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20 June 2014


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Abu Sinan

I think the CT example of Yemen is not correct, but looking at Yemen at how this could end is. If you look at the history of Yemen, both in sectarian terms and region terms, we might see the future of Iraq. Basically a failed state broken into smaller regions by tribe and sect where a government that has little influence in the various regions. That, combined with a long term insurgency by a couple of factions, might very well be Iraq in the future.


Abu Sinan

"I think the CT example of Yemen is not correct." I guess that means you think a CT approach is inappropriate in Iraq. pl

Abu Sinan

CT certainly would be part of it, but the situation in Iraq is far beyond just a CT issue. I think MSM is just now catching up on the idea that this isnt just an ISIS issue, it is really a full scale civil war at this time with the Sunni tribes rising against both the Shi'a central government and the Kurds in the north.

I think if they Sunnis are successful in Baghdad and farther south they will try their hand up north. I think they know too much about the Kurds to take the peshmerga lightly.

CT has a role here, but I think it is subsumed by the larger issue, namely a civil war with the Sunni tribes on the march.


Unlike Yemen Iraq is tank country. To keep it broken up requires outside interference.

Abu Sinan

Parts of Yemen are tank country, other parts are not. Kind of like Iraq. Disclaimer, my mother in law's family is from San'a and my father in law from Taiz. My comparison had more to do with warring sectarian and tribal issues than topography. The recent use of anti tank weapons and the ability of anyone to maintain a tank force also mitigates that issue.

Either way, do you think any one group in Iraq, as it stands, has the ability to unite and keep the various regions of Iraq together?

I dont think at the moment any one group has the ability to do so without massive outside military intervention.


Abu Sinan

Parts of Yemen are tank country? Yup. I accompanied a YAR armored unit in action near Taiz against the wily NDF guerrillas. The army had both T-55s and US M-60s. There were a couple of Soviet advisers and me in my usual role as translator and reporter to the US government. The Red Army guys freely said that the M-60s were better tanks. It was a hoot! pl

Abu Sinan

The comment about Yemen not being tank country kind of threw me because a quick glance of the news in Yemen will show tanks being used in the conflict, both currently and historically. I am slowly picking up Yemeni history, but it is hard because there is not a lot out there in English. My wife's family is from Bayt al Wazir, so they played their own role in Yemen's history.


Quoting the Reuters article:

“ Anthony Cordesman, …. , said Obama's decision guaranteed that the United States, not just Maliki's other key foreign allies in Shi'ite Iran, … . "It gives the United States the kind of direct contact with Iraqi forces that allows them to judge their strengths and weaknesses and act as a check on sectarian abuses," he wrote. "It keeps up the right kind of pressure on Maliki and any successor."

Act as a check on sectarian abuses? We couldn’t check Maliki with 100,000 troops in theatre, just how the hell does Mr. Cordesman think the US is going to manage that in this current combat environment?

Bob Randolph

Chuck Todd trotted out the odious Ken Pollak this morning (6/20) to argue for a quick recognition of Iraqi Kurdistan, via Turkish acquiescence if not leadership, in order to create facts on the ground establishing a de jure partition of Iraq which would trigger US/Coalition of the Willing intervention should the Sunni tribes attempt to bring Kurdistan back into the Iraqi fold. As Pollak signed off, Todd threw him the bouquet of being a very experienced foreign policy hand.


Wow! How much did you/US Gov. work in such proximity/informalness with the Red Arm folks back in the day? Interesting as hec!

John Adamson

If Google's translation is correct, your humor reads, "Operation the death of me."

As you lay out the situation that sounds like it could be the case.


505th PIR

I have written about this before on this site. I was the Defense and Army attache in the US Embassy in Sanaa. so, I was the sole military intelligence collector for the the US in North Yemen. It was my assigned duty to collect on what the Yemenis were doing, the Soviets were doing and the red Chinese as well. In other words it was my job to associate with the soviets. To that end I visited them in their embassy where the KGB regarded me with justifiable suspicion. The GRU people were much more cooperative. There was also a 500 man soviet training mission in the country and a US mission of about a dozen. No US military were allowed to associate with the Sovs except me. they often came to my house for cookouts and a movie. Other dips did as well. My wife and I were particularly close to the French attache and his wife. At a steak cookout at our place the Soviet major general commanding their military mission heard me talking to my driver and gardener in Arabic. he said i spoke better Arabic than any of his people. Would I like to go to the field with them in the COIN fight against the South Yemen supported National Democratic Front guerrillas. I could translate for the advisers and offer advice if I wanted to. this was a perfect collection opportunity and my superiors in Washington as well as the US ambassador approved. So, I started going to the field with the 8th Yemeni Commando Brigade and its Soviet advisers. These were paratroopers from the 106th Guards Airborne Division. they were mostly Armenians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis and a few Slavs. They did not like or respect the Yemenis but were brave as hell up on the laurel covered mountains in the SE of the country. The Yemenis have an instinct for war. they fought well on both sides, but the soviet disdain for the 'black assnicks" as they called the Yemenis was bad for morale on "our" side. I went down to Taiz with this Yemeni armor because there was a USAID agriculture project there and the embassy was worried about them. The funny thing about this little war was that the Yemenis on both sides had managed to get the USSR to back them. Both Salih and the communists in Aden had played the US card against the soviets to get support. In other words, they threatened to become allies of ours. pl


505th PIR

In the Cold War it was pretty common for US and Soviet military people to associate with each other in the third world. This was especially true in military-diplomatic posts. In Syria/Lebanon US, Soviet and other military people often served together in UN peacekeeping missions. The teams usually shared the same logistical facilities; billets, mess, bar, etc. In those circumstances you get to know each other. it was quite easy to distinguish Soviet line officers from GRU and KGB. They were quite different. pl


RE: "One of the major errors being made in the US military concerning the present situation in Iraq is to view it solely as a COIN/CT problem...The Iraq situation is much more than that, but the US armed forces seem to be so hypnotised by the COIN/CT experience that they can see little else."

Col. sir,

I know you hate us quoting from the Ancients but...

"[Foreknowledge] cannot be inferred from comparison of previous events,... but must be obtained from people who have knowledge of the enemy's situation."

Sun-Tzu, Chap.13



"I know you hate us quoting from the Ancients" Not so, I am an ancient now. pl


John Adamson

"Death to Mu'awiya." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu%27awiyah


David Habakkuk


You hit a crucial nail on the head.

Ironically, precisely because Cordesman is not so stupid as so many of the overeducated imbeciles who shape policy in Washington – and also London and elsewhere in the West – his failure illustrates the utter bankruptcy of contemporary Western foreign policy elites.

The world is very imperfectly controllable. Certainly, it can often be effectively controlled, either by violence or by manipulation. But such control presupposes that you are not simply in possession of one kind or other of the sinews of power, but also have some understanding of those one is attempting to control.

Absent such understanding, one’s attempts to control are liable to blow up in one’s face. And such understanding is impossible if 1. one lacks any ‘local knowledge’, and is contemptuous of it – in particular in relation to alien cultures and military technicalities, 2. one is too arrogant and silly to look for advice to people who have such ‘local knowledge’, and 3. one is in the grip of a preening sense of one’s own virtuousness and rationality, which makes it difficult to comprehend not only the motives of others but also one’s own. (This condition seems endemic in both Washington and London at the present time.)

Of course the wicked old imperialist in me, as also the congenital civilian, instinctively prefers manipulation – ‘ divide et impera’ – to violence. What I find difficult to understand is the level of inanity which can push people who could easily have been kept apart into uneasy alliances. To create a situation where the ISIS fruitcakes are supported by extremely capable former Iraqi army officers must, one might have thought, have required ineptitude of a quite staggering order.

To create a situation where the Russians are eager to embrace the status of a junior partner to China, quite patently the only power which might pose a significant geopolitical challenge to the U.S., likewise seems to indicate a collapse of the ability of think strategically.


Touché, mon Colonel...


RE: "In the Cold War it was pretty common for US and Soviet military people to associate with each other in the third world."

Col., do you think this was what contributed to us not having nuclear war?

At least the lines were clearly delineated/demarcated.

But in the world of to-day however... (who's friend & who's foe?)


Fred: You, me, and every other American are the actual targets of this "operation." Our government is doing what it does best: spending all day every day telling us that it knows what it's doing.

Mr. Putin also has a strategy. See http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-06-20/russia-reignites-proxy-war-putin-offers-complete-support-iraq-prime-minister-scorned

I guess we'll see who's right.


DH: As the Colonel has reminded us many times, it can be career suicide in Washington to actually be right!

Better to echo the conventional wisdom.



I assume most of the American advisers and CIA operatives in Iraq are Forward Air Controllers intended to direct close air support and B-1 and B-52 air strikes. This worked with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and in Libya to force regime change in each country.

Besides running out of gas and being attacked on the flanks, the Shiite Iraqi forces have other problems. The USA is only going to attack the Sunnis if American personnel or facilities are threatened. American allies, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, support ISIS. The USA may have even supplied the TOWS weapons to “moderate” Jihadists that took out the Iraqi Abrams tanks posted here earlier.

As you said, it is time to get every American out of Iraq. ISIS won’t think twice about more beheadings. If the Shiite offensive runs out of gas and is attacked from the flanks and does not get American air support, the surviving Shiites will turn on any Americans left in Baghdad. Close Air Support can’t rescue Americans besieged in the Green Zone that takes ground troops, LZs, and evacuation helicopters.

Iran will be forced to send in their regular army to protect Shiite religious sites. As a consequence, the Sunni Shiite Jihad will overwhelm the Persian Gulf cutting off Middle East oil, decapitating the House of Saud, and collapsing the world economy. This speculation doesn’t even include for the possible adverse outcomes from NATO’s warm war with Russia in Ukraine.

These consequences are so dire; isn't it is time to give peace a chance?


"I assume most of the American advisers and CIA operatives in Iraq are Forward Air Controllers" Just about all CIA "operatives" are ex-military and that is where they learned to direct air strikes. It is really not difficult to do especially with laser target designation. pl



Todd knows where his bread is buttered and it is on his mother's side of the family. pl

Lord Curzon

Hahaha! That'll get the Saudis' arses twitching!!

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