As of last week, the Obama Administration has not authorized the Pentagon to put in place a Non-combattant Evacuation Plan (NEP) for Iraq. This stunning bit of information was provided by Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren, in response to a reporter's question at one of the Defense Department's regular morning "gaggles," where credentialed reporters have the opportunity to ask on-the-record questions in a more informal setting than the regular press briefings.
At the same time that the Administration is ignoring the potential fate of an estimated 25,000 American citizens presently in Iraq in a wide range of jobs, including key posts at most of the country's critical infrastructure sites, President Barack Obama is slowly drawing the United States deeper into the Iraq quagmire. On Monday, he announced that he was sending 500 additional "advisers and observers" to the country; and there are now as many as eight American Navy ships in and around the Persian Gulf, including one ship carrying several hundred Marines.
I was told yesteday by one senior U.S. intelligence source that there is a "begrudging consensus" between the United States, Russia, China and even Iran that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) poses a deep threat, and that they must be crushed. As the result, an odd-fellow military alliance of sorts is emerging on the battle fields of Iraq and Syria. In the recent days, U.S. armed Predator drones have been flying what in effect amount to combat missions over Iraq. Russia has sent their own trainers and advisers to accompany an initial delivery of Russian fighter jets, that are going to be put into combat within a matter of days. And while the Syrian Air Force has been bombing ISIS strongholds inside the country near the Iraq border, units of the Free Syrian Army have been engaging in ground operations against some of the same ISIS strongholds. In one recent Syrian Air Force bombing raid, a number of important second-tier ISIS field commanders were, I am told, killed.
U.S. intelligence estimates that there are as many as 2,500 Chechen fighters in the ISIS strongholds on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. This is of vital importance to Russia, which will not miss the opportunity to join this strange "coalition of the willing" to crush ISIS and shut off the potential flow of combat-hardened fighters back to the Caucasus.
Secretary of State John Kerry was in Paris late last week, meeting with counterparts from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan. From there, he flew to Riyad for a three hour meeting with King Abdullah. His mission: To make it clear that ISIS posed a serious threat to the survivial of the House of Saud if they were to succeed in establishing a separatist state in the border regions of Iraq and Syria (Syriaq?). Kerry pressed for a serious crackdown on the Gulf funders of ISIS and related jihadist groups.
Turkey for its part is already taking some significant steps towards supporting an independent Kurdistan, carved out of Iraq. On Monday, a spokesman for the ruling AKP announced support for just such an independent Kurdish state if the situation further deteriorates in Iraq. The Kurdish Regional Government, in obvious coordination with the Turks, announced it was considering such an independence declaration of a Kurdish state incorporating the oil-rich Kirkuk region. Such a Kurdistan would be landlocked and greatly dependent on Turkey for oil exports and other vital economic needs.
As Col. Lang has been warning since the very first outbreak of the current Iraq conflict (Iraq War Take III?), the 25,000 Americans inside Iraq are potential hostages for a barbarian ISIS or for the recently reactivated Madhi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr (whose own militia men have in some cases been getting their combat experience fighting for the Assad regime in Syria).
These are some of the emerging "facts on the ground" that warrant discussion among the informed participants in this blogsite.