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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Iraqi Security Forces launch offensive to retake Ramadi; PMUs tackling Fallujah separately.

Links: A. ISF launches offensive in Anbar.
           B. U.S. delivers first shipment of 36 F-16s to Iraq.

Iraq continues to crowd-out Syria for front-page news, as the government in Baghdad on Monday announced the long-anticipated offensive in Anbar Province.  The first goal of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) is the recapture of Ramadi.  Interestingly enough, the much talked-about Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) are targeting Fallujah.  The strategy, which appears sound, is to present the Islamic State (IS) forces with two cities to defend.  It will be interesting to see how the IS responds, given joint requests for resources; who gets the priority, Fallujah or Ramadi?  I like this strategy because it fully removes the initiative from the IS.  There had been concerns that the attack on Ramadi, along with the approach of the end of Ramadan, would encourage the IS to increase its Suicide Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device (SVBIED) in Baghdad.  In fact, SVBIED attacks have increased in both Baghdad and Diyala Province.  But creating a two-front engagement in Anbar Province forces the IS to live and die by the effectiveness of its supply lines and ability to reinforce.  The IS may not have the capability to continue its SVBIED attacks in Baghdad and Diyala Province.  This strategy does include a certain level of risk.  What if the PMUs succeed in retaking Fallujah, but the ISF fails with Ramadi.  The U.S. would also take the hit, because the Iraqi people affiliate the U.S. with the regular Army and Police.  We have been training these groups in one form or another for a decade.  On the other hand, the PMUs are obviously connected to Iran.  This might be an opportunity to Iran to chalk up another victory over the U.S. in the all-important "war of perceptions".

In another development, the United States began deliveries of thirty-six F-16s purchased by Iraq, eighteen in 2011 and another eighteen in 2013.  The reason for the delay in delivery vice the purchasing date, is directly related to the training of pilots to fly the F-16.  A majority of the training took place in the United States, and we are very confident that these Iraqi pilots will acquit themselves admirably. Once the Iraqi Air Force (IAF) is in possession of at least a handful of F-16s, it will be fascinating to compare the target selection with the target selection of the current allied air coalition.  Something tells us that the IAF will be much more active and aggressive, which will be a welcome development.  With the exception of the Taliban in Afghanistan, I've never seen a military force be as successful as the IS has been with regards to the allied air coalition.  weren't we all taught that control of the air wins wars?  Hell, we aren't talking about control of the air, we are talking about complete air supremacy.  One would assume that the IS in Syria and Iraq would be obliged to conduct all military operations at night.  That hasn't been the case.  One would think that the world's greatest military superpower would be watching from satellites and drones, for any sign of activity whatsoever during daylight hours, and then call in the just call in the airstrikes.  Look, we realize that nothing is ever that simple.  But something just doesn't add up.  We are supposed to have the military air resources of the United States, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, the U.A.E. and Iraq dedicated to the destruction of the IS.  And yet we continue to see one IS victory after another, particularly in Syria.  In fact, in recent memory the only damage that the IS has sustained from the air has come from Assad's Air Units.

Each week seems to bring more horrid videos of IS crimes against humanity.  And these are videos that are being professionally recorded and distributed by the IS.  These beasts are beginning to make the Marquis De Sade look like Mary Poppins, for goodness sake.  Our question is, why have we been unable to implement blanket coverage over the skies of Iraq and Syria?  I remember a time not too long ago, when the Iraqi Army and former Iraqi Republican Guard, were too frightened to stick their heads outside of bunkers for fear that a bomb would land on their heads.  And remember the drone video clips from Afghanistan that we've all seen, of Taliban attempting to organize, only to be greeted by a cruise missile? Why isn't this the case with the IS in Syria and Iraq?  Are we out of bombs?  Have we run out of drones?  One day someone will ask the question, "why wasn't this plague destroyed while it was still in its infancy?" Actually, I'm asking the Administration and the Pentagon that question NOW.

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