The attacks in Paris have the potential to be game changers. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls exclaimed, “nous sommes en guerre” (we are at war), and President Hollande told the world that “France will destroy IS.” President Obama announced that the U.S. stands together with France, and Secretary of State John Kerry announced meetings with his French counterpart to determine exactly what form the response will take. Talks of war are in the air, and it has been seized upon by many of the Republican hopefuls, and some Democrats have lent their voice to the jingoist chants. Whichever path of response that we choose, we would do well to make sure that we don’t repeat the disastrous invade-first and think-about-what-happens-next-later mode that produced the Iraqi mess and the resultant ISIS conundrum. ISIS has been successful in recruiting Western Muslims, in part, by framing it as a war between Islam and Christian Crusaders–a reminder of the humiliation, plundering, and rape that accompanied the Crusader’s conquering march to the holy land. Meanwhile, candidate Donald Trump, whose ten hour... Read More
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
The Iran and Greek deals. Taking stock. If the Iran deal kept the conventional arms embargo, it should be a Win,
Win deal. Tsipras and Syrza having some intra-party opposition. May require a National Coalition Government.
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
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