Hundreds Of British Troops To Be Sent To Iraq

Small groups of British soldiers have been in Iraq training Kurds

Small groups of British soldiers have been in Iraq training Kurds

Hundreds of British soldiers are to be sent to Iraq to help the fight against Islamic State, Sky News understands.

The soldiers – expected to number a few hundred – will go to the region “within weeks” senior military sources have said.

The National Security Council is expected to rubber-stamp the mission when it meets on Tuesday.

Although small groups of British troops have conducted similar missions over the past few months, this will be much greater in size and on a more permanent basis.

A team of military advisors recently went to the country to scope out options.

It’s believed the mission will be largely split between the capital Baghdad and Irbil in the Kurdish controlled north.

It hasn’t been confirmed which regiments the troops will be drawn from.

The UK government has repeatedly insisted that any such training mission would not constitute ‘boots-on-the-ground’ although British Special Forces are operating in the region.

In October a dozen soldiers from The Yorkshire Regiment were dispatched to Irbil to train the Kurds to use heavy machine guns.

An advisory team has also been embedded in the Iraqi military HQ, working alongside the Americans.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman wouldn’t confirm the specifics of the latest mission but did say: “The Defence Secretary announced the intention to provide further training to the Iraqi military in early November.

“No decisions on troop numbers, units or locations have been made, so this is purely speculation at this stage.”

The British contribution will fit into a wider mission involving a number of nations.

Earlier this week, the most senior US Commander Lt Gen James Terry revealed that the coalition training mission would involve around 1,500 soldiers.

US special operations troops have already set up a training base at the Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar Province.

Germany recently pledged around 100 soldiers to help train the Peshmerga in northern Iraq. That mission, if approved, will begin early next year.

NATO has also said it would explore options if the Iraqi government came forward with an official request.

The Alliance said that any training mission wouldn’t necessarily be based in Iraq. Neighbouring Jordan has been used for similar projects.

What is hiding behind Islamic State?

Photo: Press Association

Photo: Press Association

Chatham House, December 2014, Volume 70, Number 6, by Nadim Shehadi – h/t Fortuna’s Corner

In early 18th-century Aleppo there was a schism in the Greek Orthodox Church, and a new sect emerged called the Melkite Church, in communion with Rome. The Melkites, also called Greek Catholics, needed their own church, but it was illegal to build a new church in the lands of the Ottoman Empire; however, if a Christian church already existed, it was protected and it was forbidden to tear it down.

To build their church, the Melkites resorted to a trick that is practised to this day and that may help explain the complex phenomenon that we call Islamic State. The illegal new church was built in hiding, inside a hangar or a large barn, away from the eyes of the law and of rival sects. After a while the Melkites were betrayed and the barn had to be torn down, revealing a fully built church. Once it was out in the open, the church acquired legitimacy and permanency.

This practice is still followed in some slums and refugee camps where only temporary structures with tin or corrugated iron roofs are allowed. To get round this law, homes with solid roofs are built underneath the canopy of a temporary roof; after a while, the tin roof is removed. Once these solid homes are in the open, they are subject to different laws and are de facto recognized.

Islamic State is in fact such a barn or tin roof under which are hiding a complex set of forces; they would be illegal if they tried to consolidate their power over a territory but they will have to be recognized once the roof is removed.

One element is the General Military Council for Iraqi Revolutionaries, former Ba’ath Party officers from Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army with over thirty years of experience ruling the land. Many have been in hiding or in exile, given sanctuary and support by the Syrian regime.

Another important element is the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, a Sufi order which is powerful in the region and with connections that are not well understood. They include senior members of the AK party of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Muslim clergy in Syria and Lebanon.

The third element are Sunni tribes in the western provinces of Iraq who are disaffected with the policies of Shia hegemony of the former prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, and bitter at being abandoned by the Americans with whom they collaborated to get rid of Al-Qaeda in Iraq during the ‘Surge’ in 2007-08. Some of the reported massacres in western Iraq, brutal as they are, may have more to do with Ba’ath-style re-establishment of control in these provinces than with what we think of as the jihadism of Islamic State.

These disaffected Sunnis are the real forces hiding inside the barn. They have local support and connections that may explain the speed with which they took over territory; they may be led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, second in command in Saddam’s regime and the King of Spades in the US’s deck of cards. He is described as the hidden sheikh of the Naqshbandi order.

The fourth element – the one everyone can see – is composed of the remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq most of whom have been released or escaped from Syrian and Iraqi jails. These had played an important role in destabilizing Iraq in 2006/7, a role facilitated by the Syrian regime.

This element, joined by foreign fighters, is the barn inside which the rest of that toxic mixture of disaffected groups is hidden. The purported Salafi Islamist creed of Islamic State is incompatible with the other elements within it: the secular nationalism of the Ba’athists is anathema to the so-called caliphate proclaimed by Islamic State; Sufis such as the Naqshbandis are considered heretics and apostates; and tribal leaders are always wary of losing followers to cults.

Islamic State has been described as a virtual entity, its visibility a product of a sophisticated media strategy designed to make it seem like the fount of all evil. This propaganda campaign created the barn and at the same time created the urge to destroy it.

There is much confusion about Islamic State in international policy circles and better understanding of the phenomenon is crucial. All the opposing forces in the region have suddenly found themselves on the same side against Islamic State. In this new alignment, some voices are calling for western re-engagement with the Assad regime in Syria and a shift away from America’s traditional allies among the Gulf states in favour of Iran. The US Vice-President Joe Biden expressed this confusion publicly when he said that US allies were part of the problem.

If some of the forces incorporated in Islamic State represent legitimate elements of Sunni grievance, then focusing on the ‘caliphate’ as the ultimate enemy is diverting attention from two important causes of Sunni radicalization: one is the revolt in Syria, where the regime is now free to barrel bomb its cities and the rebels feel abandoned by the West. The second is the Iranian-sponsored militias such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and many more in Iraq which are now tacitly accepted by the US as part of the fight against Islamic State and have a free hand in their offensives against the Sunni population.

These militias in Iraq, clones of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, have undermined the US-trained Iraqi army. With the army now barely operational, these militias are at the forefront of the fight against Islamic State. Like an arsonist posing as a firefighter, Iran and Syria are now proposing themselves as part of the solution to a problem they helped to create.

The Americans are not blameless. The increase in radical elements in Iraq is also to a large extent a consequence of three decisions taken by the Americans after the invasion of Iraq: The disbanding of the Iraqi army which left its officers outside the system; the crippling of state institutions through the wholesale de-Ba’athification process; and the timing and manner of US withdrawal, which left a vacuum to be filled by Iran.

The moral of the story is that fighting Islamic State in alliance with Iran and Assad is futile: it will increase grievances and exacerbate the problem. What is required is to address these grievances by protecting the Syrian population from the regime and curbing the power of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Iraq and the rest of the region.

The US, instead of defusing Sunni-Shia tension, is sending an inflammatory message: that it is ready to work with Assad and Iran to fight Islamic State and, while engaging with Iran on the nuclear issue, it will disregard Tehran’s power plays in the region.

Engagement should be with the real forces which operate under the cover of Islamic State; these include some unpalatable elements but evidence suggests that they have gained ground for a reason, and if that reason is not addressed they will gain even more.

The Obama Administration’s Strategic Schizophrenia

obamasCSP, By Kyle Shideler:

Last week in the Wall Street Journal it was reported that the Obama administration sought an agreement on fighting ISIS with Iran:

The correspondence underscores that Mr. Obama views Iran as important—whether in a potentially constructive or negative role—to his emerging military and diplomatic campaign to push Islamic State from the territories it has gained over the past six months. Mr. Obama’s letter also sought to assuage Iran’s concerns about the future of its close ally, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, according to another person briefed on the letter. It states that the U.S.’s military operations inside Syria aren’t targeted at Mr. Assad or his security forces.

It is now being reported that the same administration believes ISIS cannot be defeated without overthrowing Assad:

President Barack Obama has asked his national security team for another review of the U.S. policy toward Syria after realizing that ISIS may not be defeated without a political transition in Syria and the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, senior U.S. officials and diplomats tell CNN. The review is a tacit admission that the initial strategy of trying to confront ISIS first in Iraq and then take the group’s fighters on in Syria, without also focusing on the removal of al-Assad, was a miscalculation. In just the past week, the White House has convened four meetings of the President’s national security team, one of which was chaired by Obama and others that were attended by principals like the secretary of state. These meetings, in the words of one senior official, were “driven to a large degree how our Syria strategy fits into our ISIS strategy.”

The contradiction between these two policies should be obvious, as Iran has expended ample time, funds, and men (primarily through proxy forces like Hezbollah and other Shia militias) to keep Assad in power. In fact overthrowing Assad would by necessity require the targeting and destruction of some of the very same forces that the Obama administration envisioned fighting ISIS on our behalf in Iraq.

The administration’s utter strategic incoherence is founded on an unwillingness to comprehend what drives both the Iranian aims (through proxies in Iraq and Syria), as well as the forces arrayed against them.  As we have repeatedly pointed out here on the Free Fire blog (See here, here, and here), the Syrian opposition is dominated by Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-allied Islamist militias connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Obama Administration’s policy for Syria has involved alternatively partnering with these Islamists, while also bombing certain units of them during the course of the air campaign against ISIS. All sides in the current regional conflict are motivated by the same ideological agenda, establishing their hegemony in the region in order to extend (their particularly sectarian brand) of Islamic law, and to use future gains as a base for further jihad against their enemies, including principally the United States. Whether the U.S. attempts to partner with Iran against ISIS, or Al Qaeda against ISIS, or the Muslim Brotherhood against Al Qaeda, or Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood against Iran, every permutation will result in the same eventual outcome. Victory for enemies of the United States.

The Obama administration has prided itself on it’s attention to “nuance”. In its dealings in the Middle East, it has repeatedly attempted to tease out differences and distinctions that are at best irrelevant, leading to the construction of a world view that is ultimately divorced from reality in any meaningful way. The result is that this Administration finds itself simultaneously on all sides, and still the wrong sides, of every strategic challenge.

Iran Switching to Hard Ball in a Last Attempt to Control Iraq

Shi'ite fighters and Iraqi army members participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in Jurf al-Sakhar October 26, 2014.(Photo: © Reuters)

Shi’ite fighters and Iraqi army members participate in an intensive security deployment against Islamic State militants in Jurf al-Sakhar October 26, 2014.(Photo: © Reuters)

The unforeseen ouster of Nouri al-Maliki represented a major defeat for the Iranian regime’s agenda in Iraq. Tactics had to be switched.

BY JACOB CAMPBELL:

“Good Opportunity”

A “good opportunity” is how Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi – one of the Iranian regime’s most senior clerics – described the events of June 10.

By most accounts, the fall of Mosul on that date was exactly the crisis the mullahs needed to tighten their grip on Iraq.

In a June 16  article for the New York Times, under the headline “ISIS Will Fail in Iraq, and Iran Will Be the Victor,” Steven Simon of the Middle East Institute predicted that, “to the extent that this sectarian brawl produces something resembling a winner, it won’t be in Washington, Mosul or Baghdad – but in Tehran.”

Drawing much the same conclusion, Middle East experts Michael Doran and Max Boot wrote in the Washington Post on June 17 that “the rise of ISIS provides Tehran with multiple benefits. For one thing, it makes … the Shi’ites of Iraq ever more dependent on Iranian protection.”

Nor is the long shadow cast over Iraq by the Iranian regime visible only from a Western perspective.

As Iraq’s Azzaman daily – a favourite of Iraqis in the country’s predominantly Shi’ite south – reported on September 4, “The stunning military successes by the Islamic State (IS) have made Iraq more reliant on Iran than any time before … IS’s invasion [has] given Tehran more leverage on almost all aspects of life in the country.”

Likewise, on October 1, Iranian dissident and human rights activist Amir Basiri argued in Forbes magazine that “Iran has been able to benefit immensely from the havoc that the Islamic State has wreaked across Iraq … [by using it] as an excuse to surge thousands of troops through the porous Iran-Iraq border and notch up the violent activities of its many proxy militia groups.”

Indeed, in the months that followed the Mosul takeover, at least 5,000 Revolutionary Guards – including 200 elite Qods Force officers – swarmed across the border into Iraq, while membership of the Iranian-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah militia tripled to over 30,000, swelling the total number of Iraq’s Shi’ite militiamen to well in excess of 150,000.

Consequently, the Pentagon assessed that, by mid-July, the Iraqi army was “deeply infiltrated” and had become “heavily dependent on Shi’ite militias – many of which were trained in Iran – as well as on advisers from Iran’s paramilitary Qods Force,” the New York Timesrevealed.

According to Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey, as reported by the World Tribune on September 22, “A study by US Central Command determined that 24 of the 50 brigades in the Iraqi army … [are] dominated by Shi’ites believed [to be] aligned with Iran.”

In an interview with CNN on October 13, Fareed Zakaria of the Council on Foreign Relations summarised the state of Iraq’s military in blunter – but no less accurate – terms: “There’s no real Iraqi army … If you scratch the surface of the Iraqi army, it’s a bunch of sectarian militias.”

All of this corroborates the following information, contained in a report handed to the author during a meeting with Iraqi tribal representatives in late June:

“Qassem Soleimani, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force (IRGC-QF), has set up his headquarters in the Baghdad International Airport zone, where he is directing the reorganisation and amalgamation of the Iraqi army and Shi’ite militias into 200-man battalions, each of which is to be commanded by an IRGC-QF officer. Soleimani’s chief of staff is Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, a senior advisor to the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia … Recently, Soleimani met with Hadi al-Ameri, Iraqi Transport Minister and leader of the Badr Brigade militia, to negotiate the merger of the Badr Organisation with Kata’ib Hezbollah … For all intents and purposes, Soleimani is now the commander-in-chief of Iraq’s armed forces.”

Rather than downplaying its control over the Iraqi army, the Iranian regime has sought to publicize it, with the state-run Fars Newsproudly affirming that “Soleimani is the actual leader of the Iraqi forces,” according to Iraqi News.

With Iraq in chaos and the reins of its military firmly in the mullahs’ hands, the Iran newspaper – a publication owned by the Islamic Republic News Agency – felt confident enough to claim in a June 26 editorial that, “[since] there is no way to resolve the escalating crisis in Iraq domestically, … Iran can pave the way for an interim coalition” to govern Iraq.

This, however, proved to be an overoptimistic miscalculation.

Read more at Clarion Project

Jacob Campbell is a Senior Fellow of the Humanitarian Intervention Centre, Head of Research at Stand for Peace, and Co-Chairman of the Ashraf Campaign (ASHCAM). He tweets@JCampbellUKIPon Twitter.

Also see:

Foreign jihadists flocking to Iraq and Syria on ‘unprecedented scale’ – UN

An image grab taken from a video released by Islamic State group's official Al-Raqqa site via YouTube. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

An image grab taken from a video released by Islamic State group’s official Al-Raqqa site via YouTube. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

By Spencer Ackerman:

The United Nations has warned that foreign jihadists are swarming into the twin conflicts in Iraq and Syria on “an unprecedented scale” and from countries that had not previously contributed combatants to global terrorism.

A report by the UN security council, obtained by the Guardian, finds that 15,000 people have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State (Isis) and similar extremist groups. They come from more than 80 countries, the report states, “including a tail of countries that have not previously faced challenges relating to al-Qaida”.

The UN said it was uncertain whether al-Qaida would benefit from the surge. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida who booted Isis out of his organisation, “appears to be maneuvering for relevance”, the report says.

The UN’s numbers bolster recent estimates from US intelligence about the scope of the foreign fighter problem, which the UN report finds to have spread despite the Obama administration’s aggressive counter-terrorism strikes and global surveillance dragnets.

“Numbers since 2010 are now many times the size of the cumulative numbers of foreign terrorist fighters between 1990 and 2010 – and are growing,” says the report, produced by a security council committee that monitors al-Qaida.

The UN report did not list the 80-plus countries that it said were the source of fighters flowing fighters into Iraq and Syria. But in recent months, Isis supporters have appeared in places as unlikely as the Maldives, and its videos proudly display jihadists with Chilean-Norwegian and other diverse backgrounds.

“There are instances of foreign terrorist fighters from France, the Russian Federation and and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland operating together,” it states. More than 500 British citizens are believed to have travelled to the region since 2011.

Read more at The Guardian

ISIS threat: What Team Obama doesn’t want you to know

oliver northFox News, By Oliver North, Oct. 22, 2014:

The vaunted Obama “National Security Team” tells us their “broad-based coalition” is “succeeding” against the savages who variously describe themselves as ISIS, ISIL, IS or “The Caliphate.” That’s according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest in press briefings on October 14 and 15. Don’t believe it.

Here – from friends with “boots on the ground” – are facts about what’s really happening that the Obama administration either doesn’t know, doesn’t want you to know – or both:

First, the number of ISIS “jihadis” in Iraq and Syria is much greater than we are being told. According to multiple sources in Baghdad, Irbil and elsewhere “down-range,” there are upwards of 40,000 IS fighters in Syria and an equal or greater number in Iraq.

The very visible fight for Kobani on the Syria-Turkey border is a “diversion” – a military distraction – created by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – the “Islamic State’s” self-proclaimed “caliph.” He is a vicious butcher, but no fool. He and his underlings understand their neighborhood and our western media.

Expecting reporters to come – and they have – he sent 4,000 ISIS fighters to assault the Kurds in Kobani – while holding another 5,000+ in reserve – with orders not to cross the nearby border with Turkey. Western media outlets flocked to the frontier and lined up their cameras next to Turkish Army tanks and armored vehicles.

American pundits ask, “Why aren’t the Turks intervening to save the Kurds? Al-Baghdadi knows the Kurds desperately holding on in Kobani are predominantly affiliated with the PKK – the Kurdistan Workers Party – against which Turkish governments have been waging bloody civil war for three decades. In Ankara, the Erdogan regime isn’t about to further the cause of an independent Kurdistan – or prevent a sanguinary end for the Kurds in Kobani.

Meanwhile in Iraq, where the real battle is being fought – there are no western cameras to record the serial defeats ISIS is inflicting on the Shiite-led government of Haider al-Abadi. All but unnoticed, Anbar Province – the heart of Iraq’s “Sunni Triangle” – has fallen to highly mobile IS units.

During the past month, while we focused our lenses on Kobani, Al Baghdadi’s terror army killed, captured and murdered more than 3,500 Iraqi soldiers – all those unable to flee. Now, ISIS is poised to seize Haditha Dam, source of nearly one third of the nation’s hydroelectric power and Al Asad, the Iraqi government’s last remaining airbase west of Baghdad.

ISIS forces have invested Baghdad on three sides and Sunni jihadists are conducting near daily suicide bomb attacks in the capital city’s Shiite neighborhoods. One U.S. officer told me, “These SVBIEDs (Suicide Vehicular-borne Improvised Explosives) in Baghdad are ISIS probes and rehearsals for the attack they plan to launch on the U.S. embassy.”

“Worse yet,” says a retired senior intelligence official, “nobody in Washington seems to comprehend this is all part of the bloody ‘holy war’ between Sunnis and Shiites that’s been going on since the seventh century. ISIS is gaining ground, recruits and military prowess because al-Baghdadi has succeeded in portraying himself as the ‘protector of Sunni Islam.’ He claims his ‘Sunni Caliphate’ will prevent Shiites from establishing a hegemon from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. His propaganda not only shows IS fighters as brutally victorious, it also depicts the U.S. and the ‘Obama coalition,’ as allied with the Shiites in Baghdad, al-Assad’s Alawite dynasty in Damascus, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Ayatollahs in Tehran. That’s why al-Baghdadi continues to attract Sunni militants by the thousands from every part of the planet – including the United States.”

All with whom I have recently communicated about these matters agree it’s unlikely ISIS can seize and occupy Baghdad – at least for now. But they also say too little attention is being paid to the risk of an attack on the largest U.S. embassy in the world; that “ISIS ethnic and religious cleansing” cannot be stopped by undirected airstrikes alone; and “the Kurdish Peshmerga are not receiving sufficient help to make a difference.”

Meanwhile, Americans here at home are preoccupied with whether we can “defeat” Ebola as if a pandemic was about to sweep the nation. Though the virus has killed fewer people around the planet this year than ISIS has murdered in Syria or Iraq this month, it’s clear the O-Team wants us to believe Ebola is our greatest peril.

Commander-in-Chief Obama has already dispatched nearly 4,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to battle Ebola – almost four times as many as he has sent to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. We can only pray none of those committed to the “Ebola Battle” become infected or get taken hostage by Boku Harum terrorists.

POTUS and fellow travelers in the so-called mainstream media keep telling us Ebola is our most imminent threat. But Defense Secretary Hagel is more concerned about a more lethal adversary. In a speech on Monday, Oct. 13 to the “Conference of Defense Ministers or the Americas” in Peru, Mr. Hagel described “Climate Change” as our primary enemy.

Confused? You’re not alone. So is our president. On October 14 he attended a mini-military “summit” at Joint Base Andrews. After 2 hours at this “How To Fight” gab-fest with “more than 20 leaders of the Anti-ISIL Coalition” cameras were allowed in so POTUS could inspire us by saying, “…There will be days of progress and days of setbacks.” He was apparently speaking without the aid of a Tele-Prompter.

News flash, Mr. Obama: The barbarians are at the gates of Baghdad. They are coming for us.

Oliver North is the host of “War Stories” in FOX News Channel, the bestselling author of Counterfeit Lies and founder of Freedom Alliance a 501(c)(3) organization providing college scholarships to the children of military personnel killed in the line of duty.

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Authentic Muslim Moderate Cleric: ISIS Is Following Established Islamic Jurisprudence – You Can’t Have Democracy and Sharia

 

NRO, By Andrew C. McCarthy:

If you want to understand the challenge Western liberalism faces from Islamic supremacism, take six minutes to watch this extraordinary interview of Ayad Jamal al-Din, a Shiite cleric, Iraqi intellectual, and former member of the Iraqi parliament who campaigns for a democratic Iraq that separates mosque and state. Mr. al-Din was in Washington for the October 17 interview by al-Iraqiya TV in Iraq, and the interview with English subtitles (which I’ve reproduced as a transcript below) was publicized on Monday by the invaluable MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute).

While President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Prime Minister Cameron absurdly contend that the Islamic State, or ISIS, is not Islamic, al-Din – an authentic moderate Muslim who regards the Islamic State as the enemy – patiently explains that the jihadist organization adheres to a firmly established interpretation of Islam that is based on sharia and fiqh (jurisprudence).

I have repeatedly argued that classical, mainstream sharia is repressive, discriminatory, and anti-democratic, and thus that it was self-defeating for the United States to sponsor new constitutions in Iraq and Afghanistan that attempted to meld Western democratic principles with sharia (see here, here, and here). It is especially gratifying to hear a passionate, articulate explanation of the incompatibility of Western democracy and Islamic jurisprudence from someone who reveres the former, is steeped in the latter, and understands the stakes.

Moreover, for those of us who frequently point out that mosques – which Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna described as the “axis” of his ideological movement in every city and town – are often centers for jihadist incitement, recruitment, training and fundraising, it is refreshing to hear someone intimately familiar with this phenomenon explain that there are mosques throughout the world directly and indirectly championing the Islamic State by glorifying jihad and the caliphate.

Our national security will not be well served until the United States government ends its futile search for “moderate Islamists” and realizes our allies in the Muslim community are the real moderates, meaning pro-Western democrats who reject the imposition of sharia on civil society. Supporting our enemies only undermines our friends.

Here is the transcript

Former Iraqi MP Ayad Jamal Al-Din: A Civil State Is the Only Solution to Combat ISIS

 

Published on Oct 20, 2014 by MEMRITVVideos

In a recent TV interview, former Iraqi MP Ayad Jamal Al-Din called for the establishment of a civil state in Iraq based on man-made law and equality, rather than on Islamic jurisprudence, as the only way to combat ISIS. He further said that there were thousands of mosques in the U.S. and worldwide that incited and prepared people to join ISIS. “Islam has been politicized and is used as a sword,” he said in the Al-Iraqiya TV interview, which aired on October 17.

Obama Throws the Free Syrian Army Under the Bus

Smoke rises following an airstrike by US-led coalition aircraft in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, Oct. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) LEFTERIS PITARAKIS — AP

Smoke rises following an airstrike by US-led coalition aircraft in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, Oct. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
LEFTERIS PITARAKIS — AP

PJ Media, By Patrick Poole, October 16, 2014

For the past three years, the Obama administration has hailed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as the saviors of Syria — the “vetted moderate” force that was going to topple the butcher Assad. Because of that, the administration provided training, money and weapons to prop up the FSA (the word is they sent lawyers too).

But according to a report last night by Hannah Allam at McClatchy, Obama is now throwing the FSA under bus:

John Allen, the retired Marine general in charge of coordinating the U.S.-led coalition’s response to the Islamic State, confirmed Wednesday what Syrian rebel commanders have complained about for months – that the United States is ditching the old Free Syrian Army and building its own local ground force to use primarily in the fight against the Islamist extremists.

“At this point, there is not formal coordination with the FSA,” Allen told reporters at the State Department.

That was perhaps the bluntest answer yet to the question of how existing Syrian rebel forces might fit into the U.S. strategy to fight the Islamic State. Allen said the United States’ intent is to start from scratch in creating a home-grown, moderate counterweight to the Islamic State.

For most of the three years of the Syrian conflict, the U.S. ground game hinged on rebel militias that are loosely affiliated under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, or FSA. Their problems were no secret: a lack of cohesion, uneven fighting skills and frequent battlefield coordination with the al Qaida loyalists of the Nusra Front.

Last month I reported here at PJ Media about the coordination of the “vetted moderate” FSA with Jabhat al-Nusra and even ISIS. That coordination was later confirmed by a senior FSA commander.

Those reports came just as Congress was considering a vote to spend another $500 million to train their administration’s “vetted moderate” partners. That funding wasapproved by both the House and the Senate before Congress left town for the election break. With Obama cutting the FSA loose less than a month later, those who voted against the funding are going to look like geniuses.

Now that the FSA is safely under the bus it remains to be seen exactly who Obama is going to enlist to train and fight. Most of those who can fight are already in the fight. What are they going to do now, put out an ad on Craig’s List?

As one observer noted last night, Syria watchers should keep an eye out for the following ad showing up in the help wanted section of Middle East newspapers:

Wanted, Multicultural, non-sectarian, Jeffersonian democrats interested in military careers. English a plus. Drug test required.

Under Obama’s bus must be getting crowded…

Islamic State Commander Key Figure Behind Recent Military Gains

Omar al-ShishaniBy Bill Gertz:

A Chechen jihadist is emerging as a key Islamic State military commander credited with a series of recent military gains in central Iraq that has left the capital of Baghdad increasingly vulnerable to attack.

Abu Umar al Shishani, a former Republic of Georgia soldier turned jihadist, conducted what security analysts are calling brilliant battlefield maneuvers, involving feints and encirclement, that helped the Islamist forces seeking to take over Iraq win key battles against Iraqi government forces and anti-Islamic State militias in recent weeks.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said Shishani is one of the Islamic State’s (IS, also known as ISIL and ISIS) most capable military commanders.

“He seems to have a strong following among rank and file fighters and has shown on the battlefield he understands how to blend strategy and tactics,” the official said. “There are multiple ISIL attacks that have his fingerprints all over them.”

Last month, Shishani-led IS forces succeeded in trapping an entire elite Iraqi military unit in central Iraq, and killed up to 300 of its fighters, a major setback for Iraqi government efforts to retake parts of the country controlled by the Islamic State  since a June incursion from Syria.

Analysts of the conflict say Shishani has skillfully directed IS forces in eastern Anbar province during an offensive there that prevented Iraqi forces from retaking strategic towns along the Euphrates River, including Anah, Haditha, Hit, and Fallujah—all key locations on a route leading to Baghdad.

“Umar al Shishani appears to be central to ISIL’s Anbar offensive,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a Washington-based counterterrorism analyst.

The IS commander is using tactics far different than those used by IS fighters elsewhere in the region, he said.

“The group, in the majority of areas, has fought like a conventional military, but Shishani has emphasized speed and agility, and his tactics have several layers of complexity, including regularly utilizing feints and harassing attacks to try to force his opponents to chase him and thus place themselves in a vulnerable position,” said Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The battlefield successes led by the IS leader in Iraq contrast sharply with those used by other IS forces in northern Syria, where the group has been fighting to take control of the ethnic Kurdish town of Kobani near the Turkish border.

As a result, Shishani’s military style combining insurgency and traditional military tactics will likely be adopted by other IS units, or the group’s current military offensive risks stalling, Gartenstein-Ross said.

Pro-government Iraqi military troops are struggling against IS forces, which were bolstered by the capture of two Iraq army divisions and their arms and equipment in June, after the Iraqis fled rather than fight.

U.S. defense officials said IS continues to make gains in Anbar province where the fighters are currently located on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Ramadi.

A senior U.S. defense official described the Iraqi army hold on Anbar, a gateway to Baghdad, as “tenuous.”

Read more at Washington Free Beacon

Also see:

5 Key Implications If Baghdad Falls to ISIS

ISIL-surrounds-balad-air-baseBy Patrick Poole:

Reports that ISIS has surrounded Baghdad and are quickly closing in on the Baghdad international airport (armed with MANPADS no less) are troubling. Baghdad itself has been rocked by a series of VBIED attacks in the past 24 hours by ISIS, indicating that the battle for Baghdad has begun.

The possible fall of Baghdad could be the most significant development in the War on Terror since 9/11. And yet, many among the DC foreign policy “smart set” were not long ago mocking such a scenario.

So what happens if such a situation comes to pass? Here are five key implications (by no means limited to these) if Baghdad falls to ISIS:

1) ISIS will not be claiming to the be the Islamic State, they will BE the Islamic State

Symbolism doesn’t matter much to your average post-modern Westerner, but it still does in the Islamic world and the capture of Baghdad will hold enormous value. For 500 years Baghdad was the seat of the Abbasid Caliphate, and falling to ISIS would allow them to reclaim that mantle. Such an event will electrify the Middle East and beyond, with many Muslims holding firmly to the belief that the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924 by Ataturk is seen as one of the key contributing factors in the decline of the Muslim world over the past century. No amount of State Department hashtags or tweets, nor pronouncements by Sheikh Barack Obama and Imam John Kerry that there is nothing Islamic about the Islamic State, will be able to negate any claims by ISIS to be the revived caliphate.

2) The Great Reconciliation between jihadist groups will begin

Much of the Obama administration’s anti-ISIS efforts have been trying to leverage other “vetted moderate” groups in Syria against ISIS, with some “smart set” thinkers even advocating engaging “moderate Al-Qaeda” to that end. We are already seeing jihadist groups gravitating towards ISIS, such as the announcement this week by Pakistani Taliban leaders pledging their allegiance to the Islamic State. Other groups of younger jihadis are breaking away from Al-Qaeda franchises in North Africa and defecting to ISIS. Despite bitter rivalries between ISIS and other jihadist groups in Syria, namely Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, they will be hard-pressed to deny ISIS’ caliphate claims if they do take Baghdad. In that part of the world, nothing succeeds like success. If Baghdad falls, jihadist groups, some of whom have been openly hostile or remained neutral, will quickly align behind ISIS. And the horrid sound coming out of Washington DC will be of foreign policy paradigms imploding.

3) What of US personnel in Iraq?

The US Embassy in Baghdad is the largest embassy on the planet. And after Obama sent 350 more US military personnel to guard the US Embassy last month, there are more than 1,100 US service members in Baghdad protecting the embassy and the airport. That doesn’t include embassy personnel, American aid workers, reporters, etc. also in Baghdad. ISIS doesn’t have to capture the airport to prevent flights from taking off there (e.g. Hamas rockets from Gaza prompting the temporary closure of Israel’s Ben Gurion airport this past summer). If flights can’t get out of Baghdad, how will the State Department and Pentagon evacuate US personnel? An image like the last helicopter out of Saigon would be of considerable propaganda value to ISIS and other jihadist groups. Former CNN reporter Peter Arnett, who witnessed the fall of Saigon in April 1975, raised this possibility back in June. It’s not like the US has prestige to spare internationally, and the fall of Baghdad will mark the beginning of the end of American influence in the Middle East, much like it was in Southest Asia in 1975.

4) If ISIS captures Baghdad, it will be with weapons provided by the US to the Iraqi Army and “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel groups

Since their push back into Iraq this summer, ISIS has regularly paraded captured weapons and vehicles that have been provided by the US to the Iraqi Army, which rapidly collapsed in the face of the ISIS advance. ISIS has subsequently used these US-provided weapons to repel attacks by Iraqi forces. A report published last month by UK-based Conflict Armament Research documented the use of US-provided Humvees, armored personnel carriers, and firearms by ISIS. In addition, ISIS has at least 52 US-made M198 howitzers with GPS aiming systems that have a 20 mile range that will undoubtedly be used in their assault on Baghdad. Yesterday, Charles Lister of the Brookings Institutetweeted out recent images of ISIS fighters equipped with M79 Osa anti-tank weapons that had been provided by Saudi Arabia to the “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army. The potential propaganda value of ISIS capturing Baghdad with US weapons will be enormous.

5) The Fall of Baghdad will herald an unparalleled sectarian war in the Middle East and wide scale regional instability

The fighting in Syria and Iraq has been part of the regional sectarian competition between Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States against Shia Iran and its allies in Iraq, the Assad regime in Syria and Hezbollah. ISIS and Sunni Syrian rebel groups have been proxies in this fight. If Baghdad falls to ISIS, it will be all-hands-on-deck across the entire Middle East, with a sectarian war not seen since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and sectarian/ethnic cleansing not seen since the Balkan wars. We are already seeing Shiite militias killing Sunnis indiscriminately in Iraq and widespread ethnic and religious cleansing by ISIS in Northern Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, our NATO ally Turkey is now bombing the same Kurds who are fighting ISIS. Because of these sectarian attacks millions of refugees have already flooded to Syria’s neighboring states, destablizing countries like Lebanon and Jordan. The ISIS push in Anbar province in Iraq has caused 180,000 more to flee, according to the UN. The potential humanitarian disaster from the dislocation of millions in the region could be without parallel.

Read more at PJ Media

Turkey agrees to let U.S. planes use its bases for attacks on Syria

Turkish armored vehicles patrol the border on Oct. 12 near the Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab. (Aris Messinis / AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish armored vehicles patrol the border on Oct. 12 near the Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab. (Aris Messinis / AFP/Getty Images)

Los Angeles Times, By W.J. Hennigan:

Turkey has agreed to allow U.S. warplanes to use its air bases for bombing missions in Syria, as well as provide rebels there with light arms and train them with infantry tactics for the ongoing battle against Islamic State militants, the Pentagon said Sunday.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke Sunday with Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz and thanked him for aiding in the fight against the Sunni extremists, who have seized vast swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

“Both leaders have stressed the need to continue taking a comprehensive strategic approach to the threat posed by ISIL and other extremist groups,” said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

Hagel was en route to the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas in Arequipa, Peru, which brings together 34 defense ministers. The event Monday is the culmination of a six-day trip including talks with top leaders in Colombia, Chile and Peru.

The developments with the Turkish government come after John R. Allen, a retired Marine Corps general and the special envoy coordinating the U.S.-led international effort against Islamic State, arrived in Ankara, the Turkish capital, last week to persuade the government to take a more active role against the Islamic State.

The Pentagon does not have an effective partner on the ground in Syria and is not in close communication with any militia group. Officials hope to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels as a proxy force against Islamic State.

The U.S. military and its coalition of European and Arab allies have waged war against the extremist fighters through aerial bombardments. In recent weeks, the U.S. has seen limited effectiveness from the targeted airstrikes, particularly at the Syrian border town of Kobani.

The U.S. military has carried out an aerial assault for a week, yet Islamic State militants are still threatening to take control of the town.

Turkey’s willingness to host warplanes and train and equip Syrian fighters strengthens the alliance between the U.S. and Turkey. It also brings U.S. military jets closer to the fight in Syria, which shares a 500-mile border with Turkey.

One of the bases includes Incirlik in southern Turkey, which is within 100 miles of the Syrian border, according to U.S. defense officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private talks between the two governments.

Turkish officials have been asking the U.S. to provide a buffer zone along the border to stem the flow of refugees and stop the spillover of violence. The country also wants the U.S. to establish a “no-fly” zone, in which fighter jets would regularly patrol the border and shoot down any Syrian military aircraft that breach it.

The U.S. government has repeatedly said it isn’t considering either proposition.

”We don’t see it at this point as essential to the goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But we’ll continue to talk to the Turks and entertain any specific proposals that they may have.”

Military officials from U.S. European Command and U.S. Central Command will arrive in Turkey this week to discuss other opportunities for collaboration.

Iran Orders Elite Troops: Lay Off U.S. Forces in Iraq

1412594766052.cachedBy Eli Lake:
The last time Iranian and American forces were in Iraq, the two sides quietly fought each other. Now Iran’s Quds Force officers in Iraq are purposely leaving the Americans alone.
Pay no attention to the Shi’ite militias threatening to kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The elite Iranian forces backing those militias have been ordered not to attack the Americans.

That’s the conclusion of the latest U.S. intelligence assessment for Iraq. And it represents a stunning turnaround for Iran’s Quds Force, once considered America’s most dangerous foe in the region.

U.S. intelligence officials tell The Daily Beast that the apparent Iranian decision not to target American troops inside Iraq reflects Iran’s desire to strike a nuclear bargain with the United States and the rest of the international community before the current negotiations expire at the end of November.

“They are not going after Americans,” one senior U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast familiar with the recent assessments. “They want the nuclear talks to succeed and an incident between our guys and their guys would not be good for those talks.”

The Quds Force, named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem, are believed to have hundreds of troops in Iraq. As the primary arm of the Iranian state that supports allied terrorist organizations, their operatives worried Obama’s predecessor so much that the Treasury Department began sanctioning its members in 2007 for sabotaging the government of Iraq. The U.S. military accused the Quds Force of orchestrating cells of terrorists in Iraq. In 2012, Wired magazine dubbed Quds Force leader Qassem Suleimani the most dangerous person on the planet. In 2013, the New Yorker arrived at a similar conclusion, and claimed he has “directed Assad’s war in Syria.”

More recently, the Treasury Department has accused the Quds Force of international heroin trafficking and conducting terrorism and intelligence operations against the Afghanistan government. That’s why it’s so extraordinary that the Quds Force would be perceived to be laying off U.S. forces in Iraq.

But in some ways, the assessment is not surprising. Both Iran and the United States share a common enemy in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). In late August, U.S. airpower and Iranian-backed militias broke the ISIS siege on the town of Amerli. Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, was photographed in Amerli, after the town was liberated from ISIS.

The latest assessments from the U.S. intelligence community also interpret Iran’s behavior in part as linked to the ongoing negotiations between Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.

A U.S. intelligence official said the Quds Force behavior was the equivalent of a confidence building measure, a diplomatic term that refers to a concession offered to improve the atmosphere of negotiations. (Iran had already offered to play a more “active role” in the regional fight against ISIS, in exchange for nuclear concessions.)

Read more at The Daily Beast

Why U.S. Should Avoid Sending Its Ground Troops to Fight ISIS

US Navy U.S. Army Sgt. Mark Phiffer on guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaylah Oil Fields in Southern Iraq in 2003

US Navy U.S. Army Sgt. Mark Phiffer on guard duty near a burning oil well in the Rumaylah Oil Fields in Southern Iraq in 2003

BY RYAN MAURO:

A new poll shows that 45% of Americans would support sending ground troops to Iraq to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) and 37% are opposed. Despite the majority opinion that  boots are needed on the ground to uproot ISIS, but there are grave dangers for a strategy where those boots are American.

President Obama has ruled out a combat role for U.S. soldiers in Iraq, but the question is what constitutes a “combat role.” The Deputy National Security Advisor says a combat role is “where Americans are on the ground leading the fight.”

About 1,600 American troops have already been sent to protect diplomatic facilities and to advise the Iraqi and Kurdish forces. As I wrote when Obama’s Islamic State strategy was first announced, there’s a realistic possibility that these non-combat troops will find themselves in a combat situation.

The White House is open to the possibility that American advisors could be in “forward-deployed positions” to help Iraqis in combat without engaging in combat themselves. President Obama is understandably hesitant to take that step.

He rejected the advice of General Lloyd Austin, who leads the military in the region as commander of Central Command. Austin wanted a “modest” amount of troops, mostly special operations forces, to become advisors in the battlefield.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey,testified to Congress that requests for U.S. advisors to join Iraqi soldiers in combat were denied. However, President Obama told him that he’d consider each individual request. Meaning, he has not did not ruled it out.

It is unclear if raids on high-value targets by the CIA or military special operators qualify as a forbidden “combat role.”  It is very possible that a target like the Islamic State’s “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, could be located and sharing the intelligence with Iraqis deemed too risky. If an airstrike is not possible, then a raid must commence.

The Obama Administration is right in its avoidance of a military role in Iraq similar to what existed before December 2011 when the withdrawal was completed.

From the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 to the ending of combat operations on August 31, 2010, a total of 4,409 U.S. troops and 13 Defense Department civilians were killed and 31,925 troops were injured.

Even after combat operations ended and Operation New Dawn took place from September 2010 to December 2011, 66 U.S. troops were killed and 295 were wounded. This does not count the psychological damage to the U.S. soldiers and the personal toll their families faced.

In addition to the prospective casualties, there are seven reasons to believe that such a role would not be worth the cost and could actually be counterproductive to the goal of destroying the Islamic State.

Read more at Clarion Project

500 Ft. Riley Soldiers Deployed To Iraq

big_red_one

It’s unclear as to whether they will be wearing boots or not.

Truth Revolt, By Larry O’Connor:

The “Big Red One” is stepping up yet again. 500 troops from the Army’s 1st Infantry are to deploy to Iraq from Fort Riley, Kansas next month.

Fox News has details from the Pentagon’s announcement Thursday:

More than 200 hundred of the soldiers will be based in Iraq at U.S. Joint Operations Centers (JOCs) in Baghdad and the Kurdish capital of Irbil, and the rest of the contingent will operate out of U.S. bases in the region under the U.S. Central Command, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said at a Pentagon briefing.

The initial plan was to have 138 of the troops at the operations center in Baghdad, 68 at the operations center in Irbil and 10 at the Iraqi Defense Ministry, Kirby said. The 200-plus troops will be part of the 475-troop contingent President Barack Obama authorized last month to serve in Iraq as advisers to the Iraqi National Security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

However, the 200 from the 1st ID will not “embed” with the other advisers at the brigade and headquarters levels with the Iraqi and Kurdish forces, Kirby said. Instead, the 1st ID troops will perform duties at the JOCs, he said.

This is the first deployment of US troops since America pulled out all remaining forces in 2011 when President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton were unable to reach a Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government.

The President has insisted that American troops will not be used in any combat role in the current offensive against ISIS. The local station in Ft. Riley’s Kansas, KMBC, says that local commanders insist the troops will be used only in an advisory capacity in Iraq.

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