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09 August 2014


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I struggle to envision an operational theory that would suggest to US decision-makers that this course of action is the best to follow.

Obama must feel sufficiently constrained by personal beliefs (esp prior opposition to the Iraq War) or domestic political considerations to on the one hand allow bombing missions but then to keep them on such a miniscule scale. One would think that if the White House truly believed its own rhetoric about genocide in the making it would pursue something larger. Are three airstrikes an appropriate response to genocide in the era of "never again"? Especially given Obama & Kerry's blessing of Israel's much stronger response to a much smaller threat.

Or perhaps there are some logistical constraints? Does not the fact that the sorties are being launched from Gulf-based carriers instead of from Incirlik or Batman suggest that the Turks are not playing ball yet?

I certainly hope the limited response isn't the result of underestimating ISIS. That mentality should have been buried in 2012.

It seems that a much, much heavier and sudden campaign would be much more decisive than a slow increase from a tiny start point. Not especially for the weight of bombs themselves, as their effectiveness as mobile artillery would seem to be blunted by well-dispersed enemy that isn't so reliant on big, bulky equipment. Rather, the effect would be, as you say, the psychological power a massive US intervention would have on ally and foe alike. The Peshmerga would have their resolve stiffened knowing that whatever happened before, the US is a game-changer. Likewise, the non-true-believers among ISIS (especially recent conscripts) will have their enthusiasm dimmed by the aura of US power. This psychological punch is thrown away by using such limited and halfhearted strikes. I would think the 2001 air-land offensive in Afghanistan would be a model (though our 2011 Cyrenaica experience should temper this).

Perhaps the intel from the KRG suggested that there was no time to prepare a larger air-ground campaign, that Irbil's fall was imminent without something, anything.


"Armies, especially third world armies, are fragile instruments when they have experienced reverses."

Know that because I live in 3rd world country whose military became very fragile due to a string of setbacks.
Having leaders (some of the military high command and the politicians) who had lost the touch with reality and getting ordered to achieve insane objectives with mounting losses and fighting a UNPOPULAR war will destroy most armies.

But important point to note is the status of Iraqi army's officer corps. Does the rank and file TRUST and RESPECT their officers? If they don't it may already be a lost war.


Looking at Syria the Iranians and Russian may be wiser with their advice. Hold back, defend, consolidate, work out the logistics and only then go on attack. Set aims that are possible to achieve with the resources available.

To now attack with the much overvalued Peshmerga and some bits left of the ISF will achieve nothing but demoralized troops and lots of dead and wounded.

ISIS captured some 4 divisions worth of heavy equipment and ammunition. Why isn't the U.S. flying sorties to destroy this stuff in preparation for later attacks by Iraqi/Kurdish forces? It can not have all vanished in the desert.


"Why isn't the U.S. flying sorties to destroy this stuff in preparation for later attacks by Iraqi/Kurdish forces?" Obama does not want to fight. pl



I don't know much about the Kurdish army under combat conditions but Maliki's army that we trained and armed are in my opinion already defeated psychologically.

My deduction therefore is that the US army will be inducted under challenging conditions to snatch victory from defeat. Possibly setting up another quagmire of occupation.

Sir, how do you see this play out?

I am glad we have your wisdom and SST to make sense of the mayhem.



IMO there is better than a 50% chance of a demonstration of incapacity by the PM/Maliki types. In that case I think it is likely that US forces air/ground will find themselves in Kurdistan. pl

FB Ali

The US does not want to seriously weaken, much less destroy, the IS forces. US policymakers have adopted (as they usually do) the Israeli policy on this: let these guys deal with our enemies (Iran, Hizbullah, Assad), then, if they start becoming a nuisance, we'll deal with them.

All that Obama has done is lay down a couple of 'red lines': Erbil and the Kurdish enclave, and Baghdad. If necessary, the US will defend these, with airpower and SF, if required.

:-) See: http://www.moonofalabama.org/2014/08/what-obama-told-the-caliph.html

The beaver


The latest :


A Peshmerga brigadier is claiming they have killed Omar the Chechen. Omar was was the commander that had organized most of the ISIL advance toward Kurdistan. They said he led more than 1,000 fighters. No mention if they actually have his body and can prove the claim.


Per wikipedia I understand he was half Georgian orthodox christian and half Chechen muslim.




Dear Colonel,

I agree with your odds and they are alarming.

A Kurdistan with its back against Iran and Turkey who still supports IS against Assad (in fairness to Erdogan, so does the US, shockingly) means a very long logistical corridor to safe (!?!) Shiite Iraqi south and then to the coast with the goal of maintaining long-term support for Kurdistan to defend a very long border from continuous attacks and infiltration.

Thus, IMO, a critical need is Turkish support or at a minimum acquiescence. Given Turkish Kurdistan politics, this seems of low probability.

Still, a decent force in Kurdistan could maintain a corridor to Baghdad to evacuate Americans once Baghdad becomes besieged. If the latter strategy is key, Suleiman Beg and or Tus Khurmatu (South Kurdistan) are where the counter attack should come.

I am betting the counterattack will be towards the Mosul Dam where IS has good supply lines for materials and re-inforcements.

Why do I think such a risky strategy (Mosul Dam) will be adopted? Because I see the US strategy as attempting to satisfy too many objectives, including strengthening the Iraqi state (implying Sunni joining under Maliki et al. again), buffering Iran, demonstrating Pershmerga resolve and capability, and as you noted, testing IS fragility.

Note, airstrikes near Mosul could be a feint.


b and FB Ali

With respect, you both are quite wrong about this. IS is in no sense an instrument of US policy. Obama is a feckless professor type who is way out of his depth. He is groping from day to day to find some way to react to the IS phenomenon which was caused by the ignorant meddling of both his and the Bush Administration under the influence of the neocons and the CC crowd. You vastly overrate the foresight and ability to coordinate long range planning among the 1%ers. To my shame I worked among them both in the US and overseas for ten long years after I left government. I rarely met any who had any political knowledge at all other than some idea as to how to bribe a third world government official or a simple scheme as to how to screw a competitor or the work force. US policy is NOT controlled by the captains of industry. It is controlled by simpletons in the media, ideologues like the Zionists and academic types who should never have been given a job in government. Sorry. pl



We have seen the collapse of the Iraqi army and the panicked flight of a number of minority populations in Iraq. The former was corrupted by the Maliki government. The latter have no military organization to speak of (if they ever had any). To say that does not bode well for a counterattack against ISIS or to fight in place is an understatement. On top of the lack of moral and an organized, equipped and trained force in place is the other ingredient - time.

ISIS is fighting on three fronts - Syria, Kurdistan and Souther Iraq. That means ISIS has a front thousands of kilometers long. They have not consolidated their control locally. They have virtually no airpower (if any at all). Doesn’t that expose the logistics network of ISIS heavy forces (artillery etc) to commando attacks and air interdiction called in from spotters? What forces do the Kurds have available from which they could allocate a portion dedicated to reconnoissance and disruption activities? Can they field it effectively and will the US provide air support?

What if anything is available from the Iraqi army to do the same thing? Did the latter not receive some Russian equipment (hopefully more than the handful of aircraft reported a week ago.). Can they be used for interdiction of ISIS forces?

Politically doesn't’ this call for a change in our position regarding the Russian Federation and Syria? (I didn’t mention the latter’s forces but isn’t ISIS their biggest threat even though is was a stepchild of the US fostered rebellion?). How long might that change take? (hopefully sooner than when hell freezes over.)


Does anybody find the Iraqi general's claims of 70% dead on the mountain believable at all? Does the Iraqi military or government think this kind of talk is going to help them? I also find what he says about no parachutes on the drops suspect. It's almost like he's trying to shame the US into going away. And of course the question arises, why did it take so long for him and his helicopters to get there?

... "The helicopter, which was sent by the Iraq Army Aviation force, dipped low, opened its gun bays and dropped water and food into the arms of the waiting refugees.
General Ahmed Ithwany, who led the mission, told The Telegraph “it is death valley. Up to 70 per cent of them are dead.”

Two American aid flights have also made it to the mountain, where they have dropped off more than 36,000 meals and 7,000 gallons of drinking water to help the refugees.
However, Iraqi officials said that much of the US aid had been “useless” because it was dropped from 15,000ft without parachutes and exploded oin impact."




"The former was corrupted by the Maliki government." No! No! No! It was never any good! you cannot build a first rate army in ten years under foreign tutelage. It takes a long time. A long time. A good army is NOT a collection of pieces of military equipment. It is a human social group, in some sense a family with an organic life. That was never built by the idiots who tried to train the new Iraqi army and who falsely lied in reports about how great it was. People bought appointments to command under Maliki? All promotion for officers was by purchase in the British army until the Cardwell reforms in the middle of the 19th century. Did they not fight well before that? pl

FB Ali

Col Lang,

I don't believe, and I have never claimed, that the IS was created by the US or as a result of US policy. However, I do think that it is now being used by the US (along with the Saudis and Israelis) for achieving certain goals (threatening and weakening Iran, Hizbullah and Assad).

I think ISIS was aided by Bandar and the Saudis (Bandar worked closely with the Israelis). They created the jihadi opposition to Assad and funded and supplied weapons to all the factions. IS's present power and primacy is largely due to al Baghdadi's strategic sense.

I fully agree with your view of US policy-making.


FB Ali,

This is what I've been afraid of but I stil have hope that this administration is trying to engage in our own (shaking off) intifada of Israeli policy.
My goodness! How many more times can we be shamed before the entire world?



The IS phenomenon has nothing to do with US policy. Did Saudi Arabia encourage Islamists in Syria? Yes, they did but Saudi Arabia does not take orders from the US. the US has IMO foolishly sought to depose the Syrian government but that does not make THIS group a product or an instrument of US policy.


fb ali

"I do think that it is now being used by the US (along with the Saudis and Israelis) for achieving certain goals (threatening and weakening Iran, Hizbullah and Assad" With respect I do not think that is true. I have tried to communicate in these pages for many years the utter ineptitude of American policy making since the end of the Cold War and I see that I have failed. The truth remains that the diverse nature of the American polity and constitution is an absolute bar to the kind of conspiratorial fantasy indulged in by people like "b." pl


Mike, Wipe 'em out!!





Col. Pat,

I'm a nobody just trying to learn what to advocate and pray for. Our mistake was giving some winking and nodding to them in Syria.

On this we agree.


I'm not a conspiracy theorist either. Simple ineptitude and myopic self-interest on the part of individuals wading to the top of our media-driven "elite" is more than enough to explain our current circumstances.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

I think I did not word my point correctly. I agree with you that here has not been any US "policy" to either assist or even use the IS.

What I meant to state was that US policy makers probably do now see the utility of the IS in furtherance of their policy of weakening Iran. Thus they are, in my view, unlikely to try to destroy or even seriously weaken it. However, as Obama has made clear, the US will not allow them to attack US citizens or its friends without acting strongly against them.

I fully agree with you on "the utter ineptitude of American policy making since the end of the Cold War".


FB Ali

"US policy makers probably do now see the utility of the IS in furtherance of their policy of weakening Iran. Thus they are, in my view, unlikely to try to destroy or even seriously weaken it." They are not that clever and are rent by internal conflicts. They are much divided among themselves in state and at the NSC. These are children. they are not capable of this level of conspiracy. This is something that you or I might do if we were of an evil disposition. Yesterday at state these idiots informed the PR people of the impending strikes without telling the ops center. Today I am told that DoD has decided that the IS force is the most capable non-Israeli army in the ME. pl


I confess, just about everyone here is more knowledgeable than I. I will, as a result, add a question related to the later thread Rolling the Dice, on the shoot down of the Malaysian Airlines flight. I saw this piece earlier in the week: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/08/systematically-reconstructing-shoot-malaysian-airliner-guilt-clear-damning.html
I have found the photographic evidence presented rather convincing, but I imagine many here have intelligence information and BS meters more fine-tuned than mine.
On the discussions in this thread, I will defer to all those who point to Obama's academic seminar approach to this and the neo-con and R2P agendas not to mention the hubris of our recent presidents plus the dysfunction of Congress.
I would appreciate any assessment of the reliability of Robert Parry on Consortiumnews or Eric Zuesse's pieces.



yes the British army you refer to fought very well. Are not most of the planners of the ISIS forces made up from the men Bremer fired ten years ago when he disbanded the Iraqi (Saddam's) army?

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