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
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
This past week, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain took advantage of the fall of Ramadi to attack, once again, President Obama’s foreign policies in the Middle East. He was especially critical of the ad hoc nature of our responses to instability in that region. He called for increased U.S. military presence in Iraq. Three points should be understood: 1) McCain rarely passes up an opportunity to attack President Obama, often with quite personal attacks, 2) He has called for more military involvement in every Middle Eastern crisis since the Arab Spring–and generally elsewhere as well, 3) Criticisms of American Foreign Policy as reactive, and not embracing some grand strategy, have been made throughout the past century, encompassing administrations of both parties. Let’s take a look at each of these three points. The first one involves some personal vendetta, perhaps a carry over from the 2008 Presidential campaign in which he was defeated by Obama. To understand fully the personal nature of his attacks on the President would...Read More