What to Expect from Iraq’s Attempt to Take Back Ramadi: Chaos

Iraqi forces deploy near Baghdad. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty)

Iraqi forces deploy near Baghdad. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty)

NRO, By Tom Rogan — May 27, 2015:

In 2007, the U.S. Marine Corps fought for months to recapture Ramadi from al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). And even with their exceptional training, leadership, equipment, and enabling support — logistics, intelligence and aviation etc. — the Marines’ battle was bloody and hard-won.

But that was 2007.

In 2015, though the necessity was apparent months earlier, calls from Anbari tribes for military support from Baghdad and President Obama to fight the Islamic State were ignored. Predictably, Ramadi fell. And now the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and so-called Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) must again retake the city from AQI’s successor, the Islamic State.

But the ISF and PMF aren’t the U.S. Marine Corps. Instead, they’re a ramshackle formation born of desperation.

While the ISF has a few professional (albeit ill-equipped) units, those units are few and far between. In turn, while the PMF has many hardened combat veterans, those veterans are Shia absolutists with their own divided loyalties.

Consider the groups that form the PMF.

First, there’s Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), a group of Iranian-supported terrorists responsible for many atrocities (including executing handcuffed Americans during the Karbala raid of 2007). Then there’s Kata’ib Hezbollah, another Iran-supported proxy that made its name killing Americans during Iraq’s pre-2010 period. There’s also the Badr Organization, which simultaneously controls Iraq’s Interior Ministry (responsible for domestic security) and deploys its own militia without restraint. Speaking unambiguously to its Shia-militant identity, the PMF logo replicates the outstretched Kalashnikov symbol of the Lebanese Hezbollah.

PMF fighters aren’t paper tigers when it comes to sectarian brutality — their inhumanity has been proven repeatedly in the thousands of innocent Sunnis they have murdered. For a taste of PMF’s fanaticism, read about one of their heroes, Mr. Power Drill, a.k.a. Abu Deraa.

The ISF and its PMF ‘allies’ will struggle to retake Ramadi. In fact, they might completely fail.

And the PMF’s name for the Ramadi operation — “I am here for you, Husayn” — tells another tale. “Husayn” refers to Husayn ibn Ali, the revered Shia martyr who was beheaded by Sunni forces at the seventh-century Battle of Karbala. The PMF’s implied intent in Ramadi is thus clear — advancing Shia power in confrontation against Sunnis, rather than against the Islamic State.

Regardless, the ISF and its PMF “allies” will struggle to retake Ramadi. In fact, they might completely fail. After all, while they’ll be able to secure Ramadi’s northern and western approaches by dominating its Euphrates River crossing points, the Islamic State will turn Ramadi’s streets into death traps. Lacking coordination, ISF and PMF units therefore face great risk of dissection by Islamic State car bombs, booby traps, alleyway ambushes, and shifting lines of attack. Indeed, the ISF/PMF urban-assault record is far from impressive. To their embarrassment, back in March, they were forced to rely heavily upon U.S. air strikes to defeat Islamic State forces in Tikrit.

As I say, these groups are not the USMC.

Unfortunately, as much as it’s tempting to believe that Islamic State and PMF fanatics killing each other is a good thing, as I explained this weekend, these divisions threaten a sectarian total war. Consider what’s happening beyond Ramadi. Today, the Islamic State’s successes enable it to project power in all directions, including toward the Shia holy city of Karbala — a long-term Islamic State target. In turn, Iran is responding with another injection of its own sectarian forces to dominate Iraq.

The Middle East is a region in which political moderation is rapidly being vaporized. We must challenge this extremism in order to protect America, because at present, our strategy is an unmitigated failure.

But don’t take my word for it. Yesterday I spoke with the anti–Islamic State monitoring group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently. I asked them what impact coalition air strikes against Islamic State positions in Raqqa were having. Their response?

“Not a lot.”

Tom Rogan is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and holds the Tony Blankley Chair at the Steamboat Institute. He tweets @TomRtweets.

Also see:

Iranian Regime, GOI Take Issue With US SECDEF’s Assessment that the IA are Cowards

Screen-Shot-2015-05-25-at-10.18.13-PMMay 26, 2015 /

As we wrote in our 24 MAY article titled “What ISIS Has in Store For Baghdad,” SECDEF Ash Carter stated that the Iraqi Army (IA) “lacks the will to fight.” We agree with his assessment, although its nothing particularly “new.” The IA has a long and not so proud history of cowardice and poor leadership going as far back as the 6-Day War. The Iranian regime is also fully aware of the cowardice of Iraqi Arab “men” (and we do use the term “man” loosely here) from their own personal experiences in the Iran-Iraq War. In that war, the regime found that using human wave attacks utilizing suicide bombers quickly broke the will of the IA to fight. The Islamic State (IS) perfected those TTPs in today’s regional war that has engulfed Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. Yet despite these rather inconvenient truths Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi and IRGC-Qods Force commander GEN Suleimani both came out swinging against Carter’s assessment. Abadi’s spokesman issued a public statement saying that Carter had “incorrect information” while Suleimani is reported to have said that the US “didn’t do a damn thing in Ramadi.”

What ISIS Has in Store For Baghdad

Our staff has been covering how Suleimani has been pushing the narrative that the Government of Iraq’s (GOI) faith in the US was the reason for all the defeats in the country – and to a certain extent he’s right. How so? The US government’s strategy to combat IS has been a total failure and the overall foreign policy is best described as “schizophrenic.” However, Suleimani’s public statements are geared towards one thing: positioning the Popular Mobilization Committee into a stronger standing within the government for the purpose of having them from the core of the new National Guard – which Suleimani and his allies hope to model after the Iranian regime’s own IRGC. And why is he doing this? He’s pushing the PMC becoming the core of the National Guard because he knows the IA are poorly led and plagued with mass cowardice. In fact, Suleimani has privately voiced his frustrations to colleagues about the ineffectiveness of the IA and how deep that yellow coward’s streak runs within the “men” serving in the ranks. Indeed, we have a people who give the French a run for the money for the title of “world’s biggest coward.”

Iraq, Iran push back on US defense chief over Ramadi loss

GEN Suleimani kneels before his master – Ayatollah Khameini Source: Reuters

GEN Suleimani kneels before his master – Ayatollah Khameini
Source: Reuters

The IA was actually much better when it was still an inclusive organization. Unfortunately, Maliki purged the ranks of all Sunni influences as soon as the US military pulled out of the country. Since that time the IA’s capabilities and readiness have deteriorated significantly while competent commanders who were sacked and avoided being arrested joined IS. That said, there’s a culture of cowardice that runs deep in the hearts of the average Iraqi Arab man. In fact, they have a hard time being given the freedom to do what they want and seem to prefer being told what to do. Some countries just do better with a dictator in-charge. Iraq is one of those countries. It doesn’t help that when faced with major battles that the IA tends to collapse with troops breaking ranks in panic. As we’ve stated in several past articles on the matter, the Shia militias (PMC) have become bigger players in the government’s security strategy as a means of addressing this problem. We’re aware that in mid-May Suleimani presented a defense plan to Abadi that calls for a greater PMC role in defending Baghdad and Karbala – which Abadi approved. Regarding the defense of Baghdad, the PMCs have become the security force of choice in these critical areas in the city:

1. al-Khadra
2. al-Amiriyah
3. al-Ghazaliyah
4. al-Bakriyah
5. al-Shula

(Its worth noting that the above-mentioned neighborhoods are viewed as the most at-risk for IS moving into and using as staging areas for sustained attacks throughout the city)

Meanwhile in the North, our friends the Kurds don’t seem to have any of these problems. Our staff has extensive experience in Iraq – Northern Iraq in particular. The author recalls one particular time during a key leader engagement where the Peshmerga commander he was meeting with stated that a Kurdish woman is worth 10 Arabs serving in the active duty IA. From the author’s own personal experience – and that of the Study Group’s staff – the Peshmerga commander’s statement is accurate. The Kurdish women serving in the Peshmerga are as beautiful as they are deadly. Iraqi Arab men seem to have a problem with cowardice contaminating their DNA, so we can’t say that we’re surprised by IS fighters being so scared of being killed by a Kurdish woman. Perhaps Abadi should just fill the IA ranks with Kurdish women? Its not like the IA has any real “men” to begin with so he might as well.

The Kurdish women fighting ISIS

ISIS fighters terrified of being killed by female troops

Meet the female peshmerga forces fighting IS

Modern day Athena: She wouldn’t run from a fight – which is more than we can say for her Arab male counterparts in the IA Source: Vocativ

Modern day Athena: She wouldn’t run from a fight – which is more than we can say for her Arab male counterparts in the IA
Source: Vocativ

Kurdish pop star Helly Luv has recently come out with a new single that has a special message for IS:

She doesn’t seem to have a problem using the sites on her assault rifle Source: imgurl.com

She doesn’t seem to have a problem using the sites on her assault rifle
Source: imgurl.com


Maybe the women of the Peshmerga should hold some classes for the ISF on basic rifle marksmanship? Source: Reuters/Stringer

Maybe the women of the Peshmerga should hold some classes for the ISF on basic rifle marksmanship?
Source: Reuters/Stringer

Consequently the Obama strategy for Iraq involves trusting a large quantity of disinterested cowards to maintain unity in a nation where the three major sects hate and distrust each other. As a nation we refuse to accept the idea that Iraq is a failed social experiment. We pretend there’s some hope of creating an “Iraqi melting pot of diversity” where all are welcome to worship as they choose and live in peace. Therefore the US government will continue to promote the wrong Iraq strategy with the smallest number of troops possible ensuring that we will never get the desired result – the fall of IS. If the Iraqi Arab men won’t stand up and fight the nihilistic cult of IS, then they deserve to have their country taken from them and to have their wives and daughters raped and murdered while they watch – after all, a man who won’t defend his home or family isn’t a man at all. That said, the only people worth a damn in Iraq are the Kurds. Every man, woman and child in Kurdistan is willing to lay down their lives in defense of their homeland. We have a great amount of respect and admiration for the Kurdish people. Its about time that the US government start empowering them. The IA? If they haven’t developed a spine by now, they never will.

Helly Luv: IS fighters are more scared of her than the IA – which is a major source of frustration for GEN Suleimani and the Qods Force Source: http://www.europe-israel.org/2014/09/helly-luv-la-shakira-kurde-qui-nargue-les-djihadistes-de-letat-islamique-videos/

Helly Luv: IS fighters are more scared of her than the IA – which is a major source of frustration for GEN Suleimani and the Qods Force
Source: http://www.europe-israel.org/2014/09/helly-luv-la-shakira-kurde-qui-nargue-les-djihadistes-de-letat-islamique-videos/

Other Related Articles:

ISIS Moves Against Targets in Haditha, Habbaniyah While Qods Force and Proxies Launch Counterattack

Suleimani’s Gambit: Bid to Deal Crushing Blow to ISIS in Bayji

“JV Team” Solidifies Hold on Anbar With Ramadi Purging

What ISIS Has in Store for Baghdad

May 24, 2015 /

The media has been in overdrive about the Islamic State’s (IS) move to eliminate the remaining Iraqi Army (IA) and Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC) elements in Anbar Province – but does this mean that a march on Baghdad is imminent? The short answer is no. As we’ve said in our last couple of Iraq-themed articles (“ISIS Moves Against Targets in Haditha, Habbaniyah While Qods Force and Proxies Launch Counterattack,” “Suleimani’s Gambit: Bid to Deal Crushing Blow to ISIS in Bayji” and “JV Team Solidifies Hold on Anbar With Ramadi Purging”), IS doesn’t intend to “overrun” the capital, at least not in the near-term. Why? Three reasons:

1. Most of the government forces are concentrated in Baghdad. With over 90,000 Iraqi Security Force (ISF) personnel defending the capital, IS would have to generate a far greater force than they fielded in the takeovers of Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit, and Mosul. US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter recently came out slamming the cowardice that’s endemic throughout the IA. We agree with his assessment, but these forces will stand and fight in Baghdad.

Iraqi forces lack will to fight – Ashton Carter

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 2.35.59 PM

SECDEF Ashton Carter: Yes, somebody in the Obama administration actually got something right on the foreign policy arena – Kinda contradicts the administration’s party line of the fight against IS being a “great success,” doesn’t it?

2. So if Carter was right about the IA’s lack of will to fight, then how will they make a stand in Baghdad? The reason is that 80% of the IA are Shia and the capital is a major Shia stronghold these days. The IA does much better in places where they have a great deal of local support, which isn’t Anbar, the Zaab Triangle or Tikrit. Baghdad and the areas South of the city are very difficult for IS to overrun due to the large concentration of Shia in the area. Another thing to keep in mind is that Baghdad is also a major stronghold for the PMCs and Shia militant leaders such as Muqtada al-Sadr aka “Muqi.” Even though the IA will still collapse when faced with a big fight, the Shia militias will hold their ground. Regarding the Shia militias, they’re no different than IS when it comes to martyrdom and brutality.

muqi sith lord

Muqi and his boys aren’t about to let IS roll into Baghdad in force without a fight
Source: Corbis

3. Since the majority of the government forces and Shia proxy forces are defending Baghdad, the rest of the country is vulnerable to being overrun by IS. Team Baghdadi views the seizing of terrain to expand the “Caliphate” as a bigger priority than seizing control of the Iraqi capital. The reason is obvious – seizing other major population centers and the critical infrastructure will help sustain the Islamic State. For IS, it makes more sense for them to continue having their sleeper cells conducting attacks inside the city while the front-line forces put pressure on the government by launching major operations in places like Karmah, Ramadi and al-Asad Airbase.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 3.03.08 AM

Source: CNN

ISIS Moves Against Targets in Haditha, Habbaniyah While Qods Force and Proxies Launch Counterattack

Suleimani’s Gambit: Bid to Deal Crushing Blow to ISIS in Bayji

“JV Team” Solidifies Hold on Anbar With Ramadi Purging

Our “Fortress Baghdad” series laid out the IS strategy of relying on sleeper cells to conduct VBIED/SVEST attacks throughout the city. That strategy remains their preferred method of targeting the capital as it keeps the ISF/PMC off-balance and forces them to maintain their “circled wagon” posture. By doing this, the Government of Iraq (GOI) has kept manpower and resources from supporting efforts in Anbar and Northern Iraq that would’ve been crucial to the success of those operations. You’ve all seen the result of this with the fall of Anbar and failure to secure Tikrit, Bayji and the areas South of Kirkuk. IS won’t make a major push for Baghdad until after they’ve taken over the rest of the country – which is being greatly facilitated by the GOI keeping the majority of its forces in Baghdad. In the meantime, the sleeper cells will continue with their current OP-Tempo while groups of fighters get sent to the city to target specific neighborhoods in the city where the Sunni demographic is dominant. Those neighborhoods will be used to stage follow-on operations targeting locations such as Sadr City and the Green Zone – the US Embassy, specifically. We suspect that IS may choose to wait until a sandstorm hits before they move on the Embassy, fully knowing that military aircraft are grounded in bad weather. The far more immediate threat will likely come from IS conducting a high-profile attack on a government building. We assess that they will probably look to target the prisons in either Baghdad or Nasiriyah to capitalize on previous jail breaks conducted in Mosul and Ramadi. That said, the earliest they might target the prisons will be next month during Ramadan.

Links to Other Related Articles:

Islamic State Seizes Town of Khan al-Baghdadi, Threatens US Marines at Ayn al-Asad

ISIS Increases Pressure on Baghdad’s Green Zone – is the US Government Taking Notice?

Shia Militias To Reinforce al-Asad Airbase – IA On The Verge of Collapse

Links to Other Related Articles:

State of the Iraqi Air Force and Special Operations Forces

Update on the Baghdad and Kobane Fronts

The Islamic State Moves Into Abu Ghraib Within Striking Distance of Baghdad

Fortress Baghdad 4

Fortress Baghdad 3

Fortress Baghdad 2

Fortress Baghdad

US Begins Using Apache Attack Helicopters Against ISIS Northeast Of Fallujah

US Airstrikes Ivo Baghdad

Baghdad Update As Of 13 AUG 14

Fighting Around Baghdad Intensifies


Also see:

Honor and Sacrifices


duty-honor-countryBy Justin O. Smith:

“God and the soldier doth all men adore in time of war and not before; when the war is over and all things righted, God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.” __ signed by the 16th Regiment of Foot on January 30, 1770

Freedom is the most precious thing to all men and women, and since the Civil War, millions of Americans have placed their lives in harm’s way in the defense of God, family and freedom, with over one million making the ultimate sacrifice during the course of several wars from WWII, Korea and Vietnam to the present wars in the Middle East. The empty seats at family gatherings bear witness to this sacrifice by these honored dead, and we the living must be resolved that these soldiers “last full measure of devotion” and their lives were not sacrificed in vain.

Today Americans, who love this country see far too many others, malcontents, more than willing to sow the seeds of strife and discord, as they trample on the American Flag and dishonor the memories of those heroes we honor each Memorial Day. These fallen soldiers would least understand the twisted logic of these anti-American fascists, since our fallen often laid down their lives on the field of battle to stop the enemy from burning their flags, fighting to the death rather than suffer disgrace at the hands of their enemy.

On the foreign front and without any virtue, Obama has dishonored all U.S. Armed Forces members, those living and those killed in action, and their many sacrifices, through Middle East policies that have allowed the Islamic State to grow into a real security threat to America. His hasty withdrawal from Iraq, aimed at keeping a campaign promise, has been a direct factor in the fall of much of Iraq, including Ramadi, and this in turn ensures more long wars of attrition yet to come.

Scores of U.S. soldiers died defending Ramadi and hundreds more were wounded between 2006 and our final withdrawal, and about a week ago the world sat by idly watching as Ramadi fell to Islamic State fascists, who immediately murdered over 500 people and set the exodus of 25,000 Iraqis in motion; during their two month advance on Ramadi, these Islamofascists have forced 147,000 Iraqis to flee to refugee camps.

The images of Ramadi falling to the Islamic State and their black flags being raised has sent a chill through many Americans who fought in Iraq. They are more than disgusted that their sacrifices have seemingly been made in vain, for nothing.

General Douglas McArthur once noted that “Duty, Honor, Country” reverently dictates what each of us ought to be and can be, in regards to finding courage, faith and hope in the face of any crisis. Too many on the Left and too many in the top echelons of the U.S. military, including General Martin Dempsey, no longer seem to have a good grasp on the meaning of these words.

Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey is politicizing the U.S. Armed Forces, and he has become Obama’s echo chamber. He didn’t send extra security to Benghazi, because he “never received a request”; he never saw evidence of Iran’s military fighting in Iraq, even though Iranian Quds Forces have been in Iraq for most of the decade and 20,000 Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces have been there since last year. Dempsey’s habit of parroting Obama’s policies has resulted in a consistent record of failure.

During October 2014 Dempsey said, “We have a crisis in Iraq” (The Long War Journal), but by November he was telling troops in Baghdad that ISIS is “a bunch of midgets,” and several years would be needed to defeat them __ several years to stop Obama’s “JV team”.

This past April, Gen. Dempsey suggested that Ramadi is “not symbolic in any way” and losing it would not be a major setback, even though it is only 75 miles from Baghdad. Dempsey stated, “I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won’t be the end of the campaign should it fall.”

Debbie Lee, the mother of the first Navy SEAL killed in Iraq and in Ramadi (awarded the Silver Star), was furious over Dempsey’s remarks, and she penned an open letter that read in part: “I am shaking and tears are flowing down my cheeks as I … listen to the insensitive pain-inflicting comments made by you in regards to the fall of Ramadi. My son and many others gave their future in Ramadi. Ramadi mattered to them. Many military analysts say that as goes Ramadi so goes Iraq.” (Iraq is already lost).

Lee went further: “You, sir, owe an apology to the families whose loved ones’ blood was shed in Ramadi … whose bodies were blown to pieces by IEDs and bullet holes leaving parts and pieces behind … Ramadi mattered to them. … You and this administration have minimized that Ramadi could fall. Now you are minimizing that it is falling, but you Sir WILL NOT minimize the sacrifice my son Marc Lee made or any of our brave warriors.” (The Daily Beast _ 5/20/15)

Considering that America has already seen too many of Her Sons and Daughters return home in body bags and without arms and legs, lost in a war that was brought to them unasked for and undeserved __ enough blood to last a lifetime and then some __ Can anyone now honestly say that the mission in Iraq was worth it?

America can honor Her soldiers by praying for peace and working towards peace through strength, because we have seen the deepest wounds and scars of war, as Arlington Cemetery grows. We understand that wars often come at a time chosen by our enemies, but we do not want to fight twelve year wars ever again. We simply want our Armed Forces fully prepared to properly defend Our Beloved America on two fronts and, if pushed to war, to fight to win devastatingly quick.

With the war tocsins sounding across the globe, Obama and the Progressives are destroying the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national defense system, and a million ghosts are rising from their white crosses in Arlington Cemetery thundering the words “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Suleimani’s Gambit: Bid to Deal Crushing Blow to ISIS in Bayji

A general view of Baiji oil refinery in Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, January 21, 2009. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani http://www.businessinsider.my/battle-for-one-of-iraqs-most-important-oil-refineries-2015-5/#d3WKrsDe4jhCYHvR.99

A general view of Baiji oil refinery in Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, January 21, 2009. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

May 21, 2015 / /

GEN Suleimani: Source: talkhandak.com

GEN Suleimani:
Source: talkhandak.com

Despite the fact that Ramadi – and all of Anbar – has been under Islamic State (IS) control since last year, the American public woke up to shock at seeing the remaining Iraqi Army forces flee the area. A 3,000-man Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC) force has been deployed to Habbaniyah for a counter-attack. As we stated in our piece “JV Team Solidifies Hold on Anbar With Ramadi Purging,” the IA is stretched thin and not capable of maintaining a high OP-Tempo in Anbar or Northern Iraq. Irgc-Qods Force commanding GEN Suleimani deployed the PMC force to help “stop the bleeding” in Anbar while he directs the main effort to the Saladin Province city of Bayji – which is a key logistical support hub for IS efforts in the country as it links the flow of supplies and reinforcements from Syria and Mosul to the front-lines further South. Although we had originally assessed that the PMC force sent to Anbar would be part of an effort to retake Ramadi, it now appears that they’re going to be conducting limited operations and bolstering the defenses in the remaining installations. Regarding the Bayji offensive, it may begin as early as next week.

“JV Team” Solidifies Hold on Anbar With Ramadi Purging

We can’t say that we blame Suleimani for wanting to “go big” since its become painfully obvious that cowardice runs deep among his Arab counterparts in the Iraqi Army (IA). Over 400 prisoners were released from the Ramadi jail when IS overran the last IA installation. Many of the prisoners were IS fighters who had been detained over the course of the war as far back as a year ago. Now that they’re out, IS will be able to field all those tanks and assault vehicles they acquired after the IA from all the surrounding areas fled in panic. IS added insult to injury by quickly putting out propaganda though their IO channels “thanking President Obama” for providing all the weapons and vehicles that they now possess. This was done to show the Obama administration that Team Baghdadi isn’t scared of his “strategy” (we use the term very loosely here) and that Iran isn’t going to end the war anytime soon.

ISIS frees hundreds of extremists from Ramadi prison

ramadi jail

IS releasing their fellow terrorists from the Ramadi jail
Source: Rudaw

thanks obama

IS: “Thanks Obama!”
Source: The ISIS Study Group

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 2.10.04 PM

They have more than enough personnel to operate these now after emptying out the jail
Source: The ISIS Study Group

Suleimani isn’t playing. Our sources within the Kurdish Peshmerga have informed us that an Iranian Artillery Battalion (as in the Iranian military, possibly a Basij Resistance Force unit) was moved within a few kilometers of Bayji and the Badr Organization sent additional personnel to bolster the PMC contingent located at COP Speicher. This should be a good indicator that he views Bayji as the top priority. The logic is simple – take over Bayji and cut off the flow of supplies to the other IS units and you have a much easier time making the push to retake Mosul. However, Bayji is only one of many locations that the combined IA/Qods Force/PMC/Peshmerga forces will need to seize – and HOLD. Other areas that need to be cleared out and controlled is the Zaab Triangle (with an emphasis on Hawijah), the Hamrin Mountains and Tikrit – which still remains unsecured despite IA claims to the contrary. The planned offensive to retake Mosul will fail unless all of these areas are controlled. If this doesn’t happen, then IS will be able to disrupt the ISF supply lines and effectively blunt the attack before they even reach the capital of Baghdadi’s “Caliphate.”

Thus far all attempts to reinforce the ISF garrison isolated at the far corner of the Bayji Oil Refinery (BOR) complex have failed with the refinery experiencing heavy damage to its infrastructure. The Obama administration is trying to maintain the narrative that the IA still “controls” the BOR, but the ugly truth of the matter is that IS fighters control all but a tiny corner that the IA have been pushed into. The BOR itself hasn’t been operational since last year, which has had a significant impact against the Iraqi economy since its the largest refinery in the country capable of producing over 300,000 barrels per day. The refinery in Basra comes in at a distant second with an output of only 160,000 barrels per day. IS hasn’t been impacted by the BOR being rendered inactive since they’ve been maintaining micro-refineries all throughout Ninevah Province going into Northeastern Syria. Laying siege to the BOR and damaging the infrastructure is for one purpose: to deny the Government of Iraq (GOI) revenue that would otherwise go towards keeping their military afloat.

U.S. Military Worries Key Iraqi Refinery Could Fall to Islamic State

You can see some of the festivities currently underway inside the BOR right here:

The IRGC-Qods Force and their proxies have had a few victories as of late, as demonstrated by Asaib al-Haq (AAH) having killed New Baath Party (NBP) leader Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri during an operation in the Hamrin Mountains. Indeed al-Duri’s death was a great victory, but he was one of many members of the former Saddam regime who fight under the IS umbrella. Suleimani likely views Bayji as an opportunity to improve morale and deal IS a large enough blow to where they’re forced to redirect resources from Anbar to the North in defense of Mosul. If successful, it would also give Suleimani additional leverage over Prime Minister Abadi on influencing how the National Guard will be formed. A lot is riding on this Hail Mary, but will the Qods Force succeed? Had they decided on this course of action before opening up the new front in Yemen it would’ve been possible. That said, the escalating fight on the Arabian Peninsula is sucking up a great deal of resources that would otherwise have been sent to Iraq. We assess that the Northern Iraq offensive to retake Bayji will not result in any meaningful gains. Back in Anbar, IS will likely seize on Suleimani’s focus Northward and increase their OP-Tempo to eliminate the rest of the ISF presence in the Province. Khan al-Baghdadi and Haditha are likely their “50 meter targets” with Habbaniyah to follow. What about al-Asad Airbase? Oh, they’re going to save it for last. Despite what the academics in the Department of State and staff eunuchs at the Pentagon claim, we’re certainly not winning this fight. They better change their current IS and Iran strategies because their both colossal failures…

Confirmed: Izzat al-Douri, former Saddam Hussein deputy, killed by Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq forces


Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri: His death marks the end of an era
Source: Iraqi News

Other Related Links:

GOI Begins Prepping For OPs in Bayji, Hawijah and Mosul While Tikrit Remains Unsecured

IA Claims to Have “Liberated” Tikrit – Reality Says Different

Today’s Middle East: The Burning Fuse of the 21 Century’s “Great Game”

ISIS Digs-in For Battle of Tikrit as Sunni Populace is Targeted by Iran’s Proxies

Incoherent Strategy Delays Mosul Offensive as Administration Touts Hashtag Victory

ISIS Shaping Operations Against IA Blunts Mosul OP Before it Starts

IA Struggling to Avoid Collapse on Multiple Fronts – Mosul OP in Danger of Failing

The Tikrit Front: Not So “Rosy” as Claimed by Obama Administration

Strategic Failures, the US and the Fall of Ramadi

Islamic State fighters celebrate their take over of Ramadi with a victory 'parade.' (Photo: Islamic State social media)

Islamic State fighters celebrate their take over of Ramadi with a victory ‘parade.’ (Photo: Islamic State social media)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, May 21, 2015:

The Islamic State (ISIS) has captured Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, reportedly “terrifying” Iraqi officials who now foresee a “tsunami of international terror.” It is an important achievement for the terrorist group aimed at pre-empting a potential Sunni tribal uprising.

The Sunni tribes in Anbar Province were critical to the success of the 2007 “surge” that ousted the Islamic State’s predecessor, Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The deterioration in the relationship between these tribes and the central Iraqi government was likewise critical to the terrorists’ comeback in Iraq.

The Islamic State remembered these lessons and acted quickly as the Iraqi government began training tribal fighters and the U.S. defense budget allotted $179 million to Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces. The U.S. forgot these lessons and has long rejected Sunni and Kurdish pleas for direct aid to fight the Islamic State.

The Obama Administration is now planning to change course and directly arm and train the Iraqi Sunni tribes after the fall of Ramadi. The White House previously chose to work only through the central Iraqi government that has given the Kurds and Sunnis inadequate support.

A delegation of 11 Sunni tribal leaders, including Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, the President of the Anbar Awakening Council, flew to the U.S. on January 18 to plead for direct assistance. Former President George W. Bush called Abu Risha and listened to his complaints for 20 minutes and offered to help. Administration officials were less willing. One tribal official said, “I wouldn’t call it the ‘cold shoulder,’ but it certainly was a cool one.”

The Obama Administration told them that it would only work through the elected central government. Its viewpoint was that working with forces outside the government’s authority undermines the Iraqi leadership and threatens the country’s unity.

That standpoint ignores what was learned after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Nothing threatens Iraq’s unity and the government’s authority more than instability. Direct U.S. aid to the Sunni tribes helped save Iraq from disintegration into sectarian enclaves ruled by terrorists and militias.

The Islamic State struck Ramadi during a sandstorm that delayed American air support. Former U.S. Central Command advisor Ali Khedery says that a Kurdish member of parliament informed him that 6,000 Iraqi Security Forces fled when faced with a mere 150 Islamic State fighters. About 500 Iraqi security personnel and civilians died in two days. The Iraqi officials spoke straight forwardly and  admitted that the current strategy is failing.

The Pentagon says it has finished training about 7,000 Iraqi Security Forces and another 3-4,000 are in the process of training, but training won’t solve the problem of collapsing Iraqi forces. The U.S. trained the Iraqis from 2003 until the withdrawal in 2011. The strategy of waiting for the Iraqi security forces to become strong enough to stabilize the country is the same strategy that failed before the surge.

Iraqi personnel flee because they don’t want to die for a lost cause or to fight for a replacement worse than the Islamic State.

The Iraqi Security Forces face a fundamental disadvantage when battling the Islamic State: They want to live and their enemies want to die. This disadvantage is further compounded by a lack of confidence. If given the choice to die fighting in a losing battle or to flee and perhaps regroup later with better chances of victory, they will choose the latter.

An Anbar official placed the blame on the Iraqi government, telling CNN, “If 10% of the government’s promises had been implemented, Ramadi would still in our hands and the Islamic State wouldn’t dare to be anywhere near the city.”

Iraqi Sunnis are faced with a terrible choice. The Iranian-backed Shiite militias are often nicknamed “Shiite ISIS” because their crimes are comparable to ISIS but are less known by the West because they aren’t broadcasted. However, the Anbar Provincial Council is officially welcoming them now out of desperation and perhaps an awareness that their opposition will be ignored anyway.

The Shiite militias should be expected to mistreat the local Sunnis the second after the Islamic State is expelled or even during the fighting. Tribal support is far from unanimous. The son of the largest tribe’s leader is in the U.S. asking for support right now and bluntly warned that sending the Shiite militias into Anbar Province “will cause a civil war.”

The New York Times has noticed the change in American attitude towards the Shiite militias. Pentagon spokesperson Col. Steve Warren said, “As long as they’re controlled by the central Iraqi government, there’s a place for them.” Yet, only two months ago, Central Command Commander General Austin said, “I will not—and I hope we will never—coordinate or cooperate with Shiite militias.”

The U.S. must correct its strategy by sidelining Iranian-backed militias and terrorists, leveraging influence with the Iraqi government and significantly increasing assistance to the Anbar tribes, Kurds, Iraqi government and to the persecuted Christian minority that is forming its own self-defense force.

Recent history has shown that the Iraqi government will choose the U.S. over Iran if compelled.

In March, the U.S. withheld support to Iraqi forces fighting the Islamic State in Tikrit because of the involvement of Iranian-backed militias and the Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Iranian proxies stalled and could move no further, displaying the value of U.S. air support. The Iraqis chose America and the Iranians were removed from the battle. U.S. aid delivered the victory that the Iranians could not.

The Iraqis had been asking for U.S. for more help including possibly advisors on the ground since October 2013. By March 2014, the Iraqis were asking for airstrikes on the Islamic State. The Islamic State blitz into Iraq began in June.

The Iraqi ambassador complained that the U.S. had denied requests for help including Apache helicopter sales, thereby putting Iraq “in an uncomfortable position in seeking support from whoever is available on the ground.” He emphasized that the “U.S. is our strategic partner of choice.”

Iran opposed the return of U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq as advisors. The Iranian-backed cleric Moqtada al-Sadr threatened to attack the advisors and two other Iranian-backed militias also forcefully opposed U.S. involvement. The Iraqi government went ahead anyway.

Even now, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in Russia and talking to China and Iran about delivering arms that the U.S. refuses to provide.

The U.S. needs to give the Iraqi government a clear choice: Iran or us.

The Iraqi government should be put on notice. If it is willing to restrain the Shiite militias and work with us to disband them, then we will provide all necessary aid. We will help negotiate with the Sunni tribes so their local forces operate within a national framework.

If the Iraqi government chooses Iran, then we will cut our aid and redirect it towards our Sunni, Kurdish and Christian partners while maintaining contact with friendly Shiites. We will not act as the air force for Iranian proxies. If necessary, we will talk about a role for the forthcoming Arab force led by Egypt to replace yours.

It is positive news that the Obama Administration is reversing its stance and will directly help the Sunni tribes, but the anti- Islamic State strategy requires an anti-Iran strategy.


Gen. Jack Keane: ‘We Are Not Only Failing, We Are In Fact Losing This War’

‘I can say with certainty [Obama’s] strategy will not defeat ISIS’

Also see:

So, according to Dempsey, the Islamic State didn’t launch a multitude of suicide assaults on the Ramadi government center, Anbar Operations Command, Camp Ar Ramadi, the Justice Palace, and other locations between May 15 and May 17. Instead, we are told, a sandstorm, which inhibited US air power, caused an Iraqi general to order his military and police forces to just drive out of two military bases and a government center, and a multitude of police stations and checkpoints, to a “a more defensible position,” presumably in Habbaniyah, about 15 miles away.

The US military command is in complete denial about what is happening in both Iraq and Syria. Military officials are continuing to tell us that the strategy to defeat the Islamic State is working, even as major cities fall under the control of the jihadist group (see this DoD News article, Centcom Officials ‘Confident’ Iraqi Security Forces Will Recover Ramadi from today).

Report: Syria Conflict Makes World Bloodiest in Decades

ISIS-Video-Yemen-640x480Breitbart, by Oliver Lane, May 20, 205:

The “spectacular brutality” of the Islamic State and raging conflict in the Levant is making the world less settled and more dangerous than it has been for decades.

A report by a globally-respected think tank has revealed that despite the number of individual conflicts raging across the world falling dramatically since 2008, conflict deaths have actually tripled in just seven years. The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS) Armed Conflict Survey, released today, tracks the changing nature and scope of war across the globe. Its findings should set alarm bells ringing for strategic planners in the Western world.

Of more immediate concern for European nations struggling to deal with the weight of refugees arriving on their doorsteps, this wave of people appears to be just the beginning. The increased brutality of conflicts means 2013 was a record year for refugees – it was the first time since 1945-6, at the end of the Second World War, that more than 50 million people were on the move because of conflict, and the trend is deepening with ever passing year.

The conflict in Syria, and the rise of ISIS, has much to do with the deteriorating world security picture. Speaking at today’s launch, IISS director and former MI6 director Nigel Inkster noted ISIS’s “spectacular brutality”, while a colleague said the past year has been a watershed moment in developing global jihad, changing it from comparatively primitive terrorism into a “state building exercise” which is “fundamentally new”.

Alia Brahimi of the IISS said of the Islamic State: “The aim of imposing vision of society radically changes the jihad enterprise”, and that the seizure this week of the regional capital Ramadi from the Iraqi government by ISIS forces shows “evidence of sophisticated tactics” that are “of high order” which were able to “overmatch Iraq’s forces”.

Remarkably, more people were killed in the Syria conflict in 2014 than in the Iraqi, South Sudanese, Mexican, and all Central American wars combined:

Syrian war graph

Which in part has accounted for the shocking rise of conflict fatalities worldwide. Although the number of active wars being fought fell from 62 to 42 from 2008 to 2014, the number killed tripled, to 180,000 worldwide.

IISS News tweet

The Islamic State has only been matched in its brutality in its apparent appeal to would-be Jihadists around the globe since it declared a new Caliphate, replacing the defunct Ottoman empire which collapsed at the end of the Great War, last year. Cadet branches of the Islamic State have emerged in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, with bloodthirty Boko Haram in Nigeria even pledging allegiance to the new Caliphate.

The Islamic State has repeatedly made claims on territory in Europe, reclaiming areas lost since Christian civilisation pushed back against Muslim conquests which took lands in the Iberian Peninsula, Apennine Peninsula, the Balklands, and even laid siege to Vienna, now the capital of Austria. As reported by Breitbart this week, the Islamic State has been posting images of its supporters living undercover in Europe, holding up ISIS signs near prominent landmarks, including the Coliseum in Rome.

The propagandistic images came only days after European leaders were warned by a regional government in Libya that ISIS fighters were disguising themselves as refugees to sneak into Europe undetected in migrant boats. Last month, Breitbart London published an exclusive interview with retired Royal Navy Admiral and Ministry of Defence strategic planner Chris Parry, who warned ISIS would not be content with just sneaking fighters into Europe by boat, but would inevitably launch marine-style speedboat raids on Southern European coastal towns, as terrorists had in the Mumbai attack in 2008.

RAdm. Parry told Breitbart: “If you look at the maps put out by the Islamic State, it is pretty clear what they want back. Italy, Spain. They want back what they once had. Islam is a very territorial religion.

“If there isn’t the political will or military ability to face down threats off the North African littoral, be it migration, criminality, or terrorism, then we will get progressive erosion. We will get raids on coasts, we will get yachts intercepted at sea, we will get merchant ships subject to terrorist, pirate, or criminal attack.

“The Western world needs to have more self belief in its own values, it has to hold its nerve, and we have to rediscover a lot of self-reliance”.

Also see:

Ramadi’s fall opens ISIS road to Baghdad. Jordan warns US air strikes won’t stop the terrorists’ advance

DEBKAfile, May 18, 2015:

Mideast-Jordan-King-A_Horo-e1363781864263Jordan’s King Abdullah has warned the Obama administration in an urgent message that US air strikes alone won’t stop the Islamic State’s advances in Iraq and Syria and, what is more, they leave his kingdom next door exposed to the Islamist peril. ISIS would at present have no difficulty in invading southern Jordan, where the army is thin on the ground, and seizing local towns and villages whose inhabitants are already sympathetic to the extremist group. The bulk of the Jordanian army is concentrated in the north on the Syrian border. Even a limited Islamist incursion in the south would also pose a threat to northern Saudi Arabia, the king pointed out.

Abdullah offered the view that the US Delta Special Forces operation in eastern Syria Saturday was designed less to be an effective assault on ISIS’s core strength and more as a pallliative to minimize the Islamist peril facing Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf emirates.

DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that US officials refused to heed Abdullah’s warning and tried to play it down, in the same way as Secretary John Kerry tried Monday, May 18, to de-emphasize to the ISIS conquest of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province.

At a news conference in Seoul, Kerry dismissed the Islamists’ feat as a “target of opportunity” and expressed confidence that, in the coming days, the loss “can be reversed.”

The Secretary of State’s words were unlikely to scare the Islamists, who had caused more than 500 deaths in the battle for the town and witnessed panicky Iraqi soldiers fleeing Ramadi in Humvees and tanks.

Baghdad, only 110 km southeast of Ramadi, has more reason to be frightened, in the absence of any sizeable Iraqi military strength in the area for standing in the enemy’s path to the capital.

The Baghdad government tried announcing that substantial military reinforcements had been ordered to set out and halt the Islamists’ advance. This was just whistling in the dark. In the last two days, the remnants of the Iraqi army have gone to pieces – just like in the early days of the ISIS offensive, when the troops fled Mosul and Falujah. They are running away from any possible engagement with the Islamist enemy.

The Baghdad-sourced reports that Shiite paramilitaries were preparing to deploy to Iraq’s western province of Anbar after Islamic State militants overran Ramadi were likewise no more than an attempt to boost morale. Sending armed Shiites into the Ramadi area of Anbar would make no sense, because its overwhelmingly Sunni population would line up behind fellow-Sunni Islamist State conquerors rather than help the Shiite militias to fight them.

Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, who arrived precipitately in Baghdad Monday, shortly after Ramadi’s fall, faces this difficulty. Our military sources expect him to focus on a desperate effort to deploy Shiite militias as an obstacle in ISIS’s path to Baghdad, now that the road is clear of defenders all the way from Ramadi.
In Amman, King Abdullah Sunday made a clean sweep of senior security officials, firing the Minister of Interior, the head of internal security (Muhabarat) and a number of high police officers. They were accused officially of using excessive violence to disperse demonstrations in the southern town of Maan.

The real reason for their dismissal, DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources disclose, is the decline of these officials’ authority in the Maan district,  in the face of the rising influence of extremist groups identified with Al Qaeda and ISIS, in particular.

Also see:

The Fall of Ramadi is a Catastrophe

Gen. Dempsey says fall of Ramadi to ISIL in Anbar province is not central to Iraq's future, with US senators slamming his comments saying that it was an insult. http://www.worldbulletin.net/news/158044/us-senators-slam-general-on-ramadi-comments

Gen. Dempsey says fall of Ramadi to ISIL in Anbar province is not central to Iraq’s future, with US senators slamming his comments saying that it was an insult. http://www.worldbulletin.net/news/158044/us-senators-slam-general-on-ramadi-comments

CSP, by Fred Fleitz, May 18, 2015:

Although the Obama administration has rightly portrayed a raid by Army Special Forces last week in Syria that killed ISIS top official Abu Sayyaf as a big win in the war against ISIS, this win has been overshadowed by the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to ISIS fighters over the weekend.

The fall of Ramadi is a catastrophe for U.S. policy and the credibility of the Iraqi government.  The ability of ISIS to seize control of this city despite U.S.-led airstrikes proves that it is not on the defensive as Obama officials have claimed.

Ramadi fell despite being defended by the Iraqi army.  Baghdad did not send in reinforcements to defend the city because it said it could not spare the troops.

Now the Iraqi government is planning to retake Ramadi using Iranian-trained Shiite militias.  Since Shiite militias looted the Sunni town of Tikrit after they helped take it back from ISIS in late March, their presence will not be welcomed by Sunnis in Ramadi.

The fall of Ramadi will further damage the Baghdad government’s tenuous ties to Iraqi Sunnis and likely will drive more Sunnis to side with or cooperate with ISIS.  Sending Shiite militias into Ramadi will make this situation worse.

The Obama administration still has no strategy to defeat ISIS in Iraq.  It must begin to arm the Iraqi Kurds and Sunni militias.  The effort to train and equip the Iraqi army needs to stepped up.  U.S. diplomats must increase pressure on the Baghdad government to resolve its differences with Iraqi Sunnis.  The number of airstrikes against ISIS targets also must be significantly increased.

Also see:


CSP’s Jim Hanson on the recent Delta Force raid and the need or a comprehensive strategy to fight ISIS:

John Huddy reporting from Jerusalem:

Jennifer Griffin reporting from the pentagon:

Insight from Col. Cedric Leighton, former Joint Chiefs of Staff deputy director. Is ISIS an existential threat to Iraq?

Iraq: ISIS conquers Ramadi, Anbar, thanks to Obama

An Islamic State fighter battles inside the Ramadi government center.

An Islamic State fighter battles inside the Ramadi government center.

Published on May 17, 2015 by Rebel Media

Obama boasts of “ending the Iraq War,” but what’s been the result? This week, ISIS took over Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province; this couldn’t have happened before Obama pulled US troops out of Iraq.

Published on May 17, 2015 by EnGlobal News World

John Huddy reports from Jerusalem. Iraqi forces launch new offensive against ISIS

Also see:

Islamic State seizes government center in Ramadi

An Islamic State fighter battles inside the Ramadi government center.

An Islamic State fighter battles inside the Ramadi government center.


The Islamic State advanced into the heart of Ramadi, the capital of the western Iraqi province of Anbar, and raised its flag over the government center after launching a complex attack that included six suicide bombers, one a British fighter. The loss of the government complex, which has been under siege since the Islamic State renewed its push to take control of Ramadi in April, is a major blow to the Iraqi military and government, which have sought to regain the initiative in Anbar after a string of losses there over the past year.

The Islamic State opened its attack by using armored bulldozers to remove concrete barriers that blocked the road to the government center, according to Al Jazeera. Suicide bombers then targeted the entrance to the government compound, a military Humvee, and the Health Ministry. Three more suicide bombers targeted the Anbar Operations Command on the northwestern edge of the city. The suicide bombings were reportedly led by a British suicide bomber known as “Abu Musa Britani.”

Jihadists then stormed the breach and battled with Iraqi forces before taking control of the complex and raising the Islamic State flag over one of the buildings.

The number of Iraqi military, Awakening, and Islamic State fighters killed or wounded has not been disclosed. An Iraqi security official told Al Baghdadiyah News that Coalition aircraft killed 16 jihadists, including “leading figure Akram Muhammad Ali al Farraji,” in an airstrike in the At Ta’mim district in Ramadi.

The Islamic State advanced on the government center despite Coalition air support. US Central Command, which manages Operation Inherent Resolve, the mission to “degrade and defeat” the Islamist group, launched two airstrikes near Ramadi that targeted an Islamic State “tactical unit” and a “fighting position” over the past 24 hours.

Islamic State supporters have announced the victory on social media sites and posted images of the battle and its aftermath.

“The Islamic State announced the full liberation of the government complex, which includes the government building, police, the Directorate of Education building, and the health building,” an Islamic State media operative proclaimed.

Another jihadist proclaimed that “government forces and the Awakening collapsed completely.” An Islamic State supporter on Twitter claimed that Brigadier General Sabah, the deputy police chief for Anbar, was seriously wounded during the fighting.

The Islamic State launched its latest offensive to take control of Ramadi at the beginning of April, several days after Prime Minister Haider al Abadi said that Iraq’s “next stand and battle will be here in the land of Anbar to completely liberate it.” By the end of April, the Islamic State advanced into several neighborhoods and killed and wounded scores of Iraqi troops. [See LWJ report, Islamic State launches assault on Ramadi and Islamic State releases video of recent battles near Ramadi.]

The city has been contested since January 2014, when the jihadist group took control of Fallujah and other cities and towns in Anbar. Most of the province is under the Islamic State’s control.

See photos at LWJ


Also see:

Shia Militia Leader Explodes Over Possibility of U.S. Support for Kurdish Forces

Peshmerga fighters walk in the Tal al-Ward district, 20 miles southwest of Kirkuk, Iraq, in March.

Peshmerga fighters walk in the Tal al-Ward district, 20 miles southwest of Kirkuk, Iraq, in March.

CSP, by Kyle Shideler, April 30, 2015:

Shia leader Moqtada Al-Sadr, head of the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM), issued a stark denunciation of the U.S. Defense Bill currently in front of the U.S. House of Representatives this week, threatening to fight U.S. interests both in Iraq and overseas, in the event that the bill passed.

Al Sadr opposes the bill, because it would authorize the direct transfer of military aid to Kurdish Peshmerga and Sunni tribal forces in order to fight the Islamic State, outside of the direct control of the central government in Baghdad.

“The U.S. House of Representatives intends to pass a draft law on Iraq making each sect independent from the other, and this will be the beginning of Iraq’s division,” Sadr said in a statement. If the U.S. passes such law, “then we will be obliged to lift the freeze on the military wing which is tasked with (fighting) the American side, to start hit the U.S. interests in Iraq and even abroad possibly,” Sadr warned.

Al Sadr’s JAM was one of the primary Shia militia forces used by Iran during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and responsible the deaths of numerous American fighting men and women. Iraq has primarily leaned on the use of Shia militias, operating under the rubric of the Popular Moblization Forces, but many of the 30,000+ militia fighters operate under direct command and control from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The Baghdad government, which is heavily supported by Iran, has also vocally opposed the measure:

We will reject the arming of the Peshmerga directly by the US,” Iraq’s Defense Minister Khalid Al-Obeidi, told Rudaw on Thursday.

Kurdish forces have repeatedly complained that aid designated for use by their forces has repeatedly been redirected by the Baghdad government to Shia militias, some of whom are responsible for sectarian war crimes. Kurdish forces have also expressed concernover the entry of Shia forces into areas viewed by the Kurds as traditionally Kurdish, such as Kirkuk.

Supporters of the Peshmerga took to twitter to complain about the double standard:

Garmiyani tweet

In the United States, the Obama Administration finds itself on the same side of the argument as Moqtada Al-Sadr, opposing the bill to permit arms for Kurdish forces. As State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed yesterday:

QUESTION: Yes. Do you have any comment about this draft resolution at the Armed Services Committee that calls for the recognition of the Sunni fighters and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces as a country, and so they can be – directly receive aid and weapons from the U.S., not through the central government?

MS HARF: I saw that. I saw that. And to be very clear: The policy of this Administration is clear and consistent in support of a unified Iraq, and that we’ve always said a unified Iraq is stronger, and it’s important to the stability of the region as well. Our military assistance and equipment deliveries, our policy remains the same there as well, that all arms transfers must be coordinated via the sovereign central government of Iraq. We believe this policy is the most effective way to support the coalition’s efforts.

So we look forward to working with congress on language that we could support on this important issue, but the draft bill, as you noted, in the House – this is very early in the process here for the NDAA – as currently written on this issue, of course, does not reflect Administration policy.

By opposing the direct arming of Sunni and Kurdish forces (and the Kurdish forces in particular), the administration is continuing a policy arc in the region that continues to serve the interests of the Iranians because it creates a dynamic where the only viable players are either Sunni jihadists (whether Islamic State, or in the case of Syria, Al Qaeda-linked groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra), or Iranian-backed forces, such as Assad and the Shia militias operating in Iraq, who are no less committed enemies of the United States.  Bringing supplies directly to Kurdish forces will give the United States a third option to positively affect the outcome of events in Iraq without requiring the modus vivendi with the Iranians.

The Baathist Phoenix

iraq-al-douri-450x253Frontpage, by Kenneth R. Timmerman, April 23, 2015:

1]The alleged killing on Friday of a former henchman of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein by Shiite militiamen loyal to Iran could have far reaching consequences for the United States.

was one of a handful of survivors from Saddam’s inner circle. Labelled the King of Clubs in the famous deck of cards that guided U.S. capture efforts after the 2003 liberation of Iraq, ad-Douri evaded traps a sand fly.

Three times he was pronounced dead. Three times he returned to give video-taped speeches and make public appearances, leading an insurgency against the United States and, more recently, against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

Ad-Duri supporters tell me that he has done so again – although pro-Iranian militiamen claim to have conducted DNA sampling on the beard of the man they killed in a raid on Friday andproclaimed it [2] to be ad-Duri.

Why is ad-Duri’s fate so important?

Because as new documents uncovered by Der Spiegel show [3], it was ad-Duri’s Baathists who provided the military know-how, strategic thinking, and intimate knowledge of Iraqi society that allowed the Islamic State to stage its dramatic takeover of a large swathe of Iraqi territory last year.

They also provided a vast pool of manpower from the former Iraqi army that, in a monumental strategic blunder, former U.S. Viceroy Paul “Jerry” Bremer cashiered without pay just days after arriving in Baghdad in May 2003.

The unholy alliance between mostly secular Baathists and the Islamist thugs of al Qaeda in Iraq – now known as the Islamic State, or Daesh – has presented the greatest challenge to the U.S. and Iranian-backed government in Baghdad since the surge in 2007-2008.

Unlike that time, there are not 130,000 U.S. troops on the ground to combat them. This time, it is the Iranians who are providing boots on the ground, led by the commander of the Quds Force – Iran’s equivalent of the Special Forces – Major General Qassem Suleymani.

And that’s where ad-Duri becomes even more important.

Sources close to the Baathist leader tell me that ad-Duri has broken with Daesh, and is seeking to lead the growing Baathists forces into some form of détente with the United States, to counter Iran’s growing influence in his country and the region.

They are calling themselves the Iraqi Forces Coalition, and have issued a manifesto [4] proclaiming their goal of driving a wedge between Iran and the Islamic State.

The group includes moderate Islamic groups in Iran and represents major Sunni and Shiite tribes.

When representatives of the new Coalition first broached the idea of a split with Daesh to CIA contacts last year, no one took them seriously. So they staged a dramatic show of force. As Islamic State forces seized Mosul and began targeting Kurdish forces in the north, the Baathist Coalition launched rockets [5]against the most heavily guarded site outside the Green Zone: Baghdad International Airport.

“We reached the airport with military vehicles and shut it down for one hour. And then we left,” a source close to the Coalition leadership told me.

The U.S. and the Baghdad government attributed the attack to Daesh. “But they knew it wasn’t Daesh. They knew it was carried out by professional military people,” the source said.

A large number of the Daesh fighters in Iraq are former al Qaeda fighters who have been trained and equipped by Iran.

For years, Iran has claimed it was “detaining” al Qaeda fighters who fled to Iran from Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.

Iran’s support for al Qaeda is one of the deep dirty secrets of an Iranian regime that operates in many ways like the former Soviet Union: lighting fires around the region, then offering its services to put them out.

The United States Treasury Department ultimately exposed [6] Iran’s sponsorship of al Qaeda in a series of press releases identifying al Qaeda’s clandestine financial networks based in Iran.

In December 2011, a U.S. federal court judge ruled that Iran was behind the 9/11 attacks [7] and that the Iranian government had provided extensive material support for the hijackers and to al Qaeda in general.

Ad-Duri and his supporters – Sunni and Shia alike – are fighting to staunch the spread of Iranian influence, first in Iraq, then across the region.

Where are America’s strategic interests? The Obama administration appears to be conflicted.

As White House press Secretary Josh Earnest admitted on Tuesday, the U.S. has an interest in preventing Iran from arming Houthi rebels in Yemen and has dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Teddy Roosevelt to waters off the Yemeni coast to potentially intercept Iranian weapons shipments.

And yet, the United States appears to sit back and allow Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi hand his country over to Iranian-backed militias, such as those who claimed to have killed ad-Duri on Friday, and to their commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleymani.

That is where ad-Duri comes in. Can the former Baathist and the non-sectarian Coalition he has formed provide a viable alternative to Iranian control of Iraq and the Persian Gulf region?

“We are not pretending to be your friends,” a source close to the Coalition leadership told me. “But we are not your enemies. The Iranians are our enemies. And they are your enemies.”

If only the President of the United States understood affairs so clearly.

Also see:

Chairman of Joint Chiefs Downplays Ramadi Potentially Falling to ISIS

Displaced Sunni people, who fled the violence in the city of Ramadi, arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, April 17, 2015. REUTERS/STRINGER

Displaced Sunni people, who fled the violence in the city of Ramadi, arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, April 17, 2015.

CSP, by Aaron Kliegman, April 17, 2015:

Islamic State (ISIS) is currently launching an assault on the Iraqi city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. After gaining control of areas to the city’s north, taking villages to the city’s east, and already holding ground to its south, ISIS fought Iraqi security forces to Ramadi’s west on Friday in an attempt to surround the provincial capital.

Thousands of residents are fleeing the area as local leaders warn the city will fall unless they receive help. Specifically, people like Faleh Essawi, deputy chief of the Anbar provincial council, are pleading for more air support from the U.S.-led coalition and more assistance from Baghdad. While another council member, Farhan Mohammed, says Ramadi will survive, he expressed frustration at Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his government’s lack of seriousness in countering ISIS in Anbar.

Another provincial council member, Athal al-Fahdawi, asserted that Ramadi is in “great danger” and said ISIS suicide bombers have been targeting government buildings and checkpoints in the city. U.S. defense officials also believe Ramadi could soon fall to ISIS, a change from earlier this week when many from the Pentagon said this possibility was less likely.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, played down the importance of Ramadi at a Pentagon news conference, going so far as saying, “The city itself is not symbolic in any way.” He elaborated, “It’s not been declared part of the caliphate on one hand, or central to the future of Iraq” and emphasized the city’s fall would not be a strategic defeat, is not central to U.S. aims in defeating ISIS, and would not expose weaknesses in current U.S. policy.

Ramadi, however, is important in the war against ISIS, and while a loss there would not end the Iraqis’ campaign in Anbar, it would have moral and strategic implications for both the U.S. and the region.

Ramadi was a major center of conflict during the Iraq War where several Americas fought and lost their lives. Al-Qaeda in Iraq – the precursor to ISIS – had, by the summer of 2006, declared Ramadi the capital of their caliphate. The U.S. had to launch a difficult offensive to retake the city, which cost great blood and treasure. Losing Ramadi to ISIS after the U.S. fought so hard for it would be a significant symbolic loss.

Furthermore, the Iraqi military moved into Anbar this week with a wave of confidence after driving ISIS out of Tikrit, albeit with help from Iranian-supported/directed Shia militias. Success in Anbar would keep momentum going forward and show the Iraqis have taken the upper hand from ISIS. Meanwhile, ISIS is looking to make up for its loss in Tikrit by gaining ground in Anbar, and success in this endeavor would affect morale for both sides.

Ramadi is also important as the capital of Iraq’s largest governorate (Anbar Province), only 70 miles west of Baghdad. Beyond being a relatively prominent city close to the country’s capital, its location in Anbar has significant implications for the security environment.

Anbar is known as the Sunni heartland of Iraq. Therefore, its population is more likely to be sympathetic to ISIS – which is fervently anti-Shia – than other parts of the country. ISIS is already entrenched in parts of Anbar, and many Sunni tribes in the area are reluctant, if not refusing, to help Iraqi forces. Several of these Sunni tribesmen are also experienced fighters who received insurgency training from 2003 to 2008. As a result, it will be difficult for the Iraqis to drive ISIS out of Anbar, especially if Ramadi falls.

Because Anbar is predominately Sunni, the Shia militias fighting ISIS will need to play less of a role in this offensive. Strong Shia action will enflame sectarian violence and perpetuate further chaos, which will only help ISIS. The Iraqi military may have to fight in Anbar alone, making any defeats all the more demoralizing for them.

While the fall of Ramadi would not drastically alter the situation on the ground, it would still be significant and have foreboding implications going forward. The city is part of the caliphate because ISIS views the entire region as its rightful empire. Therefore, the jihadist group will continue to try and expand, committing atrocities along the way, until met with countervailing force.

Also see:

Blown to kingdom come: Incredible footage shows ISIS suicide bomber’s car explode in MID-AIR

Explodes like a firework: The car erupts in a ball of flames either due to the explosives or fuel tank igniting

Explodes like a firework: The car erupts in a ball of flames either due to the explosives or fuel tank igniting

Jihadi tried to launch attack on Kurdish Peshmerga forces near Kirkuk, Iraq

Daily Mail, By SIMON TOMLINSON, April 14, 2015:

This is the incredible moment a car being driven by an ISIS suicide bomber detonates mid-air seconds after it is blasted skywards by an explosion on the ground.

Video shows the jihadi attempting to launch an attack on Kurdish Peshmerga forces, reportedly near Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

But as the car approaches, it hits what appears to be a roadside bomb, catapulting the vehicle at least 100ft into the air.

Just as it begins to fall back down to earth, the car detonates like a firework, either due to the explosives on board or the fuel tank igniting.

What’s left of the car is then seen dropping back down into the massive cloud of smoke that has billowed up from the ground.  

The footage is the latest in a string of videos released by Kurdish forces which show ISIS launching bungled attacks in Iraq.

Compilation clips released on YouTube also show militants being killed or injured by back-firing mortars, malfunctioning machine guns and misfiring rockets.

It comes as Iraq’s prime minister said his country needs greater support from the international coalition so it can ‘finish’ the Islamic State.

Haider al-Abadi said the ‘marked increase’ in airstrikes, weapons deliveries and training has helped roll back the extremists, but that more is required to eliminate the group once and for all.

‘We want to see more,’ al-Abadi told journalists yesterday as he boarded a flight to Washington where he will meet with Barack Obama as part of his first official visit to the U.S. as prime minister.

‘We can finish Daesh… and we can stop their advance in other countries,’ he added, using the group’s Arabic acronym.

‘We are the only country with armed forces on the ground fighting Daesh. We need all the support of the world.’

The U.S. and its coalition allies have carried out nearly 2,000 strikes in Iraq since its campaign began in August – as well as nearly 1,400 in neighboring Syria.

American officials say the campaign has been somewhat successful, though it is likely to stretch on for years.

In November, Obama authorised the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces, which could more than double the total number of U.S. forces to 3,100.

The Pentagon has made a spending request to Congress of $1.6 billion, focusing on training and arming Iraqi and Kurdish forces.