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16 October 2014


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Great read, thanks! I think he nailed it, particularly in describing the feeble incompetence of the folks in the White House. Good take on Erdogan as well.

Escobar is a journalistic treasure. I need to remind myself to read his columns on a routine basis.


It is a great read, and a very plausible explanation of current ME politics. The only thing missing is why oil prices have not exploded, especially since there is turmoil in a number of oil producing states, including Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Plus Iran and Russia saddled with sanctions.

Sure, there is slack economic activity, increased U.S. output, conservation, etc, but there's more.

Saudi Arabian is actively helping insure that low oil prices will obtain, by announcing it will not trim output as it has in the past, when prices threatened to get too low.

Tom Friedman, not always on the money, has pretty much nailed this apparent paradox.


And, by the way, as Friedman points out, the Russians were prescient about how this skirmish in the oil war would unfold:



Escobar has got one thing wrong: Kobani is not situated in the far northeast, but rather in the far north-west of Syrian Kurdish territories, about half way along the Syro-Turkish border. It's a significant point, as Kobani is an isolated enclave which will probably be lost in the creation of a future Kurdish state, ethnically cleansed.

The Twisted Genius

I was surprised to see this:

"We have for some time had conversations through intermediaries with the PYD (Kurdish Democratic Union Party). We have engaged over the course of just last weekend with the PYD," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a briefing.

I've seen YPG statements that they were providing targeting for the recent airstrikes around Kobane, but no official confirmation from US sources. IMHO, we should keep quiet about all of this and just do it. Escobar is right when he says Turkey (Erdogan) is a major part of the IS problem.


"Islamic State forces have started withdrawing from the town of Kobani on the Syrian-Turkish border, on the back of U.S.-led air strikes that began late last month, a senior Kurdish source in Syria says.

Kurdish sources say the jihadists now control only 20 percent of the town, mainly its east and south. In recent days, the Islamic State has reportedly lost around 20 percent of the territory it had occupied.

The fighting in Kobani is now almost a month old and has claimed the lives of nearly 600 people, including hundreds of jihadist fighters.

More than 40 bombing raids were carried out on Wednesday and Thursday over and near the town, during which 16 buildings were destroyed, sources said."



ISIL is making waves in Anbar but they have allies there who know the business. So Escobar may be right on that front.

But his take on Kobani is wrong. Not only does Pepe mess up on his Syrian geography, he is also a bit late in his understanding of what is going on in Kobani. Reuters and BBC are reporting the that ISIL's attack on Kobani is stalling and they look to be falling back, for now anyway. The 'bombing raids' Pepe speaks of were done in September and the first week of October. But after Panetta, Obama's former SecDef and D/CIA, called Obama's efforts wimpy the AF finally got the message and started some serious strikes - 40 in a 48 hour period. That plus YPG (and YPJ) toughness has been the key to showing ISIL for what they really are: run-of-the-mill guerrillas who believe their own hype.

Unfortunately for Iraq, much of the Iraqi Army believed that ISIL hype especially after their unprofessional and unprincipled officers deserted them. So they followed suit and also beat feet back to home.

Escobar seems to believe Iranian hype also. No way Iran is or was going to run to the rescue of Kobani. The YPG and their political party the PYD are socialists. Ayatollah Khomeini would be rolling over in his grave at that thought. His successors in Qom would never allow it. In Iran being socialist is a capitol offense, they have executed executed hundreds for being an "enemy of God". Iran is influential with the PUK in the eastern portion of Iraqi Kurdistan and have helped out against ISIL there immensely, especially in Diyala province. Many of the Kurds in that region are Shia and lean to Tehran.


mike et al
1- Unless IS is reporting their casualties electronically (cell phones)I do not understand how people are reporting their numbers unless they are getting them from the Kurds. In my experience such numbers are usually dubious. 2- Run of the mill guerrillas do not stand and fight like IS does. 3 - consider the possibility that Kobane was not a main objective for IS. pl


PL, Pepe is a stylish writer, but he takes the high-speed, low drag approach to describing situations. If the BBC reporting that IS is falling back from Kobane is true, then your suggestion that Kobane was one of those Pattonesque "hold 'em by the nose and kick 'em in the ass" situations might well be true. If it is, then the "kick" must be imminent.

I was disappointed in the summation of the game that TC did not describe the fate of the many expats in the greater Baghdad region when the central government fled the scene. If IS is going to roll over BIA and into the western suburbs of Baghdad I'm afraid we might see a debacle that would make the departure from Saigon look downright serene.



If you had participated in the game you could have offered your suggestion as to what happens to the expats. A follow on game will address that point. Perhaps you could be the voice of the expats. pl

no one

Sir, I have thought since the beginning of the operation against Kobane that IS was taking a chapter from the NVA playbook (Tet offensive). Kobane is a distraction, as Khe San was, and the real objective is the US embassy.



"Pepe is a stylish writer, but he takes the high-speed, low drag approach to describing situations" Is that a criticism? pl

Babak Makkinejad

There is no love lost between Turkey and Kurds - in Turkey, in Iraq or in Syria.

There is no reason for Turkey to help in Kobani or anywhere else on behalf of the Kurds.

ISIS is demonstrating to Kurds that they have no chance of creating an independent state on their own resources; not in Syria and not in Iraq.

This might actually be beneficial to Kurds as well as others if it succeeds in disabusing Kurds from pursuing the foolish notion that they can become a country when they can clearly not defend themselves against a rag-tag army of Arabs called ISIS.

If Kurds drop this foolish notion, then they can participate in the national life of the countries that they inhabit - Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria and not cause so much wastage of human and material resources for to achieve something that they clearly have been incompetent to achieve for over 2000 years.

William Fitzgerald


Whether or no the Kurds are holding their ground, or making gains or the USAF are effectively hitting IS forces in and around Kobane is irrelevant to the point of Escobar's article. As I see it, his point is that America doesn't actually know what it's doing in the ME and NA. Because of that, Policies and strategies have a "flavor of the month" look about them and and must be supported by fiction because the facts don't support the policies. We continue to dance to the tunes being played by Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.


The Beaver


I saw this this morning ( well I am late in catching up on my reading)

"There is direct coordination between Kurdish and American coalition forces," Nawaf Khalil, spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, told The Associated Press. "That's no secret. It began about a week ago," he said



That's why neither AQ or IS has ever tried to shoot down a private jet. Should they kill a couple of the millionaire set the latter will make sure the politicians actually do someting constructive.


Colonel -

'run-of-the-mill' may have not been the best term to describe ISIL fighters in Kobani. It was certainly not meant to include ISIL in Anbar where they have former Baathists at their back and a friendly local population.

Regarding Kobani I used the term for the following reasons:

1] they sent individual tanks into city streets with no infantry support where they were picked off easily by YPG

2] their mortar and artillery fire was extremely inaccurate

3] their suicide truck and car bombs were at first extremely effective - but they did not adapt when the YPG got wise to them and started ambushing those vehicles before they could get too close

4] they depended over heavily on their headchopper videos and still photos to cow the defenders into running like the Iraqi Army in Mosul and Anbar - it did not work well in Kobani

5] they never adapted to American airstrikes. Granted that Syria's terrain is nothing like the triple canopy of the HCM trail, but they could have done more to hide.

In the end, without Baathist leadership, the ISIL elements attacking Kobani were a ragtag bunch of true-believers and blood-junkies. That does not make an effective fightin force even if they had the other side outgunned and outmanned.



That all sounds reasonable. Maybe the true believers and blood junkies were put in as a diversion for something more important elsewhere. pl

dilbert dogbert

I think he was trying to say Pepe needed more time on target.


PL, I think I might be better as the czar of airstrike planning. The fate of the expats looks scary to me, and the world is scary enough already.


Nope, just an observation.



You can be the air component commander. Actual space, time and equipment availability considerations would apply. pl


All, I found this interesting: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/10/removal-of-islamic-state-anbar-lead-downfall.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+[English]&utm_campaign=eac56fa3ad-October_17_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-eac56fa3ad-102321145#

Ia Anbar the target or key to ISIS strategy, such as it is, as reported here with bottom-up organization? Is Kobane a mere diversion like the Tet offensive as mentioned earlier? What tribe or clans are involved and how "invested" are they or others in the effort psychologically, territorially and economically in the current conflict?

This also came to my attention: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/18/world/middleeast/isis-isil-islamic-state-kobani-syria.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpHeadline&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

This struck me: 'During his appearance before reporters on Friday, General Austin echoed that. “It’s highly possible that Kobani may fall,” he said.

'But he noted that Kurdish fighters had managed to regain territory that had been lost previously, adding that they had done “a yeoman’s work in terms of standing their ground.”

'Defense officials noted that the more Islamic State fighters that the United States and its allies were able to kill in Kobani, the fewer they would have to fight in other parts of Syria and in Iraq.'

This brings to mind McNamara's numbers in the 1960s and Rumsfeld's 'metrics' more recently.

All comments and corrections welcomed from those more knowledgeable than I.


Will I be able to exploit the maximum capability of space, time, and equipment availability, or will I be assisted by the Whitehouse and/or State?



Perhaps you should ask them. You are well wired. pl

G. I. Hazeltine

Life as we understand it is a scrim. 'Reality' painted on thin cloth.

We are I think for two reasons likely to made aware of this.

In the first place the poverty stricken West Africans are likely to be much tougher than we are in resisting infection. Natural selection having operated there until now.

In the second, Frontier admits to searching for 800 passengers. After two flights? As I understand it Liberians rarely fly, have no subways, or automobiles to speak of. Or roads, really. Travel across distance is slow and difficult. And not much undertaken. We, on the other hand... Toilets, subway straps, escalator handrails...

Someone must have done this what if study.

And there there are the two beds at wherever it was that the CDC said today was well equipped to handle Ebola cases.

So it all depends on Ebola. Not on our 'health care system'. Or epidemiologists. Or leaders.

Panglossian optimism may be warranted. Nothing may happen. Or, Ebola could put an end to global warming for many human generations. Except that, on the other hand, who will take care of the missiles and reactors?

What we do know is that the current occupant of the White House, and his appointees, don't have a clue. And until last week, an interest.

It happened with the Black Death. It happened in lesser terms in Defoe's London, and my Uncle Charlie's army of 1917. He did not go to France, perhaps equally fatal. Lovely man.

A scrim.

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