Tag: Iraq

Seven Questions for the Next Commander-in-Chief


I just came across this item in the Huffington Post, suggesting that the target audience is left-leaning, but I think these questions should be asked — and asked often — of anyone running for the office of Commander-in-Chief. I don’t think I’ve heard any of the candidates offer any kind of specific response to these questions, alone or together, so I thought I’d reproduce them here. Maybe a Ricochet member will get a chance to ask them at a campaign event.

If you do, please share what you learn, because I genuinely don’t know how any of the candidates would answer. The seriousness and sobriety of a candidate’s answers to these questions would be very important to me in deciding for whom to vote:

The Battle of Ramadi, Continued


AP_50881445757_4x3_992I’ve been meaning to write about the recapture of Ramadi, which is assuredly a modestly hopeful development. Along with the recapture of Tishrin Dam, it’s the biggest gain against ISIS this year — although it’s offset by ISIS’s gains in Aleppo, which is the direct consequence of Russia’s pounding of anti-ISIS rebels.

Speaking of which, the interview below, direct from Aleppo with Rami Jarrah, is really worth watching. He’s one of the only journalists now in Aleppo, where rebel-held areas are attacked daily by Russian planes and the Assad regime:

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This morning a solemn President addressed the world from the White House. “Today we watched in horror an attack on the most innocent among us. U.S. intelligence has confirmed an ISIS video showing the cowardly assault on the Ramadi Zoo… and their polar bear, Hamid. (Choking up) Hamid was beloved by Iraqi children, both Sunni and Shi’ite alike. […]

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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:

Security So Tight at the G20 Even a Gnat Couldn’t Get In … Oh, Wait


So yesterday, the heads of the Group of 20 leading world economies arrived in the resort city of Antalya, in Turkey, for a two-day summit. The hotels housing the attendees were separated from the rest of the neighborhood by thousands of barricades. Only accredited visitors were given access to the area. The governor of Antalya, Muammer Türker, proudly announced they’d installed more than 350 new security cameras, and had also inaugurated license plate and facial recognition systems to prevent unauthorized access. The Coast Guard was deployed off the coast of Antalya to interdict threats from sea. Officials were considering establishing a no-fly zone over the area. Some 12,000 police and soldiers were deployed, and the Turkish military promised ’round-the-clock air defences. Presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın, who is coordinating the summit, affirmed that security was at its highest level:

“As some 35 or 36 delegations, including the world’s 20 most prominent countries, as well as heads of state, will be at the summit, we don’t see any security weakness.”

The Kurds, Mount Sinjar, and Highway 47: A Quick Guide


_86641866_030081031-1I’ve spent the morning reading conflicting reports from Mount Sinjar (also known as Shingal) and Highway 47. A lot of the reporting about this, it seems to me, would be impossible to understand without some background knowledge — or a glossary, at least — so I thought I’d be helpful and try to make what’s happening there easier to follow. Forgive me if I’ve only made it more confusing, but at least that’s in a sense more accurate, because the situation is anything but clear.

First, some maps. Sinjar, the city, is shown by the red arrow:

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 08.55.57Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 09.05.32The Sinjar Mountains are a 100-kilometer long range in northwestern Iraq. The highest segment is in Nineveh Governorate, and partly administered by Iraqi Kurdistan; the western and lower segment is in Syria, and controlled by the de facto autonomous Syrian Kurdistan, Rojava. The city of Sinjar — marked with the red arrow — is just south of the range.

Honor Is in Our National Interest


A country that acts solely out of goodness and duty is bound to be played; the world is simply too nasty, too mean a place for the well-intended naive, and even a good country will often have to make ugly decisions that are hard to sleep on. However, this shouldn’t be taken to mean that acting in our self-interest is necessarily in opposition to good morals. More often than not, the smart thing to do overlaps with the right thing to do.

During the occupation of Iraq, many Iraqis decided to throw their lot in with the American-led coalition and the new Iraqi government. Whatever, their reasons, it was a risky and — in some cases — very brave decision to make. Though many paid for it with their lives during the insurgencies that rocked the country before its precarious stabilization in 2008, it seemed to have been the right one to make. But in the provinces that have fallen to the Islamic State since our decision to leave, it’s again become sentence to torture and death:

Vladimir Putin, the Strong Horse


horse_1456083iOsama Bin Laden said, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they will naturally want to side with the strong horse.” Understanding that fact of human nature and geopolitics, Vladimir Putin galloped into Syria to show the Middle East that Russia rides high while the US flees from the world stage.

While President Obama busies himself making silly faces toward a selfie stick, many beleaguered residents of Syria and Iraq are more than happy to welcome a new sheriff to town.

Amid the ornate walls of Damascus’ famed Omayyad Mosque, preacher Maamoun Rahmeh stood before worshippers last week, declaring Russian President Vladimir Putin a “giant and beloved leader” who has “destroyed the myth of the self-aggrandizing America.”

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As you might have already heard, from the Washington Examiner:  A Russian air force jet was shot down after it violated Turkey’s airspace, according to unconfirmed reports. Witnesses say they saw a large explosion in Huraytan, northern Syria, as three fighter jets flew above. Preview Open

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ISIS and Religious Genocide in the Mideast


ShowImageNina Shea, the director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, gives a devastating account of this reality at National Review Online:

The Islamist genocide — and there can be no doubt that it is genocide, despite world silence – of the Christians, Yazidis, Mandeans, and other defenseless ethno-religious minorities of Syria and Iraq continues. The killing of these peoples is deliberate and brutal and is rooted in religious hatred of the “infidel.” It is meted out in sudden violent executions, mass deportations, and the gradual, methodical destruction of their civilizations.

Washington is blind to this genocide that occurs alongside, but is separate from, a sectarian Muslim power struggle. It has failed to defend them militarily. Now it is failing to provide humanitarian help in the only manner left: resettling the survivors out of harm’s way, in countries where they will be able to rebuild their families and preserve their unique ancient cultures without fear. Rescue is the very minimum we can do to help these victims of genocide. ….

Obama’s Failed Experiment


Philip Fuxa/Shutterstock

In science, when you conduct an experiment to test a theory and get a result you didn’t expect, you learn from the experience and re-think your theory. But what do you do in politics, when you implement a policy you were certain would succeed but which fails miserably? We’re about to find out.

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Only a fool would expect President Obama or his administration to be honest with the public after his many years in office. But one might hope that the President’s advisers are at least honest among themselves. According to Shane Harris at The Daily Beast, that too is wishful thinking.  Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed […]

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The Costs of Righteousness


London Anti Iraq War march, 15Feb 2003” by Simon Rutherford via Commons.

The Iraq War is one of those world events in which no one comes off great. The American people chose a government who almost completely botched the intelligence process and who then tried to rebuild a country before winning the war. After commendably getting things back on foot, we promptly elected a new government that fulfilled its promise to leave, consequences be dammed. The Iraqis, for their part, have not acquitted themselves terribly well either, with both Sunni and Shia factions showing precious little reluctance to side with devils in the interests of settling scores and looking after their own. That the Iraqis have borne the overwhelming brunt of the consequences of the war does not make them innocents.

Marco Rubio on the Iran Deal


A few days ago, Jeffrey Goldberg published the transcript of his interview with Marco Rubio in the Atlantic. I won’t try to summarize it, because I found the whole thing interesting — which is noteworthy in itself. It isn’t easily reduced to a soundbite, because he’s actually making arguments.

I don’t want to prejudice your views unduly, but there’s no reason for me not to say that Rubio seems to me in much better touch with reality than the other candidates have so far. He’s not saying things that make him (and by implication America) sound insane. He’s not scoring cheap points. He’s not talking about himself. He’s answering the questions directly. He’s obviously aware what he would inherit if he were elected.

One Year Later: Still No Vote


WarIn case you missed it, this past weekend marked one year of America’s latest war. The intervention in Syria/Iraq began a year ago.

It’s not a real war, right? Sure, America’s military is killing people. Sure, it’s cost more than $3 billion. Sure, we spend $10 million every day. Sure, seven Americans have died so far. But it’s not really a war, right?

Of course it’s a war. It’s denying reality to say otherwise. The Third Iraq War. The War Against ISIS. Operation Inherent Resolve. (That we don’t even have a name for this war is very telling). The collective agreement among the press, the political class, and people on the both left and right, to refuse to even acknowledge that we’re at war does not change that fact.

ISIS: Our Non-Strategy and Our Too-Calm Republican Candidates


screenshot 2015-03-17 12.38.59I was flabbergasted to read this morning that we are “embracing a new approach” in the battle against ISIS:

In a major shift of focus in the battle against the Islamic State, the Obama administration is planning to establish a new military base in Anbar Province and send 400 American military trainers to help Iraqi forces retake the city of Ramadi.

Point 1: With all respect to our highly accomplished and experienced men and women in uniform, at this point a force of 400 military trainers in Anbar Province should properly be described as “next month’s hostages.” How could anyone of even cursory familiarity with this region — or the history of warfare, for that matter — fail to think of that immediately?

The Speech of Political Manliness


Leadership is deeds, not speeches (except, one supposes, speeches that take on the force of deeds). The media and Washington-the-place are the problem. The surplus of spirit in the people is the solution. The president should serve something greater than himself — like Washington-the-man going back to his farm, a very Cincinnatus, relinquishing power after fully discharging his duties. Mr. Perry obviously believes he would not shrink in the comparison — he could withstand the gaze of millions, like the poet says.

Whither The Assyrians?


christian-militiaA few months, I wrote a controversial piece advocating for an independent Kurdistan and the direct arming of the Peshmerga and the Syrian Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG). I argued that the Peshmerga in Iraq and the the YPG in northern Syria represented the only competent, secular fighting forces engaged in the war against the Islamic State. If the US continues to fight the Caliphate by proxy, the Kurds are the best hope in keeping the heat on ISIS’ northern front.

Events the past week have cast even more doubt on the Administration’s hope that the Iraqi government is capable of defending its largest cities against a numerically inferior foe, let alone defeating the Islamic State in its territory. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has made the strongest rebuke yet stating the obvious that the incredibly well armed Iraqi Army showed no will to fight. In contrast, the poorly-equipped but fanatical YPG broke the siege of Kobane in January and surrounded and annihilated an ISIS mountain stronghold in Syria at the same time that ISIS held victory parades in Ramadi.

Left out in recent discussions on Ricochet over who to support in the war against ISIS has been the Assyrian Christians. Unlike the Kurds — with their semi-autonomous region and army — the Iraqi Christians had little with which to defend themselves during the onslaught of last summer. Christians not fortunate enough to escape Mosul had their homes marked with the “nasara” (an Arabic pejorative for Christian). And given the Islamic State’s horrific penchant for sexually enslaving Yezidi teenagers and young women and slaughtering the menfolk, the jihadists are an existential threat to what remains of Iraq’s Christians.