The Battle of Ramadi, Continued

 

Ramadi Control Map 2015-12-09 HIGH-01From all the accounts I can see from here, The Iraqi Security Forces  have made major gains in Ramadi and recaptured key terrain. The city is strategically and symbolically critical: It sits on the Euphrates and a highway linking Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders; further up the Euphrates is the Haditha Dam, which generates power not only for Anbar, but other parts of Iraq.

After they seized Ramadi last May, ISIS apparently connected webs of IEDs to single trigger wires, turning the city into a nightmare of booby-traps. According to Iraqi officials, this is what’s allowing a relatively small number number of them to keep control of cities despite being massively outnumbered. (I am not there. I do not know. Truth is the first casualty of war, etc. But Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for the coalition, stands by the assessment.)

The Ramadi operation must be successful to expel ISIS, but the question is how deeply involved Iranian proxy militias are or will be. Again, I couldn’t possibly say from here, but this is the assessment from Institute for the Study of War:

[C]ontinued ISF success may lead to greater interference from Iranian proxy militias, some of which maintain a presence around the Habaniya base east of Ramadi but do not participate in Ramadi operations. Nujaba Movement, an Iranian proxy militia, claimed to have killed ISIS members during Ramadi operations, but there has been no indication of Nujaba Movement units are positioned near the front lines in Ramadi. Proxy militias will likely release similar disinformation in the future to discredit the ISF. PM Abadi is facing immense pressure from Iranian proxies to reject foreign support, particularly from the Coalition, in the wake of a unilateral deployment of Turkish troops to the outskirts of Mosul on December 4. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s December 9 proposal to deploy attack helicopters and “accompanying advisers” to assist the IA in recapturing Ramadi could offset this pressure by showing strong support for the ISF. U.S. support will also expedite the swift recapture of the city, underscoring the importance and effectiveness of the U.S. in the anti-ISIS fight.

I would guess that this reflects our strategic thinking, and I’d guess this is why yesterday, Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he’s willing to send American troops closer to the front lines in Anbar province. Their deployment, he said, would be contingent upon a request from Abadi. Would Abadi request this, given the pressure he’s under? I don’t know. It’s possible that the Russians have so spooked him that he might.

At the same time, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to submit a bill to bypass Baghdad and directly arm the peshmerga of the Kurdish Regional Government. The would effectively cut Abadi government out of the discussion. The indignant Iraqi Embassy pointed out — correctly, as it happens — that this is more about symbolism than immediate military strategy:

Even if the Foreign Affairs Committee approves this legislation, it must travel a long path in order to be enacted into law. In addition to being approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee, it would have to pass the full U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the full U.S. Senate, which for bills of this nature typically occurs only by unanimous vote of the Senate. As a final step, President Obama would have to sign the bill into law.

Nonetheless, the symbolism is sufficiently powerful that Shiite militias have reportedly threatened to attack US forces in Iraq in response.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has kindly offered us a readout of Putin’s meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, which I’m sure is a transparent, unvarnished glimpse into Russian strategic thinking:

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: How is work proceeding, Mr Shoigu? You and I will have to discuss preparations for the annual meeting of the [Defence Ministry] Board on the year’s results, but now let us get down to our current matters, please.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu: Mr President, in line with your instruction, on December 5 we increased the intensity of our strikes and prepared and launched a massive aviation and missile attack using Tu-22 strategic bombers from the territory of the Russian Federation. For the first time we launched Kalibr cruise missiles from the Rostov-on-Don submarine based in the Mediterranean Sea. …

From the Hmeymim airfield, we actively worked on territories where militants who shot our pilot are based. As a result, all these areas have been liberated, and the Syrian Army’s special operation forces…

Vladimir Putin: Searching for the crew?

Sergei Shoigu: Yes. The Syrian service members searched the territory, detected our aircraft’s crash site, and all these bandits were leaving so fast they did not have time to take anything from the aircraft, so we discovered a parametric recorder, which we brought here and which I would like to show you.

Vladimir Putin: With regard to strikes from a submarine. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the Calibre missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads.

Naturally, we do not need that in fighting terrorists, and I hope we will never need it. But overall, this speaks to our significant progress in terms of improving weaponry and equipment being supplied to the Russian army and navy.

As for the parametric recorder, let’s look at it now. Have you opened it?

Sergei Shoigu: No, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: I will ask you not to open it for now, and to open it only together with foreign experts and carefully record everything. As I understand, the parametric logger will give us the opportunity to clearly understand the full trajectory of the Su-24 from the location and moment that it took off to the moment it fell – its speed, altitude, all the turns made during the flight. In other words, we can understand where it actually was and where it suffered that felon blow from the Turkish Air Force, which we have now discussed many times.

And I want to qualify this right away. Of course, we need to know this information. But regardless of what we learn, our attitude toward what was done by the Turkish authorities will not change. I repeat, we treated Turkey not only as a friendly nation but as an ally in the fight against terrorism and nobody expected this treacherous stab in the back.

(No, I’m not making that dialogue up. I couldn’t.)

This is, unfortunately, now a world war. We can and will win it, because we have to. But what a lamentable series of blunders have led to this. What a high price we — and the world — pay when we make mistakes in foreign policy.

There are 42 comments.

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  1. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    I wish Ricochet would allow authors to post photos that link to a full-size version, so that we could click on this map and view it in a readable size.

    • #1
  2. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    The Reticulator:I wish Ricochet would allow authors to post photos that link to a full-size version, so that we could click on this map and view it in a readable size.

    Here’s the link: I included it in the text, but it wasn’t clear, sorry about that.

    • #2
  3. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Two thoughts come to me here:

    1. Remember when we had an administration and foreign policy team that actually thought in large geopolitical terms instead of a combination of anti-Americanism and leftist idealism?  Seems like a long time ago doesn’t it?
    2. Reading the Putin transcript, can you imagine Obama having that kind of detailed conversation with a Defense Dept official?  I think Obama’s transcripts are only filled with discussions about the political ramifications of any actions that might be taken.  Benghazi proves I’m right doesn’t it?
    • #3
  4. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    It is interesting that greatest effect the Russians are having is blowing up the oil fields. They’re only more effective at this because we have environmental concerns. (We need serious psychiatric counseling about our environmental obsessions)

    Meanwhile, Ash Carter’s suggestion is completely of the essence. The cobras would probably kill most of the ISIS Jihadists from the air. Defanging the IEDs will be a slow but doable process.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #4
  5. Casey Member
    Casey
    @Casey

    Lock up your Archdukes!

    • #5
  6. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Concretevol: Reading the Putin transcript, can you imagine Obama having that kind of detailed conversation with a Defense Dept official?

    Dear God, would you want the President to have that nonsensical conversation with the SecDef and proudly broadcast it around the world?

    • #6
  7. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    James Gawron: It is interesting that greatest effect the Russians are having is blowing up the oil fields.

    According to Moscow they are. We’ve now got a Russian-Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis. You think we’re going to get a truthful account of what the Russians are doing out of the Kremlin?

    • #7
  8. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    We could surrender/cede/yield more rapidly to Iran, Russia and ISIS simultaneously to draw them further into the vacuum.  Another option is to implement an even more shifting, uncertain policy towards the Kurds to make sure Turkey, Iraq, Shia militias and the Kurds attack each other (and us) more vigorously. Lastly, there is still time for Kerry to find ways to draw China and Saudi Arabia into the conflict to maximize the destruction, keep the refugee totals high and insure turmoil in Europe and the Middle East for generations.

    That Kerry and Obama both continue to regard themselves as terribly clever and on top of things is almost as enraging as the slaughters their incompetence has bought about.

    • #8
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Old Bathos: We could surrender/cede/yield more rapidly to Iran, Russia and ISIS simultaneously to draw them further into the vacuum.

    Until I read the rest of the paragraph I thought for a split second that you were being serious, and I was about to go berserk. (And then I would have taken a deep breath, pulled myself together, remembered the Code of Conduct, and been very polite, but it would have required a walk around the block, first.)

    The Saudis are already drawn in, but bogged down in their idiotic war in Yemen. As for China, that’s not inconceivable. As John Cookson points out, that’s exactly what happened in Belgrade.

    • #9
  10. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Concretevol: Reading the Putin transcript, can you imagine Obama having that kind of detailed conversation with a Defense Dept official?

    Dear God, would you want the President to have that nonsensical conversation with the SecDef and proudly broadcast it around the world?

    No I wouldn’t want my President to broadcast any of his conversations around the world.  I would like my President to discuss something other than the domestic political ramifications of his foreign policy decisions and to actually consider the nation’s interests instead of his own.  Ok, so that’s not what Putin is necessarily doing either and I’m not saying I admire Putin in any way but Obama has zero chance on the same stage with him.  If Putin is broadcasting that conversation you can damn sure bet he is doing that because it fits some sort of overall strategy wouldn’t you think?

    Honestly I’m sotired of the Obama/Hillary/Kerry team at this point I can’t think straight.  At least we are addressing the giant national security challenge of Climate Change though….

    • #10
  11. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Old Bathos: That Kerry and Obama both continue to regard themselves as terribly clever and on top of things is almost as enraging as the slaughters their incompetence has bought about.

    I have asked rhetorically how many thousands must die to prove Obama’s lack of leadership is a disaster…..unfortunately it looks like we will actually find out.

    • #11
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: (No, I’m not making that dialogue up. I couldn’t.)

    Russia has a David Mamet gap.

    • #12
  13. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: At the same time, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to submit a bill to bypass Baghdad and directly arm the peshmerga of the Kurdish Regional Government. The would effectively cut Abadi government out of the discussion. The indignant Iraqi Embassy pointed out — correctly, as it happens — that this is more about symbolism than immediate military strategy:

    Even if the Foreign Affairs Committee approves this legislation, it must travel a long path in order to be enacted into law. In addition to being approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee, it would have to pass the full U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the full U.S. Senate, which for bills of this nature typically occurs only by unanimous vote of the Senate. As a final step, President Obama would have to sign the bill into law.

    Tom Cotton explains the US Constitution to the Iranians and creates an international incident. The Iraqi Ambassador explains the US Constitution to the US and all I can think is “well, at least someone in Washington has read the thing.”

    • #13
  14. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Concretevol: Reading the Putin transcript, can you imagine Obama having that kind of detailed conversation with a Defense Dept official?

    Dear God, would you want the President to have that nonsensical conversation with the SecDef and proudly broadcast it around the world?

    Putin’s message here was “Heeey our weapons work. They are not just toy replicas of the American arsenal”.

    • #14
  15. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    James Gawron:Claire,

    It is interesting that greatest effect the Russians are having is blowing up the oil fields.

    I am sure they would love to see many other oil fields go out of commission, in order to gain market share. Desperate measures with oil below $40.

    • #15
  16. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    James Gawron: It is interesting that greatest effect the Russians are having is blowing up the oil fields.

    According to Moscow they are. We’ve now got a Russian-Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis. You think we’re going to get a truthful account of what the Russians are doing out of the Kremlin?

    Claire,

    Well, we should take anything Moscow says with a huge chunk of salt. However, considering that ISIS has been selling oil and using the proceeds to commit genocide, I think our nonsense about the environment is less than exemplary. Luckily, no one actually believes we are that obsessive. They figure we have some Machiavellian plot up our sleeve. Who would assume that the American military was being run by a #%[CoC]*@# from the EPA.

    Sorry Claire got to run, I’ve got a tee time to get to. Me, Darth Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Mulligan are going to do 18. You know you are only allowed 14 clubs in the bag. Mulligan carries a driver, a five wood, a five iron, a putter, and 11 different wedges. He gets into a lot of tight spots and tends to stay there for a while. Nobody knows wedges like Mulligan. What a guy.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #16
  17. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Just read an article explaining that Obama hasn’t been attacking ISIS controlled oil because of environmental concerns….  Another stern rebuke of terrorism right there!

    https://www.aei.org/publication/obama-did-not-hit-isis-oil-because-of-environmental-damage/?utm_source=jolt&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Jolt12102015&utm_term=Jolt

    • #17
  18. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    The Reticulator:I wish Ricochet would allow authors to post photos that link to a full-size version, so that we could click on this map and view it in a readable size.

    There is a workaround: go ahead and click on it; it will open into a larger image, just in the current tab.  Then go back, via a different tab, and reopen the article.

    Eric Hines

    • #18
  19. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Concretevol: Reading the Putin transcript, can you imagine Obama having that kind of detailed conversation with a Defense Dept official?

    I cannot.  On the other hand, it’s plainly a manufactured dialog for the West’s–including particularly Poland and the Baltics–consumption.  There’s no more reason, otherwise, to take a Kremlin Web site seriously in its details than there is a White House Web site.

    Regarding OP, the presence of the IEDs and their complexity is only an excuse to delay.  We encountered much the same thing in the approaches to the Rhine and in the immediate areas post-crossings.  They did slow us down, but they didn’t create overmuch hesitation; we just blew the things up and moved on.  And, the things that really slowed us down by then was having outrun much of our supply lines and the large numbers of green combat loss replacements.  The mines themselves didn’t contribute to much hesitation.

    Now, let’s review the bidding here: an Iraqi army, especially in the end stages, fought an Iranian army manned in large part by children and old men to a standstill.  An Iraqi army manned and equipped by the Russians was easily overrun, twice, by us.  An Iraqi army manned and equipped by us evaporated in front of the Daesh.  The present Iraqi army doesn’t seem to have shown much stomach even for beginning the struggle for Ramadi until the Shia militias were in place and ready.  So: who’s doing the actual fighting now?

    Too, we have robots that do a fine job of blowing up IEDs before men and equipment roll over them.  Oh, wait–we’re not there.

    Should we be there?  Not under the current Iraqi political situation, or under this administration.  We’d only be spending American treasure and blood for no reason and under no plan or strategy.  The threats from the Shia militia–or about them–aren’t relevant to that.  Abadi is under Iranian pressure not to invite us in?  No, he’s not.  Pressure is all in his head.  True enough, Iran is making threats, both directly and through their Shia militias, all they are is threats.  Be interesting to see Iran back them up.

    Urban combat is, in many respects more difficult than open field fighting, but it’s eminently doable.  We just need to worry less about collateral damage, and more about killing Daesh.  Our administration isn’t capable of that, and the Iraqi administration, better though it is than Malaki’s, is too timid to do that.

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: This is, unfortunately, now a world war.

    It’s been a world war ever since Bush the Younger articulated the Bush Doctrine.  The present administration, for all that it’s begun implementing elements of it, is and has been all along, too timid or too oblivious to act on that simple fact.

    Eric Hines

    • #19
  20. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Percival: Russia has a David Mamet gap.

    Comment of the day. Quintuple like.

    • #20
  21. Cal Lawton Member
    Cal Lawton
    @CalLawton

    Second Battle of Ramadi. We defeated the enemy there about a decade ago, but more killing later is what you get when cutting and running the first time.

    • #21
  22. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Marion Evans: Putin’s message here was “Heeey our weapons work. They are not just toy replicas of the American arsenal”.

    That’s exactly right — but it’s also an articulation of a “maybe first use” policy.

    • #22
  23. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Percival: The Iraqi Ambassador explains the US Constitution to the US and all I can think is “well, at least someone in Washington has read the thing.”

    I had the same thought: “Wow, they’re exactly right! How’d that happen?”

    • #23
  24. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Cal Lawton:Second Battle of Ramadi. We defeated the enemy there about a decade ago, but more killing later is what you get when cutting and running the first time.

    I don’t know if we have any Ramadi vets on Ricochet. I can hardly bear to imagine how they’re feeling reading this news.

    • #24
  25. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Thanks for these, Claire.

    • #25
  26. Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake Member
    Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake
    @EvanMeyer

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Cal Lawton:Second Battle of Ramadi. We defeated the enemy there about a decade ago, but more killing later is what you get when cutting and running the first time.

    I don’t know if we have any Ramadi vets on Ricochet. I can hardly bear to imagine how they’re feeling reading this news.

    I spent a year there in the post-Awakening peace of 2009-10. Things were remarkably quiet. AQI was around, but either afraid or uninterested in attacking us directly. They mostly focused on attempting to assassinate provincial government officials and bombing strategic infrastructure. We occasionally theorized whether the Iraqi government was tolerating the latter because it inconvenienced the local population and cemented support for Awakening/US-aligned leaders.

    How am I feeling about it? A lot of people I was acquainted with six years ago — many of whom I liked and some of whom I respected — are either in harms way or fighting and dying as we speak. But that’s been true since Ramadi fell in May.  I go through spurts of trying to keep up with all the reports, but quickly get exhausted. I can only pray: Lord, have mercy.

    • #26
  27. Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake Member
    Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake
    @EvanMeyer

    Oh, and as to why the people of Ramadi are in the situation they’re in, and where the culpability falls for actions that could have prevented it, that I cannot allow myself to consider, lest I be consumed by rage.

    • #27
  28. Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake Member
    Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake
    @EvanMeyer

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Marion Evans: Putin’s message here was “Heeey our weapons work. They are not just toy replicas of the American arsenal”.

    That’s exactly right — but it’s also an articulation of a “maybe first use” policy.

    As an aside, this is the line that jumped out at me from that darkly hilarious bit of propaganda:

    Vladimir Putin: With regard to strikes from a submarine. We certainly need to analyse everything that is happening on the battlefield, how the weapons work. Both the Calibre missiles and the Kh-101 rockets are generally showing very good results. We now see that these are new, modern and highly effective high-precision weapons that can be equipped either with conventional or special nuclear warheads. [Emphasis added]

    Naturally, we do not need that in fighting terrorists, and I hope we will never need it.

    Mr. Putin chose to remind us that those very missiles could carry nukes just a few weeks after the JLENS runaway blimp debacle highlighted the inadequacy of our warning networks against cruise missile attack. I’m guessing that wasn’t an accident.

    • #28
  29. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake: Mr. Putin chose to remind us that those very missiles could carry nukes just a few weeks after the JLENS runaway blimp debacle highlighted the inadequacy of our warning networks against cruise missile attack. I’m guessing that wasn’t an accident.

    Not an accident at all.

    • #29
  30. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake: I cannot allow myself to consider, lest I be consumed by rage.

    These words are very similar to those every Iraq vet I’ve spoken to uses: Words to the effect of, “I have to not think about it, because I have to get on with my life.” I keep hearing variants of this.

    I don’t even know what to say to you or them. “Thank you for your service” rings more than a bit hollow under the circumstances, and it’s a cliché. I suppose what I want to say is, “Thank you. I feel an aching sense of failure for having let you down. I know it can’t be made right.”

    • #30

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