Decisions and Consequences in Iraq

 

Following the apparent capture of Mosul, rumor has it that the Iraqi government is quietly asking for American air support against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Rumor further has it that President Obama has denied this request.

I don’t know what we should do about Iraq’s apparent slide into al-Qaeda-dominated anarchy (I lean toward doing nothing, but am open to persuasion). In their different ways, all the options seem terrible, be they leaving the Iraqis to their fate or re-involving ourselves in their country. There’s likely no good solution, only a series of bad ones, some of which may be marginally less awful than others.

One point, though, warrants repeating: while America and its allies bear ultimate responsibility for the decision to leave Iraq, it’s not as if we did so under protest. For all the talk of American imperialism and British and Australian toadying, we left as promised — more or less on schedule — leaving the Iraqis free to make their own way in the world. What dissenting voices there were at the time were drowned out by sighs of relief.

Well, the world wanted us out and — albeit for our own reasons — we left. Now, the world is seeing the consequences.

Regardless of what the United States and its allies do (or don’t do) in response to the current crisis, all nations should learn from their previous experience in this matter. If we determine it is in our interest to join the fight, we should demand public and explicit entreaties from the Iraqis as the cost of doing business; no accusations of imperialist cowboys this time. If we determine it’s not in our interests, we should say so with regret for leaving for political expediency, while reminding the world that this is what they wanted and that they might recall it next time.

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  1. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Mendel:

    Ed G.:

    …..If the Democrats (Obama has a big hand in this) had remained sober instead of using the issue as a political weapon then public opinion might not have changed the way it did or as much as it did.

    I am doubtful of this. I would look at it from the other perspective: If the American public knew in 2003 that keeping Iraq stable would require over 4,500 American lives and a sizeable presence in the country for at least a decade, would they have agreed to the war? Highly unlikely, in my opinion.

    …..

    It’s all speculation, but I think “highly unlikely” is just as unlikely as “highly likely” would have been. It depends on the leadership; it depends on how it’s framed. Merely to keep Iraq stable? No, probably not. To have a better position from which to: a) combat terrorist groups,  b) make real progress on ME peace, c) take strategic geographic advantage relative to Iran and Pakistan and Turkey and Russia and Saudi Arabia etc, d) expand list of friendly nations that aren’t also brutal dictators, and e) remove a brutal dictator? I think that’s a pretty strong case.

    • #91
  2. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Karen: All this seems a day late and dollar short. If air support is/was needed, it would probably be big guys like the B-2′s and such in Guam. Most of those have a 10,000 mile range, so it’s not a matter of what assets are presently near Iraq.

    You’re right that Iraq’s not so big that we need to be in Iraq to provide air cover; the Gulf is right there. You’re absolutely right that we could have provided air cover without a SOFA, although we probably did need Maliki’s permission, which was implied by Maliki requesting it. 


    Karen: And it seems like those big guys would’ve been most useful and effective before these cities were taken. Now, you have more urban combat situations, and you can’t fight those without boots on the ground. I think this is what the Iranian Revolutionary Guard will do.

     It’s true that air strikes are a lousy way of retaking a city. They’re an awesome way of taking down large groups of men with armored vehicles travelling across the desert from one city to attack another city, though. Obama is still choosing not to make a difference, with isolationist Republicans still pressuring him to do so, and there is still a difference that can be made. The massive amounts of blood shed by previous bipartisan apathy cannot be unspilled, but most Iraqis (and most Syrians) are not dead or impoverished yet. 

    • #92
  3. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    The Mugwump: It’s probably a good time to ask what conditions must be necessary before America should attempt to export democracy to other nations.  Why do the Kurds apparently “get it” but the Arabs not?  We could also ask in a wider context why the Japanese were able to make the transition to democracy while the Russians continue to fail? 

    Iraqis seem to get democracy OK. The last set of elections worked pretty well. What Iraq suffers from, and Japan did not, is that they had a dictator who caused some Iraqis to genocidally murder other Iraqis for decades. He made Shia soldiers chant that tomorrow there will be no more Shia. 
    Japan would have struggled more if there had been more internal causes of disunity like that; the US, the world’s finest democracy, struggled in parts of the South for a while after the Civil War. 
    Japan also lacked large numbers of foreigners travelling to Japan with the specific intent of citing factional hatred through terrorism, foreigners who were far better funded than the Japanese. 
    Despite these issues, 2010 Iraq was pretty successful. Then Syria fell apart, and later ISIS invaded. 

    • #93
  4. M1919A4 Member
    M1919A4
    @M1919A4

    Someone in an earlier post mentioned General Powell’s aphorism to the effect —you break it, you own it. The better rule may be what I have heard was the maxim of the British colonials: “butcher and bolt”. We ought to have left Iraq after the capture, on 13 December 2003, of Saddam Hussein. We then could have offered the country such assistance as was warranted in the way of loans for reconstruction and saved ourselves much loss of life and treasure.

    The religious antagonists, the Shia and the Sunni, would have been at each other’s throats, at least until some sort of a resolution had been worked out.  Would many people have died? Yes, but they would not have been our people.

    There are interesting opinion polls at http://www.gallup.com/poll/1633/Iraq.aspx.  Popular support seems to have held steady at nearly half the population surveyed until the late part of the decade.

    On balance, I fear that the best we now can do is to assist the Kurds to win from all of this a state of their own and to give the Iraqis all such humanitarian assistance as we possibly can.

    • #94
  5. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    James Of England:

    Mendel:

    Ed G.:

    Quinn the Eskimo:

    Mendel:

    Also, regarding this war being nightmarish: is that really true? Of course war generally can probably only be described in those terms, but in relative terms it seems to me that this war was exceptionally sensitive to the interests of the civilian populace and not nearly as costly to our forces as war typically is.

    …..In retrospect, WWI was also not as brutal as other 20th century conflicts. But the consensus before the war was that it would be an quick and relatively painless conflict, and when this proved to be horribly false, that shock had a profound effect on European societies.

    And I can’t imagine how scary fighting a counter-insurgency would be for soldiers who were told they would be going in to fight a traditional army-to-army war.

    I think atrocities matter. The Central Powers atrocities were genuinely worse than those committed by previous belligerent powers against European nations, and we were shocked by genocide and abuse of civilians the next World War, too. Similarly, war is always bad, but ISIS takes to atrocities, including against family members, with an unusual degree of zeal and creativity. The Iraqi army signed up to be shot at and bombed, but this is different.

    • #95
  6. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    James Of England: If it was about sectarian alliance, there’s no reason that the mostly Sunni Kurds would be fighting against the exclusively Sunni ISIS. 

     As I said, the Kurds identify on the bases of nationalism. You’re jumping too much around in your summary of the ME conflicts. In Iraq, this fight is between Sunni extremists and Shias. In Syria, there is no such thing as the “FSA”. That was fiction that didn’t last very long, as it became apparent that the main and only real effective fighting there is being carried out by the extremist Sunni AQ/Nusra/ISIS terrorists, against Assad who has a primarily Shia support (Iran, Hezbollah, Alawite, Iraqi Shias and other minorities which have come under his umbrella to protect their lives). Hamas is supporting the Sunni rebels in Syria, not Assad. 

    Of course, they’ll get together to fight common enemies (like Israel or the US), but the root of these conflicts are sectarian. 

    In Afghanistan it’s ethnic and tribal. 

    • #96
  7. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Frequently ethnicity and religious identity overlap – if Sunni tribes fight with Shia tribes in Iraq (as Shia fought with Maronites in Lebanon during the civil war) is the conflict tribal or religious?  Does either side really care what the other believes?

    ISIS is different, as the Taliban are different.  They may feed on tribal divisions but they are both Muslim versions of Messianic movements and their motivations are  more ideological than tribal – which makes them more dangerous to others but also imho more vulnerable to dissent and resistance from within.

    • #97
  8. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    AIG: In Syria, there is no such thing as the “FSA”. That was fiction that didn’t last very long, as it became apparent that the main and only real effective fighting there is being carried out by the extremist Sunni AQ/Nusra/ISIS terrorists, against Assad who has a primarily Shia support (Iran, Hezbollah, Alawite, Iraqi Shias and other minorities which have come under his umbrella to protect their lives).

     This is a claim that can easily be disproved by googling “Free Syrian Army” in the news section of Google. The FSA has been fighting AQ/ Nusra/ ISIS with some success, and is the current recipient of arms from the US, partly for that purpose. Non-existent entities don’t retake towns. 

    AIG:  As I said, the Kurds identify on the bases of nationalism. You’re jumping too much around in your summary of the ME conflicts.

     Right, but the question isn’t why the Kurds don’t identify by sect, but by why the Shia extremists aren’t identifying them by sect and killing them. There are plenty of Shia Arabs in Iraq who don’t identify by sect, but who were killed by AQ/ Baathists/ etc. nonetheless. 

    • #98
  9. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    AIG: Hamas is supporting the Sunni rebels in Syria, not Assad. 

     It’s true that I remembered Hamas’ reunion with Iran as stronger than it was. Do you have evidence that the current stated policy of neutrality is not being followed, though? 

    AIG: In Afghanistan it’s ethnic and tribal. 

     What happens to foreign fighters when they move between Afghan and ME conflicts? Do their identities change, or are they merely adapting their identities to new contexts? 

    When Shiites fought Shiites in Iraq (eg., the Sadr/ Maliki fight, but also many others), and Sunnis fought Sunnis (eg. the Awakening), were they confused about the nature of the war they were fighting? 
    __________________________
    I’m slightly surprised to find myself agreeing with every aspect of an Islamic terrorism comment from Zafar. I’m not sure if that’s happened before, so if nothing else, thank you AIG, for bringing us together. 

    • #99
  10. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    James Of England:  This is a claim that can easily be disproved by googling “Free Syrian Army” in the news section of Google. The FSA has been fighting AQ/ Nusra/ ISIS with some success, and is the current recipient of arms from the US, partly for that purpose. Non-existent entities don’t retake towns. 

    FSA is a pipe dream. It primarily existed in the Syrian diaspora, and was aimed at getting Western support by presenting a more “moderate” face to the fighting in Syria. Who the actual fighters on the ground were, however, was a different story. And that become apparent when they defected to Nusra (and when it become apparent that the numbers they claimed in the West, were fictitious). 

    Most of the units which make up the FSA are no less of a nasty piece of work than Nusra itself. Most are radical Islamists too. The US, of course, is making a big mistake by getting involved. But at the very least they are providing very little in terms of material support (the same is not true for the Suadis and Qataris towards all sorts of radical Islamists). But overall FSA is about the least relevant group in Syria right now. 

    • #100
  11. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    James Of England:  What happens to foreign fighters when they move between Afghan and ME conflicts? Do their identities change, or are they merely adapting their identities to new contexts?  When Shiites fought Shiites in Iraq (eg., the Sadr/ Maliki fight, but also many others), and Sunnis fought Sunnis (eg. the Awakening), were they confused about the nature of the war they were fighting?

     You have to differentiate between foreign fighters in Afghanistan and local fighters. Local Pashtuns etc haven’t really fought very much anywhere other than in Afghanistan, and on the bases of ethnic rivalries. Foreign fighters fought on their side because they were “more” Islamists than the alternative. Simply because the others were also Sunnis doesn’t mean it wasn’t a “sectarian” fight. They simply view the other Sunnis as infedels and not “true” Muslims.

    The between Shia fighting in Iraq was also purely sectarian. You had the Qom school  vs. the Najaf school. 

    This is all about religion or ethnicity. This is why we can’t be involved in their mess. 

    • #101
  12. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    It is pointless to discuss the United States going to war anywhere.  We do not have the leadership at this time to do more than rattle sabers.  The Obama administration can not defend our ambassadors over seas and if they are attacked will not send them help.  To send our best and brightest into harms way under such leadership is immoral and irresponsible.

    • #102
  13. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    M1919A4: Someone in an earlier post mentioned General Powell’s aphorism to the effect —you break it, you own it.

    Powell also said, in the first Gulf War: “We’re going to cut it off, and then we’re going to kill it.” The ISIS is not an atomized guerrilla force  blending in with the civilian population; if their forces move, they take roads. They have, what, 7,000 troops? Find the column. Blow up the road in front and the road at the rear. Aerial hell  bestowed on the bastards in betwixt. Repeat as necessary.  

    No boots-on-the-ground required, and the Sword of Allah, as they call themselves, is sufficiently dulled to prevent the fall of Baghdad. 

    • #103
  14. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    James Lileks: No boots-on-the-ground required, and the Sword of Allah, as they call themselves, is sufficiently dulled to prevent the fall of Baghdad. 

    For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?
    (1 Corinthians 14:8 – King James Version)

    Ain’t happening.  Not saying it should not, or could not or even that it would not work.  (It probably would.) Just that it will not.  

    The fish rots from the head, and in this case, the most powerful nation in the world is paralyzed by the rot at its head.

    Seawriter

    • #104
  15. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Pelayo:

    I would also add that having a Sunni militia take over Iraq is not necessarily a bad thing. By removing Saddam Hussein we inadvertently helped the Shiites in Iran by eliminating an enemy on their border. Sunnis and Shiites have been adversaries for a very long time. Any force that will help keep Iran in check is not all bad.

    We should stay out of Iraq on this one. This is a civil war and is not posing a threat to any of its neighbors (yet). It is a shame we lost American lives fighting in Iraq and spent billions of dollars for what seems to be very little gain, but throwing good money after bad will not help matters.

     Here’s the problem.  

    1. We now will have a terrorist state that extends from the Levant to the border of Saudi Arabia and possibly Kuwait.  Our erstwhile allies will be upset and terrified.
    2. Iran will now put boots on the ground, gain influence and also potentially neighbor SA and Kuwait.
    3. Turkey cannot allow an independent Kurdish state, and may go for it and the northern oil fields.

    The potential for a huge regional war explodes.

    • #105
  16. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Mendel:

    Why I am upset about Obama bashing? Because everyone is using it to distract from the fact that we have no idea how to restabilize a country which we (collectively) helped destabilize.

    For once, I agree with Colin Powell: we broke Iraq, we need to react. At the least, we should provide as much air, ground, and armament support as we can to keep more cities from falling and bring in a temporary cease fire.

    And after that, it is time to seriously consider Iraq’s fate. If the country cannot find a way to allow its ethnic minorities to be equitably represented – as appears to be the case – perhaps it is time for partition.

     Hold on.  We HAD fixed it.  They had an elected government and a stable  military situation after the Surge.  If Dear Leader hadn’t been so eager to abandon the field refusing to negotiate a status of forces agreement this would not be happening.  He WAS warned this was a likely result, but was too busy taking victory laps to notice.

    • #106
  17. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    James Lileks:

    M1919A4: Someone in an earlier post mentioned General Powell’s aphorism to the effect —you break it, you own it.

    Powell also said, in the first Gulf War: “We’re going to cut it off, and then we’re going to kill it.” The ISIS is not an atomized guerrilla force blending in with the civilian population; if their forces move, they take roads. They have, what, 7,000 troops? Find the column. Blow up the road in front and the road at the rear. Aerial hell bestowed on the bastards in betwixt. Repeat as necessary.

    No boots-on-the-ground required, and the Sword of Allah, as they call themselves, is sufficiently dulled to prevent the fall of Baghdad.

     Well, we better do something.  I heard an interview with a US Military police guy who transferred the leader of the ISIS from prison to the Iraqi’s.  The guy told him:
     
     “I’ll see you again in New York”.

    • #107
  18. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Well at least we will show the flag, even if we don’t actually do anything. I do love the irony of the ships name ….

    https://news.yahoo.com/pentagon-orders-aircraft-carrier-gulf-case-iraq-military-163630548.html
    USS George H. W. Bush
                        USS George HW Bush

    • #108
  19. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    AIG: The between Shia fighting in Iraq was also purely sectarian. You had the Qom school  vs. the Najaf school. 

     This is absurdly reductive. I’ve talked to a number of the Iraqis involved in patching up the Sadr Maliki fight in which Maliki had to be physically rescued, and there are many areas of disagreement that had to be thrashed out, but no theological disagreements. After the 2010 elections, there were endless discussions of who should enter coalition with whom, and, again, intra-sectarian theology didn’t seem to be a big issue for the politicians involved, while personalities and policies did. Watch Iraqi TV, read Iraqi newspapers, follow Iraqi debates, and you will see that they simply aren’t dominated by that stuff. 
    Questions of Iranian control did, but the Iranians have people in Najaf as well as in Sadr City. I should note that the Najaf based political party was a key arbiter in the fight between Maliki (State of Law, a separate political group) and Sadr and Sistani was the most influential figure for most Sadrists. Iraqi identity has been highly fluid, but their slogans and symbols don’t tend to be that abstract. 

    • #109
  20. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    AIG: FSA is a pipe dream. It primarily existed in the Syrian diaspora, and was aimed at getting Western support by presenting a more “moderate” face to the fighting in Syria. Who the actual fighters on the ground were, however, was a different story. And that become apparent when they defected to Nusra (and when it become apparent that the numbers they claimed in the West, were fictitious). 

     The FSA had substantial numbers before Al Nusra did, and remained larger than Nusra both in territorial terms and in numbers of soldiers. They fought successful battles that appeared to be fought by humans, rather than imaginary constructs. 

    AIG: Most of the units which make up the FSA are no less of a nasty piece of work than Nusra itself

     They appointed Christians to their leadership. Almost by definition, units keen to fight under an organization that includes Christians is less bigoted than one that chooses to fight under Al Qaeda. 
    They have not engaged in significant atrocities, uniquely amongst the combatants. 
    I don’t know what your definition of “nasty” is, but I’d like to see some citations for the FSA behaving in an AQ-like manner. 

    • #110
  21. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    AIG: But overall FSA is about the least relevant group in Syria right now. 

     They’re now the smallest of the four warring factions, sure, but they’re also the only one of the four acceptable to most of their neighbors. As we see increasing numbers of formal military incursions into Syria, that’s going to count. US support ramping up means that more people have the choice to support them, so their revival in the North East seems likely to be lasting. 
    I guess it depends on what your definition of “relevant” is. 

    • #111
  22. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    AIG: You have to differentiate between foreign fighters in Afghanistan and local fighters. Local Pashtuns etc haven’t really fought very much anywhere other than in Afghanistan, and on the bases of ethnic rivalries.

     Some Afghans are motivated by ethnic concerns, but none of the big Afghan alliances have been entirely ethnically homogeneous. Of the 30 million people out there, there’s a fair degree of diversity of views, goals, and paradigma. Afghan ideology generally appears locally focused because they mostly don’t travel much, aren’t educated, and don’t have enormous ambitions. Grinding poverty does that. 

    It might be helpful to look at more familiar cultures and go through European “religious” wars.
    Not the Reformation era stuff, when converts were still being won through arms, but the 18th century conflicts, where Catholic and Protestant divides were still markers of identity, but theologians were generally militarily important only to the extent that they were political figures, and, as with most Iraqi and Afghan political parties, factions tended to be multi-ethnic, multi-confessional, or both. No one in Iraq believes mass conversion likely; it’s not like the French Wars of Religion. Factions seek power and safety. 

    • #112
  23. virgil15marlow@yahoo.com Coolidge
    virgil15marlow@yahoo.com
    @Manny

    Tom Meyer:

    Manny: I don’t know what the options are for saving Iraq, but we cannot let it get into Al Qaeda’s hands. This S-O-B in the White lost it by pulling out prematurely and not keeping our military base there. Add that to his horrific legacy. I’m angrily venting right now, but this should not have happened.

    Not to alleviate Obama of his responsibility, but he ran very explicitly on doing that in 2008 and won.

     I realize that.  After some thought I’ve come to the conclusion we need to send it troops now.  It is absolutely in our national interest to nullify Islamic terrorism, and this ISIS is a particularly troublesome group.  That’s understating it actually.  ISIS needs to be annihilated.  And i don’t think it will take that many troops.  ISIS amounts to around 4000.

    • #113
  24. M1919A4 Member
    M1919A4
    @M1919A4

    James Lileks: Powell also said, in the first Gulf War: “We’re going to cut it off, and then we’re going to kill it.” The ISIS is not an atomized guerrilla force  blending in with the civilian population; if their forces move, they take roads. They have, what, 7,000 troops? Find the column. Blow up the road in front and the road at the rear. Aerial hell  bestowed on the bastards in betwixt. Repeat as necessary.   No boots-on-the-ground required, and the Sword of Allah, as they call themselves, is sufficiently dulled to prevent the fall of Baghdad. 

     If things are not very different from fifty years ago when I last pondered how to call in air strikes , effective interdiction requires on-the-ground observers/controllers to identify the targets and report the effects.  
    How will we manage this without re-establishing local bases for refueling and rearming the strike planes, creating and maintaining a communications net, providing a medical evacuation and treatment facility, et cet.  In other words, how can we rain “aerial hell” without re-entering the conflict with both feet?  I think that we cannot, and once in, we’re in to stay.

    • #114
  25. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Mendel:

     

    In retrospect, WWI was also not as brutal as other 20th century conflicts. But the consensus before the war was that it would be an quick and relatively painless conflict, and when this proved to be horribly false, that shock had a profound effect on European societies.

    And I can’t imagine how scary fighting a counter-insurgency would be for soldiers who were told they would be going in to fight a traditional army-to-army war.

     I’m sorry but are you kidding?  WW1 was probably the most brutal war of the 20th Century.
    Horrendous bombardments lasting days on end.  Poison gas.  Trench warfare. Suicidal infantry attacks against wire and machine guns to gain a few yards. Meat grinders like Verdun with 330000 German and 351000 French casualties, and the Somme where the British lost 57450 casualties on the first day with 19200 dead. Life was a nightmare to those in the trenches.  Europe never recovered from the carnage.

    • #115
  26. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    M1919A4:  If things are not very different from fifty years ago when I last pondered how to call in air strikes , effective interdiction requires on-the-ground observers/controllers to identify the targets and report the effects.   How will we manage this without re-establishing local bases for refueling and rearming the strike planes, creating and maintaining a communications net, providing a medical evacuation and treatment facility, et cet.  In other words, how can we rain “aerial hell” without re-entering the conflict with both feet?  I think that we cannot, and once in, we’re in to stay.

     a: Things are very different now; we have much better aerial and satellite intelligence than in 1964.
    b: We don’t need the ground guys to be American, and there are plenty of Iraqis in the area who have been trained by Americans to support American air strikes. 
    c: There are non-trivial numbers of Americans out there at the moment, a reasonable number of whom would be perfectly good at this stuff. 

    You will recall the tactically successful strikes in Libya. 

    • #116
  27. M1919A4 Member
    M1919A4
    @M1919A4

    James Of England:

    a: Things are very different now; we have much better aerial and satellite intelligence than in 1964. b: We don’t need the ground guys to be American, and there are plenty of Iraqis in the area who have been trained by Americans to support American air strikes. c: There are non-trivial numbers of Americans out there at the moment, a reasonable number of whom would be perfectly good at this stuff.

    You will recall the tactically successful strikes in Libya.

     Do you envision maintaining air cover for Iraqi operations for an indefinite future?  Have we not trained and equipped an Iraqi air force?  How can we draw a line beyond which we will not go?  I remember the “sanctuary” provided by China in the Korean unpleasantness and the rear area of the ISIS forces may be in Syria.

    • #117
  28. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    M1919A4:

     It shouldn’t take the sort of resources deployed during the 1990s, but it seems sensible to try to keep a carrier group in the region more often than not, and to maintain bases in the areas where we currently maintain bases. The problem right now is not the physical ability to project force into Iraq, but that there isn’t the political desire. Significant drone cover would be fine, too. 

    The Iraqi air force is pretty tiny. They have some transports, and some helicopters, but their first advanced combat plane (an F-16 for training purposes, with more F-16s to follow) was handed over to them a couple of weeks ago in Texas. Give them five more years, and they’ll have an air force, but they’re not there yet. 

    I’m not suggesting that the US should defend Iraq by venturing outside Iraq’s borders, although I do believe, as a separate matter, that we should have drones in Syria killing Al Qaida, ISIS, and Assad’s goons, supporting the FSA. I agree that ISIS is based in Syria, but the current Syrian situation is unlikely to be permanent. 

    • #118
  29. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    James Of England, lets look at your points:

    1) The political infighting between the Shias does boil down to one common element: different Shia sects. The conflicts between Maliki’s and Sadr’s factions go back decades, and were theological in nature. All you’re pointing out is that theological issues eventually translate into political issues, and the two tend to map each other. 

    2) Your history of the FSA is ancient. The FSA isn’t a “real” organization. It’s an umbrella of many groups. Most of what it does is propaganda: like putting Christians in charge, and pretending to have hundreds of thousands of fighters under arm. The reality is that most of the groups which operated under FSA…in the early part of the conflict…switched to other groups, like Nusra etc. There are no “inter-religious” FSA or otherwise groups in Syria. There are Christian groups which were…once…part of the FSA, but these were exclusively Christian groups, just as the Sunni ones were exclusively Sunni.

    Most Christians, BTW, are on Assad’s side. 

    3) The evidence that most of what remains of the FSA is also radical Islamists is the fact that the US is able to recruit only so few of their members for “training”. Finding a “moderate” is like searching for a needle in a haystack over there.

    4) Again, your claims of US “support” are exaggerated and out of proportion. The US has only trained a “handful” of their officers in basic tactics.

    5) Religious conflicts throughout the world, with the exception of Europe to some extent, are also ethnic and political conflicts. Whether its the chicken or the egg, doesn’t matter. Eventually most end up reflecting an ethnic identity, and end up becoming political conflicts. Likewise, ethnic and political conflicts end up becoming theological conflicts.

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