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16 September 2014


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You leave out the motivations of the Iraqi-Syrian supporters of the Islamic State.


I thought "special operators" was code for politicians working in the smoke filled rooms. Now if we only send 5400 of them into the Syrian Desert, their gain would be our gain. Win-win all around!

mistah charley, ph.d.

in reply to McGee

Prof. Bacevich is teaching a Massively Open Online Course, free and open to all, 7 weeks long, beginning a week from today, "War for the Greater Middle East"



mistah charly ph.D

I admire Becevich but I have told people that I do not want SST used as a bulletin board for other presentations. pl



They get to be ministers in the Caliphate or, maybe, they get their revenge against their former Shia oppressors with the "(Of course, a more aggressive version cannot be ruled out.)" possible result. In any case, they will no longer have to try to seek crumbs of participation from the Shia in the remaining Baghdadi and eastern part of Iraq which will continue as a satrapi of Iran.

All in all, watching the unwinding of all of this will be an interesting study.

mistah charley, ph.d.

to Col.Lang -



Funny story. It's in the Spiegel also.


Real interest in finding the truth or disinfo op? Dunno what to make of it.

Given the variouss interests involved this is probably going to be confusing and ambiguous.


Mark Logan said

"If Assad is really, really clever, he might covertly form his own "rebel group" and make this a real comedy."

Can't happen. They already said the rebels will be vetted.

Kidding aside, anyone who thinks even one rebel can be properly vetted needs to consider the case of Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi. Balawi was the thoroughly vetted 32-year old Jordanian doctor, married father of two, who blown himself up killing 5 CIA officers and 2 CIA contractors (one former Navy Seal and the other Army SF), as well as a high-level Jordanian intelligence officer and Afghan security chief. You had the CIA chief of base officer who had specialized in Bin Laden and counter-terrorism since 1989. Three experienced CIA case officers (one who was previously with the FBI and USMS, another who had an Econ degree from Colby College). His handler/liaison was a high-level Jordan intelligence officer who was cousin of King Abdullah of Jordan. And these are just some of the people who were killed who dealt with this guy. There were lots of other CIA and Jordanian intel folks dealing with him and scrutinizing him. He was, in official CIA words, “a trusted source who went onto the base without inspection”.

Now, if this team can’t properly vet one guy, how in God’s name can they hope to properly vet groups of unknown rebels?!


robt willmann & Origin

The loss of two 777’s and 537 souls for completely unexplained reasons is a black swan. It is just not mentioned. It proves that modern engineering, rationality and safety first is a sham. Everything is up for grabs. Congress is pushing ahead to arm Syrian Unicorns. Cold War 2 is started. How screwed up can things get? A lot more with plagues, climate change and nuclear weapons mixed in.


Did you hear the latest ISIS slogan "Yes we can". (Sorry, just way to tempting to pass up).



I read "The Washing of the Spears" as an E5 on a deployment of aboard the attack submarine I served on. It did raise a few eyebrows. Who amongst our fine presidential advisors fits the role of the Prince Imperial?



Very good point on vetting. That incident was discussed here in detail. The chief of base violated procedures which enabled the incident.

Mark Logan


What bothers me most are the chances of us getting sucked in to bail whoevertheheck it is out seem very high, and about the same no matter who they go after first, win or lose. We have made it a congressionally approved, overt program. I hope to hell Dempsey knows what he's doing.


This following may be really dumb, but here goes.

Suppose we come to an agreement with the Syrian Baathists -- they remain in power, but their top 50 people retire from public life; and in return there is a joint effort against ISIS, and an end to the Syrian civil war?

If the Syrian Army has 130,000 men with 30% of them Sunni, etc., that is the force to defeat ISIS in Syria, seems to me.


Can the US build better relations with Iran, and then be "non-aligned" with respect to Iran and Saudi Arabia?

alba etie

I am certainly not an expert on what triggers Article 5 under the NATO treaty - but beheading two American citizens in my lay man's eyes certainly is an attack on the These United States. IMO the very least that Erdogan could do would be to close his border with Syria so that IS and the other liver eaters do not get new recruits - some of which are apparently coming from the West .


"If the Syrian Army has 130,000 men with 30% of them Sunni, etc., that is the force to defeat ISIS in Syria, seems to me."

But would that not strengthen Iran? And must Assad not go? How great a threat to the US proper is ISIS?

One has got to prioritise, I guess. As long as the threat by ISIS doesn't woutweigh the other two ...

I feel that the REALLY clever bunch in the administration will try to square the circle or have their cake and eat it too or however you want to phrase it: They want to break Assad AND crush ISIS.

In a sense, they seek the famously elusive third way (about as rare as the equally fabled unicorns).

The idea is IMO delusional because it tries to reconcile utterly irreconcilable goals.

As a result, it should not surprise that no coherent policy can be found to reconcile the conflicting sets of interests. That is the problem inherent in irreconcilability.

I think Obama is bright enough to see that, which explains his plapable reluctance to decide anything here and now.

For him, there is no way out that would sell domestically, a point that is very relevant to the D's in light of the coming midterms. He and the D's may just be accused of having lost Iraq, and Syria.

The "Hauran of Sheep Martyr Brigade" is probably a way for him to do something without doing imminent harm, while offering something to McCain and the nuts so they can't say Obama doesn't do anything.

IMO, Obama plays on time and preserves his options open until after the mid terms.

The peril, I think, is that the "Hauran of Sheep Martyr Brigade" will be sent to their dooms for lack of a better idea.

Of course, I may be wrong, and they are serious, in which case it is just a nother harebrained idea, and pity the charge of the "Hauran of Sheep Martyr Brigade".

Babak Makkinejad

Iranian Foreign Minister touches on some of the questions that you have posed here:


William Fitzgerald

Pat Lang,

I've been waiting for someone in the decision making, decision analyzing, or decision criticizing process to bring up cooperating with the Syrian Government as part of this campaign against ISIL. In the vast volume of proposals, leaks and comments from the administration, congress and media, has anyone suggested sending a delegation to Damascus to negotiate such a course? If defeating ISIL is, in fact, the objective, I should think that would be an obvious course of action.


The beaver


Bibi really wants to participate:

[In an address to the Herzliya-based International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s annual conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel “was playing our part” in responding to Obama’s calls to confront IS.

“Israel fully supports President Obama’s call for united actions against ISIS.... Some of the things are known; some things are less known.”]

I guess if Israel can partake in getting some more territories in the end ...


"They want to break Assad AND crush ISIS."

This is do-able, I think. On the other hand, from links I've followed from here, Iran, FSA, and Hezbollah don't want our assistance, and Hezbollah has apparently left Syria over the issue.



No way. Secular Calvinism is the name of the game. All people are either on the right side or wrong side of history and predestined to be as such forever and ever.



You introduced the term "Hauran of Sheep Martyr Brigade" and I have found several definitions of "Hauran", but none seem to fit the context.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Hauran and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hauran referring to a geographical area of Syria as compared to
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haran referring to Haran, the ancestor of the Moabites (vicinity of present southern Jordan) and the Ammonites (vicinity of present central Jordan)
or does "Hauran" refer to some historical or cultural incident or slang meaning.

The "Sheep Martyr Brigade" part is easy after following Casey et al., but I need educating about the "Hauran"

What is the implication of your term within the present context? Does it mean more than a group of unemployed men in Jordan volunteering for a weekly wage to prepare themselves as a stage-prop army to be sacrificed in the Syria-Iraq meat grinder, but ultimately understanding they will be able to desert in droves when called upon to perform, leaving only a few stupid or crazy ones ever to fight or to perish?



I created the term "Hauran of Sheep" brigade as an analog to "Bay of Pigs" Hauran in this case means a geographical place. I imagine that this is where the sacrificial FSA trainees are likely to be introduced into Syria. "Hauran" is the name ordinarily used for that are in classical studies of the ME. pl



Thanks. The term seems predictive and probably as wasteful and tragic in the end.


'Doable' is a relative term. It depends on your objectives.

I have no doubt that the US can kill Assad, or can get him killed in a ditch like Ghaddafi. That is not the point.

What is more important is what happens after Assad falls.

My point is that it will create a vacuum in which nobody else but ISIS will profit. By killing Assad the US will make the ISIS problem worse, in particular for the Syrians who will be butchered (rather literally) by the bushel (not literally) as a result.

So the US off Assad. And then?

Chaos and instability in Syria increase. ISIS gets stronger. ISIS turns on Alawites and the other supporters of Assad. It's not difficult to see how that will go.

Rejoice! Iran has been weakened! The landline between Iran and Hezbollah has ben severed! Israel's Endsieg and the final solution of the Hezbollah Question have come closer!

If the point of the intervention is to bring an end to the civil war, it is not 'doable'.

'Doing Assad' will make it much worse, and it will then end only if the minorities have been either driven out or exterminated. We're speaking of genocide here.

Alost needless to say, if R2P in recent US usage was about preventing genocide and not about making up an excuse for an intervention, then 'doing Assad' is precisely what you'd want to avoid.

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