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04 August 2014


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Dear Colonel; that line immediately struck me too, before I read to your highlighting.

I would add that not only is this a period of consolidation, but relocating assets between fronts with notable new successes in Syria, and testing of defenses, importantly, including inside Lebanon.

Symbolically, Baghdad is important, but strategically, the dam and oil field are far more important, while demonstrating that the Pesha merga are not as experienced and capable as their publicity suggests, also would be a significant, rather than symbolic victory.

Funny how the times cant let symbolic go, probably as that is all that matters in the shining hill in the bubble. Certainly the militias failed in Tikrit.



You and many others here are in the process of becoming real military thinkers in our improvised staff college. Clausewitz would be proud as would be Michael Handel who was my mentor in the study of the great Prussian philosopher of war at the war college. pl


The Kurds have a border of over a thousand kilometers. And have to defend it all without airpower. ISIS or any other enemy can mass their troops on one point. The Kurds are leery of Maliki and Iran so have to protect all their border.

Kurdish BAS News is offline this morning. But as of late last night they were saying the Peshmerga were already reacting in a counteroffensive on ISIS elements in Shangal and Zumar.

I also note that the YPG the Syrian Kurdish militia are now working with the Peshmerga to throw ISIS out of those border areas.


And if they take the Haditha dam, they would control all the water supply and most of the electrical power for Baghdad. And this is the 'hot' season in that region. No water or power or A/C...the U.S. Embassy and the troops defending it will be in a problematic situation.

r whitman

Latest news. How much is real and how much is propagandahttp://news.yahoo.com/tunneling-triangle-death-islamic-state-aims-baghdad-south-144107518.html


BAS News is back online.


Unfortunately for the Yazidis still in the south end of Sinjar the Iraqi AF has started bombing. So although ISIS may be the target the Yaziidis if there are any left will take the brunt of the bombing.


"IS treats heterogeneous Islamic groups like all the Shia factions, Yazidis, Druze, etc. even worse that it does Christians or Jews"

This is probably like the difference between enemies and traitors. Traitors will get the worst treatment.

"after fierce battles with Kurdish security forces,"

Well Reuters said that the kurdish simply backed all their belongings including the A/C and got the hell out of there.


On Ukraine, those uki troops cornered near the Russian border seems to be escaping in to Russia in masses.


FB Ali

Col Lang,

Perhaps it would be relevant to reproduce my post of last night on the earlier IS thread, which most readers would have missed:

The only opponents that could stop and defeat the IS are the US, Turkey and Assad's Syria. The US appears to be so hung up on Iran that it shows no signs of intervening (it seems the Maliki/political settlement brouhaha is just a smokescreen). It may ultimately be forced to, but by then it is likely to be too late.

If Assad were supported, he could probably clear IS out of Syria with Hizbullah support. But there are no signs of such support either; in fact, to the contrary.

Turkey is unlikely to take a position until after Erdogan becomes President. I do not see him taking on the IS alone. Such a stance would also require him to abandon his opposition to Assad; he does not seem the type to easily give up grudges. There is a possibility that Erdogan could come to some understanding with the IS, which would immeasurably strengthen it.

Iran can (and will) protect the Shia areas of Iraq, but it cannot defeat the IS without the cooperation of the US and Turkey.

Another factor that could blunt the IS's expansion is bad policy decisions in the governance and military fields. So far they have not made any that I am aware of.

For now the cards seem aligned to enable the IS to grow stronger and expand. Much as I deplore that prospect, I must confess the image of the Saudi royals hiking up their robes as they run like rabbits is a pleasing one.


It seems the IS got a thing for dams. According to reports, IS is also advancing on Hadiha (which has the second largest dam). And the government supply lines to Haditha remains a narrow strip of land (compare the maps).


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Syria_and_Iraq_2014-onward_War_map.png (updated July map)


alba etie

Col Lang
I wonder how much of the ISL military capacity is still made up of the former Saddam Hussein Loyalist ? And when - if ever will we see the Saddam Loyalist part ways with al Baghdadi ?


The Siege of Vicksburg comes to mind. Appears that the Siege of Bagdad is what IS has in mind.


"Iran can (and will) protect the Shia areas of Iraq, but it cannot defeat the IS without the cooperation of the US and Turkey."

Unfortuneatly, the Iranians will only protect mainline Iraqi Shia. They despise the Kurdish Yazidi, Shabak. and Yarsanis as much or more than ISIS does and have executed many of them in Iran for being 'Enemies of God'. The Iranian Ayatollahs also have a religious war against the Bahai and Mandaeans many of whom are now being sheltered in Kurdistan.


Brigadier General Ali,

I am convinced that the rise of a militant Sunni State in the context of an Islam Holy War is an existential threat for the Global Economy. The world is on the path to the closure of the Strait of Hormuz and the use of the Pakistani nuclear bombs to keep the Saudi Princes’ heads attached and to prevent the Islamic State zealots from taking Mecca. Israel will be engulfed by the regional war.

It is the height of folly to be sending military advisers and war material to Ukraine to fight Russia when the well-being of American citizens is threatened by the Middle East Jihad. The United States has to join with EU, Russia, China, Turkey and Iran to control anarchy rather than spreading it across the world. The widening surrogate wars will one day inevitably blow-back on the peoples of Europe and North America.



There must still be quite a lot. It takes a long time to display the planning expertise that is on display. Brigadier Ali thinks they will not split. I have stopped arguing with him. pl

FB Ali

Col Lang,

My point is that so far there are no concrete signs (as against vague rumours) of a break between the IS and former Baathists and tribesmen. The way events are unfolding, this is likely to become increasingly difficult.

The biggest difficulty for the potential breakaways is that the alternative would be siding with the Shia militias, which are virulently anti-Sunni and also, so far, no match for the IS. What made it possible last time around was that, after breaking with AQI, they had the powerful US military as allies and protectors.

In his recent article on the IS, Patrick Cockburn has this to say on the subject:

“Believe me the destruction of the ancient mosques and the persecution of the Mosul Christians have left everyone here helpless,” writes a Sunni woman living in Mosul. “We are very angry and bitter.” But the anger is mixed with helplessness and there is no sign of a counter-revolution by the Iraqi Sunni against Isis which is becoming militarily more powerful by the day. Arabic television stations like al-Arabiya and Al Jazeera, see hopeful signs of Isis being displaced by the Sunni tribes, neo-Baathists and ex-army officers as happened in 2006 during the American occupation. But this time around Isis is expecting a stab in the back and has taken counter measures by demanding that all swear allegiance to the caliphate and arresting those it suspects of disloyalty. Its run of victories makes Isis difficult to displace and there is no sign of these ending........."



AE: Truly the ISL military's capability is negligible!

All: I recognize an opportunity to learn from careful readings and considerations of posts at SST and am truly grateful for the possibility, particularly in light of the media-at-large fantasies that I dreadfully fear are believed by much of our leadership (based on their actions).



Shouldn't this be seen as another strategic defeat of the ideology of the neocons at the hands of Islamist militants?

As I see it
Not only is Afghanistan not a stable Western style democracy but he of the fine hat and fat bank account (Karzai) has proven to be a corrupt Western educated politician in the richest traditions of Tammany Hall.
In Iraq we see another neocon favorite proven so corrupt that through misfeasance or malfeasance destroyed whatever cohesion the superbly equipped but incompetently lead New Model Army of Iraq had; so much so that it disintegrated in its first combat actions.
In Syria we see the self styled “Free Syrian Army” gutting like a fish by ISIS less than a year after the neocon front was pushing for intervention based on the “red line” of chemical weapons usage at Ghouta. The only thing louder than the silence of the guilty is the silence of the dead (very likely at the hands of the FSA) and the Western press.
In the Ukraine there are deliberate attempts at escalation in an effort to provoke a confrontation with the Russian Federation (a nuclear armed state that has never in its history attacked the United States) by the ideological fellow travelers of the world’s worst girl scout cooke distributor Mrs. Robert Kagan, otherwise known as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.
In Gaza we see the ongoing slaughter of the innocents at the hands of “America’s Best Ally in the Middle East” which has included not one, not two but fifteen (15) attacks on UN schools and compounds by the “Elite” IDF.
In Washington D.C. we saw the response of the best and brightest of the Republic. The President of the United States demanded the of Israel an “unconditional humanitarian ceasefire”. What the President received instead was an order from the Prime Minister of the client state of Israel “Don’t ever second-guess me again.” Obama has obeyed.Yet another defeat for the US.

Why is there no counter argument from any leader in politics, business, the press? Where are the religious leaders who are citizens of the Republic? If they do not have the courage to speak and act then why should anyone in the Middle East trust the United States while the neoconservative ideology remains the religion of political class and the press?


ISIS is very astute and seems to be playing all sides and have planted themselves in the strategic central location to take on Syrian gov, Iraq gov and now Kurd Peshmergs. All these sides are distrustful of each other and wracked by their own weaknesses. They could now start to destroy each side in detail. Gather resources, interdict transportation routes, pipelines, utilities and etc. And now they are amassing heavier captured weaponry to ultimately encircle Baghdad. What do you think is their end game here? Would they be able to take on Jordan next or should they be able finish off Assad? What would you do Col.?

Kurt J

I hope everyone is aware the US Marshal's have seized $100 Million dollars worth of Kurdish oil in a Tanker off the Texas Coast, this after a request and filing by the Iraqi Government. The Kurds asked for at least a delay in the court ruling but were denied by the Obama Administration. You can verify this at most Maritime Websites, maritimeglobalnews.com for instance. Huge news in the Maritime Industry, not something the MSM will bother with. The Kurds are understandably furious with the US and Maliki.
You might have a better understanding now of why the Kurds packed up.

The Twisted Genius

It may not be very Clauswitzian, but it does seem IS has Baghdad by the short and cur lies.

On the other hand, this is a promising sign. "The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Turkey-based activist Mustafa Osso said the group was forced to bring in reinforcements from neighboring Iraq after members of the Shueitat tribe drove jihadi fighters out of the villages of Kishkiyeh, Abu Hamam and Granij."




I think that the IS campaigns in Iraq and Syria are quite representative of "On War" taken as a whole. there is a good deal of subtlety in the plan of maneuver and psychological operations involved in what they have done. Clausewitz is often interpreted as an advocate of mass warfare and he is not that. pl



It seems you think I was insincere in what I said. That is not the case. pl


Hi, FB - I appreciate your pessimism, and I certainly do not have the knowledge or experience to contradict it. But I still wonder....

There was a time when Muqtada al-Sadr seemed to have more of a class-based position, and did seem to offer olive branches to Sunnis around a common anti-occupation position. Do you believe that a revival of such - class-based, but anti-Baghdad in this case - has been foreclosed? If there are any remaining Baathist true believers in the original Socialist orientation of that movement, it seems to me that an alliance could be built around the economics, the corruption in Baghdad, and the dire nature of life under IS - which is inimical to Sadr's constituency, to the Sufi elements currently allied with IS, and to the secular Baathists.

I thought at the beginning of the ISIS crisis that this would be a way both to stop them and to sideline Maliki, but I am not aware of any attempts within Iraq or by other actors to suggest or (quietly) encourage such an alliance.

I realize that is probably just my personal pipe dream, but I'm a sucker for multi-culti movements like the Yugo partisans in WWII. I know that eventually failed, but it wasn't inevitable and the failure had a lot of help from outside interested parties. Even so, it lasted for 45 years and that's an ample period of time to work out a longer-term solution; it's certainly better than a general war resuming in the embers of Iraq and its neighbors.

Thanks again for your clarification in response to our host. I always enjoy learning from your comments and essays.

The Twisted Genius


I was referring to my summation of the current state of affairs in Iraq as not being Clauswitzian. I agree that what IS has planned and carried out in Iraq and Syria has been remarkable. Their sophisticated understanding and skill in waging war is something we dismiss only at our great peril.

I see the same sophistication in how Novorossiya is waging its war. Only a few months ago Strelkov arrived in Slavyansk with less than two dozen men to take over a few buildings. Today he commands an effective fighting force capable of inflicting costly defeats on his enemy and, against all odds, putting Kiev on the verge of collapse.



I know you addressed FB Ali but I will tell you as I have many social scientists that marxist analysis of the ME is rarely productive. these wars are not not motivated by that kind of thing. pl

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