Tuesday 24th of May 2016

what to do about islamic state in syria and iraq...?

the war that isn't...

US' Iraq strategy: The operation with no name
Too limited, vague and open to mission creep. Barack Obama's strategy in Iraq has been criticized from all sides. DW tracks the twists and turns of an operation with no name - one that looks to be expanding.

On the evening of August 7, Barack Obama entered the State Dining Room at the White House and told the American people:

"Today I authorized two operations in Iraq - targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death."

Obama gave no evocative name to the operations. He set out a limited mission: "stopping the advance" of the Islamic State (IS) on the Kurdish city of Irbil, site of a US consulate, and preventing a feared genocide against thousands of Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar.

No new war

Absent was any talk of "destroying" IS, and Obama was emphatic that he would not involve US combat forces: "I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq."


read more: http://www.dw.de/us-iraq-strategy-the-operation-with-no-name/a-17874145


more refugees...

Almost everyone has a tale of family members desperate to escape to Australia.

Admoun Anwiya is hoping to get a visa for his brother, who he says was wounded by IS militants in Mosul.

"My brother, he's a doctor and he's a specialist," he said.

"And [Islamic State] attack him in his surgery and shoot him in his head ... only because he's a Christian."

4,000 visas does not meet demand: Assyrian Resource Centre

Many at the Assyrian Resource Centre say even the well-established Christian community in Baghdad is under siege.

Ilvin Warda says her sister's family are now virtual prisoners in their home.

"Every day I will cry," she said.

"At night they phone me, 'save our Christians'. I don't know how I [can] help them."

The Government says it has freed up 4,000 places for special humanitarian visas - many for applicants from Iraq and Syria - but those are not new.

They come from the already existing quota of 13,750, reduced from 20,000 this year.

Carmen Lazar of the Assyrian Resource Centre says while her community appreciates everything the Australian Government has done in the past, this time it is not enough.


coordinating operation flip-flop squishy...


Syria's foreign minister has offered to help the US fight the Islamic State (IS) militant group, which has seized swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.

Walid Muallem said Syria was "the centre of the international coalition to fight Islamic State".

The US has already bombed IS fighters in Iraq and has hinted it would be willing to take action in Syria.

Western powers generally shun Syria's government, accusing it of carrying out atrocities in its three-year civil war.

But Mr Muallem warned that the US must co-ordinate with the Syrian government before launching any air strikes on its territory.

"Anything outside this is considered aggression," he said.

Mr Muallem's comments are one of the first public statements from the regime on IS.



Now, I believe the "Isis" is now called "ISIL", or is my old age showing, as I get confused? Hard to keep up with all the bizos and gismos and thingies...


the CIA is unable to read tea leaves...


The US was "caught off guard" by air strikes against Islamist militia in Libya, a senior official has told the BBC.

The attacks on militia positions around Tripoli airport were reportedly carried out by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from bases in Egypt.

Egypt has denied any involvement and the UAE has not commented.

A militia alliance recently captured the capital's international airport after a battle lasting nearly a month.

The official told the BBC that the US had not been consulted about the air strikes and that it was concerned that US weapons may have been used, violating agreements under which they were sold.

The unidentified war planes attacked twice in the past week during a battle for Tripoli's airport between Islamist and nationalist militias.

A report in The New York Times on Monday said the UAE had provided the military aircraft, aerial refuelling planes and crews while Egypt gave access to its air bases.

read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-28933070

decision, decision...

Barack Obama was due to announce a significant expansion of the military campaign against Islamic State militants on Tuesday, authorising air strikes against targets in Syria for the first time.


In a televised address to air at 9pm ET, Obama announced an aggressive offensive to defeat the group, which has been responsible for the beheading of two American citizens in the past month.

He compared the campaign to those waged against al-Qaida in Yemen and Somalia, where US drones, cruise missiles and special-operations raids have battered local affiliates, yet without notably improving the stability of either country nor dealing decisive blows to al-Qaida there.

Obama was also expected to announce the deployment of additional personnel to Iraq who will help Iraqi army forces combat Isis insurgents and also expand existing US air strikes there.

“With a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Obama willl say, according to excerpts provided by the White House.

read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/10/obama-speech-authorise-air-strikes-against-isis-syria


See toon at top....


and what about us?

A Syrian government minister has warned that any foreign intervention in the country would be an act of aggression unless it is approved by Damascus, after the United States said it was prepared to strike against Islamic State fighters in the country.

Syria has repeatedly warned that any action on its soil needs its approval and has said it is willing to work with any country to tackle IS fighters who have captured large areas of Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

"Any action of any type without the approval of Syrian government is an aggression against Syria," Ali Haidar, minister of national reconciliation affairs, told reporters in Damascus on Thursday.

"There must be cooperation with Syria and coordination with Syria and there must be a Syrian approval of any action whether it is military or not."


stretching the strategy...


A week ago, President Obama stood before the American people and promised that the expanding fight against the Islamic State — a vicious Sunni militant group known as ISIS or ISIL that is terrorizing parts of Iraq and Syria — would not mean a commitment of American ground troops. “As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission,” he said.

On Tuesday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had a very different message when he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I’ll recommend that to the president,” he said, citing a potential attempt to retake the strategic important Iraqi city of Mosul as an example.

There is no way to read this other than as a reversal from the firm commitment Mr. Obama made not to immerse the country in another endless ground war in the Middle East.

Even though General Dempsey’s remarks were conditional, the Obama administration has turned on a dime in record time and opened the door to deeper, more costly American involvement even before the strategy is fully sketched out. And this is happening without Congress ever giving Mr. Obama the authority to wage war.

read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/opinion/is-us-policy-on-fighting-isis-already-changing.html?_r=0



The first part of the strategy would be to DEMAND that Saudi Arabia fight the Isis mess, by itself after having asked permission to help Iraq. Then we need to keep an eye on Saudi Arabia not doing the dirty on Iraq. 

Second part of the strategy, should the first part not executed properly: Bomb Saudi Arabia, because there is a good chance (99.889 per cent) that Isis is the product of Saudi's own religious Wahhabi intolerance. The Saudis have beheaded far more people than Isis and we said "houik" which in pigsty language means "zero"


panetta's pancake...

Peter Beinart ridicules Panetta’s recent use of the discredited “credibility” argument in an interview:

But like most other Obama critics, Panetta’s argument for why the U.S. should have bombed Assad has little to do with conditions on the ground in Syria. It’s all about American credibility. As Panetta told USA Today, “There’s [now] a little question mark [among America’s allies] as to, is the United States going to stick this out? Is the United States going to be there when we need them?”

The credibility argument was always a stretch.

It would be generous to call it a stretch. The argument that Panetta is making here has no merit, and “credibility” arguments of this kind are worthless. It is an argument that sounds plausible only so long as you don’t give it much thought. “Credibility” in the sense that Panetta means it doesn’t matter, and appearing to “lose” it doesn’t have the effects that he claims.

Other major powers don’t assume that U.S. guarantees to its treaty allies in their region are less valid because the U.S. didn’t bomb a regime in a different part of the world. U.S. allies and clients don’t decide their involvement in later military interventions based on whether the U.S. has followed through on previous threats. They determine whether the specific intervention is one that they think they are in some way obliged to join or support. Likewise, U.S. allies don’t equate security guarantees that Washington makes to them with a president’s off-the-cuff warning to a minor dictator. Opting not to bomb Syria didn’t make U.S. allies any less confident of U.S. backing, nor does it appear to have made them any less inclined to join new U.S.-led military interventions.

read more: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/panetta-and-the-zombie-credibility-argument/

the kurdish conundrum...

Just a few years ago, the idea of the West working together with the Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan would have been preposterous. Over the past three decades, PKK has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of Turkish civilians, providing the US and the European Union ample reason to keep the group on its lists of terrorist organizations. For many in the West, however, these former outlaws have become solitary heroes in the fight to save the Middle East from IS. With an estimated size of 15,000 fighters, PKK is the strongest fighting force in the region and the only one that seems willing and able to put up a fight against Islamic State. They are disciplined and efficient in addition to being pro-Western and secular.

The West would have preferred to rely on the PKK's Kurdish rivals, the 100,000-strong Peshmerga force of the northern Iraq autonomous region. But Peshmerga was overpowered by Islamic State. Furthermore, they have little combat experience, a dearth of modern weaponry, insufficient training and no central command. It isn't really even a true army, merely a hodgepodge of extracurricular clubs, partisan troops and special units. In August, they ceded the Sinjar Mountains to IS virtually without a fight, forcing thousands of Kurdish Yazidis to flee. The Peshmerga retreated elsewhere too in the face of IS advances.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani, the president of northern Iraq, is essentially a family-run business with an associated small state, as corrupt as it is conservative. The PKK, and its Syrian counterpart YPG, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. The tightly run cadre isn't democratic, but neither is it corrupt -- and in Kobani, they are giving their all in the fight against Islamic State. Indeed, it was the PKK that succeeded in establishing a protective corridor in Sinjar that enabled tens of thousands of Yazidis to flee. It was also PKK that defended the cities of Makhmour and Kirkuk in Iraq against Islamic State militias.

The US Air Force is now air-dropping weapons for YPG fighters in Kobani, while the German military is delivering bazookas to the Peshmerga -- and not to Kobani where they are far more urgently needed. Everyone is assuring that these weapons won't fall into the hands of the PKK. Meanwhile, Turkey has acquiesced to allowing Peshmerga fighters to join the fray in Kobani and politicians in Europe and the United States are timidly considering removing PKK from their lists of terrorist organizations. To many, it seems like a necessary step when establishing a partnership with the PKK, even if it would mean conflict with Turkey.


read more: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/kurdish-fight-against-islamic-state-could-fundamentally-change-region-a-999538.html

fighting the sexist western MMMM (mediocre mass media)...


A young Kurdish woman called "Rehana" has garnered a great deal of media attention over the past few days, after reports emerged claiming that she had killed more than a hundred ISIL fighters - single-handedly. A picture of the smiling beauty, wearing combat gear and toting a rifle, is still making the rounds of social media. Even as Rehana's circumstances remain uncorroborated, the overabundance of attention she has received raises several important questions. It adds to the plethora of reports out there glamorising the all-female Kurdish battalions taking on ISIL fighters, with little attention to the politics of these brave women.

Preoccupied with attempts to sensationalise the ways in which these women defy preconceived notions of eastern women as oppressed victims, these mainstream caricaturisations erroneously present Kurdish women fighters as a novel phenomenon. They cheapen a legitimate struggle by projecting their bizarre orientalist fantasies on it - and oversimplify the reasons motivating Kurdish women to join the fight. Nowadays, it seems to be appealing to portray women as sympathetic enemies of ISIL without raising questions about their ideologies and political aims.

At the same time, critics have accused the Kurdish leadership of exploiting these women for PR purposes - in an attempt to win over western public opinion. While there may be an element of truth to such charges in some cases, those same critics fail to appreciate the different political cultures that exist among the Kurdish people as a whole, scattered across Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. They also ignore the fact that Kurdish women have been engaging in armed resistance for decades without anyone's notice.

'Badass' Amazons

Typical of western media's myopia, instead of considering the implications of women taking up arms in what is essentially a patriarchal society - especially against a group that rapes and sells women as sex-slaves - even fashion magazines appropriate the struggle of Kurdish women for their own sensationalist purposes. Reporters often pick the most "attractive" fighters for interviews and exoticise them as "badass" Amazons.

The truth is, no matter how fascinating it is - from an orientalist perspective - to discover a women's revolution among Kurds, my generation grew up recognising women fighters as a natural element of our identity. Although there is still a long way to go, what some now ignorantly call "tokenism", has in fact shaped the consciousness of millions of Kurds.



we are against impertinence, recklessness and endless demands...


Erdogan accused the US of being "rude" for pressuring it to help save the ISIL-besieged Syrian town of Kobane, which is within sight of the Turkish border.

"Why is somebody coming to this region from 12,000km away?" Erdogan said during an address to a group of businessmen in Ankara, in a clear reference to the US.

"I want you to know that we are against impertinence, recklessness and endless demands," he said.

Biden offended Erdogan last month by suggesting his policies in Syria had helped encourage the rise of the ISIL, a slight that prompted the Turkish president to warn his relationship with the US vice president could be "history".

Washington is pressing Ankara for the use of the Incirlik air base in southern Turkey so US fighter jets can launch assaults on ISIL.

But Turkey has refused to bow to the pressure, setting several conditions for playing a greater role in the coalition.

"They looked on as the tyrant [President Bashar] al-Assad massacred 300,000 people. They remained silent in the face of Assad's barbarism and now they are now staging a 'conscience show' through Kobane," Erdogan said.

"We will resolve our problems not with the help of a 'superior mind' but with the help of our people."

Biden wrapped up a three-day visit to Turkey on Sunday without a breakthrough on military co-operation over the Syrian crisis.



See toon at top


poorly training little ain't going to win the war...


The US has only trained about 60 Syrian opposition fighters to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), far below expectations, Defence Secretary Ash Carter has told Congress, citing rigorous vetting of recruits.

The programme, which launched in May in Jordan and Turkey, was designed to train as many as 5,400 fighters a year and seen as a test of President Barack Obama's strategy of engaging local partners to combat ISIL fighters.

Carter's acknowledgement on Tuesday of the low number of recruits will give ammunition to critics who say Obama's strategy is too limited to have any influence on Syria's conflict.

"Given the poor numbers of recruited and trained Syrian fighters thus far, I am doubtful we can achieve our goal of training a few thousand this year," said Republican Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sowing divisions

Some Syrian rebel leaders say the force the US is training risks sowing divisions and cannot succeed without directly targeting Syrian government forces, who are currently off-limits for US offensive operations.



see toon at top.


the us is losing the war on isis, because ...

US Secretary of State John Kerry has told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Moscow's "continued support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad risks exacerbating and extending the conflict" in the country.

Kerry made the comments on Tuesday in his third phone call to Lavrov in the past 10 days, a US state department official said, seeking to clarify the intent of Russia's military build-up in Syria.

The call came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his military assistance to Assad's government and said it was impossible to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) without cooperating with Damascus and urged other countries to join the cause.



There is not two ways that the US want to defeat Assad before defeating ISIS... They want to satisfy their friends the Saudis, who, to say the least should take at least one million refugees or more from the conflict zone... But most of those fleeing Syria and Iraq don't like the Saudis. They pray to the same god via different channel, hence the war... 

The Russians can win the war on ISIS within three months, but they want Assad to stay in power and so should the West. The West under the dubious leadership of the US is doing the same mistake it did with Saddam Hussein with the wish of throwing Assad out  — all to please the oil masters, the Saudis. 

the ruskies to the rescue...

If Russia is serious about backing the Assad regime to defeat Islamic State, then maybe it's time for the West to reposition itself. Because it appears the Russians are the only ones with a clear-headed strategy, writes John Blaxland.

Russia has long defended the Assad regime in Syria from Western sanctions and intervention, blocking UN consensus by exercising its veto powers in the UN Security Council and maintaining low-key but strong ties to ensure access to military port facilities on Syria's Mediterranean coast.

The West has so far not been prepared to use force to circumvent the UN and overcome Russia's support for the Assad regime, despite the mounting atrocities perpetrated by Assad's forces. Although it is one of Assad's enemies, Assad's toxic actions over the last three years helped foster the emergence of the so-called Islamic State, Daesh, as a proto-state, spanning across the borders of what we once knew as Syria and Iraq.

Daesh is exercising the ugliest of primeval practices with the aid of 21st century weapons and technology in the name of a deranged manifestation of Islam. Assad, understandably, welcomes Russian support to suppress them. With many at fault all around, the result is the absence of any clarity of who is worthy of the West's support.

In response, the West has been lukewarm in its enthusiasm to curb Assad and defeat Daesh. Australia, alongside a range of other Western powers, is making a carefully calibrated force contribution to wind back Daesh, knowing full well that, on its own, its niche force contribution will make at best only a marginal difference to the outcome of events there. Australia's commitment of fighter aircraft to bomb Deash targets in Syria as well as Iraq was intended, it appears, to send a message of support to the United States and to prompt a more forthright American response to the festering security problem.

This unusual approach reflects a gaping absence of a coherent strategy by the West for dealing with the crisis in Syria and Iraq. The replacement of Tony Abbott by Malcolm Turnbull could well see this approach to metaphorically "shirt-front" Daesh taper off in the absence of other coalition partners rallying to the cause. Canada's PM, Stephen Harper, for instance, looks set to be defeated in coming elections and the successor government likely will be far less enthusiastic about maintaining combat aircraft over Iraq and Syria.

But a confluence of factors seems to be bringing the simmering crisis to a head and there are pointers of an alternative way forward.

read more: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-17/blaxland-the-west-could-learn-from-russias-strategy-in-syria/6782296

saving some of the moral furniture...

A top adviser to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has called on Australia and other Western countries to cooperate with the regime in fighting Islamic State.

Speaking to Lateline, Bouthaina Shaaban, who is part of the Assad family's inner circle, warned Australia and the West against turning Syria into a failed state like Iraq or Libya.

"My message to the Australian Government is that there should be a real intention to fighting terrorism," she said.

"And the real intention should come through a real coalition and cooperation with Russia, Iran, China, the government of Syria, and all countries and governments who truly are interested in fighting terrorism."

read more: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-17/bouthaina-shaaban-assad-advisor-calls-on-west-to-help-syria/6785272

neoncon bullshit...

What Vladimir Putin is up to in Syria makes far more sense than what Barack Obama and John Kerry appear to be up to in Syria. The Russians are flying transports bringing tanks and troops to an air base near the coastal city of Latakia to create a supply chain to provide a steady flow of weapons and munitions to the Syrian army.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, an ally of Russia, has lost half his country to ISIS and the Nusra Front, a branch of al-Qaeda. Putin fears that if Assad falls, Russia’s toehold in Syria and the Mediterranean will be lost, ISIS and al-Qaeda will be in Damascus, and Islamic terrorism will have achieved its greatest victory.

Is he wrong?

Winston Churchill famously said in 1939: “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” Exactly. Putin is looking out for Russian national interests.

And who do we Americans think will wind up in Damascus if Assad falls? A collapse of that regime, not out of the question, would result in a terrorist takeover, the massacre of thousands of Alawite Shiites and Syrian Christians, and the flight of millions more refugees into Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey—and thence on to Europe.

Putin wants to prevent that. Don’t we? Why then are we spurning his offer to work with us? Are we still so miffed that when we helped to dump over the pro-Russian regime in Kiev, Putin countered by annexing Crimea? Get over it.

Understandably, there is going to be friction between the two greatest military powers. Yet both of us have a vital interest in avoiding war with each other and a critical interest in seeing ISIS degraded and defeated.

And if we consult those interests rather than respond to a reflexive Russophobia that passes for thought in the think tanks, we should be able to see our way clear to collaborate in Syria.

Indeed, the problem in Syria is not so much with the Russians—or Iran, Hezbollah, and Assad, all of whom see the Syrian civil war correctly as a fight to the finish against Sunni jihadis.

Our problem has been that we have let our friends—the Turks, Israelis, Saudis, and Gulf Arabs—convince us that no victory over ISIS can be achieved unless and until we bring down Assad. Once we get rid of Assad, they tell us, a grand U.S.-led coalition of Arabs and Turks can form up and march in to dispatch ISIS.

This is neocon nonsense.

read more: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/buchanan/who-wins-if-damascus-falls/

losing it...

The administration is serving up some pretty pitiful spin to provide political cover for the complete failure of their plan to arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels:

By any measure, President Obama’s effort to train a Syrian opposition army to fight the Islamic State on the ground has been an abysmal failure. The military acknowledged this week that just four or five American-trained fighters are actually fighting.

But the White House says it is not to blame. The finger, it says, should be pointed not at Mr. Obama but at those who pressed him to attempt training Syrian rebels in the first place [bold mine-DL] — a group that, in addition to congressional Republicans, happened to include former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I’m all for holding Syria hawks responsible for their advocacy of terrible policies, but the administration can’t simply shift all the blame to its hawkish critics on this one. If members of Congress and some members of Obama’s administration “pressed” him to do something that he knew was pointless, he deserves even moreblame for going along with an option that he knew wouldn’t achieve anything. There is nothing quite as pathetic as a president blaming his opponents for his decision to give in to their stupid recommendations. “It’s not my fault that I caved in to the demands of people who are always wrong about foreign policy” is not the argument one wants to be making.

read more: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/obamas-unpersuasive-syria-spin/

the russians have it...

With Western policy on Syria in a state of flux could the timing of Russia's military move into that country be more perfect?

The operation to move dozens of combat aircraft and hundreds of troops to the aid of President Bashar al-Assad must have been given the green light some weeks ago, but think of what's been happening during the past 10 days as reports emerged of the Russians appearing at an air base near the Assad stronghold of Latakia.

With American policy stalled and arguments about the degree to which its bombing campaign has blunted IS, the president's envoy, retired General John Allen, and several other senior officials have decided to step down. Gen Allen was known to believe the US should harden its position on the overthrow of President Assad, and in the need for a safe zone in the north of Syria - instead the prospect seems to be slipping away of either happening.

Last week the US general running Central Command, the Pentagon's Middle East arm, went through humiliating testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee in which he had to admit that the number of Syrian rebels trained under a $500m (£325m) US programme who had actually made it into the field could be counted on the figures of one hand, and that plans for a safe area in northern Syria to protect civilians would be meaningless without ground troops, but he could not recommend the commitment of US soldiers on such a mission.