American Combat Troops inevitable return to Iraq Part II

Posted on: September 10th, 2014 by Will Rodriguez 51 Comments

In Part I of this essay I laid out the path that led to the current situation in Iraq.   I discussed the most commonly mentioned intervention approaches i.e. having partners fight ISIS and/or expanded use of airstrikes and how neither is likely to be successful.  Most importantly, I explained that without a very clear and concise end state, the proposed approaches would just be efforts to convince the American public we are doing something for the sake of doing something or worse, creating even a more perilous situation.  Saying we want to destroy ISIS isn’t an adequate end state.  We need to articulate how we want to leave the region.  Defeating ISIS for Iran to have a free hand in Iraq and Syria isn’t victory.  It’s doing someone else’s work for them and setting the stage for a larger conflagration down the road.

The conclusion to my essay lays out what our national security interests are in the region, what we should do, why we won’t, what we will do and the precarious future which will likely lead to a large scale intervention or worse.


US National Security Interests


We have a national security interest in what’s happening in Iraq and how it will turn out.  Besides confirming for the national conscience that the price we paid for Iraq was not in vain, ISIS’ destruction, Iraq’s stability and Iran’s position in the Middle East are important to US national security.

ISIS has stated and demonstrated its goal and outstanding ability to destabilize the Levant (roughly the region of the Middle East from Israel/Lebanon to Baghdad).  It is in the process of destabilizing Lebanon, a borderline failed state, where ISIS’ flags grow in popularity, where ISIS has beheaded two Lebanese soldiers and capturied 30 others.   Lebanese Christians are arming themselves.   Jordan is swamped with Syrian refuges from the civil war.  These nations along with Israel, Syria and parts of Iraq makes up the “Levant” in ISIS’ other name ISIL.  The Huffington Post makes the case that ISIS wants to replace the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia.  Turkey, a member of NATO which we are bound by treaty to defend, is belatedly recognizing the same mistake Assad made in allowing itself to become a transit point for Islamic Radicals.  Turkey is clamping down on the stream realizing its vulnerability.

ISIS ideology and goal is clear.  ISIS wants to establish a hard line Islamist state, a Caliphate with Sharia as its law.  ISIS’ Al Qaeda background, substantial military successes, organization and assets serves as a nexus for radical Islamic terror.  It will continue to create an army of radical Islamic fighters including hundreds of jihadists with western passports.  These jihadists will be able to blend into and return (either officially or surreptitiously) to their nations with military training, experience and a will to expand the caliphate.  On CNN, Secretary of Defense Hagel stated more than 100 Americans have pledged loyalty to the Islamic Caliphate.  Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Mike Rogers said on Meet the Press, “hundreds of Americans were affiliated with the group.”

Add to this concoction the eventual resources of ISIS as a nation state e.g. funding , weapons to include WMD acquisition/development, intelligence capabilities, sanctuary etc. and the threat becomes much clearer.  ISIS also serves as a focal point for the radical Islamic movement.  Concentrating Islamic Radicals is bad idea.

ISIS presents a clear danger to our allies in the region.  ISIS success will create a flood of terrorists that will practice terrorism in our allies’ home nations and eventually us.  They will destabilize international travel.  Besides the threat of low level or even spectacular terror attacks, ISIS will threaten the lifeblood of civilization, that being the flow of oil with all of the economic destabilization that will bring.  The US still imports a significant portion of its oil from the region but our allies are even more vulnerable.  Fluctuating oil supplies also strengthen Russia’s position in the world and make it harder to impact their behavior.   If one can’t accept the evidence I’ve presented maybe listening to Gen Martin Dempsey the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will help?

“ISIL is radical in its ideology, brutal in its tactics, and closed to all but those who adhere to their narrow and exclusive world view. Freedom is antithetical to ISIL and that’s what makes them dangerous. The US military considers ISIL an immediate threat initially to the region, our partners, and to the United States of America in the longer term. “

Today, the State Department warned all federal law enforcement organizations that ISIS has “demonstrated the capability to attempt attacks on US targets overseas with little-to-no warning.”  The bulletin also reminded all US law enforcement to monitor social media that may expose a terrorist attack by homegrown terrorists.  What it does not say is how ISIS inspires this madness.


What we should do


The US should clearly state the purpose of US intervention in the region is to destroy ISIS definitively and “assist” Iraq in establishing a new inclusive government that can defend itself from external and internal threats.  Unsaid should be the roll back of Iranian influence in Iraqi governance as well as the intent that we develop a pro-western and stable Iraq so we can finally leave Iraq with a one way ticket.  This is a comprehensive end state.  How we accomplish the end state is strategy.

Our first priority should be fixing Iraq’s internal political situation.  There can be no lasting accommodation and eventual stability in Iraq if Sunni and Kurdish interests are not represented and protected in Baghdad.   We can offer to be the honest broker to protect Sunni/Kurdish participation in Iraqi governance.  This undercuts Sunni support for ISIS in Iraq similar to our approach during the Iraqi surge.  We can also send the message to the Shia that if they don’t want a joint solution we may be forced to support a partitioned Iraq.  That is our ultimate ace in the hole, though with it comes a host of issues that I’ve mentioned before specifically Iran and Turkey don’t want an independent Kurdistan and Sunni Iraq doesn’t have many resources.  A partitioned Iraq is a formula for more conflict.

Our next effort should be to eliminate Shia militias.  According to the Pentagon half of the Iraqi army can’t be advised because they are heavily infiltrated by militia influenced by Iran.  The militia is simultaneously a source of sectarian strife and Iranian influence.  As a Craig Whiteside from WarontheRocks said:  “The rebirth of the militias is a function of this latest crisis, and the opportunistic use of them by a panicked government has short-term security benefits but is catastrophic in the long term. The recent massacre allegedly conducted by the Shia militias in Diyala is an unsurprising consequence of allowing ideologically intense but untrained and undisciplined young men to undermine the state’s monopoly of the legitimate use of lethal force. Furthermore, if this is what we get for acquiescing to Iranian Quds Force trainers on the ground, we need our money back. Quds leader Qasem Suleimani might be a genius at spreading mayhem, but the counterinsurgency skills of the group are suspect.

Simultaneously at home the administration should passionately make the case to the American people of what a threat ISIS is and how the US cannot withdraw from the world nor show less commitment than those we ask to join us in the fight.  ISIS doing beheading videos, talking about putting their knives at the necks of Americans and tweets with the ISIS flag with DC and Chicago as backdrops don’t make this exceptionally hard.   That’s not even addressing the points I made previously.

We should employ & deploy whatever military power necessary to defeat ISIS.  Sadly this should include a significant number of US troops.  Employment of US troops first in the Kurdistan area would enhance their local security, Kurdish relations and reinforce that ace in the hole I mentioned before.  It would also block further Iranian military deployments in the region.  Meanwhile, SOF could pave the way for larger US troop employment bringing the other half of the Iraqi Army  to standard.  I would not use the US brigade stationed in Kuwait in the event that leverage may be necessary on the Shia south.

On the international front we should welcome as much participation as we can get from Europe and at a minimum have them pay out the nose for us to ensure their oil supply again.  We should try to persuade Saudi & Jordanian military operations against ISIS along their respective borders and at every turn obstruct Iranian influence.  This is no small task.  Iranian influence and military aid has been poorly reported.  Few realize that Iranian troops in the thousands are in Iraq today as well as Iranian pilots flying half a dozen newly returned SU25s and even Iranian tanks, APC and helicopters.  Iran was also the first to send arms to the Kurds to fight ISIS.  Iran’s tentacles are deep into Iraq and that bodes bad news in the future.  Disturbingly none other than Qasem Soleimani the leader of the Iranian Quds force has been reported in the Iraqi city of Amerli which was recently freed from ISIS encirclement ironically by US airpower.  The New York Times reported that the Special Forces assessment of Iraqi forces believed among those units loyal to “outgoing” Prime Minister Maliki are so dependent on Shiite militias and Iranian Quds Force advisors that American troops might be at risk if assigned to train these units.

Finally, this time we must leave a residual force to further train Iraqi military forces, conduct select counter-terror operations against radical Islamist elements, provide certain military capabilities as Iraq develops its own e.g. defend Iraqi airspace, provide intelligence surveillance reconnaissance (ISR) capability, signals intelligence functions etc. and assist Iraqi democracy take hold e.g. limit Iranian influence and deter non-democratic or sectarian tendencies if they arise in Iraq’s new government.  Behind the scenes, a residual force should be part of the deal Iraq must pay for our intervention along with sharing some of the burden of the cost.  Over time as we defeat ISIS, the case should be made to the American public.


Why we won’t


Sadly we will not do this.  To be concise, the administration lacks the strength, fortitude and foresight to act or will to educate Americans about what’s at stake.  What I described above is diametrically opposed to how the administration envisions American power being brought to bear.  Further, it requires an admission that the previous approach was a failure..

Secondly, after over a decade of the left convincing America that US military action is wrong and ineffective to wrest power from the right (and then ineffectively trying to use that military power e.g. Afghan surge & Libya).  Americans are mentally unprepared for the wholesale employment of US military might without an explanation from its leaders, an explanation that will never come.

The administration sees foreign affairs not as a primary responsibility but a distraction from its primary interest, domestic initiatives.


What we will do


The administration will emplace a vaguely described US effort spearheaded by unnamed or incapable “partners”, vehemently promising no deployment of US ground troops (while we have 1200 troops and soon to be more on the ground).  The end state will be an unconvincing and ill defined “dismantle & defeat” of ISIS (or ISIL, so the word Syria doesn’t enter the conversation).  This “goal” will be achieved by a “nuanced” air campaign too complicated to explain to the common man.  It is a prescription for incremental escalation something we have seen with the piecemeal commitment of “non-combat” troops shortly after the fall of Mosul.  Who would ever have thought an Apache attack helicopter platoon and a half weren’t combat troops?  What are they sling loading?  (BTW Apaches don’t have a hook) This pitiful approach will satisfy the public’s need for action without putting in place a solution.  This is in effect a solution after all.  It’s the means to delay the inevitable commitment of US troops into combat roles in Iraq until a new president is in power who the present administration can blame for not having a nuanced touch or without the force of personality of the current administration.

This will be further justified by the administration’s enablers with congratulations for not involving the US in another civil war.  The term “civil war” is key.  It is less threatening than talking about terrorists who publicly threaten the US and behead journalists.

The next two years will be punctuated with a slow but steady increase in airstrikes, drones, CIA, special ops involvement and private military contractors serving as the band aide to get us to Jan 20 2017.  Iraqi militias, unpublicized Iranian partners, aid to Kurds (which will make them less inclined to join Iraq later and will sow the seeds for conflict with Turkey and Iran), a largely symbolic European assistance (except for the Brits) will be the echo to the sounds of battle with ISIS.

Unique moments like VP Biden’s strident claims that we will, “Chase them (ISIS Terrorists) to the Gates of Hell will be countered by missives like the unnamed special operator who said: “Chase them to the Gates of Hell? How the [f—] are we going to do that when we can’t even leave the front gate of our base!?”  Morale is going to take another hit in our armed forces.

As I said in Part I, the wrong kind of intervention will hurt our interests.  Arming the Kurds will set them up for their eventual failure at the hands of Iran or Turkey and may even include our involvement over a sense of ownership since we have been intimately involved supporting and protecting the Kurds since 1991.   Further our ill-defined operations will be responded to with clear ISIS viciousness enabling a further portrayal of the US as a paper tiger. This perception will play a role in the realizing the larger US intervention in the future.

There are two potential near term outcomes to our halfhearted and halting intervention in Iraq.  ISIS will be pushed back or it won’t.

If ISIS is pushed back it will likely look like Syria II which has killed 190 thousand thanks to Iranian warfighting methods and maybe US airpower.  Iran will ascend in influence, power and military capability.  You usually do after winning a war.  Iran will export instability into Lebanon via its Hezbollah proxy.  Jordan will be cowed or undermined by Iranian elements or their Syrian proxies, payback and setting up Israel.  There will be imminent hostilities with Israel.  Kurdish conflict is unavoidable.  Saudi Arabia goes nuclear the day after Iran does (Saudi Arabia is rumored to own Pakistani armed nuclear missiles that only need to be delivered).  Oil prices skyrocket over uncertainty in the region.

If ISIS holds/expands it will increase its capabilities (militarily, governing, media), continue to destabilize Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Turkey.  The sheer number of nations involved makes it likely somewhere ISIS gets lucky.   ISIS will continue to draw/train terrorists from the world with the westerners exporting the skills learned in the region to their home countries.  A Caliphate gains de facto worldwide recognition becoming a banner for radical Islamic unrest to coalesce around.  Oil prices skyrocket over uncertainty in the region.

Recent news strongly implies joint and growing US Iranian cooperation.  The siege of Ameril was not lifted solely by airpower.  The Iranians had militiamen from the Badr Corps provide the ground power.  The presence of Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force mentioned above, reinforces the importance and strength of Iranian presence.  Apparently Iranian and US airstrikes were alternately coordinated in the area.  Finally, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader has approved military cooperation with US military forces.   This news, coupled with the administration’s cozy negotiations with the Iranians over its nuclear program whose second phase has been extended four months support an outcome along the lines of the first scenario I described.


A Precarious future


Either outcome results in a stronger and larger enemy that will not be deterred by “airstrikes and regional partners”.  After years of conflict the winner will have prepared for that eventuality.  Multiple Islamic nations will be fighting radical Islamic movements within their borders supported, trained and directed by the radical Islamists who win in Iraq.  Winners, with the assets of its satellite nations Syria and Iraq.  Oil prices and potentially the supply will be impacted with worldwide repercussions.  This path can lead to nothing else but a major conflict.

The spark may be the introduction of weapons of mass destruction and/or a strike at a major symbolic or population center like Mecca or Tel Aviv.  Another potential flash point could be a ground invasion of the major players either of, or by, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq/Syria or Iran.  In any of these cases we will be drawn into the conflict to protect the world’s lifeblood.  That may happen due to a pre-emptive strike on our forces in the region (e.g. Kuwait or Qatar).

Airstrikes won’t be enough.  Ground troops will be required in strength (remember why we had to send divisions to Saudi Arabia) and with the magnitude of the passions and radical Islamic ideology involved this will not be a short nor regionally isolated conflict.  Additionally the direct participation of Russia cannot be discounted or Russia and China may see the events of the Middle East as an opportunity to achieve long sought after goals.  In that case, if not before, all bets are off.

The result of this inevitable large scale intervention could result in fundamental changes to our way of life or even a defeat of the nation with unimaginable consequences.

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • LawyerHandle

    While I generally agree that Obama will not do what it takes to actually defeat ISIS, some hope can be found in the latest NBC/Wall St. Journal poll that found 2/3 of Americans support military action against ISIS (although only 1/3 support boots on the ground)- on some level this disproves the media narrative myth that the US public is “war weary”; however, at the same time, it shows that we are still incredibly causality averse as a nation. The other positive I saw in that poll was that only 13% of the public believes destroying is NOT in our national interest (cough, Rand Paul, cough).
    From what I’ve heard, Obama will announce that he is expanding the air operation into Syria, in addition to sending more “advisors” to the region to train and arm moderate Syrian rebel groups. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • YankeePapa

    …Excellent assesment… and not at all hopeful.  The administration said a couple of days ago, “This will not be an Iraq war…”  (???)  Are they going to move it to Sweden?  
    …”Arming the Kurds” has become more popular with folks like the Germans.  The Iraqi central government was holding back arms (while large amounts being abandoned to the enemy) as “leverage” over the Kurds… which was not a good move when they were the best force in the field… and Baghdad’s forces not doing so well. Political power over survival… The South Vietnamese government really into that… right up to the bitter end…
    … If ISIS had not reared its ugly head, it is entirely possible that Baghdad would have “reconsidered” many of the safeguards re the Kurds that were set up once the Saddam regime fell.  Such Sunnis as might be willing to consider allying with Baghdad are going to be looking for meaningful power sharing… Baghdad keeping a firm grip on its Shia militia units… Also, how they treat the Kurds.  If the best force (and one capable of preventing a sudden “suppression” by Baghdad) is continually treated as just short of the enemy… what hope for the Sunnis?

    … Turkey has very reluctantly defrosted slightly (one would hardly say “warmed”) towards a more independent Kurdish government… the alternative is ISIS hard up against the Turkish border.  Turkey is holding back somewhat on ISIS in part because of 40 some odd hostages including diplomats.  Of course, if ISIS out of the picture Turkey might rethink its current tolerance of the Kurds…
    …If half of the Shia units are indeed “contaminated” by Iranians…  then Baghdad may have to make a choice.  If the administration had a solid policy and was reliable, then the Iraqi national government might decide that American help… the unity of the country… and avoiding the long term fate of the Quisling regime in Norway ( puppet with absolutely no real authority…) was worth a massive reduction in Iranian influence.  
    …But the administration’s reputation is a bad joke.  Iran will be there long after we are gone.  Like the South Vietnamese, Baghdad will probably take everything that we can give them… while making appropriate noises to keep the administration happy.  If their intent is otherwise, they have precious little time in which to act… 

  • LawyerHandle 
    Yes the polls are reassuring but the public’s ignorance is not.  Too many people today believe the BS that air-power can be decisive on its own.  As our TV’s are filled with drone footage of ordnance blowing the occasional ISIS target to smithereens, people will equate explosions with effectiveness and we’ll soon here how AQ, whoops, I mean ISIS is “on the run”.

    Something that hasn’t been touched upon is the President’s limitation on waging war.  He can of course take action unilaterally for reasons of time but he must go in front of congress and given the Libya experiment I don’t expect to see this.  Further growth of the Imperial Presidency.

  • YankeePapa Thanks.

    course, if ISIS out of the picture Turkey might rethink its current
    tolerance of the Kurds…”
    That deserved to be said twice.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod LawyerHandle ,
    …Military commentator indicated that White House may ask Congress for some billions to pay for this.  Commentator wanted to know why they would do this when the Pentagon has a $60 billion dollar “slush fund” to handle such matters…
    …The fund is the Overseas Contingency Operations account.  Supposed to be used to fund Afghan War… but closing that out will only take 1/3rd of that.  It seems that tapping into this fund to pay for actual military ops would step on some toes… as some in Congress and the Administration see it as a means to fund “pet projects” that could not make it through the regular budget process.  

  • YankeePapa

    …The French government announced that it will bomb ISIS…


  • clluelo

    Fantastic article Major. …not happy about the ending though and unfortunatley you are more than likely right on with your predictions

  • Luddite4Change

    majrod LawyerHandle Interesting aside on the President’s powers here.  Iraq is still part of a “Combat Zone” via executive order  (Actually its the Desert Storm E.O., but that’s another story).  Which in theory gives the President some better legal footing on taking actions within Iraq.

    Syria has never been declared part of a Combat Zone.  They were allies during Desert Storm, and where not included in the GWOT/OEF Executive Order and SECDEF Combat Support determination as Syria and Lebanon were not included in the CENTCOM footprint.  

    Despite the fact that DOD had multiple OEF support activities occurring in Syria/Lebanon after they became part of CENTCOM, the politics had changed and it wasn’t politically feasible to expand the combat zone designation to them.

  • Camo_Steve

    In about 20 minutes, the president will be announcing his plans to “defeat’ ISIS. I am sure many of the commentators here will be watching this. Hopefully, it is a detailed plan that provides purpose, direction, and motivation.
    With that said, with some hope and faith, maybe, just maybe, the president will pull a 180.

  • Luddite4Change

    YankeePapa majrod LawyerHandle The OCO is already causing some problems this month.  One of the reasons that the National Guard is having trouble paying for September drill is that they had budgeted some training days and pay were going to come out of OCO as opposed to normal funds.  GAO and OMB restricted what OCO could be used for (coupled with the decision not to send some RC personnel who would have their mobilization pay covered under OCO) and the Guard is left having to find the money.

    Funny, I would have thought that the NG would always budget for the one weekend a month and two weeks a years pay for each authorized soldier and anything picked up by OCO would just be gravy.

  • Luddite4Change majrod LawyerHandle 
    OEF ended a long time ago.  It was replace by Operation New Dawn AND Obama declared combat operations over…
    It’s extremely convenient to forget New Dawn and the NUMEROUS comments since.  The Pres is announcing a new three year campaign.  If the Pres wages war (not short contingency ops) he is usurping Congressional constitutional powers.

  • LawyerHandle

    Here’s a great article about Bush being right about what would happen if we pulled out of Iraq early:

  • Luddite4Change

    majrod Luddite4Change LawyerHandle I think you mean OIF.

    While POTUS did declare combat operations over, he and Congress never got around to the legal necessities of issuing an Executive Order to close the Combat Zone and ending the Authorization to Use Military For in Iraq.  (If they wanted to save paper they could have closed the Kosovo Combat Zone at the same time with one E.O.)

    Agree with your assessment that he is usurping Congress’ Article II powers in this regard.  

    Of course, this is the same administration that went to war in Libya without a Congressional Authorization, and as a result made the decision not the award the AFEM to participants due to it not being a “combat operation”.

  • LadyHW

    Good write up. 
    Iran and US are already hunting ISIS together. My opinion: The Administration is so set on leaving a legacy of disarming Iranian nuclear ambitions that I think they are willing to let Iran be in Iraq in hopes that Iran will reevaluate it’s relationship with the US and disarm Nukes. 

    that’s my assumption

  • LadyHW maybe, but it isn’t going to happen.  Iran will be a nuke power.

  • LadyHW

    majrod LadyHW Oh, I agree. But that is what the Admin is thinking. I’d almost guarantee they are. They are idealistic fools.

  • Luddite4Change majrod LawyerHandle 
    Thanks.  You’re right and I think you may have meant OIF at some point.  🙂
    As an aside, you won’t see this side of the debate on Rick’s blog…

  • Michael_mike

    Camo_Steve Just watched and from a naive perspective, I’d say between 12 and 30 degree at best. He have acknoledged the presence of a threat that can’t be addressed with economics sanctions and decided to act militarily buy he still refuse to do something he would consider to be starting a war. That just show how much he wanted to get out, and never come back.

  • Luddite4Change

    majrod Luddite4Change LawyerHandle I fear that your assumptions as to what we will do, are correct. 

    I think we need to also recognize that while we are increasing military engagement in Iraq/Syria, were not going to be putting the service draw downs on hiatus.  While the recent dust up of deployed non-retained captains and majors caused but a blip on the Congressional radar screen, we could easily go into territory where there are separation boards coupled with selective stop loss.

  • Pingback: American Combat Troops inevitable return to Iraq Part I » Grunts and Co()

  • steelhorse

    Not the most happy outlook Will but thanks for writing it really wasn’t surprized by your conclusions (head in hands) WW3 and the clowns in dc will never see it coming

  • steelhorse They are counting on us not putting it together.

  • Txazz

    Once again, spectacular, Maj.  I feel the brain drain.

  • LawyerHandle

    Does this sound familiar? Obama rejects the advice of his military advisors in favor of advice from his political operatives….

  • LauraKinCA

    Don’t know if this is true, but if so, wow… “entire leadership of ISIS opposition killed in one blast…

  • steelhorse

    All to familiar standard sop for these clowns finger in the wind decisions just like Obama said about playing golf after Foley announcement its all about the optics

  • LawyerHandle 
    And NOTHING will be said in the MSM.
    Consider how many times we’ve heard Rumsfeld/Bush pummeled for not listening to Shinseki who didn’t support the troop lean approach…

  • LawyerHandle

    There are rumors that the FSA (Free Syrian Army) and ISIS in Syria have supposedly agreed to a truce to focus their efforts on Assad. That’s an interesting development- and if we play it right could be very advantageous to our overall goals in the region.

  • LawyerHandle

    This is the biggest attempt at a puff piece that I’ve seen recently about Obama; however, in many ways it achieves the opposite of what it intended and shows a president that really has no clue what is happening around him. I’d suggest not eating of drinking w/in 30 minutes of reading this article as your food & beverage might come back up…

  • LadyHW

    LawyerHandle I was not surprised by the article. Obama is in damage control for public opinion, and this is SOP for his administration. They invited reporters to “see him” in action in order to try to refram the issue and “being careful” not “cowboy Bush” approach. The access was predicated on cooperation of the NYT with the Administration crafted message they wished to put out. The quotes that interested me was the defensive nature of Obama’s quotes and his complete dismissal of his failure to make a decision. It came across as hubris and condescending. 

    Though a puff piece, the quotes further indicate his complete tin ear to listening to alternative view points. He was unconcerned and self-oriented. Also note the lack of definition on why ISIS is a danger. There was no reference to the threat to the region and the foundations of the Islamic entity stance of war against The West. There was reference to the beheadings, but that was framed as a unfortunate and stupid action by ISIL/ISIS. In his view, ISIL should have put a note on the hostages to the US to stay out of here and then released them.” That assumes they are reasonable and negotiable. I stared at that sentence a few minutes stunned.

    This indicated he is entirely underestimating the threat– and views this as a legal -cultural problem only. “If only…they were listening to me… I could help them get what they really wanted.” Anyone else recognise hubris in that attitude?

    The advisors who understood the national security threat, are probably pulling out their hair about now. Or feel helpless —

  • clluelo

    A truce to maybe get ahold of more US issued weapons ?

  • LawyerHandle

    Gen. Dempsey is testifying in front of the senate armed services committee right now and he strongly alluding to the fact that US ground forces will necessary to accomplish the goal of defeating ISIS, assuming that is the real goal. Based on the presidents history, however, I think it is safe to say his goal is to simply contain ISIS & leave it for the next guy to clean up.

  • LawyerHandle

    One more thing; the Administration is now calling some of the troops in Iraq “close combat advisors” as opposed to regular “advisors” that were just stationed on bases…. That’s some Bill Clintonesque parsing of words.

  • LawyerHandle
  • YankeePapa

    …The Turks “mysteriously” got their hostages back.  Meanwhile:

  • Highly recommended read on the Kurds state of mind and general state.  Great insight on Kurdistan and the future.*Situation%20Report&utm_campaign=SitRepSept22_2014

  • LawyerHandle

    The F-22 made its combat debut the other night in Syria…

  • LawyerHandle

    The A-10 is on the way as well… That’s a more interesting development, IMO, given its role is much, much different that the F-22 which is being primarily used as a bomber.

  • LawyerHandle 
    Interesting find and classic Air Force hypocrisy when it again comes to the A10.

  • LawyerHandle
  • Has a bunch of really good questions posed about my essay over on DoDBuzz.  Thought I’d post them here.
    Guest –  I did read your piece, and it is a thorough and edifying analysis of the
    situation and options for US action. However, I must confess that there
    are a few things I don’t understand:
    1) you describe a US
    threat of a partitioned Iraq as our “ace in the hole” against
    pro-Iranian Shia. Why is that? Why would the Shia be so invested in a
    unified Iraq?
    2) regarding the rolling back of Iranian
    influence, doesn’t Iran remain a better partner to the Shia than we are
    no matter what? They are geographically contiguous (i.e. committed to
    interests in Iraq constantly and forever), of the same religion, and
    have the money and power to keep the Sunnis at bay. The US, on the other
    hand, is a nation of “infidels,” we are thousands of miles away, our
    interest in Iraq is not as strong and perhaps most offensively, we work
    with the Sunnis and the Kurds. Why would *****e Iraqis choose us over
    3) while I agree with your assessment of the limitations
    of airpower and the usefulness of US ground troops in fighting ISIS,
    what about the effect that US ground troops in Muslim “holy lands” has
    on inflaming Islamic radicalism and actually helping groups like ISIS
    recruit? It seems to me like a Catch-22: ground troops would be most
    militarily effective against ISIS, but they also cause terror groups to
    grow and metastasize while lacking the ability to impose a long-term
    political solution without credible regional partners. This is why I
    ultimately sympathize with the Administration’s desire to “lead from
    behind” – doesn’t any long-term political solution have to be a Muslim
    4) while it is true that there are many ethnically diverse
    democracies in the world, there don’t happen to be any in the ME (with
    the arguable exception of Turkey, which is becoming increasingly
    authoritarian). Perhaps there is a reason for that? And yes, “ethnicity”
    is indeed an oversimplification, as the Stratfor article makes clear –
    there are indeed intermarriages and interethnic alliances in Levantine
    countries, but tribal/family loyalties tend to trump nationalism. While I
    sympathize with your DESIRE for a unified Iraq, I’m just not as
    sanguine about its chances.

  • My Response…

    Great questions. You should have asked them there so the readership could have benefited.
    The Shia see themselves as the replacements of the Sunni leaders. It
    would be pretty embarrassing if they weren’t able to do something the
    Sunnis did, keep Iraq whole. Second despite what the common knowledge is
    many Iraqis (especially the Sunni and Shia) do consider themselves,
    “Iraqis” and not just Shia, Sunni or Kurds.
    2. If one considers
    oneself a Shia first yes Iran is the better partner but as I said there
    is a strong nationalistic bent in Iraq. People seem to not remember
    history before they were born. Iraq and Iran fought a very bloody war
    and there were plenty of Iraqi Shia that fought in it. Further many
    Iraqis are envious of the US in many ways and aspire to be like us more
    so than be like Iran.
    3. We’ve had troops in the ME for
    decades. Where were the mass uprisings? Typically we are segregated in
    out of the way locations. Again the “common knowledge” is our presence
    is a recruiting tool. News Alert: our breathing is a recruiting tool for
    those so inclined. This argument is most often promoted by our
    isolationists and the left where any excuse will do. Again, if our mere
    presence is enough to cause a revolt among Muslims why has Incirlik, our
    naval base in Qatar and Army base in Kuwait not been stormed? The
    evidence doesn’t support the hypothesis but it sure sounds good to those
    that no reason is good enough for us to be there.
    4. Turkey is
    a big deal and its authoritarian bent is instructive not a predictor of
    all Islam. It would be worth looking at why Turkey is taking tat
    authoritarian path. I would propose it’s radical Islam just like radical
    Christianity supported the role of a king. Islam in fact has the
    tradition of the Shura, a pretty democratic concept. BTW, at one point
    our hemisphere only had one Democracy. I guess everyone else should have
    given up? Again, be cautious of what passes for “common knowledge” and
    who is passing that gas. When one needs an excuse to not do something
    any will do.
    Be careful about “common knowledge”. That kind of
    thinking ignored the potential for unrest when we invaded Iraq and
    expected the Cubans to rise up against Fidel at the Bay of Pigs.

  • YankeePapa

    majrod ,
    ….Quite so…

    …While Iraqi Shia leaders “lean” on Iran for a number of reasons… most of them… and most Shias do not want an Iranian “anschluss” of Iraq.  They have… and prefer to continue having… a separate identity.  
    …Historically, many of the Shias converted from being Sunni starting in the late 17th Century.  Tribal leaders at the time did not consider it the “big deal” that it would be these days…

    “…This massive scope of conversion continued as late as the 20th
    century. Even in 1917, it was noted by the British that the conversions
    were still going on vigorously.Therefore, the Shia  of Iraq are mostly recent converts (i.e. from the late 18th century and onwards).

    This conversion process of the nominally Sunni tribes was so
    successful for a number of reasons. One reason was that, nomadic Sunni
    Arab tribes either settled to sedentary agricultural life in the
    hinterlands of Najaf  and Karbala, or traded with them in the 19th
    century and increasingly interacted with the people of these two Shia holy places…. 
    … Another reason was the Ottoman policy of settling the nomadic Sunni
    Arab tribes, in order to create greater centralization in Iraq.Another reason was that conversion was a form of protest of the tribes
    people to their treatment by their Sunni Ottoman overlords. 
    … There was also the ability of the Shia missionaries from Najaf and
    Karbala to proselytize among the Sunni Arab tribes without official
    hindrance, due to their relative autonomy from the Ottoman Empire and
    the Ottoman’s only trying to respond to the conversions after it was too

    …Vidkun Quisling of Norway hoped that the Nazis would set him up in power.  Instead he was a token figurehead with no power at all.  Iraqi Shia leaders are quite aware that (at best) in an Iranian takeover they could easilly be pushed to the sidelines.
    …The Iraqi Shia not only have their own identity… but have dark and ugly memories of the period after Gulf War One when they rose up against Saddam and the Iranians let them be butchered.   Whatever their own failings… they are not frothing at the mouth to be part of Iran… 

  • LadyHW

    YankeePapa majrod I’m learning more and more about a history I know little about. Thanks for the information. One of the things I find confusing is the tribal versus the relgious sects. Do some tribes straddle religious sects? Or when tribal leaders accepted Sunni or Shia will the rest of tribe follow? 
    Iraqi nationalism. Does that proceed from tribalism? Or is it simply historical pride. Turkey for example has pride in thier Empire past.

  • LadyHW YankeePapa majrod 
    Tribes has an inderminate definition.  A motorcycle gang can be considered a tribe.  That said tribes tend to share one religion and are hereditary in nature.  Some can be more tolerant than others.  There are examples of a whole tribe converting throughout history.  It’s not common.
    Iraqi nationalism is relatively new resulting from creating Iraq after WWI.  Iraqi tribes are endemic to the region (and to thw whole world) since the days of the Sumerians which predate the Egyptians. 

    ALL these perspectives impact what’s going on in Iraq.  Some are more important than others at different times and at different levels.  It can be very confusing and requires one to constantly stay informed and re-evaluate one’s position.  The media ignores this.  Few people have the patience ti learn and many profit from pushing one theory that explains what’s happening.

  • YankeePapa

    LadyHW YankeePapa majrod ,
    …See Majrod’s comments…

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  • LawyerHandle

    I’m watching Panetta on Andrea Mitchell’s show while eating lunch (I can’t believe Im actually admitting to watching msnbc :-&) and Panetta was making an argument about how keeping a residual force in Iraq was necessary, if for no other reason than it was the most effective way at keeping pressure on Maliki to act in the best interests of all Iraqis, not just the Shia… That arguments sounds awfully familiar….

  • LawyerHandle 
    NAH!!!! What does he know!

  • LawyerHandle
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