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10 August 2014


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Let's see - We're intervening in Iraq/Kurdistan to save the few hundred Americans located at our consulate and in the surrounding area. And please remind me how many Russian citizens living in eastern Ukraine are being attacked by Ukrainian government forces? Should be an interesting UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday...

The beaver

"...they will have to start operating from Batman and Incirlik in Turkey...."

The fact that they haven't so far would seem to imply that Turkey is not allowing them to do so."

Couldn't it be also because :
1. Erdogan is waiting whether he becomes the Sultan (elections were held today)
2. The Consul and his staff are still hostages of the IS in Mosul ( or nearby) - I haven't heard about them in the news since then


Dear FB Ali,

There also is a long history of Turkey being non-sympathetic to the independent Kurdish state in Iraq as they (probably correctly) assume Kurdistan will eventually set eyes on Kurdish Turkey

Thus, I cant see current events motivating a policy change in Istanbul. I also note, the US was unable to pressure Turkey to allow use of their territory during the Iraq war when US soldiers were in the firing line, hard to envision any change now.


You know, you'd think that this would be a job for some of the airborne units the US Army has. Parachute the 82nd ABN, 173rd, and 4/25th into northern Iraq and have them form a buffer.

Of course, I wonder if we even have that capacity anymore, after years of COIN, FOBs, and "nation building" schizophrenia. Could we send a "First Airborne Army", have them live independently of contractors and AAFES, and prosecute a war?

Mind you, this isn't a vote in favor of sending anyone into Iraq, but more of an open question if we could do a sustained independent operation anymore now that we've done away with our organic support elements in favor of hiring cooks from KBR for $80K in order to sling hash and eggs. This isn't even touching on the rotting morale in the RA, which has apparently become another social petri dish. My understanding is that marksmanship and squad drills take a backseat to "gender sensitivity awareness" and "sexual assault training".

Brave new progressive army. I wouldn't be surprised if ISIL gets more trigger time than the supermajority of our combat arms units.

Groucho Sarx

Things like NATO do seem really antiquated and the West seems to be getting more and more stagnant. Even the issues they seem to get riled up about are anachronistic. I think the current problem with IS started with the West's covert support of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan. Afte that,they supported the KLA jihad against Serbia. They covertly supported jihadis against Russia in Chechnya (I read about evidence SAS was assisting the jihadis-- I'm sure it'll never come back and bit you in the ass, Nigel: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2679587/Racist-thugs-jailed-battering-two-men-death-baseball-bats-werent-Muslim.html). Conservatives like to hype on Benghazi, but should we care about four guys who were involved in a covert arms-running operation to the guys now slitting the throats of Christian babies in Iraq and Syria?! Have you watched the IS propaganda videos (w/ English subtitles)?!! I would love to get Col. Lang's commentary on them. You see U.S. weapons bring used against ISF tanks and humvees. Insane.

China does seem to be the future, with its high average IQ and a burgeoning Christian population (China will have the largest Christian population of any country in the world soon).

Sorry for the desultory remarks, the wife's out of town and I've had few bad ice cubes in my drinks. ;-)


Even if they do, they will still have to work out some form of modus vivendi, I'd think. The Sunni and Kurdish parts will be landlocked and the Sunni part, especially, will be lacking for money. However, they will control a lot of other infrastructure (power plants for example) that the other parts will need also. Might as well be a confederation even if they decide to be "sovereign" states somehow.


Groucho Sarx

"I would love to get Col. Lang's commentary on them." What is there to say? "A tale told by an idiot..." from start to finish beginning with the invasion of Iraq, proceeding through a bungled occupation to an idiot's re-formulation of the Iraqi state including the botched creation of a new Iraqi Army." I opposed all this and so have no apologies to make. pl


I have to disagree with you on China, which is a high functioning thin crust on top of miles of dysfunctional society. Trust between individuals is non existent, and those lauded PISA scores only test Shanghai. The majority of the country is poor peasantry or rote laborers that's only able to copy what the West gives them. Innovation in China just doesn't happen. You think the shell game in the US with real estate is bad? Well at least we don't have multiple ghost cities like in China.

Groucho Sarx

Here's the IS propaganda video: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=efe_1403037495 with English subtitles. Can the religion make them into such ghoulish psychopaths?

Taking out Saddam was a catastrophic mistake, agreed. But I have a hard time believing the Iraq war created these jihadis coming from London, Rotterdam, Sydney,... The disposition and inclination to brutal homicide that seems very prevalent this demographic is disturbing. Aren't you concerned about the Islamic threat to civilization? Will there be a slow descent into a very long dark age of civilization, a devolution of civilization?


Denis Firat, Turkish Kurd journalist, was killed at Makhmour in Iraqi Kurdistan Friday night by IS mortar fire.


She has been the eyes and ears of the events in Iraqi Kurdistan for the millions of Kurds in Turkey. Her body is being transferred to her home village near Lake Van. She is being called a martyr and tens of thousands of Turkeys Kurds have been greeting and mourning her coffin as it is being transported for burial.


Anybody here remember Dickey Chapelle? She was the photojournalist who covered the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, European refugee camps, the Hungarian Uprising of 56 (where she spent seven weeks in a communist jail cell), went to Laos with the Special Forces, Mekong Delta with MACV advisors, and KIA south of Chu Lai with the Marines in 65?

Deniz was like Dickey, covering the front, while their more well-known male colleagues from the big networks cover the wars from the bar in Hotel Divan in Erbil or the Hotel Caravelle in Saigon.



Groucho Sarx

Some years ago I was at a faculty lunch at a college where I had spoken. at table a poly sci prof asked if he had heard me correctly as having said to the audience that the thing to remember about these Muslim dominated societies that we were fooling with was that the great majority of people in these place did not want to be like us. He was shocked and replied that if he believed that he would have to re-evaluate the worth of our culture. You appear to have the same problem as he. I have written endlessly here over the last nine years on the consensual nature of Islam, on the many varieties of belief among groups of Muslims as to the virtue of their opinion as to what is Islam. I am bored with the subject. Am I afraid that militant Islam will destroy Western civilization? No. Are you planning to convert to Wahhabi Islam? No? Well, therein lies your answer unless you are so cowardly as to think that people can be bullied so easily. pl



"I think the current problem with IS started with the West's covert support of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan. "

Ultra conservative reform movements within Islam only started in the 1980's? That's a stretch. The Ikhwan in Saudi Arabia arose a century ago. As to China, less than 3% of the 2 billion people there are Christian. You should do some basic research.



I have been studying Islam and the peoples of the Islamic culture continent 40 odd years. I have lived there a lot and speak Arabic fluently. Islam is a religio-political construct that has always seen itself as a path to a theocracy of some sort. Various groups of Muslims have made "revolutions" directed to that end ever since the coming of Islam in the 7th Century AD. These waves of enthusiasm usually take the form of an attempt to re-produce what is imagined to be early Islamic practice. the waves occur every hundred years or so. We are in the midst of one now. Fred is right. You need to study up on this whole subject. pl


Have you considered writing a book on Islam given your experiences ? Sounds like it could be very interesting.



Try Marshall Hodgson's "The Venture of Islam" in three volumes. I have no interest in writing such a book. I have learned much about Islam in pursuit of my other interests. pl


That darkage you speak of will be a local and regional phenomenon, to the detriment of local religious minorioties. How bad it gets we will see, but it is plenty bad news already.

As Mr. Lang pointed out, in this darkage, the Christians and Jews are at least nomionally offered the choice of payment of jizya (the dhimmi tax on second class people), conversion or the sword.


The term is old fashioned, but ISIS is quite literally making Christians in Syria into martys.

As for the others religious groups - ISIS videos speak for themselves. ISIS conduct towards Alawites, Alevites, Druze, Yezidis, Shia, Bahai and so forth can without any exaggeration be described as genocidal. To ISIS they are murtadoon, apostates, and are killed.

I observe that the 'genocide chick', Samantha Powers, who wrote the proverbial book on genocide, is silent. What, no responsibility to protect Christians, Yezidis or Alawites?

It is not hard to see why for instance Syrian government forces, faced with an enemy like this, give no quarter. They aren't given any, and ISIS brags about it. The longer this savagery goes on, the worse it will get.

Looking at this, there is a clear incentive for the minorities in ISIS way to band together or mutual support and defence, and carve out sanctuaries. I see the collaboration between Iran, Hezbollah and Assad in this light.

Will it suffice? We will see.

But I can't see an islamic horde overrun Europe. One can only invite so many enemies. What I can see is that this willl result in some really nasty terrorist attacks here.

Groucho Sarx

UK Telegraph (4/19/14): China to Become Most Christian Nation Within 15 Years

While there has been ultra-conservative Islam, the weapons and logistics support in Afghanistan in the 1980's emboldened modern jihadism and even glamorized it (thanks Charlie Wilson). I had hopes the aerial drone would be the game-changing demoralizer to end this. But when I watch U.S. gun camera video on strikes against insurgents/jihadis, I am a little bothered by the relatively low levels of instant lethality of the strikes. Ten minutes of targeting and chatter and then the go ahead. Then you see a Hellfire missile hitting a crowd of about 4 or 5 with the half-dozen on the periphery quickly scattering with a few chased down with 30mm. This is an insanely backwater "modern warfare". It's like attacking a wasps nest with cherry bombs and BB guns rather than 20-foot stream of Raid. And if the rumors of 21st-century weapons used against insurgents (bioelectromagnetic, etc.) is true, why do all the retired colonels and generals say you can't take out an enemy from the air, you need boots on the ground.

Last point, when you see significant number of jihadi fighters (many converts and reverts) coming from the US and Europe, it no longer seems to a problem of understanding Middle East history and politics. It seems to be a genetic and psychological issue-- ideology, genetics, psychopathy. My hope is that science can discover this psychological and genetic predilection to violence and eliminate it. Have military and law enforcement to the way of buggy whip makers.


Groucho Sarx

"My hope is that science can discover this psychological and genetic predilection to violence and eliminate it." Childish nonsense. if you can't do better than spout social science cant at us I will stop posting your comments. pl


"I am a little bothered by the relatively low levels of instant lethality of the strikes."

While I am sure that Pakistanis and Yemenis don't quite see it that way - would you prefer carpet bombing since that obviously offers higher levels of instant lethality?


Col. Lang,

I'm not really clear on how the former military officers of Saddam's army expect to hold territory in Kurdish areas when it was already so difficult even when all of Saddam's horses were together. Pacification through elimination? Wasn't that already tried?

And then regarding Erdogan's support for IS, he also appears to have grudging support from the Kurdish minority, which sees his more accommodating treatment as much less harsh than in the 1990's and early 2000's. Is he not setting himself up in a very difficult position? While he may be a more kindred spirit of IS, isn't the substantial Kurdish population a much more immediate concern for him?




Civilians always think that military ordnance is more lethal than it is. you need to have been shelled a bit before you understand the truth. pl



since I don't have a penetrant or SIGINT on their intentions I couldn't say. I can only judge by their behavior. Erdogan has all kinds of forces acting on him. Remember 90% of Kurds are Sunni. pl

FB Ali


".... expect to hold territory in Kurdish areas...."

I doubt very much that is what the IS was trying to do. Their aim was to clean out the US presence in Erbil.


"My hope is that science can discover this psychological and genetic predilection to violence and eliminate it."

I used to think this way once upon a time. But realized eventually that that was a very idealistic and unrealistic way to look at human beings and human society. Suggest you read this very long but highly educational book:

War in Human Civilization, by Azar Gat


For the true believers in the Caliphate, all roads lead to Mecca. Indeed, without Mecca the Caliphate is in serious question. So for the real fanatics, everything so far is but preparation for the liberation of Mecca.

The political problem is that switching from attacks on Shiites and Kurds to attacking a major Sunni state will cause deep backlash, will likely end any aid from Sunni states, and will cross the Rubicon into slaughtering Sunnis and overthrowing Sunni governments.

Once they cross that line they are on borrowed time, and they know it. These are not people who care about niceties, but they appear to understand that the plan has to fit the political battlefield.

The military problem is how to project and supply a force that far from their bases. They cannot afford a war of attrition, so they need a quick decision. That would require mobile operations going deep into Saudi Arabia. Can a newly organized state with stolen weapons really mount something like that? Against Saudi and American air power? And all those billions of dollars the Saudis spent on weapons?

Two historical events come to mind:

The dreaded Qarmatian heresy of the Middle Ages raided Mecca and stole the black stone, holding it hostage for years and terrifying the Muslim world and the Abbasids. The heresy was a Shiite religious revolt, so this was a legendary sectarian event and is well remembered.


The second is the mahdist uprising that seized Mecca in 1979. Forgotten by the west, this was a seminal event for Islamists, and the book written by its organizer was a core text of the Arab Afghan salafists. The inspirational effect on Bin Laden has been much commented upon.


So imagine a suicide convoy sent just to seize and hold Mecca. Image a large fifth column ready to join them in the defense. Imagine a Saudi Army no one trusts not to defect in battle. Image this in the new world of smartphones.

Broadcast live 24/7, the perfect propaganda event for the Caliphate's media arms.

This would be the worst possible legitimacy crisis for the kingdom; no matter how it played out. As a political assault alone, it could easily unravel the state.

Back in 1979 the Saudis supposedly had to use foreign troops and nerve gas to clear out a small and ill prepared cult of mahdist fanatics. Does anyone think they would do better today? Against elite Dash suicide commandos with tanks? On live video feeds?

It would also be a very convenient way to let all the hot head true believers go get martyred while the cold blooded cadre build the revolutionary state and prepare for the long war.

If the cold blooded veterans in Dash understand they aren't ready to take on Saudi, a Mecca suicide raid would be the default option that would satisfy the fanatics, and also get rid of them. Much cleaner than a night of long knives! If it pays off, so much the better, if not, so many more martyrs for the propaganda machine.

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