« One Possible Way Ahead Against ISIL: Updated with Correction* | Main | A viable plan - BTH »

11 September 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


ISIS is an eventual, not imminent, threat to the US. Keeping ISIS locked in a stalemate itself would postpone the threat it presents. US efforts should be proportional to its allies. That is, the US provides an umbrella under which they can act, plus provide them a "competitive" edge over ISIS.

Too many moving parts? Maybe. There is not the political unity at home to support anything better.


Nice analysis. And after listening to the speech, I agree. Waaay too many moving parts.

On the other hand, I'm not sure what our minimalist strategy would be.



Thanks for your wisdom.

Without boots on the ground there is no chance to defeat ISIS without allying with Iran and Syria. Syrian Puppet Jihadists are just a quick way to transfer 500 million dollars of military supplies to ISIS; the real Jihadists. “Money for Nothing”. It goes right into the War Profiteers pockets.

Drone Assassination is counterproductive. The one sure thing is “Kill them all and let God sort them out”. The only other alternative that worked with USSR is forcing the surviving Middle Eastern States to close their borders and quarantine the Islamic State. Then tempt the faithful with modernity, science, prosperity, equality and fraternity. The problem is that these are the very things that the Economic Elite are stealing from Westerners since they started the Reagan-Thatcher Revolution.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

In your excellent analysis of Obama's strategy you raise the issue of who will do the fighting on the ground. In his speech Obama mentioned the Iraqi forces and the "Syrian opposition", by which he obviously meant the FSA.

AS you have said, it will take a long time for the Iraqis to field a credible force. The FSA is a joke. Patrick Cockburn has a piece in CounterPunch (http://tinyurl.com/q9lndvf) in which he quotes the FSA military leader, General Abdul-Ilah al Bashir, as saying that the CIA is now controlling the FSA (probably to ensure that the money and arms given to them don't vanish, as they have been prone to do so far).

It seems that the ground forces part of the strategy is eyewash, and it will mainly be an air campaign against IS. Supplemented by some Iraqi and Kurdish SOF raids mounted by their US advisers. It will be interesting to see how an air campaign against such an enemy succeeds.

As you say, getting the Sunni tribes to break with IS will be crucial. This will make a big difference to the outcome.


Very good analysis of the achievable and the not achievable.
As for Obama's speech:
Aspirin for cancer.



All too true. The product of policies ill-considered and/or too clever by half. Also unlikely to be corrected since, as you observe, any rational mid-course correction would offend the sensibilities of Israel and the Wahhabi states, who for some unaccountable reasons we consider our bestest buddies.

George Washington's warning against permitting the undue influence of foreign nations upon our nation's policies rings true yet again.


The light footprint will also increase the probability of American hostages which will be a personal tragedy and a national PR disaster.

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

I wonder if Obama has gone Israeli enough to invoke their "Hannibal directive"?

r whitman

The President is trying to "manage the crisis" so we do not lose. Winning is not on the menu. He probably hopes to pass this mess along to his successor. He/she can then blame the Obama admin much as the Obama blamed the Bush admin for past errors.


A goal of marginal containment through direct support to regional players combined with periodic retaliatory strikes might be the maximum realistic scope possible against the IS Sunni state-let.

Arm and train the Kurds positioning for independence to press IS on the east particularly around Kirkuk.Focus on small territorial gains and border consolidation. Form an alliance of convenience with Iran; also with Assad where mutually beneficial in the west. Assist the Shia Iraqis to train and fight with air support from the southeast, support Jordan heavily on the southwest of IS and make plain to Saudi, Kuwait and Turkey that they could be mangled by the IS monster they created.

The chance to destroy IS is gone. Targeting economic sites - gasoline refineries, small oil fields, bootleg pipelines, electric grids, plus pre-emptive strikes on any military concentrations might work but better to buy off the Sunni tribes slowly with Saudi money.

US public support for boots on the ground in the US is weak. US public support for covert and indirect methods is probable. NATO allied support is meaningless. Let them focus on their own eastern problems.... Does Obama have the support of the military and I'm not referring to the officers - but the enlisted? I don't see the trust. Does Congress have the will to fund more war? Even air wars are expensive. I doubt the political will exists. Past this Nov. election it will be budget gamesmanship all the way to the 2016 presidential.



I am mindful of your loss in Iraq. Thank you for your thoughts on a plan. I spoke to a retired senior army officer last night. he remains well connected in the army at the "working level." He thinks the force will shatter if committed to another long war in the ME before it has a chance to heal psychologically from the repeated stress of multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The army is trying to stabilize people pn their home stations for the next several years. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, that seems to be the case.


IMO the only strategy here is to give a market to arms dealers: sell lots of weapons to everybody and let them all kill each other.

The subtext here is that Obama will give the perception of "doing something," since for political reasons the US must do something whenever anyone who is not a "reliable partner" sneezes.

In a momentary lapse, Obama recently cautioned against "doing stupid things." He succumbed to political pressure and, being the empty suit he is, agreed to do "stupid things."

William R. Cumminh


William R. Cumminh

OK PL and ALL! Let's talk Turkey! And Iran! And Egypt! Of the 17 organizational components of the IC which one or ones most expert on MENA?

Is there anywhere in the private sector some help to the President? I note that RAND, an FFRDC, has a report out on IS! Any good?


Just hours before Obama's speech last night a Turkish National Security Summit has decided to avoid direct attacks on ISIS. They cite their 49 diplomats being held hostage by the Daash as the primary reason. They did not rule out indirect support for the anti-ISIL coalition.


"Turkey’s main contribution would be to increase its border security to stop the infiltration of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq to join the ISIL, to deepen intelligence cooperation and sharing with Western countries, to assist the coalition by easing logistic transportation, and to continue effective humanitarian assistance to those in need - especially in northern Iraq."


Dear colonel,

thanks for a very insightful analysis. One aspect not mentioned is how the plan affects the possibility that IS will fall apart on its own. IMO providing an external enemy of the US prestige, reduces the likelihood. Meanwhile, it will be hard to make friends with the Sunni tribes if the Shiite militias - the defacto Iraqi military - act as in Amreli, with our air support and new weapons - mutually interfering wheels.

bth: I agree completely (the announced plan for victory seems to verge on the fanciful) that a minimalist plan - covert support for Iran, Kurds, (intelligence, etc.) and tribes, etc. in IS territory), would be best, in large part because it would maximize IS likelihood of internal collapse under external and internal pressures



Considering that the Saudis. Gulf countries and Turkey directly or indirectly support Caliph Ibrahim, why should the US intervene now?

Would the Caliph be brazen to attack US assets as AQ did if we leave him alone? Why not wait until the saudis and turks pay a price and are willing to fight?



IMO IS will not fall apart. It will grow. pl


"They cite their 49 diplomats ..." A transparent evasion. We should start thinking about their usefulness in NATO. pl


"I have no doubt that the US Congress will give Obama whatever he wants" -- pl

Do think he'll even deign to ask?



They always want congressional approval if it costs nothing and this will cost nothing. pl


Dear Sir,
does even Obama believe the things he's saying?
IMO Obama is saying these things because he (as the US president) is expected to say somethings. If he does something, its because he is expected to do somethings.

I don't expect him to have any kind of a strategy regarding IS (whether in Iraq or Syria).


Colonel Lang -

The newly reported FSA/YPG alliance in Syria may have some bearing on Turkey's decision also. Does this alliance signal to the Turks that American armaments to the FSA may end up in the hands of what is reported to be an adjunct of the PKK?



"Nice analysis. And after listening to the speech, I agree. Waaay too many moving parts."

And too many are enemies, and *at the unlikely best* will sorta cooperate until they figure that their interests would be better served by not.

Chief among them are Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, who are supposed to be big backers of ISIS and any other hardcore Wahhabi groups.

Babak Makkinejad

There is no "strategy" here; as R. Whitman has observed below.

There is no Atlantic Charter, no discussion of the world after the end of the war, nothing - just indefinite war.

I do not want to make light of this crisis that could very well spread to other states but the only thing lacking here is the Marx Brothers.

Although rumor has it that Harpo has been seen in the White House.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad