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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Shit is About to Hit The Fan, Folks.

Links: A. Real-time situation report from the battlefields of Iraq.
           B. Real-time situation report from the battlefields of Syria.
           C. Real-time situation report from the battlefields of Ukraine.

Before we take a graceful swan-dive into the subject of today's post, I want to bring attention to the three links that I have provided.  All three links are generated from the same blog, "The Institute for the Study of War" (ISW).  At times I have praised certain websites and blogs, especially if I find myself becoming a regular visitor.  But I must truly take my hat off to the people behind this blog.  I am repeatedly amazed by the detail, accuracy, and familiarity with ground truth, that is so evident in ISW updates.  I am most impressed with ISW's ability to provide the same high-caliber reporting from three separate battlefields.  Personally, I'm already combining the Syrian and Iraqi zone of conflict, but Ukraine is entirely different nut altogether.  Everyday I wait for my email from ISW; kudos to whoever runs the show for turning me into and out-and-out ISW junkie!

After taking a few minutes to praise another blog, allow me to take a few more to praise my own.  We have been raising the warning flag regarding the Islamic State's (IS) ability to threaten Baghdad for some months now.  Yesterday, the IS launched a furious assault on Ramadi and also NW of Ramadi in the direction of al-Asad Air Base, a location that had received a great deal of attention from just about everyone.  It is likely that the IS will occupy Ramadi, at least most of it, and also probable that the ISF, and or a Shi'a militia, will snatch it back.  But this game of give-and-take is accomplishing something strategic and tremendously valuable to IS.  You see, the continued battles for the Sunni communities on the road to Jordan provide the IS with the opportunity to seed the bedroom communities of Baghdad with sympathizers, and eventually operatives.  The style of semi-urban warfare takes a page out of Vietnam.  One of the many reasons that the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong were initially so successful in the Tet Offensive of 1968 was the pre-positioning of sympathizers and irregular forces in the close suburb communities outside Saigon, DaNang, and Hue.  We are convinced that the IS has been seeding various Sunni residential areas outside the capital with supporters and operatives, waiting for the order to become operational.  The IS also seeded the Yarmouk Refugee Camp just outside of Damascus, and they were so successful that analysts are already conceding that territory to the IS.  Its not rocket science.

We at Mukhabarat, Baby! are growing more concerned every day for the still-substantial number of American and European non-combatants in Baghdad.  Its my understanding that certain agencies have re-deployed officers back to Iraq after the Obama drawdown.  Here is a very important question: if the U.S. has non-combatants (intelligence officers, engineers, instructors, linguists, support staff, etc.) widely dispersed in places such as Basra, Erbil, Mosul, and Baghdad, who do these people look to for protection?  I'm not exactly sure how many U.S. troops are in Iraq and what their designation happens to be, by last November President Obama was given approval to send 1,500 troops (specifically in a training posture) to Iraq.  So whatever civilians the U.S. government and its contractors have in Iraq are relying upon the lightly-trained Iraqi Security Forces and possibly the odd Shi'a militia for protection.  Forgive me, but we find this arrangement unacceptable, given the IS' track record in dealing with prisoners.  We must be proactive, and either move our people out, or take steps to ensure their safety by the U.S. military.

Syria also appears to be nearing the finishing line, but we've been beating this horse to death lately.  Because of the myriad of equities involved, the IS may not go in for the "coup de grace" for some time yet.  If Russia had given the slightest inclination of providing Assad the military support he needs, then possibly it would be best for the IS to strike while the iron's hot. But Russia seems solely interested in dumping its excess weaponry and equipment in eastern Ukraine, where it is greedily gobbled up by the various separatists groups. I saw a video clip last week that I haven't been able to relocate, otherwise I would have included it on my links.  It was a clip of a group of separatists trying to make heads or tails out of a relatively small missile or grenade launcher of some sort.  To cut to the chase, the evil guerilla driving accidentally ran over one of his guerilla buddies.  I haven't laughed so much since the photo of the Pakistani guy catching his arm on fire as he tries to ignite a U.S. flag.  Priceless.  Back to Syria.....certainly it appears that the IS is in position to pick off regime-held towns along the Anti-Lebanon mountain chain, until reaching Damascus.  If Assad were still in town, then the IS could seal up the place and starve him out.  But by then, Assad will have vacated the premises for more pleasant digs.  But the IS must eventually address a few political issues regarding the various factions that have been opposing Assad as well, some of them for a much longer period of time.  We have argued that the numerous groups, including Jabhat al-Nusrah, Khorasan, and the IS, are, at the end of the day, loyal to the Sunni cause and the leadership of Osama bin-Laden.  Would the IS share authority with the others?  And what of the Free Syrian Army?  Obviously they can't be abandoned after volunteering to fight as a proxy ground force for the Pentagon.  Something tells me that the lot of 'em, families in tow, will be receiving Resident Alien status.  And who am I to complain?  At least its something that this administration does well.

Of the three trouble spots that we've been examining (with the expert guidance of the ISW), Ukraine appears to be the one with the most staying power.  I can't imagine that the Russian Army will roll across the Ukrainian border, make short work of the Ukrainian Army, and then occupy the entire country.  This festering boil will continue to fester for some time to come.  Putin is obviously committed at some level.  Russian troops and tanks are in Ukraine, and Russian Migs and Sukhois are patrolling the skies in the east.  At one point, it appeared that Putin was attempting to use the Donbas region as a bargaining chip, to ensure that Kiev and the west recognize the Russian occupation of Crimea.  As Putin, who still thinks like an intelligence officer, sees it, a simple trade would have been sufficient.  We stop destabilizing Donbas, you forget about Crimea.  But we've moved quite a bit down the road since then.  The Ukrainian Army has shown itself to be far less effective than originally thought.  In fact, in many instances, it has been the separatists who have won the day in direct clashes with the Ukrainian Army.  Its possible that the government of Ukraine is holding back its major military resources in case a defense of Kiev of the heartland is necessary.  We can't say.  One thing is for sure...the Ukrainian Army currently in the field in the southeast, will be chewed up quickly if the anticipated offensive takes place as expected.  Its true that members of the U.S. military are currently in Ukraine, assisting in the training of the many new recruits that have poured into the recruitment offices in the west of the country.  But what the Ukrainian military needs more than anything else (short of western military intervention), is a dump of military weapons and equipment.  If the G.I. from Savannah, Georgia is going to tech the young Ukrainian private how to shoot an M16, it would be nice if an M16 were available for the private to use.  Back to the bigger picture....we still aren't convinced that Putin has in interest in swallowing up the entire Ukraine. It would be more trouble than its worth.  A struggling economy, reliance on Russia for energy, a vocal, agitated youth movement, and issues with NATO would be waiting for Vladimir if he managed to occupy the entire country.  Its possible that he simply wants to bring Ukraine back into the fold, and at the same time, annex both Donbas and Crimea.  Crimea is worth the hassle....but Donbas?     

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