Mosul is falling to Iraqi insurgents


#461

I much prefer arming the Peshmerga and supporting them with airstrikes. The Iraqi Kurds are far and away our best friends in the region. Maliki’s gone, finally, but the Shi’ite dominated government is highly corrupt, sectarian, and too close to Iran. We can support them too, somewhat, but I don’t think going back in with ground forces makes sense. Unless we do so with an exit strategy of partition, like I recommended almost a decade ago, when could we leave? The fiction that is Iraq would inevitably descend into chaos when we did.


#462

That works for Iraq, yes. It means (and is meaning) arming the PKK, but frankly I’m not sure even Turkey gives a toss at this point because it wants oil from Iraqi Kurdistan.

For Syria? Difficult.


#463

Heh, I’m not advocating going back, but just speculating on the options. Arming Kurds can help, but unless the Iraqi army itself is capable of doing heavy lifting, the IS folks will just shift south and east I think; the Kurds aren’t going to pull Baghdad’s chestnuts out of the fire, and the Kurds are already working with the Iranians in some ways, so there’s some complexities there too. If the US wants to really use airpower, it’ll need people on the ground in at least limited numbers.


#464

I doubt the Kurds have any interest in helping set up a new Iraq. Their ambitions are probably to consolidate their hold on Kirkuk and… not to return to a greater Iraq in any meaningful way.


#465

And why should they, and would that even be a bad thing?

Lets face it, Iraq as originally constructed was never designed with any real attention given to the political realities of the region. Same goes for many of the African countries in their post colonial creation. Really it might be better off in the long term for everyone, Sunni, Shi’a, and Kurd, to have Iraq partitioned. This would probably also mean parts of Syria split off into the new Kurdistan etc. but that’s another increasingly problematic area.

It’s easy for us (in the general population and political sense) in America to think that simply adding democracy can make it so disparate groups can work together equitably. After all if each group gets representation then no one group should be able to use the levers of power to oppress the others, right? The deep seated enmity born of generations and centuries of conflict is simply not part of our collective consciousness. That these groups seem incapable, for now, of working together is an alien concept.

Could Iraq as a concept be made workable again? Can we get these groups to work together for the idea of a country that isn’t currently functioning? Perhaps the answer is yes, but it is a costly, time intensive, and dangerous process that will require more than a few drone strikes. It is likely to be a far more costly and difficult path to tread than simply scrapping Iraq and giving each group their own government and self determination. Not that this is easy, just easier.


#466

Oh, it would unquestionably be the right thing to do from the Kurds’ point of view. There really is no other rational decision.

All true. The problem here (OK, there are many, many problems here, but one of the main ones) is that the geographic wealth of “Iraq” is so unevenly distributed. The oil is mostly under Shia and Kurdish regions. The water is plentiful (relative to the rest of the country) in the Shia regions and passable in the Kurdish mountains, and the arable land is similarly distributed. There is ocean access in the Shia South and access to Turkey’s ports in the Kurdish North.

The Sunni Arab regions have… some oil, lots of desert, and a couple big roads that they probably won’t be able to pay to maintain.

Partition would be great for the Shia Arabs and the Kurds since they would no longer have to support the Sunni Arabs, but the long-term prospects for them are bleak, even if they were to combine with Eastern Syria into some vast, Sunni Arab desert state. This is also why the IS can’t just be satisfied with just taking the Sunni Arab regions of Iraq – In Saddam’s days the wealth of Basra, Kirkuk, Baghdad, etc. was flowing disproportionally into Sunni areas; under Maliki it was severely lessened, causing economic suffering; under a partition structure that wealth will simply stop at the Shia/Kurd borders, turning IS into one of the poorest countries in the Middle East.


#467

And we’re back to regional autonomy, and a central Federal government…like, er, the USA.

Still not sure why anyone in America thought a strong central government in Iraq was a good idea. (Sure, the Sunni are going to get funded via Federal handouts, but that’s always going to happen for some regions, the UK quite strongly funds Wales for instance, etc.)


#468

Yeah, but not since, what, the time of Edward I have the Welsh really mounted an armed campaign to free themselves from the tyranny of bangers and mash, right? I sort of doubt the Sunnis in central/western Iraq would sit around passively on the dole. But I do agree that the whole idea of a unified Iraq was only really workable with a bastard like Saddam holding it together, and that’s hardly a recipe for a good, just, and sustainable community.


#469

Is it too late to split Iraq up into 3 countries? or divide it between the Kurds, Syria, Iran, and Jordan?


#470

There are lots of problems with that idea.

An independent Kurdish state would immediately cause problems for the other countries surrounding northern Iraq that also have Kurdish populations. That includes our NATO ally Turkey.

Syria is a disaster at the moment, with a three way civil war going on between a brutal dictatorial regime, theoretically pro democracy moderate Sunnis, and ISIS.

Finally, giving Iran southern Iraq would make them even more powerful. A big part of US and moderate gulf states like Saudi Arabia policy in the region has been aimed for years at containing Iran. They are already the most powerful country in the region in terms of overall natural resources and population.


#471

Congress is voting on an amendment today to allow the arming of militants in Syria, ostensibly to fight ISIS. My local congresscritter Justin Amash made what I think is a pretty insightful Facebook post on why he’s not voting for it.

Today, I will vote against the amendment to arm groups in Syria. There is a wide misalignment between the rhetoric of defeating ISIS and the amendment’s actual mission of arming certain groups in the Syrian civil war. The amendment provides few limits on the type of assistance that our government may commit, and the exit out of the civil war is undefined. And given what’s happened in our country’s most recent wars, our leaders seem to have unjustified confidence in their own ability to execute a plan with so many unknowns.

The whole thing is worth a read. I disagree vehemently with Amash on almost every economic and social position, but on this one I think he’s got it right.


#472

I was watching some news about this earlier, and apparently the US has been tagging certain factions as “moderates” and the idea is to directly arm them not only to apply pressure to ISIS, but also to assist in toppling al-Assad and make sure that hardliner/extremist groups don’t take hold.

My thoughts upon hearing about it were “That’s a great plan, except for all the problems with it.”


#473

What could possibly go wrong?

Another thing that continues to bug me, and this has been true for more than one administration, is the almost knee-jerk promise of “no boots on the ground,” whenever we intervene with air strikes. It always strikes me as weird that you would base your commitment on what you feel is politically expedient rather than on what you think is militarily necessary to accomplish your goals. Articulate your goals, and assign assets to a strategy designed to reach those goals. Maybe it requires troops. Maybe it it doesn’t. But to state at the outset that no matter what develops on the ground you won’t use troops seems just freakin’ bizarre. I’m in no hurry to commit troops by any means, but if you’re going to commit to a strategy, it’s disingenuous at best, mendacious at worst, to in effect rely on incremental mission creep to get to where you knew you needed to be in the first place often enough.


#474

To top it off, they’ve committed to a strategy that won’t work and could possibly worsen the situation.

They keep on trying to wish those moderates into existence.

Our proxies are likely to crumple, just as the FSA did - and those weapons? They will end up in the hands of ISIS or Al Nusra. If our aid does anything it will simply sharpen the conflict, increasing the death toll and extending the pain and misery for all involved. The idea that we can whip an army together with a few weeks training and then win a quick victory over ISIS with a little airpower? That’s beyond laughable, it’s ludicrous.


#475

You had your way. It’s lead here. Why do you think doing the same again will work?


#476

Aussie police break up plot to randomly kidnap and behead someone in Australia. I’m pretty surprised there haven’t been more lone wolf killings a bit like the beheading of that random british soldier (Rigby?)


#477

Yeah your surprise is understandable because you are steeped in the fear factory that is American right wing news media.


#478

Sorry, what was that? I can’t hear you over Benghazi.


#479

Interesting CNN piece today on ISIL’s eschatological motivations:

Adding to your list of enemies is never a sound strategy, yet ISIS’ ferocious campaign against the Shia, Kurds, Yazidis, Christians, and Muslims who don’t precisely share its views has united every ethnic and religious group in Syria and Iraq against them.

ISIS is even at war with its most natural ally, al Qaeda in Syria…

A key window into understanding ISIS is its English language “in-flight magazine” Dabiq. Last week the seventh issue of Dabiq was released, and a close reading of it helps explains ISIS’ world view.

The mistake some make when viewing ISIS is to see it as a rational actor. Instead, as the magazine documents, its ideology is that of an apocalyptic cult that believes that we are living in the end times and that ISIS’ actions are hastening the moment when this will happen.

The name of the Dabiq magazine itself helps us understand ISIS’ worldview. The Syrian town of Dabiq is where the Prophet Mohammed is supposed to have predicted that the armies of Islam and “Rome” would meet for the final battle that will precede the end of time and the triumph of true Islam.


#480

I thought that article was very revealing, and it explains quite a lot. I’m not sure what we do with it, though. In theory, knowing the enemy’s objectives should give you insight as to the best way to defeat them. But… I got nothin’