Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, December 15, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack Obama delivers a speech on his (military) approach to the Islamic State, Saudi Arabia and others band together to form a new coalition (of fighters), and more.

Monday, US President Barack Obama gave a speech on the military approach he's leading against the Islamic State.  From the speech, we'll note this:

This fall, even before the revolting attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, I ordered new actions to intensify our war against ISIL.  These actions, including more firepower and Special Operations forces, are well underway.  This continues to be a difficult fight.  As I said before, ISIL is dug in, including in urban areas, and they hide behind civilians, using defenseless men, women and children as human shields.
So even as we’re relentless, we have to be smart, targeting ISIL surgically, with precision.  At the same time, our partners on the ground are rooting ISIL out, town by town, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block.  That is what this campaign is doing.
We are hitting ISIL harder than ever.  Coalition aircraft -- our fighters, bombers and drones -- have been increasing the pace of airstrikes -- nearly 9,000 as of today.  Last month, in November, we dropped more bombs on ISIL targets than any other month since this campaign started.
We’re also taking out ISIL leaders, commanders and killers, one by one.  Since this spring, we’ve removed Abu Sayyaf, one of their top leaders; Haji Mutazz, ISIL’s second-in command; Junaid Hussain, a top online recruiter; Mohamed Emwazi, who brutally murdered Americans and others; and in recent weeks, finance chief Abu Saleh; senior extortionist Abu Maryam; and weapons trafficker Abu Rahman al-Tunisi.  The list goes on.
We’re going after ISIL from their stronghold right down -- right in downtown Raqqa, to Libya, where we took out Abu Nabil, the ISIL leader there.  The point is, ISIL leaders cannot hide.  And our next message to them is simple:  You are next.
Every day, we destroy as well more of ISIL’s forces -- their fighting positions, bunkers and staging areas; their heavy weapons, bomb-making factories, compounds and training camps.  In many places, ISIL has lost its freedom of maneuver, because they know if they mass their forces, we will wipe them out.  In fact, since the summer, ISIL has not had a single successful major offensive operation on the ground in either Syria or Iraq.  In recent weeks, we’ve unleashed a new wave of strikes on their lifeline, their oil infrastructure, destroying hundreds of their tanker trucks, wells and refineries. And we’re going to keep on hammering those.
ISIL also continues to lose territory in Iraq.  ISIL had already lost across Kirkuk province and at Tikrit.  More recently, ISIL lost at Sinjar, losing a strategic highway.  ISIL lost at Baiji, with its oil refinery.  We saw the daring raid supported by our Special Forces, which rescued dozens of prisoners from ISIL, and in which Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler made the ultimate sacrifice.
So far, ISIL has lost about 40 percent of the populated areas it once controlled in Iraq.  And it will lose more.  Iraqi forces are now fighting their way deeper into Ramadi.  They’re working to encircle Fallujah and cut off ISIL supply routes into Mosul.  Again, these are urban areas where ISIL is entrenched.  Our partners on the ground face a very tough fight ahead, and we’re going to continue to back them up with the support that they need to ultimately clear ISIL from Iraq.  

One of the things that Barack's long advocated for was a regional force to combat the Islamic State -- Iraq and surrounding countries.

And, to a degree, that's now happened.

SPUTNIK reports, "Earlier in the day, Saudi Arabia announced the establishment of a military alliance between 34 predominantly Muslim states to fight terrorism. The joint operation's command center will be based in the Saudi capital of Riyadh."  Along with Barack, this sort of coalition has also been advocated by many members of US Congress -- Democrats and Republicans.  And US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has spoken in Congressional hearings about his belief that such a force is needed.

Most recently, he spoke of it in the December 9th Senate Armed Services Committee which we covered  in the Wednesday, December 9th "Iraq snapshot," "Turkey's invasion and occupation of Iraq continues..." and in the Thursday, December 10th "Iraq snapshot" while Mike covered it in "So now attack helicopters" and "What is the plan?," Betty in "Joe Manchin is a sad US Senator," Wally at Rebecca's site with "Who knew Ash Carter was a fan of The Killers?," Ava at Trina's site with "Those shameful senators," Ann with "That posturing and preening Senate Armed Services Committee," Ruth with "Senator Blumenthal misses the point," Kat with "Disgusting 'answer' to the refugee crisis" and Elaine with "Senator Claire McCaskill is a pig."  We'll note this exchange between Carter and Committee Chair John McCain.

Secretary Ash Carter:  Uh, a couple of things, Mr. Chairman.  First of all, to your main point about, uh-uhm, more American forces -- and I-I-I would say Special Forces but others as well that train, advise and accompany -- they're not Special Forces, we are doing --

Chair John McCain:  -- I was talking about a multi-national force.

Secretary Ash Carter:  There, Mr. Chairman, I-uh-uh, as I indicated, I too wish that particularly the Sunni Arab nations of the Gulf would do more.  And going way back --

Chair John McCain:  They are willing to do so --

Secretary Ash Carter (Con't):  -- to -- I've --

Chair John McCain (Con't):  -- if there's a large commitment.

Secretary Ash Cater (Con't):  -- I've had -- I've had lengthy conversations --

Chair John McCain:  And so have I.

Secretary Ash Carter (Con't):  -- with representatives there.  Well I-I-I-I have to say that, uhm, I have, uh, consistently emphasized to them that they have a unique role here and, uh, also so far as they're concerned about Iran which is another concern that they have -- by the way, that we have also -- a totally different but, uh, serious subject also.  Uh, that, uh, what I've emphasized to them is that we don't like it but the Iranians are in the game on the ground.  And I very much would like -- we would very much welcome -- we have repeatedly said this -- working with those countries on the ground because we believe as you noted that they, uh, would have a distinct advantage in a ground fight.  

On this new force, Saudi Arabi's official news agency, SAUDI PRESS AGENCY, issued the following:

Riyadh, Rabi'I 04, 1437, December 15, 2015, SPA -- A joint statement on the formation of an Islamic military alliance to fight terrorism has been issued. It reads as follows:

In the name of Allah, the Merciful,

Praise be to Allah and peace be upon Muhammad, the messenger of Allah,

Based on the Lord's guidance in the Holy Quran: (And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression), and on the teachings of the Islamic Shari'a and provisions that reject terrorism in all its forms and manifestations because it is a heinous crime and injustice rejected by all heavenly religions and human instinct.

Since terrorism and its atrocities - which spread Shari'a-forbidden corruption and destruction in the world - constitute a serious violation of human dignity and rights, especially the right to life and the right to security, and subject the interests of countries and communities to danger and threaten their stability; and acts of corruption and terrorism cannot be justified in any way, and hence it should be fought by all means and collaboration should be made to eliminate it because this is cooperation in righteousness and piety,

Affirming the principles and objectives of the charter of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which calls for member states to cooperate to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and rejects all justifications and excuses for terrorism,

Achieving integration, closing ranks and uniting efforts to combat terrorism, which violates the sanctity of people's lives, threatens regional and international security and peace, poses a threat to the vital interests of the nation and undermines coexistence in it,

Committed to the provisions contained in the United Nations' Charter, the charter of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other international conventions aimed at the eradication of terrorism,

Affirming the right of states to self-defense in accordance with the purposes and principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations and on the basis of the provisions of the OIC Convention on Combating Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and the elimination of its objectives and its causes,

Performing the duty to protect the nation from the evils of all armed groups and terrorist organizations - whatever their doctrine or title - which spread killing and corruption in the world and are designed to terrorize the innocent[.]

But before anyone could do a victory lap or take a bow, ALSUMARIA was reporting that the Chair of Iraq's Security and Defense Committee in Parliament, Hakim al-Zamili, was denouncing the new force and insisting that it did not represent Islam. al-Zamili is a member of the movement led by Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Pakistan's NEWS INTERNATIONAL offers coverage of other countries not participating:

The list did not include Shia Muslim Iran, the arch-rival of Sunni Saudi Arabia for influence across the Arab world. Tehran and Riyadh are ranged on opposite sides in proxy conflicts in Syria and Yemen.
Notably absent from the list is Oman, a neighbour of Saudi Arabia. In recent years, Oman has maintained a neutral role and has emerged as a mediator in regional conflicts, serving as a conduit from the Gulf Arabs to Iran.

Iraq and Syria, whose forces are battling to regain territory taken by ISIL and whose governments are allied with Iran, are not in the coalition.

While there was no time for a victory lap, there was time for a limited critique.  Howard LaFranchi (CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) weighs in with:

Yet as encouraging as the new coalition and the rhetoric around it may sound, the effort may end up as little more than window dressing. The announcement may be aimed at assuaging a world that after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks is demanding action by Muslims against the rising Islamist terrorist threat, some terrorism analysts say.
“The Saudis are under a lot of pressure, for what they’re doing in Yemen, from the accusations that they’re spreading Wahhabi ideology, and for what they are not doing on the military side of the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq. So I can see that this would have some propaganda value for them,” says Aaron David Miller, a former US diplomat in Middle Eastern affairs who is now a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington.

That is one aspect to criticize.

Another one, a better one, might be that yet again the focus is on military.

That's not how you defeat the Islamic State.

As Richard Spencer, Ben Farmer and Louisa Loveluck (TELEGRAPH OF LONDON) observe today, "A 16-month bombing campaign led by the United States has failed to crush Isil and military planners say victory will require the assistance of a unified ground force that can hold territory and progress under cover of air strikes."

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Fighter and bomber aircraft conducted eight strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
-- Near Huwayjah, a strike struck an ISIL vehicle bomb factory.
-- Near Ramadi, four strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, denied ISIL access to terrain, and destroyed three ISIL light machine guns, an ISIL heavy machine gun, four ISIL fighting positions, and an ISIL staging area.
-- Near Sinjar, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units, halted an ISIL vehicle’s movement, and destroyed three ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL heavy machine gun, and an ISIL light machine gun.
Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

These bombings have been going on since August 2014.

They have not defeated the Islamic State.

Nor can they.

You destroy the Islamic State by destroying that which gives it power and legitimacy.

Before the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, there was the long persecution of the Sunnis.

Instead of addressing this, the White House has looked the other way, some argue, or encouraged it.

Ned Parker (REUTERS) has a major report on abuses in Iraq carried out by Shi'ite militias and officials and the US government's long role in concealing that abuse and looking the other way:

The documents show how Washington, seeking to defeat Sunni jihadists and stabilise Iraq, has consistently overlooked excesses by Shi’ite militias sponsored by the Iraqi government. The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have both worked with Badr and its powerful leader, Hadi al-Amiri, whom many Sunnis continue to accuse of human rights abuses.
Washington’s policy of expediency has achieved some of its short-term aims. But in allowing the Shi’ite militias to run amok against their Sunni foes, Washington has fueled the Shia-Sunni sectarian divide that is tearing Iraq apart.
The decade-old U.S. investigation of the secret prison implicates officials and political groups in a wave of sectarian killings that helped ignite a civil war. It also draws worrying parallels to the U.S. government’s muted response today to alleged abuses committed in the name of fighting Islamic State.
Those accused of running the secret prison or of helping cover up its existence include the current head of the Iraqi judiciary, Midhat Mahmoud, Transport Minister, Bayan Jabr, and a long revered Badr commander popularly referred to as Engineer Ahmed.


There is no political solution in Iraq because the US government doesn't demand it.

This despite Barack declaring, June 19, 2014, that the only answer to Iraq's political crises was a political solution.

No efforts are made at diplomacy, no efforts are made to stop the persecution of the Sunnis.

And not only does the White House fail, so does the alleged peace movement.

  • American invasion of led to rise of ISIS and now candidates want to invade again with troops on the ground

  • A bunch of blowhards -- of any political party -- gather on stage and that's the big issue?

    For CODESTINK it is.

    At least, it is if the blowhards are Republicans.

    The failure to protect the Sunni people isn't an issue for CODESTINK.

    But they will whore and spin for the Democratic Party while pretending they're about peace.

    They will distract from the very real problems to whore for a political party.