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19 September 2014


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FB Ali

There appears to be little doubt that Obama is not getting into this war because he wants to. He is being forced to do it because of the noise being made by the 'usual suspects'.

He has to be seen to be 'doing something'. So he has chosen a path that is likely to at least not make things worse even if they don't get much better. And it will take a long time, by when it'll be somebody else's problem.

That's what we all need to worry about - what the next president is likely to do.


I am willing to fight ISIS to the last Saudi royal.


You mean that Obama may be waffling on the issue of whether the US foreign policy establishment is the final authority on matters of political legitimacy in the Middle East? Wow! This notion defies everything I have read in the press!

Imagine what would happen if the consent of the governed played a role in determining who ran Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Anarchy would instantly break out inside the beltway. America would have been rendered dispensable.

ISIS cannot possibly be allowed to undermine American prerogatives.

different clue

F B Ali,

I hope this hopeful-seeming analysis is correct. If this particular kind of intervention on ISIS can be slow-walked in circles till the next Presidential election, it gives somebody time to run in the primaries against going further on this road and offering some realistically better alternative .
If Rand Paul runs through the Republican primaries, people can vote for him in hopes of a winding down of foreign adventures. Is there any possible Democrat who could offer the same thing in the Democratic primaries?

Bill H

FB Ali
That isn't the way things went in Libya, and this course of rhetoric has too many echos of the Libyan campaign in it for me to take comfort. From protecting people on the mountain in Northern Iraq and Americans in Irbil, we went to retaking the Mosul dam, then to stopping ISIS in Iraq, then to bombing ISIS in Syria, then to arming the "moderate rebels" in Syria. How can we not suppose that "we will not stop until Assad is gone" will not be the next step?

Mark Logan


Watched the UN security council kabuki today, and was struck by hardly anybody even mentioning Assad. Iran and Turkey made a few short, mostly benign comments and that was all. Elephant, carefully ignored. Kerry occasionally thanked a Gulf State for their "generosity".

WAG: The Arab Gulf states have agreed to fund a "long war" of strangulation on IS, but in exchange they will not be publicly lectured about or have to admit a role in creating them, most specifically about funding the Syrian civil war. We would not appreciate that as well, I imagine. Raises a question if everybody is actually as dead-set on toppling Assad as they wish to appear.


"The US president may decide in the end that this is not his war, and that it is best to return to his country to fortify it against terrorism, and let ISIS unleash itself on everyone until it commits suicide or until it is slayed eventually."

First of all, the Obama Administration has been dutifully following the NeoCon's footsteps. Going into bad situations and making them worse time after time. For that reason alone, the quote above seems like wishful thinking.

Secondly, the IS didn't "just happen". It is a direct result of the NeoCon policies which Obama is carrying on. This includes our support of the Syrian opposition / regime change.

So IS and its ilk will most certainly NOT be going away, for the simple reason that we have been continuously enabling their growth in terms of:

* funneling weapons into the region

* allowing or possibly even encouraging funding channels from oil kingdoms (ostensibly for "freedom fighters" in Libya, Syria, etc)

* maintaining conditions of chaos, which gives them multiple places in the region, to operate free of any authority that would shut them down

* providing them with the public relations bonanza of our continued middle east adventures

* systematically eliminating many other alternative, less extreme, forms of government in the region

* over the past 11+ years, displacing and ruining the lives of huge numbers of people who have nowhere else to go.

I think it's tragic how this stuff has been buried by the BS coming out of the White House.

Babak Makkinejad



A trenchant overview. Thanks.


FB Ali
It may be a mistake to assume Obama, is intentionally not taking action. He is pursuing a climate control accord to get around the senate, that would use shaming. I may be wrong but I don't recall shaming every being used as a tool of foreign policy. Shaming being the stick to get results. Lost in his head, he may actually think he is being decisive and very dynamic when he attempts to denigrate and shame.

FB Ali


The point I was making in my earlier post was that it seemed to me that Obama didn't really want to get into this war, and is trying to limit US involvement. But, as has been often pointed out on this blog, what Obama desires and what his administration actually does are two different things (the latest being the pertinent observations of Confused Ponderer on the ME Diary - 19 Sep thread today at 4.15 AM).

Babak Makkinejad

Obama needs to look like he is doing something - and does some small things here and there against ISIS.

Persian Gulf Arabs still think that they can use ISIS (population 6 million) against the Resistance Axis (population 120 million) and do not wish ISIS destroyed.

Turkey supports ISIS.

EU states also wish to keep ISIS going as a tool for regime change in Syria - in that they and US and Arabs of Persian Gulf are on the same page.

Iranians comprehend that ISIS is a threat to Persian Gulf Arabs and Jordan; they are going to fight against ISIS (only covertly) to the extent that they protect their friends and allies - destruction of ISIS is not something that they will undertake on their own.

So, seems to me, no one is really interested in exerting the required effort to destroy ISIS.

Which means that ISIS will grow.


"First of all, the Obama Administration has been dutifully following the NeoCon's footsteps. Going into bad situations and making them worse time after time. For that reason alone, the quote above seems like wishful thinking."

How do you factor in Obama's refusal to clean up Nuland's mess by sending military aid, and his refusal to bomb the Syrian government over chemical weapons?


Babak, how do you arrive at those figures?

The beaver


Matthew Lee from ICP asked Ja'afari why he was not speaking in the meeting . He replied to him "that Syria had not asked to speak, saying that the meeting was all about Iraq."

Ishmael Zechariah

Col. Lang, SST;

All 49 Turkish hostages are back in Turkey.

Ishmael Zechariah


I would strongly encourage you to read the linked report on the post "Understanding Syria, Part I," if you have not done so:


A few points from the report by William Polk linked on that post:

Syria is the size of Spain, but only 1/4 of its area is arable land - to visualize how small the arable land of Syria is, combine Maryland and Connecticut. This tiny area needs to feed a population that has grown eight-fold, (from 3,000,000 to 24,000,000) in the past 60 years. The agricultural improvements in seed and other innovations have not kept pace with population growth.

Syria is a particularly tragic case of an unprecedented disconnect between agricultural production and population pressures.

A mere < 10% of the surface area of Syria is permanent cropland

The minimum amount of rainfall for agriculture is 8 inches; between 2006 -2010, Syria probably averaged only 4 inches of rainfall (annually) during the drought years. IOW, Syria received only *half* the minimal amount of rainfall needed for crop production.

This lack of rainfall put additional pressure on aquifers to feed irrigation systems; however, the aquifers had been depleted to a point at which many farmers were no longer able to tap into the water table. Meanwhile, Iraq and Turkey have been drawing down the available water from the Euphrates (leaving less for irrigation in Syria). The upshot is that fewer acres can be irrigated, and there is not enough water for grazing or livestock (i.e., in addition to few crops, you now also have deficits in animal protein).


Add onto these problems with the biological and chemical processes that support life, the fact that our current economic, political, and legal systems are structured to support large multinational conglomerates, and you begin to glimpse the disconnect between disruptions in the processes that support life, and our ability to address those problems in a timely, meaningful fashion.

It's a fair guess that 'chaos' is going to be unleashed for quite some time; the figures that William Polk provides - along with rainfall and demographic maps - show a system profoundly out of (biological) balance.

The recommendations from the WH and Western governments will almost certainly focus around military solutions, rather than addressing the severe agricultural and climate issues that are fundamentally disrupting the biological systems needed to support a mostly-young population of 24,000,000.

I have a high regard for the US military, but I am tired of seeing them expected to address problems that are fundamentally driven by population pressures, climate disruptions, and the extremist ideologies that these problems spawn.

As for the neocons, they are ill-suited to deal with the kinds of problems that William Polk's report reveals. As David Habbukak has pointed out in past comments, they obsess on Straussian interpretations of textual analysis; they won't find much in those texts to help them understand the chemical processes involved in declining soil fertility, nor the engineering or hydrological information necessary to think through the issues involved in declining irrigation resources. The neocons are supremely ill-quallifed to address the kinds of problems that Mr. Polk's report reveals. And from what little I can decipher about the DoState, they're almost as ill-equipped as the neocons to address the problems in the report linked at that most interesting SST post.

I highly recommend anyone following the news of ISIS read that report by Mr. Polk.


IZ & all,

So now what will be Erdogan's excuse as to why facilities such as Incirlik just can't be permitted to be used? This ought to be good...

Babak Makkinejad

Iran 80 million
Shia in Lebanon 1.8 million
Shia in Iraq 21 million
Kurds in Iraq 6.0 million
Syrian Arab Republic (assuming half the population supports the government) 12 million

FB Ali

Syria is just one example of the effects of factors such as climate change, exploding birth rates, etc leading to political upheaval, the breakdown of states, the rise of predatory armed groups, epidemics, massive numbers of fleeing refugees, who in turn impose even greater strains on other already shaky countries, etc.

These processes and their effects are only going to increase, perhaps dramatically. So far the US and the West have come up mainly with military solutions (defensive, such as increasing border security and tightening immigration rules, and offensive, such as forming military alliances and fighting armed groups that are always labelled as "terrorists"). Such solutions are mere bandaids, and do nothing to deal with the basic problems facing the world.

I suppose in the policy enclaves of the West there exist notions that, if all else fails, ultimately the West can pull up the drawbridges, arm the ramparts, and continue its privileged lifestyle within while the world outside goes to pieces. Just another pipedream destined to come crashing down. By then it'll be too late to do anything, except say goodbye!

Mark Logan

The beaver,

Did Lee report if Ja'afari successfully managed to suppress a grin when he said that?

Babak Makkinejad

This is all true but I think the War-in-Syria-to-Wound-Iran has resolved much of it by causing millions of Syrians to leave Syria.

I expect many millions, once the shooting stops, will never be able to go back to Syria and resume their lives; they will become a problem for Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.

The beaver

@ Mark

Can't say but I can ask him :-)


Thank you, I was curious about the six million IS number, so I think you are talking about IS' 'rear' of six million citizens to be be harnessed for their war effort? I wonder how feasible this is. What would you assess the breakdown be among disillusioned Ba'athists, Wahhabis who have been filtering in since AQI's beginnings, the current influx of Wahhabis, etc., as compared to the average Sunni citizen. How easy or difficult will it be for IS to force them into servitude?

Babak Makkinejad

The population of Nineveh governorate is 3.2 million; Saladin 1.4. Al Raqqah's population is close to 1 million souls, Al Hasaka's population is 1.6 million, and 1.2 million souls in Dayr az-Zawr [Deir ez-Zor].

Those are roughly the areas controlled by ISIS.

I have no idea about the political/religious affiliations of the various people now living under ISIS.

But NAZI Germany was successfully bestriding Europe for much of the duration of World War II and successfully exploiting the resources of a continent to fight on two fronts.

I do not see any reason for ISIS not to be able to do so.

The English controlled Ireland for centuries and exploited her resources - and any dissent was met with hanging.

ISIS would do the same.

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