Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Iraq / Syria Regional War Updates ( September 9 , 2014 ) -- US working hard to sell the War on ISIS ( who get US weapons from Syrian " Moderate Rebels ) both here and abroad .... Political news from Baghdad and Kurdistan - positive generally but storm clouds brewing with Kurdish demands yet to be addressed , let alone Sunni demands ....... Tweets of the morning ! ..
From the moment the US began sending lethal arms to Syrian rebel factions, there were a chorus of people expressing fears that those arms would end up in the “wrong hands,” and US officials insisted they were going to carefully vet everyone who got those weapons.
You know who got a lot of those weapons? ISIS. Just as everyone predicted would happen, once the arms were smuggled into Syria, they quickly ended up spread out among rebel factions, both pro-US and not, and a new report shows massive amounts of ISIS armament was actually stamped “Property of US Govt.”
Some of those small arms were surely looted from Iraqi bases during the offensive in Mosul, which is also where ISIS got most of its arsenal of US-made military vehicles. That’s not the whole story, however.
The ISIS weapons, cataloged after being captured by Kurdish forces, also included US-made anti-tank missiles that appear to have been part of a delivery provided to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), one of those carefully vetted rebel factions.
How the TOW missiles got from FSA “moderates” to ISIS is anyone’s guess, but the factions are not so starkly divided as officials have imagined, and fighters and gear often flow back and forth.
Pinning down the exact route the US arms took to get to ISIS will be all but impossible, as ISIS appears to have had the foresight to weld over the serial numbers to prevent any conclusive proof of the chain of transactions.
The Syrian rebel factions still getting US arms loudly denied that they were providing their arms to ISIS, and insisted the “overwhelming majority” of US military aid is still being used by the FSA to fight America’s enemies.
That’s a fiction ISIS seems only too willing to continue facilitating, as it would keep those massive US arms shipments flowing, giving ISIS a convenient source of arms as the US air war continues to boost its recruitment numbers.
A pair of competing bills have been offered in the House and Senate today which seek to authorize the new US war against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. The bills were introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D – FL) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R – VA), respectively.
The Nelson bill limits the war’s duration to three years, and also rules out any use of ground troops. The Wolf bill does not forbid any use of ground troops, nor does it have a time limit attached.
Obama insisted on Sunday that he doesn’t believe he needs a Congressional authorization for the war, and already has the “authorization that I need to protect the American people.” The White House is, however, expressing hope they can get some sort of “buy in” from Congress for the war, so long as it doesn’t asset any actual authority or limit the war’s escalation in any way.
President Obama is planning a Wednesday address to lay out more of the details of his planned escalation of the war, and is invited Congressional leaders to meet with him on Tuesday to get a preview.
The White House is also pushing Congress to agree to their previous demands to create a $5 billion “fund” that would train and equip “international partners” in the war, along with providing aid to Syria’s neighbors to cope with the growing refugee crisis. This is, of course, above and beyond the costs of the war itself.
The White House has dubbed its attempts to court NATO members to join their new “coalition” for the ISIS war as a success, even though so far there hasn’t been any mention of a military request to those coalition members.
Still, officials are determined to continuing massing coalition members, and Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to the Middle East this week aims at courting potential Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan, to join that coalition.
Officials see getting some regional support as a potential key to stopping ISIS’ continued recruitment growth, though exactly how that might happen remains unclear.
Convincing the Sunni Arab nations to jump on this particular war’s bandwagon may be difficult, as right now it is being done primarily to support Shi’ite-dominated Iraq, and ISIS remains the dominant rebels in Syria, where many of those nations, Saudi Arabia in particular, have invested a lot of money into regime change.
Despite the ongoing US air war supposedly “stalling” their advance, the ISIS offensive continues apace near Baghdad, this time hitting the riverside town of Dhuluiya with both a car bomb attack and a series of attacks by gunmen on boats.
Iraq’s parliament managed to beat the September 10 deadline for approving a new cabinet today, formalizing Hayder Abadi’s position as Iraq’s new prime minister, replacing Nouri al-Maliki, who will now be one of the vice presidents.
The cabinet is only a partial one, with the positions of Defense Minister and Interior Minister as yet undecided, and expected to be resolved by next week, with Abadi saying he’d take either the consensus parliament choices or appoint his own. There were no previous Interior and Defense Ministers, as Maliki held both positions for years.
As a “unity government,” Abadi appears to have done a good job spreading out the cabinet positions among the various parties. In addition to Maliki, the Vice Presidents will be Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi and former parliament speaker Osama Nujaifi. Thedeputy PMs will be Iraqiya’s top Sunni Arab, Saleh al-Mutlaq, and the Kurdish block’s Heshyar Zebari, along with Sadrist Trend leader Baha Araji.
Beyond that, Iraqi National Alliance figure Ibrahim al-Jaafari will replace Zebari as the Foreign Minister, while Kurdistan’s Roz Nouri Shawes replaces Iraqiya’s Rafi Essawi as the Finance Minister. The powerful Oil Ministry will be run by Adel Abdulmahdi of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, replacing State of Law’s Abdul Luaibi.
In addition to getting the deputy PM and finance ministry spots, Kurdish participation is conditional on the resolution of outstanding disputes over oil revenue sharing as well as territorial ownership of Kirkuk and other areas surrounding the original KRG territory, which Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have taken in recent months.
The unfilled ministries remain hugely important, and are likely to be hotly debated among the various factions in the week to come, though expect Abadi to keep the two spots, particularly the Defense Ministry spot, within the Shi’ite ruling bloc.
SYRIAN REBEL COMMANDER: YES, WE’RE STILL COLLABORATING WITH ISIS
“In the end, people want to eat, they want to live, and the Islamic State has everything"
Image Credits: VICE News via Twitter
byMIKAEL THALEN | INFOWARS.COM | SEPTEMBER 8, 2014
A commander with the Free Syrian Army admitted to fighting alongside several terrorist organizations this week in yet another example of the so-called “rebels” true nature.
Speaking with Lebanon’s Daily Star, Bassel Idriss, commander of an FSA-run rebel brigade, openly discussed the group’s joint operations with ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front.
“We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front by attacking the Syrian Army’s gatherings in … Qalamoun,” Idriss said. “Let’s face it: The Nusra Front is the biggest power present right now inQalamoun and we as FSA would collaborate on any mission they launch as long as it coincides with our values.”
Idriss brushed off recent reports concerning Al-Nusra and ISIS holding as many as 22 Lebanese policemen and soldiers hostage, arguing that his group would fight with anyone opposed to Assad.
“Our battle is with the Assad regime, and it is on Syrian lands only,” Idriss said. “It is not with the Lebanese Army.”
Idriss also went on to mention the FSA’s dwindling power, saying many of his US-backed fighters continue to “pledge allegiance” to ISIS.
“ISIS wanted to enhance its presence in the WesternQalamoun area,” Idriss said. “After the fall of Yabroud and the FSA’s retreat into the hills, many units pledged allegiance to ISIS.”
Abu Fidaa, a retired Syrian Army Colonel, also acknowledged the growing power of ISIS in the region.
“A very large number of FSA members [in Arsal] have joined ISIS and Nusra,” Fidaa said. “In the end, people want to eat, they want to live, and the Islamic State has everything.”
“We backed I believe in some cases, some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army and that’s a little confusing to people, so I’ve always maintained… that we were backing the wrong types,” McInerney told Fox News.
“It should be noted, initially, that months of murder, mayhem and brutality by ISIS on Christians and other minorities didn’t cause the U.S. or France to intervene militarily for ‘humanitarian‘ reasons,” noted Washington’s Blog. “And notice that the airstrikes were very targeted on protecting Erbil… the regional capital of Kurdistan.”
Now, with the White House aiming towards a multi-year campaign against ISIS, the region will undoubtedly fall deeper into chaos, ensuring years of military intervention.
Jordan will not join US-led coalition fighting IS. Arabs have own strategy
DEBKAfile September 8, 2014, 1:49 PM (IDT)
Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs Muhammad Momani said Sunday that Jordan will not be part of any coalition for battling the IS, but would continue to coordinate with all countries on how to face terrorism and terrorist organizations. The Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo Sunday also agreed to act jointly against extremist groups, particularly the Islamic state, but fell short of embracing coordination with the US. DEBKAfile: This was a mortal setback for Barack Obama’s plans to co-opt Egypt and Saudi Arabia to his coalition against IS. Instead, the Arab ministers opted for “national and regional strategies against terrorism.”
An anonymous Western diplomat’s reported to Reuters Monday, Sept. 8, that “Israel has provided satellite imagery and other intelligence in support of the US-led aerial campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq.” He added that after “being ‘scrubbed’ of evidence of its Israeli origin, the information has often been shared by Washington with Arab and Turkish allies.”
DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources reports that this claptrap is part of a deep game. While willing to share intelligence on Al Qaeda with the US, Israel would certainly not hand over satellite imagery or any other intelligence, knowing it would reach the hands of Turkey and possibly also Iran. Satellite imagery is far too sensitive to part with and gives away far too many secrets, like the its path, its capabilities, sensors and the resolution and angles of its cameras. Such material, if passed to anyone, would only be handed to a friendly head of state, a defense minister or a spy chief in exceptional circumstances.
There is also the remote possibility that the report was intended as a warning signal to draw to Israel’s notice that its intelligence-sharing mechanism had sprung an unauthorized leak.
The most far-fetched contention by the “Western diplomat” was that “Israeli spy satellites overflying Iraq at angles and frequencies unavailable to US satellites had provided images that allowed the Pentagon to fill out its information and get better battle damage assessments” after strikes on Islamic State targets.
This makes no sense at all. All spy satellite in the world fly at the same altitudes and angles. American satellites can perform any task Israel’s can – unless some interested party was deliberate hinting that Israel’s satellites were not only spying on IS in Iraq but also on Iran next door.
The Western diplomat went onto to advance the view that Israel was also sharing information “gleaned from international travel databases about Western citizens suspected of joining the insurgents…”
He commented sagely: “The Israelis are very good with passenger data and with analyzing social media in Arabic to get a better idea of who these people are,” he said.
Israel would no doubt be happy to dispense with this kind of “compliment.”
The entire song and dance was staged by the “Western diplomat” just hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry was due to land in the Middle East for an urgent bid to get Arab partners aboard the US-led coalition for fighting IS, especially Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, as well as Egypt and Jordan.
He knows he is in for a hard time. Only Sunday, Sept. 7, the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo decided against coordinating their actions to fight extremist groups, including al Qaeda, with the US, but rather pursue their own “national and regional strategies against terrorism.”
Jordan, America’s closest Arab ally, announced flatly it would not join the US-led coalition.
Kerry will find stepping over this hurdle a tall order, especially as time is short before Wednesday, when President Barack Obama promises to unveil his strategy for a coalition to battle the Islamic State.
The Western diplomat may therefore have been dangling sensitive Israeli intelligence for fighting terrorism – that would be available only through Washington - as bait for reeling in reluctant Arab powers to support the Obama plan. Washington may find a second use for this tactic: breaking up the Saudi-Egyptian-UAR alliance which backed Israel in the Gaza war.
Facing pressing demands to do something serious about the brutal Islamic State, US President Barack Obama threw together a mix of US air strikes, strengthening moderate Syrian rebel groups and enlisting friendly regional governments for the fight “to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL” A “core coalition” of nine NATO governments was put together, made up of Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark, whose leaders were assured that they were not expected to put boots on the ground.
The US President unveiled this plan at the NATO summit in Wales which ended Friday, Sept. 5
DEBKAfile’s military and counterterrorism sources conclude that his slick recipe lacked the most essential ingredient: Military muscle. No armed force capable of taking on the marching jihadis is to be found in all the vast territory of some 144,000 sq. km seized by the Islamist terrorists, between Raqqa in northrn Syria and the northwestern approaches to Baghdad.
Even in the unlikely event that President Obama was to pour out hundreds of billions of dollars to build such a force, the “core coalition” will hardly find any local governments ready to shoulder the mission, which would be potentially more daunting even that the Al Qaeda and Taliban challenge facing the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
The most the US president can hope for in the months remaining to the end of 2014 - and perhaps even much of 2015 - is a string of minor local successes, fought by small forces like the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, with limited US air support.
Such low-intensity warfare will never gain enough traction to reverse or repel the IS onslaught. There is no real chance of an effort, so stripped-down of the basic tools of war, loosening the clutch of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on a broad domain, or deterring thousands of jihadis from flocking to the vibrant new caliphate rising there from across the Muslim world, especially the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
Getting to grips with this task would not take months, but much longer – certainly if it rests on the dim hope of rebuilding the Iraqi national army, which never recovered from its humiliating defeat at Islamist hands in May and June. None of its divisions remain intact, and most of them left their weapons on the battlefield in their haste to flee the enemy.
The only combat-trained forces in Iraq are Sunni militias. But they have lost faith in US steps in their country and many have opted to fight under the black ISIS flag.
But the facts on the ground are undeniable and are pushing Iraqi Sunni leaders and commanders into the arms of the jihadists, roughly 30,000 fighters whose numbers are being swelled by volunteers .
The Kurdish army may not be able to defend its semi-autonomous republic (KRG) and the oilfields of Kirkuk in the north with an army of no more than 20,000 troops, outdated weapons and no air force.
Obama’s reliance on moderate Syrian rebel groups to stand up and fight the Islamists is even less realistic, when they have recently started losing enough spirit to fight their arch enemy, Bashar Assad.
Around the region, too, Saudi King Abdullah and the Emirates will shun any US-led coalition that rests on military and intelligence cooperation with Iran.
President Obama will soon discover his mistake in offering Turkey’s new president Tayyip Erdogan a role in the “core coalition” as the only representative of the Muslim Middle East, and scorning to count Egypt and Saudi Arabia into his formula for “degrading and defeating” Al Qaeda.
Erdogan is by and large persona non grata in the Sunni Middle East, excepting only in Qatar. He has won further distrust of late for his avid courtship of Tehran in the footsteps of Barack Obama.
Ankara’s hands are moreover tied by its failure to obtain the release of 46 Turkish citizens including diplomats held hostage since the Islamists overran Mosul in June.