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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

ISIS continues attacks on provincial targets, as civilain casualties mount.

Link: Rare ISIS VBIED in Basra.

As the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continue to inch closer to the strategic areas of Ramadi, ISIS reminds Baghdad of the breadth of its reach, as Vehicle-Born Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) are detonated in suburban areas of Baghdad, Diyala Province, and south of Basra.  The attack in Zubair, south of Basra was especially concerning as only one previous VBIED has ever been detonated this far south.  The weekend of bloodshed is a clear indication that ISIS will not deter from its overall plan to make the provinces of Iraq more and more difficult to govern.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in Diyala Province, where a VBIED in the town of Khalis casts doubt on the success of recent security measures taken by the militias/Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs).  With much of the police manpower at the front, supplementing the Armed Forces, the PMUs have taken a more visible role in providing security on the streets of Iraq.  The PMUs have elaborate mechanisms in place to defeat the attempts to successfully detonate a VBIED.  All of the roads are monitored closely, with numerous checkpoints and roadblocks.  Somehow, ISIS continues to get VBIEDs on the roads.  Almost every VBIED has been driven by a single male, usually in his 20's.  Unfortunately, in Iraq, the highways are full of cars whose only passenger is the young man behind the wheel.  The only truly effective way to eliminate the use of vehicles as moving bombs is to force everyone to either walk, bicycle, or use public transportation.  Sadly, this would probably result in the use of buses as mass killing machines.

With recent VBIED attacks in Baghdad, Diyala, Basra and Salah al-Din Provinces, ISIS continues to demonstrate basic freedom of movement.  The ISF has also ben unable to permanently cut the roads between Fallujah and Ramadi.  ISIS is able to move personnel and supplies into Ramadi, although with the Allied Air Campaign in full swing and the ISF artillery getting more and more accurate, I wouldn't chance a trip on that road.  Why haven't all the roads leading into and out of Ramadi and Fallujah been completely destroyed?  Is it out of concern for the number of civilians who still live in these communities and rely on the roads for food, medical care, and as a means of last-minute evacuation?  No one has been able to come up with a reliable figure as to how many civilians remain in Fallujah and Ramadi (it appears that Fallujah is less deserted than Ramadi), but it can't be a pleasant place to be at the moment.  What is most frustrating is that while the government is training its resources to the breaking point in an attempt to recapture Ramadi, ISIS is able to plan and execute daily VBIED attacks in Baghdad and numerous bordering provinces.  The giant pink elephant in everyone's living room at present, though, is Ramadi- what is going on in Ramadi?  Are the special police units and military actually making daily progress in retaking the city, or have we passed the point for reasonable expectation of victory?  In fact, does evidence exist that the ISF has broken off offensive operations in Ramadi and Fallujah?  Is the government just waiting for the best time to spill the bad news?  Serious fighting continues in and around Baiji and in Salad al-Din Province, and the Kurds in the north regularly find ways to ambush ISIS patrols, so how important is Ramadi?  From a confidence perspective, it means everything.  If the government announces a general retreat from Anbar, then they had better be prepared to invite the Iranian Army across the border, because someone has to stop ISIS before they storm Baghdad.  Actually, a military collapse would provide just the justification for direct Iranian military intervention.  The players would then be in place for Putin's grand scheme.  The Russians destroy Assad's opposition in Syria, then tackle ISIS head-on, while the Iranians engage ISIS in Iraq.  Ideally, in the end, with ISIS vanquished, the Russians and the Iranians would meet up and shake hands, like the Russians and the Americans/British did in April 1945 at the River Elbe in Germany.  Putin would be hailed as a tremendous leader and the man of the hour, and the Iranians would have totally reformed their image, and could for the most part dictate the state of affairs in the Persian Gulf.  Lets meet in year, same time, same place, and see how my prognostications played out.

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