Sunday, October 19, 2014

The approach to successfully confronting ISIS is unclear

The New York Times today had no stories on the advance of ISIS, and its positions in Kobani, Anbar Province, Northern Iraq, and near Baghdad's main airport.  Other news is crowding out ISIS unless there is compelling current news, and one could think that the Obama administration welcomes the break.  The fact is that there is no viable strategy in place to derail, or "destroy and degrade", ISIS.

After so much talk, at the moment there is no Syrian Free Army being trained in Saudi Arabia.  Members have yet to be recruited.  The "retraining" of Iraq's army is a slow work in progress, and new recruits still wait for basic training, just "basic".  U.S. cash subsidized Iraqi army leaders talk of the eager dedication of just recruited troops who have seen what ISIS has done in other parts of the country and want to get their vindication.  A news film of these training troops showed a mix of paunchy middle aged men and very young men in their late teens or early twenties.  That the troops already in the field can be seriously motivated by American advisers after their Iraqi leaders completely failed them several months ago is questionable.

The one credible Iraqi fighting force is the Kurdish pesh murga and, as has been whined about here multiple times, the Obama administration continues to be overly cautious in giving them the most powerful weapons due to the fear that it would aid the Kurds ability to separate themselves completely from the Baghdad government.  Islamic State already has the most powerful U.S. ground weapons available, handed over to them on a silver platter by the Iraqi army in flight in May.

The many air attacks by the U.S. and its allies are having some impact, but they cannot replace some trained ground forces.  That is especially the case since Islamic State seems to have fighters with a blood lust that motivates them in an especially horrible way.  They apparently accept the fact that they will incur losses, and that they have replacements with jihadist fervor to replace them.

It is sad to say, but the only viable option seen here to stop ISIS is to allow Iran to send in their highly trained Revolutionary Guard troops to take on ISIS directly.  While almost certainly seen as politically impossible by the U.S., the Saudis, and by Iraqi Sunnis, if it is the only answer the thought must be contemplated.  Once unleashed could the Iranian forces be restrained and allow Baghdad to function as an independent capital.   Would such an action turn the region into a chaotic powder keg?

At the moment there is no good answer to all of this.  ISIS will persist.  If, or when, the airport is compromised, the country of Iraq could begin to come apart.  Kurdistan could survive without question if given proper weapons and predominantly Shiite southern Iraq could exist as a stable area.  The all-out war would be in Anbar, Baghdad, and central parts of the country.  Who would be a victor there is uncertain.

The realities discussed here have simply not been addressed by a hopeful and overly patient Obama administration.  Let's face it.  The new prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, is a well educated and experienced bureaucrat chosen with U.S. influence.  He is without charisma, intensity, or a loyal constituency.  Displaced prime minister Al-Maliki is still making trouble around the edges.  Could this situation be more in flux, more uncertain.  Yes, it could, and may be soon.

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