This is the year of bluster and pomposity among some Republicans. First, Donald Trump says that although he doesn’t know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, he’ll know all he needs to in 24 hours. Then, of course, he’ll be the greatest foreign policy President we’ve ever seen. Twenty-four hours, that’s all it will take. Today, Dick Cheney said that by agreeing to the Iran deal the U.S. “agreed to guarantee that the means of its own destruction” will have been given to Iran. “Madness,” he called it…Read More
Turkey finally joins fight against ISIS. Kurdish PKK attack Turkey. Iraqi Conundrum made more complicated.
What a merry go-around. The Kurdish Peshmerga have proven to be the best Iraqi fighters against ISIS. The Kurds have been asking for weapons from us directly, i.e., not handed out piecemeal from the weak Shia dominated Iraqi government. Something we should do, right? But wait. The Turks don’t want us to do that. We have been trying to get Turkey, the biggest power in the immediate region and a member of N.A.T.O., to let us use a base in Turkey for our air strikes against ISIS. We have also been after Turkey to help directly in the fight against ISIS. This past week they finally entered the fray, in a limited way, after attacks by ISIS on a Turkish city that lies on their border with Syria. They also finally agreed to allow us to use the air base, in exchange for us trying to create a safe zone in Northern Syria. So why don’t they want us to provide heavy military supplies directly to the Kurds to...Read More
Are we on a “fools errand” for trying to (successfully) train Shia to fight ISIS and stabilize Iraq?
Last week we introduced the thesis that “peace candidate” Obama embraced Bush era policies in Iraq that have badly backfired. Now we are flailing about in search of a viable strategy to deal with Syria as well. Essentially, ever since we mistakenly failed to keep elements intact from Hussein’s Republican Guard we had become the law and order stabilizer of Iraq. At enormous cost of treasure and lives both among our forces and Iraqis themselves. The hostile sectarian nature of Iraq, primarily between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, dominates the thinking and fighting on the ground. About six million Kurdish peoples with their own agenda of an independent Kurdistan live in Iraq, mostly in the northwest. Saddam Hussein was an ethnic Sunni as were the Republican Guard soldiers. The Shia, who trace their roots across the eastern border with Iran, number about half of Iraq’s population. They live mostly in an area of eastern Iraq, from Baghdad south. Iraq is the site of the Shiite holy...Read More
President Barack Obama was elected on a platform that emphasized getting out soldiers out of Iraq. Through much controversy he managed to get most of our combat forces back home, but the serious question remains whether by doing so he contributed to the ISIS growth in Iraq. Similar concerns have been voiced over his caution in supporting the hodge-podge of anti-Assad groups in Syria. Some of these are friendly to the United States, some very much problematic, some downright hostile and potentially dangerous to both our interests in the region and to peace in the area in general. Not that those who are hostile to the U.S. are at all shy about asking us for weapons and air support. Whatever moves we make in Iraq or Syria seem to be fraught with traps and incredibly costly tabs. We have spent so much in this war to date that for those monies we could have provided free college tuition and medical care for years to come. Each “grand strategy” that...Read More
Attempt to retake Ramadi with Shia militia (and some Sunnis begins). Yemen update: Peace talks in Geneva
In recent weeks, we have tried to explain the fall of Ramadi in the Anbar Provence of Iraq and the crisis in Yemen where the Outhouse’s had effectively taken over the government and the key cities of Sana’a and Aden. In Ramadi, the government’s army forces, who received training at the hands of the U.S. Army trainers, once again ran from their positions leaving many of their U.S. provided arms behind for the successful ISIS victors. In Yemen, the sobriquets “terrorist” and “Iranian surrogate” were loosely applied to the Houthis. This ignored the fact that the Shia Houthis were formed to fight al Qaeda in Yemen and were supported by the former leader of Yemen, the Sunni Ali Abdullah Saleh. I argued that historically the Houthis were always willing to negotiate, recognizing the minority position that Shia occupy in Yemen. In Ramadi as in the rest of Anbar, the population is overwhelmingly Sunni. The government forces are Shia and not very effective at fighting ISIS. The key...Read More
We keep hearing that we are not in the business of “nation-building.” Yet our insistence that all military aid must go through the national government in order to provide a unified, integrated Iraq, clearly is nation-building. And like many such efforts, this one seems elusive to the edge of calling it impossible. We’ve had how many years now, from Bush to Obama, where the Shia dominated government has failed to take the suggested steps towards integrating the Kurds and Sunnis into a national unified Iraq? Simply put, the Shia national forces have no will to fight. And the Shia don’t trust the Sunni Militia after years of Saddam Hussein. Hussein was a Sunni, though he eschewed any religious power in his Baath Party rule of Iraq. Embarrassed by their troops’ helter-skelter retreats in Mosul, and more recently in Ramadi where they left valuable weapons behind in their rush to run from the battles—even when they significantly out numbered their ISIS opponents–Shia governmental leaders have yielded the battlefield to...Read More