Iraq Theater

Obama, Assad and ISIS: our grim vindication

Well, it sure gives us a sense of deja vu. Obama's Sept. 10 speech making the case for military intervention against ISIS (Time transcript) comes exactly a year after his call for military intervention against Bashar Assad. Except this time, he seems to really mean it. Last year, he punted to Congress, saying he needed authorization to wage war—which some sarcastically called Obama's "brilliant strategy to keep us out of Syria," despite Assad having called his "red line" bluff with the Ghouta chemical weapons attack. The way it played out, Congress never even had to vote, due to Obama's acceptance of the Russian plan for "voluntary elimination" of Assad's chemical weapons—which has failed to acheive even that, and was really Putin's bid to buy time for Assad to go on killing his people by "conventional" means. Now, in contrast, that a real intervention in Iraq and eventually Syria is in the works—not against Assad but against ISIS—there isn't a peep about asking Congress for permission. Isn't that funny? Hate to say "told you so," but we've long predicted that when the US finally intervened in Syria it would not be against Assad but the jihadists. Note that Obama's speech says nothing about his erstwhile demand that Assad step down—but, on the contrary, invokes the need for a "political solution" in Syria. This implicitly means a deal with the genocidal dictator who has abetted the rise of ISIS by buying their oil. What an insult to the Syrian resistance (including the democratic civil resistance) that has been staking everything to fight the dictator and the jihadists alike.

Obama sees long war against ISIS

The Obama administration is preparing to carry out a campaign against ISIS that may take three years to complete, requiring a sustained effort that could last until after President Obama has left office, according to the New York Times, citing "senior administration officials." The first phase, an air campaign is already underway, with nearly 145 air-strikes in the past month. The Times says the aims are "to protect ethnic and religious minorities and American diplomatic, intelligence and military personnel, and their facilities, as well as to begin rolling back ISIS gains in northern and western Iraq." The next phase, to begin sometime after Iraq forms a more inclusive government, is expected to involve an intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish forces and possibly Sunni tribal fighters. The final, toughest and most controversial phase  is destroying the ISIS sanctuary inside Syria. This might not be completed until the next administration, some Pentagon planners are said to "envision a military campaign lasting at least 36 months." (NYT, Sept. 7) 

ISIS accused of 'ethnic cleansing on historic scale'

Fresh evidence uncovered by Amnesty International indicates that ISIS has launched a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq, carrying out war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions, against ethnic and religious minorities. The Sept. 2 briefing, "Ethnic cleansing on historic scale: Islamic State's systematic targeting of minorities in northern Iraq," presents a series of accounts from survivors of massacres, detailing how dozens of men and boys in the Sinjar region were rounded up into pick-up trucks and taken to village outskirts to be massacred in groups or shot individually. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of women and children from the Yazidi minority have also been abducted since ISIS took control of the area. "The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty's senior crisis response adviser currently in northern Iraq. "The Islamic State is carrying out despicable crimes and has transformed rural areas of Sinjar into blood-soaked killing fields in its brutal campaign to obliterate all trace of non- Arabs and non-Sunni Muslims."

ISIS massacres 700 Turkmen: report

ISIS fighters massacred 700 Turkmen civilians—including women, children and the elderly—in a northern Iraqi village last month, a UNICEF official reports. Marco Babille, the UN Children's Fund representative in Iraq, said that fighters carried out the massacre in Beshir village (Sulaymaniyah governorate) on July 11 and 12. Speaking to Italian news agency ANSA, he said the information came from witnesses who had fled the village. Calling for a "humanitarian D-Day" for the 700,000 refugees estimated to have fled ISIS violence in northern Iraq, Babille said the international community should establish a "safe haven" protected by peacekeeping forces. He also called for a "systematic air bridge from Europe" to help Kurdish forces, who he described as "the only bulwark of human rights" in Iraq, giving shelter to displaced people irrespective of ethnicity or faith. (Turkish Weekly, Aug. 27)

ISIS executions go viral; Nusra attacks Golan

A video posted by ISIS Aug. 28 purports to show militants beheading a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter in Mosul. The video, posted to YouTube, says the killing is a warning to the Kurdistan Regional Government to end its alliance with the United States. In the footage, 14 other Peshmerga fighters are shown wearing orange prison suits, urging Kurds to reject their pact with the US against the Islamic State. Three armed militants stand behind one alleged Peshmerga captive near Mosul's iconic mosque, one of them brandishing a knife as he threatens that the rest of the Peshmerga troops will die if the KRG-US alliance does not come to an end. YouTube immediately removed the video. The video release comes as Peshmerga forces have taken several villages from ISIS in the Zumar area (Nineveh). (Rudaw)

ISIS gets an air force after fall of Syrian base

ISIS supporters posted photos to Twitter of fighters from the militant group in control of Russian Sukhoi warplanes, as well as missiles and tanks seized after the jihadists overran the Syrian air base of Tabaqa. The fall of the base gives ISIS full control over Raqqa governorate. Syrian government forces withdrew from the base after a battle that lasted five days, leaving 195 government troops and 346 ISIS fighters dead. The images appear to contradict the Damascus governemnt's claim that all aircraft had been evacuated form the base before it fell. (IraqiNews.com, Aug. 28; AP, Aug. 25)

Turkish border forces bar Yazidi refugees

Thousands of Yazidi refugees who have fled the Sinjar region of northern Iraq have been denied entry into Turkey by military forces. The refugees, many of whom managed to flee north through the civilian corridors established by the PKK-aligned YPG militia, have been left waiting on the Turkish border near the Roboski crossing. Turkish soldiers have met any attempts to cross the border with force, according to a report in Turkey's Özgür Gündem. They are struggling to protect their children and ill from the sun under the shade of rocks and the sparse trees. They eat whatever food they can find and cooking is done in empty oil containers or cans. Many mothers have been forced to give birth on the road and some have declined to give their new children names out of fear for their future. (Rojava Report)

Reprisal attacks in Iraq; US prepares Syria strikes?

A suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a husseiniya, or Shi'ite mosque, in central Baghdad on Aug. 25, leaving at least 13 dead. Three were killed and several wounded in two other car bombings elsewhere in Baghdad. Another 23 were killed in car bombings at the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala and nearby al-Hilla. (IraqiNews.com, IraqiNews.com, IraqiNews.com, BBC News, NYT) A Kurdish MP in Iraq's parliament called on new Prime Minister Haidar Abadi to either arm the Kurdistan Regional Government or permit it to seek arms elsewhere. "It is crucial for the new government of Baghdad to give weapons to Peshmerga forces and train them as part of the Iraqi army or allow the Kurdistan Region to be able to buy weapons from other countries," said MP Shwan Mohammed Taha. "Today, Peshmerga forces protect 20% of Iraq's border and our demands are not unconstitutional. Putting Peshmerga forces in the security system of Iraq is a constitutional demand." (BasNews) Iranian Kurdish guerilla fighters that crossed the border to fight ISIS in the Jalawla and Khanaqen areas were prevented by the continued presence of Iranian government forces, according to the BasNews independent new agency. Tehran denies reports that Iranian forces are fighting in Iraq. (BasNews)

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