Thursday, 11 June 2015
President Obama's Failed ISIS Strategy in Iraq

ISIS Controlled Areas in Syria and Iraq and US Force Concentrations

Source: Institute for the Study of War

No “completed Strategy against ISIS”. 

At a press conference  during   the recent  G-7 Summit in Germany,  the President was queried about whether he had a strategy for “degrading and defeating” the forces of the Islamic State or ISIS that has  conquered   huge swaths of both Syria and Iraq. He said  “we don’t yet have a completed strategy”.  He had been given options by an increasingly frustrated Pentagon.  On July 9, 2015, the White House announced an expansion of 3,100 advisers currently training Iraqi National forces in Iraq, a new complement of 500 trainers would be added to be based at the Al-Asad military complex in the remaining portion of predominately Sunni Anbar Province not yet conquered by ISIS.

  The White House may have desperately realized that it needed to spare the Sunnis in Anbar sectarian bloody clashes with Iranian-trained Shia militia ranging about the perimeter of ISIS-occupied Ramadi. This is a throwback to the  successful US troop surge  and Sunni Awakening  in Iraq in  2006 to 2007 that vanquished ISI predecessor Al Qaeda in Iraq at the cost of S20 billion.  But, this time to do the impossible to be accomplished with a ‘surge’ of less than 500 trainers this time.  The skepticism of any effective action by the US against ISIS ,that routed Iraqi national forces at Ramadi receiving   another ‘inadvertent’ complement of US vehicles and weapons left behind by fleeing Iraqi troops , is dim at best.  ISIS used captured  US MRAP vehicles as  suicide  Vehicular  Borne  Improvised  Explosive  Devices (VBIEDs) to shatter whole sections  of the front lines sending Iraqi forces fleeing.  Witness the  statement on the fall of Ramadi to ISIS by outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, “Setbacks are regrettable but not uncommon in warfare. Much effort will now be required to reclaim the city.” Adding to this debacle is the US complicit recognition of Iran’s role in the conflict reported sending 11,000 troops to bolster the defense of the Baghdad capital area and predominately Shia southeastern region of the fractured country.   Iran’s Quds Force Commander Suleymani boasted he knows how to defeat ISIS, saying “Obama hasn’t done a damn thing to fight ISIS”. That was reflected in comments by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who commented on the President’s announcement:

One has to wonder whether this President just wants to wait out the next year and a half and basically do nothing to stop this genocide, bloodletting, horrible things that are happening throughout the Middle East.

Kurdish Peshmerga with captured ISUS Flag, May 2015

Source:  CNN

Depriving the Iraqi Kurds of Resources for the only effective fighting force, the Peshmerga.

There was an embarrassing moment at the G-7 Summit depicting Obama turning his back on Iraqi Premier Al-Abadi seated on the same garden bench, patiently waiting his turn to speak with the President.  Watch this YouTube video clip.


That “inadvertently’ communicated a message about the President’s intent to evade any commitment of US boots on the ground to shore up the sectarian riven Iraq.  Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in late May 2015 said the fall of Ramadi to ISIS “demonstrated   no will to fight by Iraqi Shia national forces”.  Their flight and abandonment of more US supplied equipment and vehicles forced tens of thousands of the city’s Sunni population to flee across a rickety bridge to the Baghdad capital region.

  Ironically, the only effective fighting force holding the line against ISIS has been the 160,000 Kurdish Peshmerga.  The US has yet to force Al-Abadi’s regime to allocate critically required weapons, ammunition, anti-tank missiles and mobile artillery for the Peshmerga, that his national security forces have left behind on both Mosul and Ramadi to supply ISIS.   Peshmerga forces with limited US assistance have disrupted an ISIS supply line from Syria and surrounded the fallen City of Mosul   on three sides with over 1 million virtually imprisoned inhabitants. Yet, with ISIS digging a deep trench around the circumference of Mosul any ability to recapture Iraq’s second largest city will be virtually impossible. The Peshmerga have relied on limited supplies of weapons purchased from the U.K., French and the Germans. The German have supplied the highly effective anti-tank missile, the Milan.  But without direct supply of weapons and ammunition, Kurds are getting panicky.

The problem for the Kurdish regional Government is compounded  by  the Al-Abadi central government in Baghdad reneged  on an agreement made last December allowing the Kurds to export 550,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for a 17% share of the budget.  Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdish oil minister at a conference in London June 9, 2015 was cited by the Wall Street Journal saying , “The fight against ISIS across several thousand kilometers of front line cannot happen if you don’t have the economic means to do it. When we have three months of Peshmerga fighters not being paid, it’s very difficult to see how this can be sustained”.  The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has been paid less than $2 billion of the approximate $5.7 Billion due from the central Iraqi government. On top of that foreign oil operators in the KRG controlled   oil fields are owed another $3 billion.

 Looks like the President and his National Security advisers lost out on an opportunity at the G-7 Summit to force the Al-Abadi government to release funds to the Kurds to pay for Peshmerga operations and provide for much needed weapons.  We argued in an August 2014 Iconoclast post  that a possible source of US weapons and munitions lies 630 miles away from the KRG capital of Erbil in Israel.  It is the US War Reserve Stock maintained in the Jewish state for use by American forces. The Israelis had a historic role in the 1960’s and 1970’s training Kurdish irredentist forces in Iraq until Henry Kissinger kyboshed it when the late Shah of Iran signed a treaty with the late Saddam Hussein.  The US allied with the late dictator during the Iran Iraq War of the 1980’s that witnessed thousands of Kurds massacred in heinous chemical warfare attacks, as they had opted to support the Islamic Regime.  That reflects the perils of the Kurds not choosing the right strong horse during that conflict in the great game of the Middle East.

 Given the Kurdish –led upset in the June 7, 2015 Turkish parliamentary elections, thwarting Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ambitions seeking broad authoritarian executive powers for his ceremonial Presidential post, the Kurds became geo-political players. Recognition of that should be reflected in the Iraqi KRG being granted full autonomy and recognition by the US coupled with designation as an important non-NATO ally thus returning it as a friend of Israel in the troubled region. That is unlikely to occur in the remaining 18 months of President Obama’s second and final term in office. Hopefully, a more trustworthy successor might achieve that. Until that occurs pressure has to be built by Congress to break the logjam to provide the KRG and Peshmerga with their rightful share of both funds and weapons to thwart the Islamic State ambitions.

Posted on 06/11/2015 8:03 AM by Jerry Gordon
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