Napoleon once ascribed his success to being able to see things as they were, and not as reflected in a fun house mirror. “The first qualification of a general-in-chief is to possess a cool head, so that things may appear to him in their true proportions and as they really are.”
In Washington’s eyes Gaza may be the biggest conflict the Middle East; but objectively it is the littlest. The numbers tell the story. Syrian president Bashar Assad went down on his knees at a mosque following what some have called the worst week in the Syrian civil war ”amid reports of an unprecedented high death toll among his troops battling Islamic extremists.”
The military casualties came as fighting intensified in the past two weeks, with militants from the al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group seeking to eliminate opponents from all sides, dealing a series of setbacks for government forces and rival rebels alike … about 1,240 soldiers and other Assad loyalists have been killed in the past 10 days in northern Syria.
Other activists in Syria confirmed that past weeks have seen a record death toll. Syria’s three-year civil war has already killed more than 170,000 people, nearly a third of them civilians.
Nor should we forget Iraq was always a much bigger deal than Gaza and may be about to get worse. The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer tells readers to get set for the coming Blitz of Baghdad. “Analysts at the U.S.-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War, who have been plotting the locations and types of attacks in the recent flurry of blasts buffeting the Iraqi capital, have noted a clear pattern developing. They say it suggests the Islamic State is building up to something big and is no longer just focused on consolidating its grip and developing governance in the lands it now controls.”
The institute’s analysts predict the caliphate may be readying for an onslaught, possibly timed for the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Monday or during the Eid holiday celebrations this week. The aim would not be to seize Iraq’s capital, which has a very large Shia population with every incentive to fight to the death against an organization that slaughters Shia prisoner en masse. The purpose of the Islamic State offensive would be to sow mayhem and to keep Iraq’s state apparatus from recovering from its stunning defeats in June, when it lost control of Mosul, the second-largest city in the country. …
There has been a burst of attacks by bombers wearing suicide vests and also car blasts “along avenues of approach to the capital and also within Baghdad proper,” the institute notes in an intelligence update.
Failed efforts to pull this off against US forces were discussed in an earlier post, the Siege of Baghdad. But ISIS will probably have better luck against Maliki.