The U.S. Anti-ISIS Strategy’s True Cost

 

Rubin CenterMARCH 2, 2015 BY AYMENN JAWAD AL-TAMIMI:

On Monday the Iraqi military launched its largest operation to date against the self-declared Islamic State (IS), also called ISIS, to retake control of the city of Tikrit. Alongside the Iraqi military the coalition fighting IS in Tikrit includes Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces, but it leans heavily on Iranian backed Shia militias and reportedly includes a contingent from Iran’s revolutionary guard. The urgent question now as the battle against IS intensifies is whether any US policy to defeat IS in Iraq can achieve its aim without ceding the country as a base for Iranian expansionism.

Critics who regard President Obama’s regional policy as aiming for a grand détente with Iran have frequently argued that the current approach undermines attempts to counter IS. The bargain for making a deal with Iran, these critics say, has allowed Iran a free hand to assert dominance in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Exhibit A for this line of thinking is Iran’s cultivation of proxy militias in Iraq, principally in the Badr Organization, Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, These militias have not just been active on the frontlines in Iraq but also have arguably played the leading role in all major offensives to retake territory from IS, with Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp figure Qassem Suleimani helping to direct operations.

The Badr Organization in particular, with its control of the Interior Ministry, seems poised to become Iraq’s version of Hezbollah. Last fall, the group launched ‘Operation Ashura‘ to clear out Jurf al-Sakhr to the south of Baghdad. Under Suleimani’s guidance, the operation employed a successful strategy of amassing vast militia manpower operating under cover of U.S. airpower.

A virtually identical tactic is now being implemented in the offensive to capture Tikrit except this time with Iraqi fighter jets taking the place of U.S. airpower.

Since these proxy militias frequently engage in ethnic cleansing against Sunnis and answer directly to Iran, they bolster IS’ narrative that it is defending Sunnis against a sectarian government, arguably undermining any attempt to roll back IS. Besides, reflecting Iran’s own anti-American ideology, they also promote a narrative that the U.S. is behind the IS phenomenon, further undermining U.S. influence in Iraq to the benefit of Iranian expansionism.

There is much to be said in favour of these arguments. Since the fall of Mosul to IS in June 2014 and the call to arms issued by Iraq’s most senior Shi’a cleric Ayatollah Sistani, militias that are ideologically aligned with Iran (‘Khomeinist’) if not actual proxies have proliferated most, with many new brands emerging beyond the three mentioned above. A considerable degree of overlap exists between these new groups. For instance, one commander I interviewed is simultaneously involved with two recognizably Khomeinist militias: Kata’ib al-Imam al-Gha’ib (a ‘Hezbollah’ brand) and the Mujahideen of Iraq Brigade, the ‘military wing’ of the Nasrallah Islamic Movement (named after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah).

Beyond the question of Iranian influence, those who defend the ‘Popular Mobilization’ trend as a military necessity tend to downplay the more general negative consequences of militiafication. There is little reason to accept former U.S. defence official Douglas Ollivant’s contention that the militias “will either return home or be regularized by the central government in some way” once the IS threat is dealt with. Militias also create an atmosphere of lawlessness and criminality regardless of the sectarian issue. Indeed, some of the militias themselves have acknowledged the problem of kidnappings and stealing in their name, including a Khomeinist militia known as Kata’ib Ruh Allah.

The complaints about Iran’s expanding influence in Iraq are valid but they raise an important question that has yet to be answered. How exactly do you curb Iranian influence at this stage when its forces dominate in Iraq? The usual line here is to say that the U.S. needs to stop abetting the Iranian proxies through airstrikes and arms provisions to the Iraqi government. But going back even conditionally on these measures simply creates a bigger military vacuum for Iran to fill. At the same time, Iranian proxies are undoubtedly spearheading most new offensives by government forces against IS and at least some of the new weapons shipments intended for Iraqi security forces are likely to end up in the hands of Iranian proxies.

One also hears calls for new U.S. engagement in Iraq, but there is no honesty about the scale of commitment that would be required. If the goal is to rebuild Iraq’s conventional security forces as an alternative to the militias, then the reality is that there will have to be tens of thousands of ground troops, deployed for a number of years and not only willing to train these new forces but coordinating with them in combat missions. Yet even such a massive commitment—tried once before in recent memory—has no guarantee of success. Such an approach is also politically unfeasible due to American war weariness and scepticism of any mission with shifting goalposts. Further, a large-scale American ground presence risks fuelling further support for IS, the possibility of infiltration of rebuilt army brigades by the Iranian proxies, and open warfare between the proxies and U.S. troops.

Notions that the U.S. should focus only on cultivating Kurdish and Sunni allies are also unrealistic. Kurdish forces alone are unable to dislodge IS from its main strongholds, and Sunni locals have good reason for concerns about treatment at the hands of Kurdish forces.

The strategy employed during the last US war in Iraq, employing Sunni tribal groups to lead the fight against IS, has its own problems.

With supposed Sunni allies, the biggest question remains of who is out there for the U.S. to approach.

Sunni insurgent actors like the Ba’athist Naqshbandi Army find themselves severely weakened, having lost out to IS in all major towns and cities outside of government control. Local Sunni forces that are actively pushing back against IS in Iraq’s Anbar province are in fact already working with the Iraqi government and the militias but have been unable to dislodge the group.

On the political axis, Sunni politicians are more lacking in credibility among their constituents than ever.

Simply put, there are no viable ‘third-way’ Sunni actors who reject both the government and IS.

Concern has been expressed that the U.S. ‘risks’ losing Iraq to Iran in the fight against IS, but it is probably more accurate to say the U.S. has already lost Iraq to Iran. No good options seem to exist, and the expansion of Iran’s sphere of influence may well have to be accepted as an inevitable consequence of the original decision to invade Iraq and remove Saddam’s regime from power.

(Update: Provision of U.S. airpower in Tikrit offensive denied by Pentagon. Re. ‘Kurdish forces’ in piece above: symbolic representation via ISOF contingent).

Also see:

****

They say that the Arab world moves with the “politics of the wind”. I think we can see which way that hot wind is blowing:

Iraqi Shiite Militia Leader: Give Me a Month, and I Will Make ISIS Terrorists Wear Women’s Clothing

South American & Mexican Hezbollah Jihadis Threaten the United States

20130220_hezbollah_south_americaby ALAN KORNMAN:

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid” – Gen. Eisenhower.

The Iranians and their terrorist proxy Hezbollah has been building forward operating bases in the Tri-Border area of South America and Mexico for the last three decades.  Venezuela’s uranium deposits have been an important and rarely reported on component fueling Iran’s efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people in Latin America and Mexico.

Iranian Press Expose the Hispanic Insurgency

Sending young Iranian clerics to Latin American countries to spread Iranian-style radical Shi’ite Islam: To prepare for such missions, clerics train for three years, and study a variety of subjects to help them in their activity in Latin America: Spanish, religions and cultures of Latin America, and skills for converting Spanish speakers to Islam. In February 2012 Hojjat-ol-Eslam Ruhollah Maheri, the deputy director of the institute, announced that registration was open for the eighth course. Those interested were asked to call the institute or send an application form by email (AmuzehSpanish@gmail.com). (Rasa News Agency, 2/15/2012)(ITIC)

U.S. Congress Alerts The Nation

Congressman Michael McCaul, Chairman Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management, in a 2012 report report titled, “A Line  In The Sand: Countering Crime, Violence and Terror At The Southwest Border“,  is alerting Americans to a very serious problem that we must all become aware.

Of growing concern are Hezbollah, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force, partnering with Mexican and South American drug syndicates, joining in  lucrative drug, gun running, counterfeiting, and human trafficking operations.  Out of these associations, Islamic terrorist groups are making hundreds of millions of dollars while exploiting our Mexican border and entering the United States at any time of their choosing, often cloaked as illegal immigrants.

Wikileaks Exposes U.S. Brazilian Counterterrorism Recommendations (2011)

CONFIDENTIAL SÃO PAULO 000653

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SR FARAH PANDITH, KAREN CHANDLER AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PASS TO AMCONSUL RECIFE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/11/20

TAGS: PGOV OEXC OIIP PHUM PINR PINS PROP SCUL PTER BR

SUBJECT: Scenesetter for SR Farah Pandith’s Visit to Brazil: São Paulo’s Muslims

REF: São PAULO 433 São PAULO 421 BRASILIA 709 2008 São PAULO 542

Classified By: David C. Brooks, State POL; Reason: 1.4 (d)

The U.S. government also wishes to develop relations between U.S. Muslim community leaders and the Muslim communities in Brazil. They hope that by fostering a connection they will “bolster mainstream Islam in Brazil, highlight the importance of freedom of religion in America, the diversity of Islam in America, and debunk the myths that exist about Islam in America.” Additionally it would further the Sao Paulo Muslim community’s effort to spread its “interfaith relations… with other Muslim communities around the World.”

“Post, Karen Chandler, has suggested several possible programs, including a campaign to provide consular information to Muslim contacts, a series of outreach presentations on President Obama, and, most important, our desire to bring down a visiting U.S. Sheik who can explain how Islam is now a vital part of American society and build ties with local religious leaders. Given its size, diversity and traditions of cultural tolerance, Brazil could be an excellent testing ground for programs that might be useful to other WHA posts with similar Muslim minority populations.”

Obama and State Department Arrogance and Idiocy Towards Political Islam

The United States is an Infidel nation, following man made laws, in direct violation of Islamic Law.  For President Obama’s Foreign Policy team to think we can “influence Hezbollah Islam in Brazil by promoting the diversity of Islam in America” as a force multiplier across the South America region to counter the Hezbollah power base in the tri-border area, is patently absurd and quite dangerous.

Our State Department articulates they will achieve this naive objective above by doing a “series of outreach presentations on President Obama and bringing down a U.S. Sheik to say how important Islam is to American Society.”

The WikiLeaks memo above focuses a neon light on how utterly ignorant our State Department officials are about the Islamic Threat Doctrine, Hezbollah, Al-Queda, and the Muslim Brotherhood.  American policy makers believe this mythical form of Infidel U.S. friendly Islam will out Islam the truer Islam of Iran is like the Keystone Cops giving tactical training to the Navy SEAL’s.

Hezbollah is currently sending Jihadis through the porous Mexican / U.S. Border creating a national security risk which The Obama Administration refuses to name, much less address and counter.

Read more: Family Security Matters 

Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Alan Kornman is the regional coordinator of The United West-Uniting Western Civilization for Freedom and Liberty. His email is: alan@theunitedwest.org

 

Update: Creeping Sharia has extensive coverage of Hezbollah in Belize:

Hezbollah getting passports in Belize to travel from Mexico to U.S.

 

Previous CJR posts on the growing terrorist threat from Hezbollah in South America: