Saturday, August 23, 2014

Iraq / Syria War Updates ( August 23 , 2014 ) As the line rapidly become " blurred " in the side by side fighting in both Iraq and Syria , an examination of items of the day from the Iraqi Battlefield , items of note from the Iraq political front and the impact of both on the Syria War front ....


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New Islamic State video appears to show use of aerial drones for operational reconnaissance.

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Three car bombs in today too. Fatalities reported. Not a good day for the KRG.

Map: The targets struck by U.S. fighter jets and drones in northern Iraq

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Regime airlift reinforcements by helicopter to airbase to resist Airstrikes continues

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BREAKING: Iraq officials say suicide bomber hits Interior Ministry office in Baghdad, kills 11 people.

Regime conducted a dozen airstrikes in area around airbase this morning

If US is counting on , why would it do air strikes? unlike has an air force, compliments of USSR , later Russia.

Sadiq Laban, MP from State of Law coalition says next govt will not pay forces salary unless they're listed on Iraqi MOD.

Opinion: "Maliki wants his successor to carry out his political battles," writes Al Arabiya's Abdulrahman al-Rashed

At least eight killed in intelligence headquarter due to suicide bomber attack

Finance Minister: We Have Received $180 Million Oil Revenue - -

Trans MIn Hadi Ameri of Badr involved in investigation of mosque massacre Means if militias involved nothing substantive will come of it

Following today's sectarian attack in Diyala, reread this terrific interview from 's Musings on Iraq on insurgent

Today's massacre at Sunni mosque in Diyala shows it will take more than this fantasy of an inclusive govt to end ISIS-led insurgency in Iraq

turns its sights back towards 'unlike anything we have seen', say diplomats

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Tabqa airbase still holding out against the Islamic State

After a series of fierce clashes, the penultimate Pro-Assadist stronghold in Nothern Syria is still holding out against fighters of the Islamic State. Tabqa airbase is now the fourth base to have been targeted in a series of offensives by fighters the Islamic State conducted in lightning speed.

Similarly to the attack on Brigade 93, the base was pounded by artillery and multiple rocket launchers (MRLs)captured at Regiment 121 and Brigade 93. However, while the capture of Regiment 97, Brigade 93 and Regiment 121 went smooth, fighters of the Islamic State fell into a prepared, well-executed trap during the assault on Tabqa. The Islamic State only managed to capture one anti-aircraft position and a few buildings.


Much of this has to do with the inability of the Islamic State to succefully defend itself against enemy aircraft, a gap fully exploited by the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF), which not only flew sorties against fighters of the Islamic State, but also managed to fly in reinforcements and resupply the base with transport planes.

The defence of Tabqa rested on of the SyAAF's ability to provide sufficient air cover to not only help defend the base, but also strike back at Islamic State postions. The initial assault was slowed down by the many minefields surrounding the airbase, during which the fighters also came under heavy fire from multiple sides. The SyAAF was subsequently unleashed on the fighters of the Islamic State, which were now fully exposed in the open. The MiG-21s still present at the airbase remained active during the assault, flying sorties from Tabqa's 9.842 feet long runway.

The SyAAF's assault on Islamic State positions and vehicles around Tabqa also saw the first combat role for the SA-342 'Gazelle' in the now three and a half years long Syrian Civil War. Because the SA-342s can only be armed with SS.12 and HOT anti-tank missiles, they weren't very useful before. The open deserts of Tabqa proved to be the perfect place for these helicopers, and armed with HOT missiles, they saw heavy action against vehicles of the Islamic State.

They were joined by the heavier Mi-25s, which flew sorties armed with unguided rockets and FAB bombs.

The assault of Tabqa airbase largely came as unexpected as it was thought Kweres airbase would be next on the list. Reason for focussing on Tabqa instead might have something to do with the status of this base.

Strategically located, the fall of the base provides a free card for the Islamic State to expand their base of operations deeper into Syria. Although a renewed offensive on Aleppo might seem a more obvious move for the Islamic State, when captured, there is nothing in between the Islamic State and Tadmor airbase near Palmyra andT.4 airbase, housing the SyAAF's Su-24 fleet. 

Also, while Tabqa still houses operational fighter-aircraft, Kweres is nothing more than a runway littered with plane wrecks and troops only capable of defending the base, unable to mount any offensive actions. Kweres, the latter already being under siege and preparing for the imminent assault since December 2012. 

While most of the planes at Kweres are either incapable of performing interdiction sorties, damaged or destroyed by the Islamic State's mortar fire pounding the airbase in the last months, Tabqa is home to 12 squadron and another unknown squadron flying MiG-21bis and MiG-21MFs. The airbase was also home to various Mi-8/17 detachments, mostly being used for barrel-bombs attacks and ressuplying the besieged bases of Division 17, Regiment 121, Brigade 93 and Kweres airbase. 

Last, Tabqa houses eight munition bunkers, four anti-aircraft postions with a total of twenty-four anti-aircraft guns and five radars. Two PRV-13s, one P-14, one P-35/37 and the modern JY-27 radar system remain undamaged. These radar systems are responsible for detecting any aircraft in Nothern Syria. If that capability is lost, the Pro-Assadists will lose any grip of what plane enters Syrian airspace via the North. A gap that can't be filled.

The heavy losses at Tabqa once again reveals the main weakness of the Islamic State; Having the right kind of weaponry to destroy or prevent enemy aircraft from flying over its territory. The acquisition of surface-to-air missiles (SAM) has to be the main priority of the Islamic State. While there aren't any SAMs to capture in Iraq, such weaponry is widely available Syria. While MANPADS are scarce in Nothern Syria, Deir ez-Zor still houses two SAM sites with 2K12 Kub mobile SAM systems. While the 2K12s are too complicated to use for an inexperienced crew, former operators can be forced to man these systems for the Islamic State.

If the Islamic State will launch a renewed offensive against Tabqa is unknown. For now, Tabqa remains a major eyesore for the Islamic State.

A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into an intelligence headquarters in Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least eight people, police and medical sources said.
The attack came a day after Shiite militiamen machinegunned 68 Sunni worshipers at a village mosque in Diyala Province, raising the prospect of revenge attacks as politicians try to form a government capable of countering Islamic State militants.
Following the mosque attack, two major sunni parliamentary blocs pulled of talks on forming a new Iraqi cabinet, setting up a challenge for prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi.
An advance by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants group through northern Iraq has alarmed the Baghdad government and its Western allies and drawn airstrikes in Iraq for the first time since the withdrawal of American troops in 2011.
Although the air campaign has caused a few setbacks for Islamic State, they do not address the wider problem of sectarian warfare which the group has fueled with attacks on Shiites.

Moon Of Alabama....

August 21, 2014

Syria: U.S. Intelligence For Syrian Air-Force Bombing

Pepe Escobar writes in ATOL on the IS rampage in Syria and Iraq:
[H]ow convenient that a Briton beheading an American - what a "special relationship" plot twist! - fully sanctions the Return of Iraq Bombing ("for months", in Obama's words); more strikes; more drones; perhaps more boots on the ground;perhaps, in the near future, a Syria extension.
Indeed. But the mission creep, or maybe the planned escalation, was already ongoingbefore the beheading video of James Foley was published:
Monday, the President again broadened the bombing’s objectives. The airstrikes against ISIS still protect U.S. personnel and serve humanitarian purposes, he said, but now, it seems, those are general goals that ongoing bombing serves. The President also suggested that ISIS is a security threat to the United States. Not for the first time, he said that once the new Iraqi government forms, we will “build up” Iraqi military power against ISIS.Only the speed of this slide down a slippery slope is surprising.
The U.S. is again fully at war in Iraq. But bombing in Syria, it seems to me, will be left to the Syrian air-force. For some days now it has attacked IS targets in Raqqa with precise ammunition, not with the usual "barrel bombs". Precise weapons need precise intelligence to designate precise targets. Two knowledgeable journalist from the region have suggested that the U.S. is providing such targeting data to the Syrian government. The Angry Arab reports:
The highly able and reliable correspondent of As-Safir in Paris claims that the US has been providing intelligence help to the Syrian regime regarding positions of ISIS in Syria.
That As-Safir correspondent is Mohammad Ballout. Elijah J. Magnier, AL RAI chief international correspondent, tweeted two days ago:
#BreakingNews: #USA #Syria: #SAF Mig-29 is bombarding on daily basis #IS selective targets in #Raqqa w guided missiles following #USA info
Reuters reports that Syrian hopes to find a detente with the "west" over the threat of the Islamic State:
Ghaleb Kandil, another Lebanese journalist with close ties to the Syrian government, said the West would be forced to deal with Assad sooner or later. In return for security cooperation, Assad would demand full political rehabilitation."The Syrian state is the only body with adequate intelligence about the terrorists," he said.
With the U.S. providing targeting data to the Syrian air-force at least some informal detente has already been agreed upon. More opportunities for a public reversal of the "western" position will appear soon.

Unlike Pepe Escobar anticipates, "a Syria extension" of U.S. air-force attacks is unlikely to happen as long as the Syrian air-force has and keeps its capabilities to act on anti-IS (signal-)intelligence the U.S. provides. Russia (and Iran) will take care that the Syrian air-force will have the material and personal capacities to achieve that.

U.S. Wants to Bomb ISIS In Syria ... Maybe We Should (cough) First Stop ARMING THEM?

George Washington's picture

U.S. foreign policy is schizophrenic.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says we need to attack the Sunni militants in Syria.
The deputy national security adviser to President Obama says we should go after ISIS in Syria.
Okay …
But the U.S. and our closest allies have long supported Sunni militants.
And the U.S. and our closest allies have been arming and trainingIslamic jihadists in Syria for years. And see thisthisthis and this.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a fortune-teller to have known this was a bad idea.
As Michael Shank – Adjunct Faculty and Board Member at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and director of foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation – warned a year ago:
The Senate and House Intelligence committees’ about-face decision last week to arm the rebels in Syria is dangerous and disconcerting. The weapons will assuredly end up in the wrong hands and will only escalate the slaughter in Syria. Regardless of the vetting procedures in place, the sheer factionalized nature of the opposition guarantees that the arms will end up in some unsavory hands. The same militant fighters who have committed gross atrocities are among the best-positioned of the rebel groups to seize the weapons that the United States sends to Syria.

Congress can still join with the 70 percent of Americanswho oppose arming Syria rebels and heed former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s caution against arming the rebels (he called the Obama administration’s decision to do so “a mess in the making“) ….

Arming one side of Syria’s multi-sided and bloody civil war will come back to haunt us. Past decisions by the U.S. to arm insurgencies in Libya, Angola, Central America and Afghanistan helped sustain brutal conflicts in those regions for decades. In the case of Afghanistan, arming the mujahideen in the 1980s created the instability that emboldened extreme militant groups and gave rise to the Taliban, which ultimately created an environment for al Qaeda to thrive.

There is no unified command or control in the Syrian opposition, as was the case of the Afghan mujahideen. And due to the United States’ long history of diplomatically isolating Syria, we know even less about the nature of Syria’s opposition. The excuse that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is often invoked to justify anti-Assad forces. This short-sighted excuse has gained the U.S. enemies around the world, undermining U.S. national security. The same justification was used by the Bush administration in its collaboration with the Assad regime to torture suspected militants in Syria. Arming the enemies of our enemies hasn’t made the U.S. more friends; it has made the U.S. more enemies.


Some armed opposition factions, including powerful Islamist coalitions, reject negotiation altogether. Yet these are the same groups that will likely seize control of U.S.-supplied weapons, just as they’ve already seized control of the bulk of the rebels’ weaponry.


When you lift the curtain on the armed groups with the most formidable military presence on the ground in Syria, you find the Al Nusra Front and Al Farough Brigades. Both groups are closely aligned with Al Qaeda and have directly perpetrated barbaric atrocities. The Al Nusra Front has been charged with beheadings of civilians, while a commander from the Al Farough Brigades reportedly ate the heart of a pro-Assad soldier.
Shank’s warning was ignored, and his worst fears came to pass.
And the U.S. is still financing the jihadis in Syria. For example, the government is pushing an additional $500 million in arms to the jihadis.
We are literally bombing our own weapons.
A similar dynamic is operating in Iraq. Specifically, the U.S. is now arming the “Peshmerga” (i.e. the Kurdish soldiers).
But the Wall Street Journal notes that there are reports that Peshmerga are fighting side-by-side with the PKK  … a group designated as terrorists by the U.S.:
A U.S. defense official couldn’t confirm whether the meeting took place and stressed in response to reports that the PKK was fighting alongside the Peshmerga that “it’s hard to tell from Washington who’s on the front line in a Kurdish-Iraqi fight.”

The U.S. has designated the PKK a terrorist organization, and the U.S. “doesn’t do business with them,” the official added.
By arming the Peshmerga, the U.S. is also putting weapons into the hands of the PKK.
If we stop arming, funding and training terrorists, then maybe we won’t have to bomb them later.

Anti War.....

US Preparing to Expand Iraq War Into Syria

Obama Aide: We're Not Going to Be Restricted by Borders

by Jason Ditz, August 22, 2014
Just one day after Gen. Martin Dempsey declared that the new Iraq War was unwinnable without going into neighboring Syria, the administration is starting to talk about such an escalation as virtually a done deal.
We’re not going to be restricted by borders,” insisted Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who talked up the execution of kidnapped reporter James Foley as a “terrorist attack” against the United States in general, justifying the further escalation of the war.
Rhodes wouldn’t explicitly say that the US is going into Syria, but all of his comments pointed in that direction, saying the goal of attacking ISIS everywhere they are is going to “guide our planning in the days to come.”
The Pentagon’s push for an escalation of the air war in Iraq is now combined with the calls to expand across the border as well. Analysts continue to say the airstrikes are unlikely to be a game-changer, and that ground troops are going to be an inevitable future step.
Officials have continued to insist ground troops aren’t in the plans, but they continue to add goals to the war that are making a ground invasion less speculative, and more a matter of time.
It’s only been two weeks since the Iraq air war began, and several escalations have already been pushed through. The foundation is being laid for an open-ended war with ever expanding goals and boundaries, and Syria is just the next stop on America’s reinvasion of the region.

Sunni MPs End Govt Talks After Shi’ite Militia Carries Out Massacre

Militia Keen to Wipe Out Remaining Sunnis in Metro Beghdad

by Jason Ditz, August 22, 2014
It’s hard to imagine sectarian tensions in Iraq could get any worse, but every new day seems to set the bar even lower in the country. Today, a Shi’ite militia attacked a Sunni mosque during Friday prayers, killing 73 civilians.
The incident in Baqubah, a major city on the outskirts of Baghdad, reflects growing fears among the Shi’ite militias fighting the war against ISIS that local Sunnis could join up with ISIS invaders. Their strategy is to massacre them, ensuring those locals are definitely going to back almost anyone as an alternative to the pro-government militia movements.
Sunni MPs announced they are withdrawing from talks on a new coalition government, and won’t consider returning unless the ruling State of Law Party hands over the militiamen responsible and compensates the families of the victims.
Iraqi officials claimed they think ISIS was responsible for the attack, and there is no indication they are going to arrest any militiamen in relation to the attack.
With the Iraqi military retreating from fights with ISIS, the nation has increasingly relied on Shi’ite militias to defend the area along the north of Baghdad. That has left the militias with the run of the area, and free to crack down on local Sunnis.
With Iraq trying to put forward a pretense of religious unity, the massacre underscores the division that for years has been tearing the country apart.

ISIS Gains Have Syrians Pushing Assad for More Airstrikes

DM Accused of Not Doing Enough to Protect Eastern Bases

by Jason Ditz, August 22, 2014
ISIS continues to push its offensive in both Iraq and Syria, and having taken materially all of the territory held by other rebel factions, are finding themselves increasingly challenging the Syrian military for control over theirs.
ISIS has successfully taken several military bases in the east, and is pushing to take more, though they have been stalled in some cases. The losses are mounting, and people in Damascus are increasingly pushing the military to do more to reverse the momentum.
The push now is for Assad to launch even more airstrikes against ISIS-held territory in the east, even though by and large those airstrikes have not been particularly effective, and have been causing a lot of civilian deaths.
Anger seems particularly directed at the defense minister, who is accused of keeping his family safe in Damascus while leaving soldiers in the eastern bases to their own devices in trying to resist the growing ISIS push.
For a long time, ISIS’ tendency to attack other rebels was seen as useful for the Syrian military, as it kept the rebellion divided. With ISIS having shaken out most of its other rivals, however, they are now starting down a major ISIS army, loaded for bear with American weapons, and looking to take more and more of Syria.

Kurdish Commander Says Baghdad Blocking Foreign Arms to Peshmerga

By Alexander Whitcomb 20 hours ago
On the frontlines, Peshmerga commanders say their men are still fighting with outdated equipment. AP file photo.
On the frontlines, Peshmerga commanders say their men are still fighting with outdated equipment. AP file photo.
KHAZIR, Iraq – Peshmerga commanders on the frontlines of the war with the Islamic State armies say their men have received none of the weapons delivered by foreign governments, blaming interference by Baghdad.
“We have not had the delivery of weapons from our international partners,” said Rowsch Shaways, Iraq’s outgoing deputy prime minister, who is a Kurd and serves as a commander of Kurdish forces leading an offensive toward Mosul.  
“Right now Baghdad is the reason why this hasn’t happened,” Shaways toldRudaw from a command center southeast of Mosul, only a kilometer from enemy lines.
At another base near Gwar, General Sirwan Barzani also lamented that his division has “seen nothing of the new weapons.”   
The United States, France, Albania, Italy, Germany and Britain have expressed their willingness to provide military aid to the autonomous Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State (IS/formerly ISIS). 
Yet, each has sought to coordinate the process through Baghdad, whose relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) remain severely strained. Much of the tension has been blamed on Nouri al-Maliki, who was recently forced down from seeking a third term as prime minister. 
Since the IS began a rout of the Iraqi army in June, the Peshmerga have emerged as the only local force standing up to the militants. 
Over the past several weeks, Kurdish military officials have said their forces had new, heavy weapons, without revealing their origins or other details. But the comments by commanders did not confirm that.
On the frontlines, several officers explained they were making progress in the fight against IS, but Shaways remained adamant that they need American and European weapons.
Kurdish leaders acknowledge an arms upgrade will be necessary to face the well-armed and disciplined insurgent force without suffering heavy casualties, since a series of difficult challenges, such as the recapture of Mosul, still lie ahead.  
Asked if he believed the delivery would happen soon, Shaways struggled to contain his concern: “If (Baghdad) wants to defeat ISIS ---- our common enemy -- then they will make sure we get the weapons as soon as possible,” he said.
Although Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga cooperated in the recapture of the strategic Mosul Dam this week, Baghdad has been reluctant to take any measures that would further strengthen the Kurdish military, a formidable force despite its outdated equipment. 
Kurdish parties are working with Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi to form a government, but there is no guarantee that the new administration will be able to reverse the disastrous course set by Maliki and prevent the further disintegration of Iraq.
Cooperation on pressing matters of national security, such as the fight against IS, remains the most basic stress-test of Erbil’s current relationship with Baghdad, lending the arms delivery a heightened importance.