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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Iraq threatening to descend into all-out war, mirroring Syria.

Link: ISIS threatens water supply to Iraqi civilians.

Last year, the Islamic State (IS) used its control of certain dams to impact the Iraqi civilian population's access to water.  In the end, their actions led to the flooding of Ramadi and other smaller, nearby communities.  The IS is again threatening to use its control of dams to further its military objectives.  The IS has already closed the Warrar Dam, north of Ramadi, jeopardizing water supplies to Habaniya and Khalidiya, two towns east of Ramadi.  There is concern that the IS as also closed the Fallujah Dam, south of Fallujah.  These developments can only increase the pressure on the civilian population, and bring Iraq that much closer to a humanitarian crisis.  In the big picture, these events demonstrate the rapid break-down in civil authority throughout Iraq.  The central government in is control of maybe fifty percent of the country.  In fact, the Shi'a south, from Hillah and Najaf down to Basra (and east to the Iranian border), appears to be the only part of the country that has not been infiltrated by the IS.  Anbar and Salah al-Din Provinces are war zones, as is Diyala Province, which borders Iran.  Dohuk, Arbil, Kirkuk, and Nineveh Province in the west have been scenes of sporadic fighting and numerous SVBIED (suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) for the past year.  Basically, whatever authority exists in the north is attributed to Kurdish forces.  As long as the IS occupies large parts of Anbar and continues to pressure the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Diyala, Salah al-Din, Baiji, and numerous other strategic areas, the authority of the Iraqi central government is diminished.

The operational execution of the IS forces continues to impress.  There is an obvious long-term focus on all offensive maneuvers, and every opportunity to exploit the lack of training and discipline of the ISF is exploited to the furthest degree.  The maturity exhibited by the strategic planning and decision making conflicts with the unnecessary civilian executions, although some will argue that the brutalization of the civilian population is intended to create a pliable and easy to govern people.  The IS is not a typical terrorist organization by any stretch.  With the exception of the Taliban (and this claim is open for discussion), the IS is the first terrorist organization with a true conventional military capability.  This fact is one of the reasons that we suspect a much more cordial relationship exists with Al-Qaeda than what has been demonstrated for the media.  President George Bush was determined to force Al-Qaeda into a conventional military confrontation in Afghanistan and (eventually) Iraq.  Once Saddam was defeated, it was imperative that Al-Qaeda not sit idly by as an infidel army occupied an Islamic nation.  Al-Qaeda took the bait, and from 2005 to 2008, was surprisingly resilient.  But in the end, George Bush was able to expose a flaw in the Al-Qaeda structure: it was not built for conventional combat.  By 2010 (thanks to the Sunni "Great Awakening" and the ultimate sacrifice of over 3,000 American heroes), Iraq was well on its way to building a middle class and reviving from decades of totalitarianism.  The one development which could torpedo all the progress, would be the rash and speedy withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq.  You see, the ISF was not yet prepared to defend Iraq.  The U.S. military was following a timetable that they had been led to believe, was "in stone".  The plan was to train the Iraqi security forces, police and special ops folks included, until they showed the capacity to protect their own people.  Instead, we announced to the world (and the IS, who were sitting in Syria, licking their chops, so to speak) that the U.S. military was leaving the security of Iraq to the ISF and departing Iraq on a fast timetable.

Even before the IS moved into Iraq, the organization had shown its ability to conduct conventional military operations. Syria was the ideal location to try out the world's first conventional terrorist army.  The most important factor for the IS is discipline.  Second is resources.  The IS does not seem to have any problem attracting volunteers, but, like any army, they can't be useful until they are trained and equipped.  The IS trains its recruits, and uses them where they are most useful.  Language is considered a valuable tool, especially in the media war.  The IS enjoys nothing more than shocking the folks sitting down to tea in London, with the image of a beheading carried out by a young man with a striking Cockney accent.  One of the factors that continues to impress us is the IS' ability to access and deliver resources to its units stretched out all over Syria and Iraq, and in the middle of an Allied Air Campaign, no less.    At least the IS has lost the element of surprise; they won't be sneaking up on anyone anymore, with "ISIS" being a dirty word in just about every language.  As it exists, the IS really is nothing but an army, fighting a conflict in Syria and Iraq.  The IS does not occupy the Executive Mansion of any particular country, nor does it have a representative political party that dominates a parliament somewhere.  Aside from sycophants and recruiters, ISIS is whatever we have before us in Iraq and Syria.  Which begs the question, with the dastardly and evil deeds they have committed, why haven't they been destroyed?  With the entire U.N. condemning their actions, and their every move likened to "terrorism", why are they still hanging around?

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