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Friday, May 22, 2015

Thoughts and observations on Iraq and Syria.

[ALink: Washington Post blames Iraq for ISIS success.

A quick read of the Washington Post's latest analysis of the conflict in Iraq has left me a bit disappointed.  The Post seems content on laying the blame for the disaster that is Iraq at the feet of the Iraqi government.  They would be absolutely correct in their assessment.  They would also be displaying a sad lack of journalistic integrity and follow-through.  Once the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) retook Iraq without the assistance of the Shi'a militia, the Obama Administration was quick to take as much credit as the press corps would allow.  Its probably accurate to opine that Tikrit would not have fallen as quickly if it weren't for the air support provided by the Obama Air Coalition.  The fact that Tikrit was retaken without the militias gave support to the idea that the ISF and the Air Coalition could successfully defeat the Islamic State (IS) alone.  All the while, analysts with a bit of experience and patience to their credit, were politely reminding the excited Administration folks that trouble was brewing in Anbar.  The truth is, trouble never stopped brewing in Anbar.  The IS had every intention of an offensive to take Ramadi and isolate Haditha and the al-Asad Air Base, long before the retaking of Tikrit.  If anything, it made the task easier by withdrawing the more experienced and reliable elements of the ISF (undeniably necessarily now that the militias have lost favor) from defensive positions in Anbar to the assault on Tikrit.  As we expected, Joe Biden's celebration of the fall of Tikrit was short-lived, as everything since has turned to shit.  Baiji will probably fall (the Obama Administration is already negating the importance of Baiji by reminding the press that the facility does not have the adequate professional staff on hand to properly function), as will other small pockets of ISF resistance, and Baghdad will begin to sense the noose.

Today we learned that IS had taken Palmyra, and if the Islamic State follows its usual game plan, then antiquities from the time of the Old Testament are likely to be destroyed.  We've heard this refrain before, as every sacred archeological site in Mesopotamia seems to either be ruined on or the chopping block.  Call me uncaring and cold-hearted, but the loss of Nineveh, Babylon and Palmyra aren't what gives me a case of the Red-Ass.  What really burns me up learning about all the vehicles and equipment that the ISF left in Ramadi!  I want to know, was this equipment LOANED to Iraq, or was it sold to them?  We went through this once before, in the Battle for Tikrit Part I.  At that time, the equipment that was deserted on the battlefield and picked up by IS fighters, was all donated to the Iraqi military.  But this time around, I expect some accounting!  Anyone in the Democratic Party ever heard of financial accountability?  How about, "once-burned, twice shy"?  I know at least twenty Humvees were left for the IS to confiscate, but what really worries me is, what about artillery,  rocket launchers, mortars, ammunition?  Did the U.S. taxpayer AGAIN pay for equipping the IS?  From this point forward, I suggest we require payment UP-FRONT for any military equipment. 

Lets chat a bit about the "Free Syrian Army" (FSA).  That's all we can do, is chat a bit, because no one has ever really spoken about it.  True, the FSA has a nice introduction, which provided a narrative which the press corps was supposed to read between the lines.  The not-so discreetly hidden message in the narrative was that this FSA was supposed to act as the surrogate ground force that the Obama Administration was unwilling to introduce into the conflict.  Its my understanding that extensive training was undertaken in Jordan, with careful steps taken not to rush the issue.  Well, folks, the issue appears to have rushed itself.  I have no clue where the FSA is located and if they have actually seen any action.  In fact, I was relying on some form of engagement, so that I would have an idea what side they would be fighting.  We can assume that the FSA would not engage regime forces, so would IS forces be the main target?  Well, they might want to get moving, because the IS seems about ready to pin-the-tail on this donkey.

I wouldn't advise anyone to keep a lookout for the FSA.  I assume that given recent developments, it would be difficult to stop the IS and Jabhat al-Nusrah from finishing off the Assad regime.  Certainly the FSA, if it had the numbers, could cause all sorts of problems for the IS in the area south of Damascus and near the Jordan border and the Golan Heights, but I wouldn't advise getting too close to areas patrolled by the Israelis.  So yes, the FSA could cause trouble for the IS in the area of Damascus (and south), but what would be the point?  All it would accomplish is possibly provide a lifeline to Assad, although even that seems unlikely.  The smart move is to disband this army of modern-day mercenaries and give them a bit of cash for their troubles.  What worries would be some brilliant military strategist in the Administration making the argument that the FSA should be used in Iraq to fight the IS.  Ideally, forcing the IS to defend its western border in Anbar sounds like a smart move.  But I have always been opposed to surrogate armies.  If the cause isn't important enough to use U.S. troops, then it must be someone else's war.   

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