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
http://www.businessinsider.my/battle-for-one-of-iraqs-most-important-oil-refineries-2015-5/#d3WKrsDe4jhCYHvR.99

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
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6542

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
http://rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/19052015

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
http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-military-worries-key-iraqi-refinery-could-fall-to-islamic-state-1430930353

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
http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/confirmed-izzat-al-douri-former-saddam-hussein-deputy-killed-by-asaib-ahl-al-haq-forces/

al-duri

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
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6252

IA Claims to Have “Liberated” Tikrit – Reality Says Different
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6044

Today’s Middle East: The Burning Fuse of the 21 Century’s “Great Game”
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6193

ISIS Digs-in For Battle of Tikrit as Sunni Populace is Targeted by Iran’s Proxies
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5559

Incoherent Strategy Delays Mosul Offensive as Administration Touts Hashtag Victory
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5217

ISIS Shaping Operations Against IA Blunts Mosul OP Before it Starts
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5171

IA Struggling to Avoid Collapse on Multiple Fronts – Mosul OP in Danger of Failing
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5008

The Tikrit Front: Not So “Rosy” as Claimed by Obama Administration
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5440

As ISIS Takes Another City, Obama Prattles On About Global Warming

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Breitbart, by John Nolte, May 21, 2015:

President Obama has become the star of his own malevolent Marx Brothers movie. As chaos causes by our president’s own depraved indifference breaks out across the globe, like a psychotic Groucho Marx, the big joke is that he’s off somewhere addressing the military about Global Warming.

How irreverent!

How cutting edge!

How so very Nero.

In January of 2009, the Iraq War was a won war. Bad intelligence and mistakes aside, the surge had won the war. An embattled George W. Bush could leave the Oval Office secure in that fact. All that was necessary for his successor, President Obama, to keep the war won, was what was necessary to keep World War II won: a small stabilizing force of American troops.

Stabilizing American forces are the win-win of all win-wins.  The peace is kept, our positive influence in the region remains, and the war stays won.

The problem of course is that Democrats love to lose won wars. They are quite good at it, too.

Practice after all makes perfect.

Pop culture and our education system covers this fact up, but America won the war in Vietnam. Nixon and Kissinger won that war. We didn’t defeat the bad guys but we did beat them to a draw that stopped their incursion into South Vietnam. The war was over. Our allies were safe.  Best of all, victory didn’t even require American troops — just a steady supply of American weapons.

Then Democrats won control of Congress:

In November of 1974, three months after Nixon resigned in disgrace, Democrats won a landslide in the mid-term elections. The new Democrat majority in Congress de-funded our promised military aid to South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong made their move. Without American aid, the South Vietnamese were doomed.

Then-President Gerald Ford literally begged Congress to restore funding. By this time things had deteriorated to a point where the South would have also required American airstrikes to hold on.

Democrats adamantly refused funding, making the airstrikes futile.

Within a year, South Vietnam surrendered to the communist North.

Oh, and that “fascist American bull sh*t” Domino Theory your professors always mock? Ask Cambodia and Laos how funny that is. Both countries fell immediately after Vietnam, and millions of innocents needlessly died, all so Democrats could prove they were right all along about opposing the war … a war started by John Kennedy and almost lost by Lyndon Johnson — two Democrats.

Obama can crybaby and whine all he wants about the Iraqis poisoning a status of forces agreement. No one with half a brain or their tongue not firmly connected to his boots (see: Media, Mainstream) believes that. Obama wanted out of Iraq at any cost, wanted that talking point for his 2012 re-election, and damn sure knew the consequences.

Obama intentionally lost a won war, and that perverse act perversely allows the media and Democrats to claim they were right all along about Iraq being a “mistake.”

The problem for Obama and the media and Democrats and America is that Iraq is not Vietnam. We can’t just pick up all our marbles and go home. Democrats and the media didn’t care if their partisan depravity cost the lives of a few million brown people in Southeast Asia. They simply propagandized that horror show into America’s fault, not their own.

Communism was about containment.

Terrorism is not.

ISIS is not.

The vacuum created by Obama’s Iraqi idiocy wasn’t filled by nationalist butchers. It was filled by international butchers, savvy savages and barbarians eager to create a nation-state from which to destroy the rest of the world from; most especially America.

Sunday ISIS took the Iraqi city Ramadi, effectively liquidating Americans gains gained at an incomprehensible price paid by American troops and our Iraqi allies.

The terrorist regime Obama stupidly referred to as jayvee is on the march, and now holds territory a mere 70 miles from the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad.

None of this had to happen. All Obama had to do was keep a won war won, but his re-election talking point and desire to be right about the war being a debacle meant he had to turn it into a debacle, and then count on the mainstream media to memory-hole that rather vital fact.

Wednesday, ISIS took the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

While ISIS took Palmyra, like a madman,  our commander-in-chief warned his troops, and by extension America and the world, about the imminent dangers of a unicorn.

Also see:

deniers

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).

Did U.S. Policy Allow Ramadi to Fall?

ISIS held a massive parade in West Anbar province celebrating victory in Ramadi.

ISIS held a massive parade in West Anbar province celebrating victory in Ramadi.

PJ Media, By Jonathan Spyer On May 18, 2015:

The fall of Ramadi to the fighters of the Islamic State is a disaster for the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. The taking of the city brings IS to just over 60 miles from Baghdad.

In addition to showcasing the low caliber of the Iraqi security forces, the events surrounding the fall of the city lay bare the contradictions at the heart of Western policy in Iraq.

Prime Minister Abadi had ordered the garrison in Ramadi to stand firm. He hoped to see a successful stand in the city as a prelude to a government retaking of Anbar province, over half of which is still in IS hands. But in a manner reminiscent of the fall of Mosul in June 2014, Iraqi security forces ignored orders to defend Ramadi, and fled eastwards to the neighboring town of Khalidiyeh.

This left Ramadi to the tender mercies of the fighters of the Islamic State, who have reportedly since slaughtered at least 500 people.

It is important to note that even U.S. airstrikes were not sufficient to prevent the debacle.

As of now, Shia militias are heading for the city’s outskirts. A militia-led counterattack is expected in the coming days. A further advance eastwards by the Sunni jihadis, at least in the immediate future, is unlikely.

So what is behind the failure of the Iraqi security forces and the continued advance of the jihadis?

On the simplest level, the greater motivation and determination of the IS fighters explains their continued successes against the Iraqis. The jihadis are all volunteers. Not all of them are highly skilled fighters, but their level of motivation is correspondingly very high. By contrast, Iraqi soldiers are often serving far from home, defending communities for whom they have little concern. Most joined the army for the salary. Their unwillingness to engage against the murderous jihadis of the Islamic State is not hard to understand or explain.

However, this problem has now been apparent for nearly a year, ever since the Sunni jihadis first crashed across the border from Syria last June. So why has it not been addressed? The blame for this cannot be placed at the feet of low ranking Iraqi soldiers.

The blame lies at the policymaking level.

The United States is committed to the territorial unity of Iraq. It therefore is determined to relate to the government of Haider al-Abadi as the sole authority in the country.

The problem with this stance is two-fold.

Firstly, it precludes providing arms directly to the elements who are most willing to use them against the Islamic State (namely, the Kurdish Peshmerga and further south, the elements among the Sunni tribes whom the U.S. aided during the “surge” in the 2006-2007 period).

In the north, this has not prevented the Kurds from successfully defending the area west of Erbil (with the vital assistance of coalition air power). But it has served to keep the Kurds militarily dependent on the coalition, thus reducing the possibility of their making a bid for independence from Baghdad in the immediate future.

Secondly, and more importantly, the U.S. commitment to the territorial unity of Iraq is leading to a willful blindness regarding the actual nature of the government in Baghdadand its true sources of strength and support.

The supposedly legitimate armed forces of Baghdad are, as has been witnessed again in Ramadi, not fit for the purpose. The true defenders of Baghdad and of the government are right now heading toward Ramadi. They are the forces of the “Hashd al-Shaabi” (popular mobilization). They are the Shia militias, supported by Iran. These militias are the wall behind which the Amadi government shelters.

The West insists on maintaining the illusion that the government in Baghdad is something other than a Shia sectarian-dominated entity in the process of entering a de facto military alliance with the Iranians. This stubbornness is producing the current absurd situation in which Western air power is being used in support of Shia Islamism.

It is important to understand that this is not taking place because there is no other option for stopping the advance of the Islamic State. There is another, more effective option:  direct aid to the Kurds, and to the Sunni tribes further south.

This support of Shia Islamism is taking place because of the conviction in Western capitals — most importantly, of course, Washington, D.C. — that the advance of Iran and the building of Iranian strength in Lebanon and in the collapsed states of Iraq and Syria is not a phenomenon to be prevented.

Rather, Western capitals believe that growing Iranian influence can be accommodated and perhaps even allied with.

This conviction combined with the desire to maintain the fictions of “Iraq” and “Syria” are the foundations of current policy. For these reasons, in the coming days we will witness U.S. and Western air power, astonishingly, supporting Shia Islamist militants as they battle with Sunni Islamist militants. Meanwhile, overtly pro-Western forces further north lack arms.

The Islamic State just took Ramadi. In Western capitals where Middle East policy is made, folly is engaged on a similarly triumphant march.

***

Reaction from the ‘Special Report’ All-Star panel. Why the fall of Ramadi is a significant setback

Col. Oliver North on the importance of Ramadi in Iraq and why its fall to ISIS is much more than a mere ‘setback’. Political Obama WH downplays Ramadi as ‘setback’

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:

US Army’s Delta Force Kills ISIS Oil Financier in Syria Raid


May 16, 2015 / ISIS Study Group

Abu Sayyaf was a midlevel financier that oversaw oil revenues for the Islamic State in Deir al-Zour. The raid was said to be authorized by President Obama after being briefed on the intelligence that had been collected. The US military and intelligence community had been working for weeks to build a pattern of life on Abu Sayyaf using human sources, electronic surveillance and aerial reconnaissance of the particular areas of interest.

site of raidThe raid to capture or kill Abu Sayyaf was carried out by approximately 24 members of the US Army’s Delta Force in the vicinity of Amr within Deir al-Zour Province in eastern Syria. The infiltration for the raid was conducted using Blackhawk helicopters and V-22 Ospreys. The raid is the first successful raid against an Islamic State target since the military campaign against the terrorist army began after the beheading of James Foley. A previous raid in the summer of last year attempted to free James Foley and other hostages, but was not successful due to the hostages having been moved or the intelligence being incorrect.

Abu Sayyaf was killed during the raid after he attempted to engage members of Delta Force as they approached the room he had tried to hide in with his wife. As the operators entered the room Abu Sayyaf was said to have opened fire on them resulting in his death from return fire. None of the Delta Force members were injured in the raid and up to a dozen Islamic State fighters were said to have been killed in the raid.

Abu Sayyaf’s wife Umm Sayyaf is reportedly involved in the human trafficking operations of the Islamic State in the area. She was captured and the operators also rescued an 18 year old Yazidi girl. The Islamic State has been capturing and selling female captives throughout Syria and Iraq where they have been able to seize terrain. The sexual slavery of female captives has been well established from the interviews with those that have escaped the Islamic State.

There were no civilian casualties during the raid as the highly trained operators were able to distinguish between combatants and noncombatants on the objective. The raid demonstrates the United States has the capability to reach out and strike the Islamic State at will if it so chooses with minimal dangers to its forces. The successful collection on a midlevel target also shows the US is gaining influence on the ground with sources and that it is likely growing that network rapidly to begin identifying and locating higher priority targets.

While this is a significant event, it still has not done serious damage to the Islamic State. The death of Abu Sayyaf will not hamper the terrorist organization dramatically as he will likely be easily replaced. It does however send the message that the US will come after targets that it deems worthy of the risk. This means the higher priority targets in the hierarchy of the group are definitely being developed as this is being written. It is too early to say if this is a turning point in the Obama strategy which thus far has been tepid at best as the Islamic State has expanded outside the primary areas of Syria and Iraq. Without significant military operations against the group it will continue to develop its tactics, techniques and procedures. The raid is little more than a pin prick against an ever growing beast.

Sources:

ISIS Official Killed in US Raid in Syria, Pentagon Says

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/world/middleeast/abu-sayyaf-isis-commander-killed-by-us-forces-pentagon-says.html?_r=0

Army’s Elite Delta Forces Kills Top ISIS Official, Abu Sayyaff, in Rare Syrian Raid

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/05/16/us-conducts-raid-on-isis-in-syria-kills-top-official/

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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.

LWJ, BY BILL ROGGIO & CALEB WEISS, May 15, 2015:

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:

Iraqi Immigrant Arrested in Texas After Pledging Allegiance to ISIS

Breitbart, by John Hayward, May 15, 2015:

A naturalized American citizen from Iraq named Bilal Abood was arrested by FBI agents in Texas on Thursday, on charges of lying to law enforcement about his formal pledge of allegiance to ISIS and its “caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Abood worked as a translator for the U.S. military before moving to the United States.  He was living in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite at the time of his arrest, and was a licensed security guard, according to NBC 5 News in Dallas.

Abood has been on the counter-terrorist radar screen since 2013, when he was prevented from boarding a flight to the Middle East at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and interviewed by the FBI.  He initially claimed he wanted to visit his family in Iraq, but later admitted his intention was to make his way to Syria and take up arms against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.  At the time, he said his sympathies lay with the Free Syrian Army, a prominent “moderate” rebel group supported by the U.S. government.

The New York Times says that about a month later, an FBI informant said Abood was “watching videos about the Islamic State and had said that he wanted to support it.”  He made another attempt to reach Syria, this time traveling from Mexico to Turkey first, and was successful.

Upon his return to Texas in September 2013, he told the FBI he spent his time in Syria training with the FSA, but “became frustrated with a lack of action,” so he gave up and returned to the U.S.

At this point, the Abood saga assumes a rather… leisurely pace, considering he had all the telltale signs of a “lone wolf” jihadi.  Ten months after Abood came home from Syria, the FBI obtained a warrant, searched his computer, and found his oath of fealty to the Islamic State “caliphate,” delivered via Twitter.

NBC 5 says his browser history also indicated a taste for ISIS beheading videos, and he used Twitter to spread information about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Evidently the Bureau kept this discovery quiet, because nine months later, agents asked him about his pledge of allegiance to ISIS, which he falsely denied making.  Another month would elapse before Abood’s arrest on Thursday.

“It was not clear why agents waited nearly a year to arrest him,” writes NBC 5 News  “Abood does not face a terrorism charge, and there is no allegation he was planning any attacks in the United States.”

FBI officials told the New York Times the timing of the arrest “reflected increasing wariness about the possible threat posed by known devotees of the Islamic State inside the United States.”

The Dallas Morning News says that “if found guilty, Abood is looking at eight years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.”

The obvious reason for leaving Abood to his own devices for a year would be keeping him under surveillance and hoping he led agents to other suspicious individuals.  CNNsuggests the jihad attack on Pamela Geller’s Mohammed Art Exhibit in Garland, Texas prompted more aggressive action against “lone wolf” suspects already under observation, saying FBI Director James Corner “ordered counterterrorism investigators last week to reassess cases of people who the FBI was already tracking to determine whether more action was necessary against suspects.”

The emphasis now, according to what officials told CNN, is on “moving more quickly to take possible threats off the streets, instead of waiting longer to monitor and build an investigation against suspects.”

Also see:

Trojan Horse Billion $ US State Dept. Program Brings Refugee Jihadis to America

Refugee_Hijra_Widget

NER, by Jerry Gordon, May 12, 3015:

Mike Bates and I interviewed Ann Corcoran, editor of the Refugee Resettlement Watch  blog on 1330amWEBY’s “Your Turn’ program, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. Corcoran is the author of “Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America .“ We noted  early in the interview the importance of Hijra (immigration in Arabic) as a doctrinal imperative for Muslims in one of the Hadith (saying of Mohammed) according to a reliable commentator, Bukhari:

There can be no Hijra (migration) after the conquest  but Jihad and a desire or an intention, and if you settle then spread out.

For more see: Modern Day Trojan Horse: Al-Hijra, the Islamic Doctrine of Immigration, Accepting Freedom or Imposing Islam?  By Sam Solomon and E. Al Maqdisi.

The focus of our discussion was on  rising concerns over Muslim refugee resettlement  under the billion dollar secretive US Refugee Admission Program that has operated under the virtual radar screen for 35 years. These concerns have arisen since the Refugee Act of 1980 was passed and signed into law by former President  Jimmy Carter. The law was introduced by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and then Senator, and now Obama Vice President, Joe Biden. Based on the interview, Corcoran believes that it is overdue for a major overhaul and reform. By virtue of admitting thousands of  potential Jihadis among refugees from Muslims lands, the program constitutes a significant national security risk.

Watch  Corcoran’s  Center for Security Policy You Tube video which has gone viral since its posting on April 20, 2015 with  236,748 hits at last count.

Here are some takeaways from the 1330amWEBY interview with Corcoran:

  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees  “calls the shots”  on the annual allotment of 70,000 refugees that the State Department sends a Presidential Directive  to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to be ‘rubber stamped’ by Senate and House Subcommittees on Immigration and Border Security.
  • The Congress has never exercised effective oversight of the Refugee Admissions program through hearings and recommendations leading to changes in countries of origin under UN allotments.
  • The Refugee Admissions Program has been used punitively against  political critics. One example is the assignment  of  large  numbers of Somali refugees to the Congressional District of former US Rep. Michelle Bachmann in St. Cloud, Minnesota
  • Nearly 400,000 refugees admitted to the US under this State Department program funded by taxpayers came from “countries that hate us”: Somalia, Iraq, Bosnia and soon, Syria;
  • Hundreds of terrorists have entered the US as refugees, many fraudulently, whose backgrounds are impossible  to run background checks as their countries of origin are virtual failed states;
  • Among examples of refugee Jihads caught are:

Dozens of Somaliémigré youths arrested and charged with material support for terrorism by attempting or leaving to join Al Shabaab in war torn Somalia or the Islamic State in Syria;

Iraqi Al Qaeda operatives admitted because of fraudulent representations who were convicted of trying to attempting to ship weapons and funds to Al Qaeda and only caught when fingerprints were found on shards of an IED that killed four Pennsylvania National Guardsmen in Iraq;

The Brothers Tsarneav who perpetrated the Boston Marathon Bombing that killed three and one MIT police officer, injuring over 263, some maimed for life.

  • Rampant fraud was detected  from DNA samples among Somali applicants under the State Department Family Reunification P-3 Visa Program  resulting in the shutdown of the program for three years.  20,000 fraudulently admitted Somali refugees were never pursued to eject them.
  • Given the world’s attention on the problem of illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the State Department  Refugee program let in to the US  thousands of Somalis who fled to the Island of Malta without any clearances.
  • Endangered Middle East Christians are effectively discriminated against for refugee status, because  they do not reside in UNHCR camps, dominated by Sunni Muslims. Of  the initial group of  Syrian refugees brought into the US, 92 percent were Muslims, with the balance Christian.
  • There are upwards of  17,000 Syrians refugees  in the UNHCR pipeline awaiting processing for admission to the US.
  • The State Department contracts with 9 religious and special interest NGOs who place refugees through a network of 350 contractors and compete for significant processing fees and grants for obtaining citizenship.
  • Refugees are legal immigrants and thus have access to a smorgasbord of cash assistance, Medicaid, educational support that run into billions of costs all funded by US taxpayers.
  • The  Federal  Office of Refugee Resettlement  has a contract with a Soros-backed immigration advocacy group, “Welcoming America,” to go into ‘pockets of resistance’ in local communities targeted for refugee allotments.
  • Local communities have virtually no say or review of refugee placements to assess local burden on schools, medical facilities or assisted housing. That has led Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) to write Secretary Kerry to put a hold on refugees slated for his district until resettlement questions are answered.

For more, listen to the 1330amWEBY interview with Ann Corcoran, here and here.  An article based on this interview will appear in the June edition of the NER.

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:

What Ex-Baathists Within IS Do and Don’t Signify

CSP, by Kyle Shideler, April 20, 2015:

The interwebs are abuzz with discussion over the significance of Der Spiegel’s scoop regarding the role of Former Iraqi military intelligence officer Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi (AKA Haji Bakr), and what is reported to be pages of documents showing the plan Haji Bakr put together for Islamic State operations in Syria and the establishment of an IS intelligence service which involved both conducting Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) for IS fighters, including infiltrating fighters and gathering intelligence on likely resisters, and establishing a counterintelligence function within the group’s fighters.

Haji Bakr's plan

This is all good information, and does much to explain how Islamic State operates on a tactical level, and so for that reason the journalists at Der Spiegel should be applauded for their work. It also helps to explain how Islamic State has relied on Ex-Baathists with military and intelligence experience to provide the high degree of technical expertise the Islamic State has generated thus far.

However, the article drastically oversells the importance of the Baathists within the Islamic State’s hierarchy, treating Caliph AbuBakr AlBaghdadi, and the tens of thousands who have flocked to Islamic State’s banner as merely pawns of a clever Iraqi intelligence con game:

But apocalyptic visions alone are not enough to capture cities and take over countries. Terrorists don’t establish countries. And a criminal cartel is unlikely to generate enthusiasm among supporters around the world, who are willing to give up their lives to travel to the “Caliphate” and potentially their deaths.

IS has little in common with predecessors like al-Qaida aside from its jihadist label. There is essentially nothing religious in its actions, its strategic planning, its unscrupulous changing of alliances and its precisely implemented propaganda narratives. Faith, even in its most extreme form, is just one of many means to an end. Islamic State’s only constant maxim is the expansion of power at any price.

As the Center for Security Policy has noted repeatedly, the reality is that much of Islamic State’s behavior IS explained by examining matters of Islamic Law, as they related to jihad violence, relations with non-Muslims, Islamic State’s extortion of Christians and tax collection from Muslims (Jizya and Zakat), it’s treatment of women captives, etc.

Simply put, The “Islamic State as puppet for Ex-Baathists” theory fails to properly explain a whole host of Islamic State behaviors, which CAN be understood within the context of an Islamic terrorist organization, with roots in Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood with an end goal of reestablishing the Caliphate globally.

“The Ex-Baathist theory” does not explain, for example, the amount of time and effort expended by the group in its feud with Al Qaeda, including its efforts to “pick off” groups formerly linked to Al-Qaeda. Accepting the oath of loyalty from Boko Haram, and urging jihadists to travel to West Africa to fight, does nothing for Saddam Hussein’s former military commanders whose goals are presumably Iraq-focused. Neither does IS’ efforts to supplant the Taliban in the AF/PAK region with a “Khorasan Province.”

It does not explain the insistence on burning a Jordanian pilot, or beheading Coptic Christians in Libya, when those acts have clearly drawn more support for efforts to defeat them and could easily have been avoided. It doesn’t explain Islamic State’s infighting with Ex-Baathists within the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi order (JRTN), against which Islamic State conducted a purge in early April. It does not explain how Islamic State’s efforts at establishing the Caliphate with Iraq as the centerpiece actual precedes the supposed Iraqi mastermind.

This new cache of documents is worth considering for all they can tell us about HOW the Islamic State is able to do what it does. It would be a drastic mistake to think that they unlock any clues as to the WHY of Islamic State.

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.
REUTERS/STRINGER

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: