The war widens and intensifies 227

… and 9/11 approaches.

Ominous facts:

US facilities and stores of military equipment in the Negev and Jordan have been attacked by the savage army of the newly declared Islamic State. Some of the military equipment is now being airlifted to the Kurds in Iraq who are directly engaged with IS forces.

Hundreds of US Muslim citizens are fighting with IS. They can return to America, fully trained and experienced in battle, to pursue the war – against America.

The approaching 13th anniversary of the 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks on America is causing concern in US intelligence and counter-terrorist quarters about possible surprises ahead.

We quote from  DebkaFile:

The Kurdish Peshmerga fight against encroaching Islamic State troops gained a broad new dimension Monday, Aug. 11, when the US began airlifting large quantities of military equipment, including ordnance, from Jordan and Israel to the semi-autonomous [Kurdish] capital, Irbil.

The US maintains 10,000 special operations and marine forces at the King Hussein Air Base in northern Jordan, with large stocks of ammunition that were originally destined for the rebels fighting Bashar Assad in Syria. They are now being redirected to the Kurdish effort to stop the rapid Islamist march on their republic, along with supplies from the US emergency stores maintained in the Israeli Negev.

For some weeks, those stores and other US facilities in southern Israel have been in the sights of IS elements, which arrived in Sinai six months ago to reinforce Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, the local offshoot of Al Qaeda.

The US, Israel and Egypt have taken care to keep this development under their hats. But in the last month, while Israel was engaged in Operation Defensive Edge against the Palestinian Hamas, IS and Al-Maqdis shot rockets from Sinai at US and Israeli military facilities in the Negev, in support of Hamas. Their attacks were … as intense on some days as the Palestinian rocket barrage against the Israeli population.

The speed with which the American military effort in northern Iraq has spiraled in four days – from limited air strikes on IS targets Friday, Aug. 8, to direct arms supplies Monday – will soon confront President Barack Obama with the need for a speedy decision on whether to send American troops back to Iraq.

He may start dithering about it just as soon as he returns from his vacation.

US air strikes are clearly limited by the lack of an organized list of targets. All they can do now is bomb chance targets as they are picked up by reconnaissance planes or satellites. To be effective, the US Air Force needs to be guided in to target by special operations forces on the ground, who can supply precise data on the movements of IS fighters and mark them for air attack with laser designators.

Another shortcoming is the small number of US fighter-bombers available for Iraq. The aircraft which conducted four attacks on IS forces came from the USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier in the Gulf, which has 70 warplanes on board. This is not enough aerial firepower to stop the Islamists’ advance.

They are also disadvantaged by being prevented from striking IS forces in Syria, a limitation which further curtails their effectiveness …

What prevents them – other than Obama?

Obama will not overcome any of these military issues by his determined focus on sorting out the political situation in Baghdad. Replacing Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki by having his rival, Deputy Speaker Haider al-Abadi, nominated to replace him Monday – even with the backing of Sunni and Kurdish factions who detest Maliki – won’t affect the warfront. This change may generate inter-factional violence in the capital. And it will not quickly stiffen the Iraqi Army or enhance the Kurdish Peshmerga’s ability to curb the Islamists’ rapid advance. …

The change of Prime Minister has now happened. It’s not likely to make much difference to anything.

The article then touches on another (related) topic:

Last week it was discovered that, among the Islamist fighters who died in US air strikes Friday and Saturday, was a large group, estimated by intelligence sources as up to 200, of American citizens fighting in the ranks of Al Qaeda’s IS in Kurdistan and western Iraq. …

Sunday, Aug. 10, a spate of threats imbued with a sense of revenge started appearing on social media, such as: “This is a message for every American citizen. You are the target of every Muslim in the world wherever you are.”  Another was more brutal: “ISIS is ready to cut off your heads, dear Americans, O sons of bitches. Come quickly.”

Now, that’s the spirit in which to fight a war. If the US could feel equally inspired to insult and destroy its enemy, it might succeed.

Who dare call it victory? 29

The last US combat brigade has left Iraq. From now on American military personnel will be there only to “advise and assist” the Iraqi government – when there is an Iraqi government to advise and assist. Five months ago parliamentary elections were held, but which party or coalition of parties should govern, and which party leader should be prime minister, are still in dispute. Prospects for agreement are not growing brighter.

Still, the US mission of pacifying and democratizing the country is regarded as almost accomplished.

Not that the country is entirely pacified any more than it is truly democratized. Though everyone agrees that “the surge” succeeded, the terrorists do not consider themselves defeated. Only two days ago a suicide bomber killed 61 Iraqi Army recruits with nail-packed explosives.

So what will happen there? Will Iraq yet turn into a peaceful united democracy?

Or will it be torn and shattered by civil war as some Israeli observers foresee?

At least two civil conflicts are at boiling point – Sunni-Shiite strife and hostilities between the two Muslim factions and the Kurds of the North – and Iran’s followers stand ready to seize Iraq’s oil-rich South potentially sparking yet another world conflagration.

The political vacuum in Baghdad created by Nouri al-Maliki’s refusal to step down or join a unity government is unsustainable and the cause of a rising spiral of violence. Neither of the two leading Iraqi parties which emerged from the general election earlier this year – Maliki’s State of Law Party and ex-prime minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya Party – is seen capable of commanding a parliamentary majority any time this year.

Dropping out of negotiations for joining Allawi in a coalition government, the transitional prime minister has turned his attention to preparations for a Shiite war against the Sunnis to be launched as soon as the Americans are gone. He has lined up senior Shiite commanders in the Iraqi Army who are willing to lead an all-out offensive against the Sunnis in Baghdad and central and western Iraq.

US intelligence is perfectly aware of the imminent threat. It is according to them that –

[The Shiites] are preparing to capture large parts of Baghdad as well as Habaniya, Ramadi, Tikrit, Falluja and sections of Anbar Province, in order to achieve two objectives.

One is to defeat Sunni forces, forcing them to accept their loss of political influence and bow to his conditions, or else face more casualties, the loss of more territory in the cities and more debacles.

The second is to crush the power bases the Saudis are building in Iraq at great expense.

While the Saudis and the Syrians are spending money to buy off Maliki’s supporters, he plans to physically destroy the Sunni power centers in which they are investing.

The war could be protracted, and disastrous not only for Iraq:

His plans could ignite a Shiite-Sunni war lasting from one to two years up to late 2012 or early 2013. At least one to one-and-a-half million Iraqi Sunnis will be put to flight and flood neighboring Jordan which has neither the resources not the utilities to support that many refugees.

And while that civil war is raging, another could break out:

A second Iraqi community, the Kurds of the north, is in the midst of war preparations out of a bitter sense of betrayal by Washington.

They are furious over America quitting the country without solving the critical issue of Kirkuk and its oilfields. Calculating that the Shiites and Sunnis will be caught up in their own war and have no soldiers to spare for stopping them, the Kurds have lined up this strategic northern city for capture as soon as September.

They also plan to exploit the anticipated armed Sunni-Shiite feud to drive south and grab parts of central Iraq up to a line some 250 kilometers north of Baghdad.

Holding such towns as Saghir, Chay Khanah, Qarah Tappah, Muhsin Aziz and As-Sadiyah would be the key to Kurdish control of the eastern provinces bordering on Iran. …

And all the while Iran will be watching, ready to take advantage of the turmoil for its own ends:

Tehran is also eyeing rich spoils in Iraq’s post-American era.

The networks in Iraq run by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, the MOIS, and the Revolutionary Guards Al Qods Brigades have joined forces with their Iraqi allies to take over the southern oilfields centering on the city of Basra, which account for about 60 percent of the country’s oil output.

This would be Iran’s payback for the energy sanctions President Barack Obama imposed in July.

Iran also covets the two holiest cities of the world Shiite movement, Karbala and Najaf. …

Have seven and a half years of  war in Iraq achieved nothing worth the blood and sacrifice? We wouldn’t say so. We think President Bush was right to invade Iraq. It was good that the tyrant Saddam Hussein was toppled, captured, and hanged. But perhaps that was as much as could be done, and the Iraqis should have been left then to flounder into their next calamity on their own.

To kill a candidate 11

While we were watching to see how that democracy thing was working out in Iraq, we came across a story that has gone almost totally unreported. Hushed up, in fact.

It’s about an assassination attempt on the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki , who escaped with his life but had to be hospitalized.

Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki was injured in an attempt on his life last Thursday, March 11. His armored convoy came under an RPG-automatic fire attack after a bomb hit his car. US and Iraqi authorities have blacked out the incident, but our sources learn that Maliki is being treated for moderate-to-serious injuries at the American military hospital. One source says he was hit in the arm. His doctors apparently found his condition was too serious for him to face TV cameras and deliver a broadcast statement to the nation scheduled Sunday March 14, although members of his State of the Law party were beginning to ask questions about his disappearance.

As the counting of votes continues in Iraq’s general election, it confirms the Maliki party’s lead against its foremost rival, former prime minister Iyad Allawi’s secular al-Iraqiya bloc of liberal Shiites and Sunni Muslims.

Allawi’s is running an active campaign to prove widespread vote-rigging both in the balloting of the 19 million eligible voters in the country and the more one and a half-million ballots outside.

Maliki is running ahead in seven to nine provinces. Still, Allawi who appears to have carried five, hopes to unseat his rival and win a second term as prime minister.

The incumbent, a Shiite, is solidly backed from Washington as its best hope for a stable government that would allow the US military to pull out of Iraq on time in August, seven years after the invasion.

Saudi Arabia and Syria and some circles in the Obama administration promoted Allawi’s bid.

The attack on Malliki was obviously aimed at getting rid of the American candidate for Iraqi prime minister. His State of the Law party is very much a one-man show. Without its leader, it would probably break up into factions and its winning parliamentary members attach themselves to other groupings in the 325-member House.

Of course, if they could have pinned the assassination attempt on Mossad the media would have been all over it.

Posted under Arab States, Commentary, Iraq, Islam, middle east, Muslims, News, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, March 16, 2010

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The blood-dimmed tide 92

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

– W. B. Yeats


We were for the war and regime change in Iraq. We were glad Saddam Hussein was deposed and hanged. We would like to see all despots brought to the same end.

But we never believed in Iraq’s becoming a true democracy, however many Iraqis cast their votes in however many elections. Nor is it.

The ritual imitation of democratic procedures is now being performed again.

Here’s a graphic report (perhaps a little too strained for emotional effect) on election campaigning Iraqi-style:

The slaughter of the al-Kaabi family last week horrified Iraqis who had prayed that the parliamentary elections next Sunday would be free from political violence.

Eight-year-old Ahmed was found hanging from a ceiling fan, blood dripping from slashed wrists tied behind his back. Little Rafel, her throat cut, was still in the purple and pink T-shirt she had worn to bed. The killers had gunned down Hussein al-Kaabi, 46, the children’s father, when he opened the front door last Monday night. They then appear to have gone methodically through the house in the Al-Wehdah district in southern Baghdad, knifing his wife and six children, some of them as they slept.

Photographs from the scene are shocking. Pretty nine-year-old Rafel looks almost peaceful, with locks of her dark hair hiding the wound on her neck. Seven-year-old Mais has a scarf wrapped around her mouth, obscuring the bloody wound on her neck. Ahmed looks painfully young and fragile, his football shirt evidence of his obsession with the game. Their mother, Widad, 36, was pregnant when she was shot and butchered. Family members said she appeared to have been running to help her husband.

Relatives said the only crime committed by Hussein, a guard for a wealthy farmer, was to have been hanging posters for Entifadh Qanbar, a candidate standing for the Shi’ite Iraqi National Alliance (INA).

“It was a premeditated act of political terror,” said Abdullah al-Kaabi, 52, Hussein’s cousin. “The people who did this are trying to make people fearful of working for their candidates, or scared to vote.” …

Qanbar [the candidate] blamed members of Saddam Hussein’s [banned] Ba’ath party for the killings. …

Many Iraqis had hoped the vote would be an opportunity to move past the old divisions but the slaughter of the Kaabis suggest they are still raw.

Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, is running as head of a secular Shi’ite-led bloc … [His] support has waned as his claim to have brought security to Iraq was undermined, not only by the murder of the Kaabi family, but also by a series of spectacular bombings.

Last month suicide bombers mounted co-ordinated attacks just minutes apart on Baghdad hotels that had been expected to house foreign election observers, killing 36 people and injuring 71. Following in the wake of similar attacks in August, October and December, they wrecked what had been a fragile but growing sense of security in Baghdad.

Since last summer, army and interior ministry security forces have assumed sole responsibility for security after the withdrawal of American troops from patrolling Iraqi cities. Officials had already warned that violence would escalate in the run-up to the vote.

Survivors of the blasts blamed hardline Ba’athists, believed to be allied with Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown terrorist group linked to Osama bin Laden.

Maliki’s government, already under fire for a lack of tangible improvement in basic services, and allegations of corruption, is facing its toughest challenge from the INA, whose main partners are the pro-Iranian Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and Moqtada al-Sadr, the anti-US cleric whose strength comes from the mostly poor Shi’ite majority.