democratic norms. All Syrian fighters are driven by ulterior motives to make their tribe dominate others. Internecine warfare rages amongst the rebels. A $500 million Pentagon plan to vet and train 15,000 moderate fighters collapsed because no qualified enrollees could be discovered.

3. Lie Number 3: Russia will gain at our expense. The opposite is the truth. Conquest or occupation of a hostile population weakens the conqueror or occupier. The annexation of Crimea has proven an economic albatross to Russia. The Soviet Empire disintegrated in 1991 because the costs of occupying and subsidizing Eastern and Central Europe were prohibitive. President Vladimir Putin is losing money and men to support Syrian President al-Assad in exchange for the fleeting and juvenile thrill of projecting power for its own sake. The United States loses nothing by inaction. Thus, after we refused to rescue South Vietnamese President Thieu from defeat by North Vietnam in 1975, sixteen years later the USSR—our arch-enemy—fell without our firing a single shot. We were left as the sole superpower in the world in large measure through masterly inactivity.

4. Lie Number 4: If Aleppo succumbs to President Al-Assad and President Putin, international terrorism against the United States will spiral. This is nonsense on stilts. Assad and Putin are enemies, not allies, of ISIS and Al Qaeda. Their takeover of Aleppo would be a setback for international terrorism. President Reagan withdrew our troops from Lebanon in 1984 after the Hezbollah terrorist attack on our Marine barracks in Beirut, but no spike in international terrorism against us ensued.

5. Lie Number 5: The credibility of the United States as the leader and defender of the free world will be devastated. This argument if the last refuge of a scoundrel eager to risk the lives and fortunes of others to gratify a craving for power or domination. Our withdrawal from Vietnam made us stronger, not weaker. Ditto for Lebanon. The argument’s premise is also flawed. As the United States Constitution and patriotism require, we pursue self-interest abroad like all other nations. Freedom is made subservient to Realpolitik. We have sold a staggering $90 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia in recent years despite its oppressive monarchy, military intervention in Bahrain to suppress freedom, and war crimes in Yemen. We recognize the dictatorial People’s Republic of China at the expense of the democratic Republic of China on Taiwan. We are snug with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi despite his totalitarian methods. Other examples are endless.

Read a bit more about these lies……Source: Five Stupendous Lies Told By Buglers for Military Intervention in Syria | Huffington Post

One more thing…..the US spy master has waded into the fray and commented on Clinton’s pet solution to the problem in Syria…..thew No-Fly Zone…….

A proposal backed by Hillary Clinton could cause Russia to lash out and shoot down American planes over Syria, the nation’s top intelligence official said on Tuesday.

Clinton has repeatedly called for a no-fly zone to halt the chaos in Syria and prevent Russian and Syrian government forces from launching air strikes on the war-torn country, in a break with the Obama administration’s policy.

But doing so could trigger a backlash from Russia that might put Americans at risk, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said.

“I’m not a mind reader, but I do take seriously the very sophisticated air defense system and air defense coverage that the Russians have,” Clapper said at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

Maybe now would be a good time to go back to the drawing board, Mrs. Clinton.

Trapped Between The Moon And Syria

Hey this election is NOT long on ideas for the fighting in Syria…but the one that seems to get more attention than it deserves is something that Clinton seems to champion during her dash to the White House…..a No-Fly Zone.

The first time I wrote about this horrendous idea was when Libya was in revolt……

Source: How About That “No Fly” Zone? – In Saner Thought

And we see how well that worked huh?

Then last year the idea was floated for Syria……

Guess what idea is making the rounds with the people that have failed to contain ISIS?  (I’m waiting…..the title can help if you are suffering from brain farts)….

There are those in the US and elsewhere that are pushing the idea of a “no fly zone” or a “buffer zone”…the excuse is that it will help protect innocent civilians from the ravaging of war……(I have my doubts on the validity of the promise)…..

Source: Syria: “No Fly, Schmo Fly” – In Saner Thought

I have been pointing out the lack of thought this plan is……and yet with all the info available it seems that it is still an idea that will not die…..

Much was made in this week’s Commons debate on Syria of the need for a no-fly zone over Aleppo. Given that the Syrian government and the Russians have a monopoly of air power over the city, the idea of denting or deterring it might seem attractive. Hillary Clinton also advocated such a zone in Sunday’s presidential TV debate.

In 1991 the US and Britain imposed a successful no-fly zone over northern Iraq to protect the Kurds. But they were already at war with Saddam Hussein, having just defeated him in Kuwait. Saddam was on his own internationally, despised and isolated. He had no support from Russia or any Arab allies. The last thing he wanted was to confront the US any further. Enforcing a no-fly zone (even though it had no clear UN security council authorisation) involved no risk to the US or UK. Saddam made little effort to resist and not one of their manned aircraft was shot down.

Source: A no-fly zone for Aleppo risks a war that could engulf us all | Jonathan Steele | Opinion | The Guardian

Maybe that is what the plan is all along…..draw Russia into a real confrontation…..but is a war in Syria really in America’s best interests?

The calls for U.S. military action against Syrian government forces have become more vociferous in recent weeks, as outrage over the current Russian and Syrian military offensive in rebel-held eastern Aleppo mounts. The calls are not new: critics have been urging President Barack Obama to become more involved in the Syrian civil war since it began in 2011, and have since become louder amid glaring human rights abuses.

Source: Is War in Syria in America’s Interest? | The National Interest

Thoughts?

 

US Foreign Policy–Yet Another Hiccup (Or Two)

The US has been making some terrible foreign policy decisions in the last couple of years…..Libya, Syria and the rush to demonize Russia….just to mention a few.

Syria is a f*cked up mess…there is NO telling who are the “Good guys” and who are the “bad”…..but there was a bit of a chance recently when the US and Russia and a few of the combatants attempted a ceasefire…..that lasted about a week before the US gunned down some of the participants and Russia attacks a aid convoy and a hospital (of course no one is giving the straight story all they can do is blame the other)…..

Syria: The US, meanwhile, suspended contacts with Moscow in regard to Syria. The decision means the US will no longer negotiate with Russia over the resumption of a ceasefire or move ahead with plans for joint military operations, reports the Washington Post. The White House has been exasperated over the continued bombing of Aleppo and of humanitarian shipments. “Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments,” says a spokesman, “and was also either unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to the arrangements to which Moscow agreed.”

The US and Russia after trying to make a go a diplomacy has ended…….

Plutonium: Vladimir Putin suspended a pact with the US in which the two nations agreed to dispose of surplus plutonium that could otherwise go into weapons. The ramifications of this specific pact are limited, explains Reuters, but it carries “powerful symbolism” and could signal trouble ahead for more sweeping nuclear arms agreements. Moscow said the US “has done everything in its power to destroy the atmosphere of trust which could have encouraged cooperation,” citing among other things sanctions placed on Russia over its role in Ukraine.

Oh goody…..the world has gotten a little less predictable…..and with all the nuke talk around this election….the voter should be worried and be concerned for the future.

Appears as MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) will rear its ugly face yet again…..ignore foreign policy at your own peril…..me?  I’m looking for a more peaceful world where the money is spent where it is needed.

The Decentralization Equation

Let me see….we have been trying to mop up the crap in Iraq since 2003….then there is the manure pile that is Syria since 2011….no matter what we try…..it is wrong.

In the beginning of the war in Iraq there was a couple of plans that would bring federalism to Iraq…..so far none of them have gone very far but the Iraqi military has had its hands full for a few years now…..I am sure it is still on a back burner some place.

The there is Syria and some have floated a similar plan of partitioning of Syria….. to save time and space…….

Source: Would Partitioning Syria Be Folly? | Ace News Room

So far these plans have been all talk……and now there is new talk about a plan for both Syria and Iraq….it is called “decentralization”……

The term “decentralization” embraces a variety of concepts which must be carefully analyzed in any particular country before determining if projects or programs should support reorganization of financial, administrative, or service delivery systems. Decentralization—the transfer of authority and responsibility for public functions from the central government to subordinate or quasi-independent government organizations and/or the private sector—is a complex multifaceted concept. Different types of decentralization should be distinguished because they have different characteristics, policy implications, and conditions for success.

Source: Different Forms of Decentralization

I bring this issue up because of several articles I found while doing research…..these writings bring up the possibility of Iraq and Syria being able to profit from a program of decentralization…….

Source: Iraq’s regional decentralisation debate is heating up – Al Jazeera English

Source: No Going Back: Why Decentralization is the Future for Syria | World Affairs Journal

Could this truly be a godsend for these two countries?

But the one thing to keep in mind…..this is not a cure all…..

Obstacles will be many….but if a workable plan can come to light then why not give it a try?  I mean could not be any worse than the situation these days….

Once again…it should be the people that decide the future not the powers that are looking for some sort of benefit….whether is is natural resources or location…..the people will know what is best and the people will make any plan either work or fail…….

Syria: OOPS! Our Bad!

Last week the powers involved in the fight in Syria were pleased with themselves…..after months of talks there is a ceasefire in place……there have been some violations but for the most part the ceasefire has held for 5 days and counting…..

Everyone was certain that it would not last….that there are too many players for all of them to act as responsibly as the US…..

And then the news broke…….

Syrian government warplanes and special forces on Sunday destroyed several positions of ISIS in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour. The advance regained territory lost Saturday when Syrian troops were accidentally hit with airstrikes by the US-led coalition, reports the AP. The incident has threatened an already-fragile US and Russian-brokered ceasefire that has largely held despite dozens of alleged violations on both sides. The Syrian Foreign Ministry called the strikes a “dangerous and blatant aggression.” The ministry’s statement, sent to the presidents of the United Nations and the UN Security Council, said US warplanes repeatedly attacked Syrian army positions Saturday in strikes that were “on purpose and planned in advance,” and killed dozens of soldiers.

Russia’s military said at least 62 soldiers were killed in the Deir el-Zour air raid and more than 100 wounded. On Sunday, the state-run SANA news agency quoted an unnamed military official as saying that dozens of ISIS fighters were killed in the offensive on Tharda mountain under cover of Syrian airstrikes; ISIS had claimed its fighters captured Tharda mountain. The Syrian military official said government troops had regained control of areas the extremists captured, “as a result of the American aircraft aggression.” Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ISIS fighters shot down a Syrian warplane over Tharda mountain, adding that its pilot was killed. The Observatory said intense strikes by Russian warplanes have killed at least 38 ISIS fighters since Saturday.

After all the finger pointing and accusations….it would seem that the US and its air power have destroyed a fragile ceasefire.

In the defense of the Deir Ezzor Airport, the Syrian military has long depended on an army base in Jebel Tharda to repel ISIS advances. That base has been lost this weekend, after a disastrous series of US-led airstrikes killed a large number of Syrian troops defending the base, and ISIS quickly overran what was left.

For over 20 minutes, the coalition warplanes attacked the base. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attack killed at least 83 Syrian troops and wounded 120 others. The US Central Command claimed they thought the base belonged to ISIS.

It does now. With the forces decimated by the US attack, ISIS quickly overran the base. Syrian state media claimed an ongoing effort to recover the site, but it does not appear to have been successful yet, as ISIS managed to shoot down a Syrian warplane, flying out of Deir Ezzor Airport, over Jebel Tharda.

Never ask what could go wrong….just a thought.

While writing this post it became official……

Syria’s military command has declared the US-Russian brokered ceasefire over, blaming the country’s rebel groups for undermining the agreement that lasted seven days, reports the AP. In a statement Monday, the Syrian military said that “armed terrorist groups” repeatedly violated the ceasefire that came into effect last week. It said the armed groups also took advantage of the truce to mobilize and arm themselves while attacking government-held areas. The statement said the rebels wasted a “real chance” to stop the bloodshed. Activists and rebel groups also accuse the government of violating the ceasefire. The UN said the Syrian government has obstructed the delivery of aid, a key component of the deal.

Speaking earlier Monday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, US Secretary of State John Kerry said some humanitarian assistance is moving. The truce took effect last Monday with the goal of creating a joint US-Russia military facility to coordinate airstrikes on ISIS and an al-Qaeda affiliate. That was to be set up after seven days of reduced violence and sustained aid deliveries to Aleppo and other areas. Syrian state TV earlier quoted President Bashar al-Assad as saying that the airstrike of the US-led coalition against his troops was meant to support ISIS. Assad described the attack that killed dozens of Syrian soldiers in the eastern province of Deir ez-Zour as a “blatant American aggression.”

Syria: A Ray Of Hope

There is news and then there is NEWS…..over the weekend there was some major news only it has been shuffled to the background thanx to the antics of the political process and the political games….

Syria has been a mess for years….everyone fighting everyone else to the point that it is more confusing than a plot on Reality TV……but through all this death and destruction a small ray of hope has broken through……

Russia and the US announced plans for a ceasefire in the five-year Syrian civil war Friday, CNN reports. Under the agreement—which both the Syrian government and opposition groups have tentatively agreed to—calls for an end to hostilities starting at sundown on Monday. Secretary of State John Kerry says the “bedrock of the agreement” is the government’s cessation of air force missions in any areas occupied by rebel groups. “That should put an end to…the indiscriminate bombing of civilian neighborhoods,” Kerry says. According to the AP, Kerry calls the ceasefire a possible “turning point” in the war that has killed more than 500,000 people.

The announcement came after “intensive” talks in Geneva, the BBC reports. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave journalists waiting for the end of 13 hours of negotiations pizza “from the US delegation” and vodka “from the Russian delegation.” The ceasefire will allow the UN to deliver humanitarian aid to hard-hit areas, including Aleppo, where nearly 700 civilians—160 of them children—have been killed in the past 40 days. If the ceasefire lasts a week, the US and Russia will start planning joint military operations against al Qaeda and ISIS fighters in Syria. But such ceasefire agreements have failed in the past. “We think [the arrangement] has the capability of sticking, but it’s dependent on people’s choices,” Kerry says. “It is an opportunity and not more than that.”

Beginning sundown today……A nationwide cease-fire by Assad’s forces and the U.S.-backed opposition is set to begin across Syria at sundown Monday. That sets off a seven-day period that will allow for humanitarian aid and civilian traffic into Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and commercial capital, which has faced a recent onslaught.

Fighting forces are to also pull back from the Castello Road, a key thoroughfare and access route into Aleppo, and create a “demilitarized zone” around it.

Also Monday, the United States and Russia will begin preparations for the creation of a Joint Implementation Center that will involve information sharing needed to define areas controlled by the radical Nusra Front and opposition groups in areas “of active hostilities.”

The center is expected to be established a week later, and is to launch a broader effort toward delineating other territories in control of various groups.

As part of the arrangement, Russia is expected to keep Syrian air force planes from bombing areas controlled by the opposition. The United States has committed to help weaken the Nusra Front, an extremist group that has intermingled with the U.S.-backed opposition in places.

A resumption of political dialogue between the government and opposition under U.N. mediation, which was halted amid an upsurge in fighting in April, will be sought over the longer term.

Now the part that should the blogs in multiple directions is the fact that US and Russia are working in partnership (for now)……..

The United States and Russia working in lockstep against ISIS and al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. A rejuvenated truce that will compel President Bashar Assad’s air and ground forces to pull back. New flows of badly needed humanitarian aid. Those details emerged Saturday as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov capped another marathon meeting in Geneva to present their latest ambitious push to end Syria’s devastating and complex war, the AP reports. The potential breakthrough deal, which promises a new US-Russian counterterrorism alliance, launches a nationwide cessation of hostilities by sundown Monday.

The military deal would go into effect after both sides abide by the truce for a week and allow unimpeded humanitarian deliveries. Then, the US and Russia would begin intelligence sharing and targeting coordination, while Assad’s air and ground forces would no longer be permitted to target Fath al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front; they would be restricted to operations against ISIS while the US and Russia target both groups. The deal will hinge on compliance by Assad’s Russian-backed forces and US-supported rebel groups, plus key regional powers such as Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia—though as with previous blueprints for peace, Saturday’s plan appears to lack enforcement mechanisms.

What could possibly go wrong (he asked smilingly)……

What are the chances of success with this effort?  Now there is a good question.

In order to evaluate the value of the Kerry-Lavrov effort, we only have the patterns of previously exerted efforts, conducted separately or in a minimum de-confliction mode, to assess the extent of the individual impact of each power, then proceed to explore the potential impact of both combined.

In the case of Russia, its recent intensive air raids around Aleppo and Hama have not achieved their purpose on either front. The armed opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra, has made very impressive progress on both battle fields.

In the case of the US, the state of play in northern Syria shows a very limited ability to influence the dynamics of the on-the-ground-course of the fight: Turkey’s incursion – the defection of hundreds of Arab Syrian fighters from the US-backed, predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to join the Turkish-assisted opposition west of the Euphrates – previous failed US attempts to train Syrian forces in order to set them up against terrorist forces – these are but a few examples of a long list of trials and failures for US involvement in Syria.

Therefore, it is safe to say that Russia’s heavy bombardment plus Assad’s and Iran’s repeated offensives on multiple fronts have not reversed the dynamics on the ground in any substantial way. The US has not fared any better. Neither have its attempts to train forces, play the SDF off pro-Turkish forces, and other shallow and similar tactics changed the dynamics.

Considering such a dismal record for the two powers on the ground, independently, it is only natural to review whether together they can achieve any degree of success in fighting terrorism jointly. In other words, we must return to examining the link between the two powers, either working together or alone, on the one hand, and the course of the actual conflict on the ground as it progresses.

(MEBriefing.com)

Time will tell if this will be a successful endeavor……my guess is there are too many players with too many goals for it to be successful…..and I hope I am mistaken.

But am I?

One group has already rejected the truce……

An influential Syrian rebel group, the hardline Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, on Sunday rejected the truce deal brokered by Russia and the United States hours before it was due to begin.

A high-ranking member of the group, which works closely with former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, said in a statement on YouTube that the deal would only serve to “reinforce” the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and “increase the suffering” of civilians

Not a good start, huh?