Friday, September 25, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Friday, September 25, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, the grades are coming in and Barack's getting Fs, RAND has a new report, and much more.

Starting with a Tweet.

    1. It's revealing that this Australian govt thinks the answer to 's problems is (more) planes and bombs. That's been tried before, people!

  • It's revealing that any US government can only think of  "(more) planes and bombs."

    US President Barack Obama is only the latest American fool to preach "(more) planes and bombs."

    And despite the lack of success for over a year now, he continues to advocate it.

    And others, like the Australian government, rush to join in on the deadly nonsense.

    The stupidity only increases collectively and apparently in unison.

    The rush to join the death club clouds reason and even the abilities of basic observation.

    As RT noted this week, "Over 53,000 flights, 6700 strikes, and nearly $4 billion dollars later, Operation Inherent Resolve has yet to achieve any of its objectives."

    But the desire to join the death club is too powerful to be let facts get in the way.

    Yesterday, the US Defense Dept boasted:

    Bomber, fighter, fighter-attack, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 16 airstrikes in Iraq, coordinated with the Iraqi government:
    -- Near Huwayjah, an airstrike destroyed 16 ISIL fighting positions.
    -- Near Habbaniyah, an airstrike destroyed two ISIL anti-air artillery pieces.
    -- Near Kirkuk, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
    -- Near Mosul, six airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL vehicle bomb-making facilities, an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL cache, an ISIL bunker, and suppressed an ISIL heavy machine gun, an ISIL light machine gun, and two ISIL mortar positions.
    -- Near Ramadi, three airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroyed two ISIL buildings, an ISIL excavator, and three ISIL mobility obstacles.
    -- Near Sinjar, three airstrikes struck separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed and ISIL light machine gun and six ISIL fighting positions.
    -- Near Tal Afar, one airstrike suppressed ISIL mortar fire.

    Officials also announced a previously unreported Sept. 10 airstrike near Tal Afar, Iraq, which struck an ISIL tactical unit and resulted in a destroyed vehicle and the death of a senior ISIL leader.

    They boasted of that (and of bombings on Syria) and:

    The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations, officials said.
    Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Canada, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

    It was nice of them to provide a listing of all the delusional parties who shouldn't be allowed access to a water gun, let alone a bomb.

    But each day, they boast of their latest round of bombings when they should be embarrassed.

    Not only is it barbaric, but it's accomplished nothing.

    Operation Inherent Failure, led by Barack Obama.

    Is that redundant?

    It feels redundant.

    Bringing up the stupidity from the rear, Michael Knights (Al Jazeera) writes:

    Iraq's Kirkuk province has long been identified as a fulcrum for political and ethnic tensions, with the potential to make or break national reconciliation efforts between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. With each passing week, Kirkuk rises on the agenda of Iraqi politicians and the province is becoming a focal point for Arab-Kurdish and intra-Kurdish politicking.
    Kirkuk is currently central to five interlocking sets of conflicts. The first is the fight against the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, which is slowing down in central Iraq and which has been largely static along the Kurdish-ISIL front line for many months. The US-led coalition now needs to generate a new northern front against ISIL that fuses together Sunni Arab paramilitaries with Kurdish and international support. Kirkuk is the launchpad for operations against the adjacent ISIL redoubt in Hawija.

    It's a cute little scribble that never manages to grasp reality.

    Should we drop back to July 2011 for the RAND Corporation's report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops"?

    From the July 26, 2011 snapshot:

    Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's  report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."  The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while arguing this is the answer.  If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing else happens, you may have read the already read the report.  CBMs may strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage counselor.  (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.)  Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years.  And had outside actors.  The authors acknowledge:
    ["]Continuing to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.  While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.["]
    As you read over the report, you may be struck by its failure to state the obvious: If the US government really wanted the issue solved, it would have been solved in the early years of the illegal war.  They don't want it solved.  The Kurds have been the most loyal ally the US has had in the country and, due to that, they don't want to upset them.  However, they're not going to pay back the loyalty with actual support, not when there's so much oil at stake.  So the Kurds were and will continue to be told their interests matter but the US will continue to blow the Kurdish issues off over and over.  Greed trumps loyalty is the message.  (If you doubt it, the Constitution guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by December 31, 2007.  Not only did the US government install Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2006, they continued to back him for a second term in 2010 despite his failure to follow the Constitution.)
    Along with avoiding that reality, the report seems rather small-minded or, at least, "niche driven."  Again, the authors acknowledge that as well noting that they're not presenting a solution to the problems or ways to reach a solution, just ways to kick the can further down the road and, hopefully, there won't be an explosion that forces the issue any time soon. ("Regional and local CBMs have the potential to keep a lid on inter-communal tensions that will, without question, boil beneath the surface for a long time.  They cannot, however, resolve what is, at its heart, a strategic political dispute that must be resolved at the national level.") Hopefully? Page nine of the report notes that the consensus of US military, officials, analysts, etc. who have worked on the issue is that -- "given enough time -- Arab and Kurdish participants will eventually have a dispute that leads to violence, which will cause the mechanism to degrade or collapse."
    The report notes that, in late 2009, Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq at that point) had declared the tensions between Arabs and Kurds to be "the greatest single driver of instability in Iraq."  It doesn't note how the US Ambassador to Iraq when Odierno made those remarks was Chris Hill who dismissed talk of tensions as well as the issue of the oil rich and disputed Kirkuk.
    The authors argue that the unresolved issues could still be solved (and "civil war is not imminent") but that "the window is quickly closing".  So what's the problem?  The authors explain:
    ["]The issues that divide Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and other minorities in northern Iraq mirror the nation's most complex and contentious political challenges: disputed internal boundaries (which must be settled in order to determine the territorial boundaires of the Kurdistan region), the lack of clarity regarding control over Iraq's hydrocarbons, and the need to professionalize and integrate Iraq's military and police.  More locally, Arab-Kurd disputes extend to the sharing of power on local governing bodies, the ethnic composition of local police, rights to previously seized or abandoned property, the jurisidiction and condut of Kurdish security and intelligence services, and protections for minority rights.["]
    If the US military leaves can the US State Dept fill the role?  While the authors note that the State Dept is interested in doing that and might be able to grab some roles, "U.S. diplomats would be ill-suited to join Kurdish and Iraqi security forces on armed patrols or at checkpoints, where disagreements on operations and tactics are more likely to lead to violence." The authors think the United Nations might be able to play a role in the CBMs but acknowledges that in June of 2009, UNAMI was uanble to please either side.
    The report really ends there though the authors continue on -- including offering some ridiculous 'soutions.'  Reality, if the US wanted to make an impact on the issue, the time to do so was long, long ago.  It's an Iraqi decision and they'll have to decide it.  And they'll most likely do so in a violent manner.  The report notes, "Kurdish leaders hope that favorable demographic trends will strengthen their position over time, as will revenues from whatever energy contracts they are able to conclude themselves.  For its part, Baghdad seems to believe that improvements to Iraqi Army capabilities will deter armed conflict and prevent the KRG from seceding."

    The unresolved issue of Kirkuk remains unresolved.

    It is still disputed land.

    The Constitution of Iraq is still not being followed.

    But Knights waives away all of that and insists Kirkuk is the way forward  (obsessed Brit TV watchers would insist Essex is the only way).

    And RAND?  They just issued a report by Brian Michael Jenkins entitled [PDF format warning] "How the Current Conflicts Are Shaping the Future of Syria and Iraq."

     Sectarian and ethnic divisions are now almost entirely driving the conflicts.  At the same time, internecine conflicts continue among the jihadists and other religiously motivated rebel formations.  
    National armies have failed.  Power has shifted to militias.  These are capable of defending ethnic and sectarian enclaves but are limited in their ability to conduct strategic operations beyond their home ground.  This shift will, in turn, weaken central government authority. 
    Syria and Iraq are now effectively partioned, and those partitions are likely to persist.  The Kurds are consolidating their territory, united their enclaves in Syria and Iraq, and laying the foundation for a future independent state, although they have not announced their intention.  Although the Kurds are proving to be effective fighters when supported by coalition bombing, they are unlikely to advance into traditional Sunni areas.  The Syrian government has largely abandoned the Sunni areas of the country and is increasingly devoted to defending its sectarian bastion in western Syria.  The Shia-dominated government in Baghdad has not been able to win over any of Iraq's Sunnis and that will impede its ability to recapture the cities and towns now held by ISIL.  Whether ISIL, despite the bombing campaign and some pressure from Iraqi forces, will be able to consolidate its Islamic State and become the primary political expression of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq or, instead, a Sunni badlands emerge where warfare between armed rivals continue indefinitely, remains to be seen.

    If the new release from RAND were a report card, I have a feeling little Barry would be hiding it from his mother because, if you missed it, Operation Inherent Failure is a failure.

    Even the grade from shop class is dismal.  Ali Khedery (Foreign Affairs) observes:

    In 2010, still flushed with the success of Bush’s “surge,” Vice President Joe Biden forecast that President Barack Obama’s Iraq policy was “going to be one of the great achievements of this administration,” lauding Iraqis for using “the political process, rather than guns, to settle their differences.” And in 2012, even as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was running an increasingly authoritarian and dysfunctional regime, the administration continued its happy talk. “Many predicted that the violence would return and Iraq would slide back toward sectarian war,” said Antony Blinken, then Biden’s national security adviser. “Those predictions proved wrong.”
    Today, of course, the Iraqi army has all but collapsed, despite some $25 billion in U.S. assistance. Shiite militants who have sworn allegiance to Iran’s supreme leader operate with impunity. And the Islamic State (or ISIS) dominates more than a third of Iraq and half of Syria. Obama’s successor will thus certainly earn the distinction of becoming the fifth consecutive president to bomb Iraq.

    Yes, Barack's even failing shop class.

    I heard it in the wind last night
    It sounded like applause
    Chilly now
    End of summer
    No more shiny hot nights
    It was just the arbutus rustling
    And the bumping of the logs
    And the moon swept down black water
    Like an empty spotlight 

    -- "For The Roses," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name

    Chilly now.