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Making Sense of the Meltdown in Iraq

A quick and dirty guide to the chaos.

by
Austin Bay

Bio

June 13, 2014 - 12:43 pm

STRATEGIC POLITICAL: The US has a vital interest in helping Iraqis create a stable, democratic state. Would-be isolationists will quickly rediscover that economic links bind the 21st century world, once they see the oil price hikes spurred by the battlefield successes of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also translated as the media-friendly acronym ISIS, for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).

However, US interest in Iraq is not simply energy or economics — it is political example.  Iran’s dictatorship and various violent Islamic militant groups know that a successful Iraqi democracy would be fatal to them and to their goals.(1)  The US and Iraq must negotiate a new Status of Forces Agreement. To stabilize, Iraqis need confidence; a long-term US security presence inspires confidence. American kept a security “nightlight” in Germany and Japan for half a century.(2)

OPERATIONAL MILITARY: Iraqi forces need US airpower, now. They need US special operations forces (SOF) teams to coordinate air strikes and tap US intelligence assets. First, target ISIL’s truck-borne flying columns. Air attacks devastate light vehicles in the open, and northwestern Iraq is open.  The US has US Navy carrier aircraft within range; so is NATO’s huge Incirlik air base.

The Iraqi Army claims that it stalled an ISIL column near Tikrit. With only 4,000 fighters, ISIL cannot fight an attrition battle. With US airpower providing an immense firepower advantage, Iraqi forces can kill the stalled ISIL column, and kill it quickly.

(1) In early 2004 US intelligence intercepted a letter from Iraq-based terrorist commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to his al-Qaida superiors. Zaraqwi wrote: When “the sons of this land (Iraq) will be the authority … this is the democracy. We will have no pretexts (i.e., for waging a terror war).” Anticipating strategic defeat, Zarqawi concluded his only option igniting a “sectarian war” in Iraq by waging a relentless terror war on Iraqi Shias. He believed this would “rally the Sunni Arabs” to his cause.

YouTube videos of summary executions in Mosul and reports that ISIL is imposing harsh Sharia law in areas it controls suggest ISIL intends to pursue the same desperate stratagem: igniting a Shia-Sunni civil war to shred Iraq. Out of the chaos, ISIL will then create a radical Sunni Islamic state in northern Iraq.  However, the Kurds, Turks and Jordanians won’t let it endure, nor will the Israelis. Though the Iranians will use the chaos to their advantage, they have no interest in a radical militant Sunni state on the border of the Syrian client. However, the best outcome is to kill the ISIL “caliphate” and kill it in a spectacular fashion.

(2) The Iraqi Army of 2008 was an increasingly capable force; the Operation Knights Charge in Basra was a highly successful Iraqi-planned and led attack. However, since US forces withdrew in 2011, cronyism and corruption have undermined Iraq’s military forces. Yes, Nouri al-Maliki bears the blame. Crooked armies are brittle armies; Mosul demonstrates that. Stabilizing Iraq means penalizing rule by whim (or cronies) while nurturing and strengthening the institutional Rule of Law.  An extended US security presence not only gives democratic political elements protection, it provides them with an on-the-ground Rule of Law institution to emulate.

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist, author and strategist with over 30 years of service in the U.S Army and U.S. Army Reserves. His online writings can be found here

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Top Rated Comments   
His interests don't align with US interests. Don't even get started on the misalignment between US interests and ValJar's.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
That will NEVER happen, because "that son of a b**ch in the White House" never acts in the best interests of the United States. Never has, never will. He feels about the USA just as ISIL feels about Iraq; knock it down and rip it apart.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Does anyone really expect Barack Obama to do the logical, intelligent thing?
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (40)
All Comments   (40)
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The recommendations in this article were good 4 yrs ago, when Iraq still had numerous sensible factions (like Sunni Awakening, non radical secular Shias, and the Kurds) who we could deal with, we still had troops there (who did not have to fight much anymore, since the surge had already killed most of the bad guys) and who could work with each other (provided out stabilization force was there to intervene between the 3 factions and keep them working together), before Obama left and betrayed all the moderate Iraqi factions. But now it looks to me just like Syria, where after disastrous Obama non action, there are no good factions left (other than possibly the Kurds). While the Sunni ISSI is extremely bad, Maliki is no better. Maliki is now a pawn of Iran, with his most reliable forces being Iranians, and radical Shia militia, and supporting the Iraqi gov now is just supporting Iran. I say for now just stay out, let the fanatics kill each other, and just state that they can do what they wish in Iraq, but if they mess with us again, we come back and kill them. Then once the factions are done murdering each other, and actually say they want to make peace and build a country again, maybe then we can help.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm with Jonah Goldberg on this one: F' em.

This is a group of people who have been murdering one another since the 7th century over a difference in opinion on who gets to be the expert on old Mo's good book- a loony imam descended by one of his great great great grandkids, or some loony imam from the next block over.

When Obama decided in the 2007 campaign that Iraq was the "bad war" and Afganistan was the "good war" so he would have hawk creds, it was all over for Iraqi's.

The confirmation was when he withdrew without a Status of Forces Agreement, and gave away all the equipment and bases they were parked on, to Maliki and his Iranian proxies, which would have been all it took for a days drive to conquer the real evil in the Middle East- the terrorism sponsoring imams of Iran.

So follow the money. Where did all that foreign money come from, to Obama's website during the 2007 campaign- you know the one- that the Google Geeks couldnt figure out how to turn the credit card validation switch, required by law to verify valid donations, that somehow, the hopeless IT folks working for Romney somehow did do properly. I'd be looking at ValJar's and Hilllary's overseas bank accounts, Michelles mom, Pelosi, Reid, DiFi, the usual suspects. Dont forget the lawyer who pardoned Marc Rich for his bribes during the Clinton Admin....
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
In principle I'd agree with Austin Bay here.

But the practical situation is that there is no support for intervention from either the left or the right.

There will be no status of forces agreement because there will be no forces.

Bitterest pill to swallow with respect to the impending partition of Iraq is that it makes Biden look prescient.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
No.
This is not a US problem.
Iraq had its chance. They blew it. Let them suffer the consequences.
Iran will extend their reach deeper into the mideast by essentially taking the Shia areas of Iraq. They and Syria wind up in a cold or hot war with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and quite possibly Pakistan.
Since Russia is aligned with the Shia and China gets 50% of its energy from the Gulf, those two new 'superpowers' are going to have to deal with this. And it will be very, very, VERY messy.
This must NOT become America's problem.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
This will only end in blood and tears.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
This will end in blood and tears. and not for a long time.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
The First Amendment is anti-Islamic therefore we refuse to talk about it outside our borders. Without it, we have no ruler to measure a group as friendly to freedom.... So we won't
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
I say bomb the hell out of them while they are in the open ... its not often that you get a large number of tango's out in the open ... bomb til the rubble bounces ... rinse, repeat as needed ...
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
SHACK!
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The US has a vital interest in helping Iraqis create a stable, democratic state."

No, it does not. And besides, we don't have the next 1,000 years.

"Would-be isolationists ... ... blah ... blah ... oil ... blah ... blah ..."

There you go again (with that BS of anyone who does not want to intervene in every Muslim fighting Muslim conflict in every country on the planet and forever, must be an "isolationist"). - RR
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
We certainly do. There's no better place to start. We sure can't start with Saudi.

And it wouldn't take 1,000 years, only about 50 to 70.

And you are an idiot isolationist every bit as much as Ron Paul is. His and your policies would guarantee the fighting with foreigners would be on our soil within a generation. Or our surrender to them would be. It would be one of the two.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Tom, I don't disagree with you often, but this time your wrong. Will I be condemned as an isolationist? Probably. Is it merited? Yes, indeedy. We couldn't maintain eleven years much less 70 years. We have the ability to take down every major weapons system in the middle east. We should do it. Aircraft, tanks, missile systems, personnel carriers, light tank and recon vehicles. Everything but small arms. Let them beat themselves to death with clubs. I don't care. We should not get involved in any country in the middle east but we should isolate and quarantine each and every one of them.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
Take 50 to 70 years? Laughable. Occupation of Europe since 1945 (nearly 70 years) hasn’t made a First Amendment acceptable to Europeans, who instead are busy replacing the USSR with the EUSSR.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
The leading elements of the foreign invasion are here already. That they are unaccompanied minors of illegals already invading the country makes little difference, but no one wants to be seen dealing with kids as harshly as should be done with their adult parents. That an active Fifth Column of supporters and sympathizers of this invasion is operating out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and other precincts in DC and Corporate America is disgusting and infuriating.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
If we actually committed to dealing with the terrorists we could deal with them in short order.they don't have that many troops. They are just well trained. Compared to Iraqis. Not compared to our military. We are literally just letting them take ground.
23 weeks ago
23 weeks ago Link To Comment
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