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04 October 2014

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the Unready

Bandolero, Colonel

Some background (don't know if it's militarily relevant) :

Nubbol and Zahra are predominantly Shia towns and they have been surrounded/harrassed by the rebels for some time.

Anadan, Hreitan, Hayyan are the source of much of the insurgency north of Aleppo. Breaking them would be a big win for the government. Aleppo's biggest shopping mall (now abandoned) is located just before them on the main road to Gaziantep.

csi

Long time reader, first time commenter.

I’m somewhat of a contrarian person when it comes to conventional wisdom. However, since I get most of my ISIS conflict news from this blog I find myself dreaming up counterpoints to the mainstream view here rather than whatever the American media has to say on the topic. I don't necessarily disagree, but I do tend to chew on the whatifs.

Disclaimer out of the way, here's my (naive blog-reader) thought experiment: Is America’s position in Iraq and the Middle East actually bad? Or, at least, worse than it was before ISIS? What if things are going pretty great in the region, as far as the US Government is concerned?

I'd see 3 obvious goals for the US in the region:
1) Military presence.
2) Peaceful rapprochement with opposing powers(basically Iran and its clients).
3) General acceptance of US domination as necessary and desirable by ALL actors in the region.

A couple of years ago it seemed that the US wouldn’t get 1), yet now it’s basically being begged to maintain troops in the area by the Iraqis.

Last year it seemed that there was too much jingoistic opposition at home for 2), but now Iran is seen as quite clearly a lesser of two evils in America.

The third point is basically another question about lesser of two evils, but from the perspective of the average man on the street in the Middle East today. Is the US with its bombing and not-being-Muslim worse than ISIS with their medieval brutality and being-a-very-particular-kind-of-Muslim?

ISIS seems to be banking on the fact that given a binary choice of ISIS vs US hegemony in the region, the people will side with ISIS. It’s not clear who is right.

Right now the gains on each of those 3 points are tentative. If ISIS vanishes in a year most of them get reset or at least put into contention again. But what if they take over Saudi Arabia? Or at least make a serious enough play at it that it forces everyone to think about what that kind of world would be like?

I guess my question is: Does the US actually WANT to wipe out ISIS BEFORE they start taking bites out of the Saudis? Doesn’t US foreign policy benefit from having a Big Bad Empire emerge which then legitimates US hegemony in the area?

J

Colonel,

LIke you said earlier regarding the jihidais out and about:

Pakistani Taliban pledges support to ISIL

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2014/10/pakistan-taliban-pledges-allegiance-isil-2014104162057352436.html

J

Colonel,

Here's another interesting one popping up on NBC News:

Iraq Vet in his Own Words: There Are Boots on the Ground

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/iraq-vet-his-own-words-there-are-boots-ground-n218706

confusedponderer

"2) Peaceful rapprochement with opposing powers(basically Iran and its clients).
3) General acceptance of US domination as necessary and desirable by ALL actors in the region."

I think that the two points may be irreconcilable to a considerable extent.

To the hegemon's administrators - elected, appointed, unelected and rented - in DC acceptance of US domination by and large still means subordination and capitulation to US demands.

For one, not yielding gives the illusion of resolution and then, there is a lot of money to be made being relentlessly hostile towards Iran, quite irrespective of America's rational self interests actually suggesting a wide field of mutual interests between the US and Iran.

Which means that there is a reason why the US is pursuing the 'dialogue with Iran at a snail's pace.

Because half of the crew isn't on board and Obama isn't to open himself up to attack from the lobby and the right and his own D Israel firster's over this.

I.e. for Obama it is nice to have a dialogue and all that, but when it comes to it, Obama is not willing to expend political capital on it, yet. Maybe after the Midterms, or later. President weathervane will check carefully how the wind is before deciding. So long, 'all options are on the table'.

Which means that essentially we could be back to the US merrily threatening to bomb Tehran in, what, a week? A month?

turcopolier

b

"Current fighting is around the radio tower hill which has changed hands at least twice so far..." Looked at the place on GE. Nasty looking bald hill. USAF seems to be having deconfliction problem over friendly targets. No JTAC on the ground (political decision). USAF over -reliance on Gee Whiz tech stuff is a problem. pl

ISL

Colonel,

Strange, why bother to even launch three air strikes in two days, to hit at three vehicles (article linked by J, thanks)? Pinprick comes to mind, as in Yemen (strange - why would the POTUS allude to Yemen as an example of success, when it would go catastrophic a few days later. Is he now in a bubble that walls off his IC? Maybe listening only to neocon advice?).

For readers not as familiar (including myself), the battle for Aleppo has been led by the FSA, and remains with the countryside in rebel (not FSA) hands. The city is split in loyalty, and the stalemate in the city has been the result in part of shortage of rebel arms. The FSA has a logistical support in the Turkish city of Adana with support from Saudi Arabia.

This wikipedia article contains 620 citations and reading the article provides a broad-brush view of a battle with few truly consolidated areas and much ebb and flow, with advances now by the loyalists.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Aleppo_%282012%E2%80%93present%29

Cluing in on citation 582

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/syria-aleppo-isis-regime-rebels-iraq-mosul.html#

The FSA had fears of IS using the new weapons from Iraq to attack Aleppo.

I posit that the Kobane inaction on the part of Turkey and the overall success of Syrian loyalist forces at Aleppo relate to Erdogan switching support to IS away from FSA against the Syrian government. If so, FSA in Aleppo soon will face surrender, destruction, or pledging loyalty to IS if they can escape or if after Kobane falls, IS with fresh Turkish and Iraq weapons joins the fight.

Followed by consolidation in the countryside

Babak Makkinejad

On your #2:

Today US has normal relations with the communist government of Vietnam - the same government that US fought against tooth and nail from 1950s all the way through early 1990s - militarily & diplomatically.

I think the architects and supporters of the US & EU policies in the Near East would have to be dead of old age or be retired from their respective governments before we see any changes in regards to either Iran or Syria.

Normalization with Syria and Iran would take place - in analogy with Vietnam - 22 years or so years after the fall of Saigon.

And even then there was the Cambodia war going on.

If I am correct in my estimation, and since the hostilities in Near East show not indication of ending, it would follow that normalization of relations of US & EU with Iran and Syria is one or two generations into the future.

I mean, yes, US could take that $ 500 million allocated to destroying SAR and give it to the Syrian Arab Government as aide to rebuilding Syria.

EU states can drop their economic war against Syria tomorrow and their war against Iran as well - but what are the chances of that?

Last week Rosalyn Carter stated that Americans prefer war to peace.

May be she is right.

bth

I'm just going to ask a stupid question. Wouldn't any US military or covert agency know that trained Kurd and Iraqi and perhaps Syrian forward observers would be needed and needed months ago? I would think a few dozen would be all that was needed to play havoc on IS.

Valissa

J, thanks for the link... which had me searching for Clay Hanna's original article at Politico.

I Was a Pair of Boots on the Ground in Iraq

Don’t kid yourself, Mr. President: We already have troops in combat. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/09/boots-on-the-ground-iraq-111271.html

In the course of my search for articles about Clay Hanna, I came cross this too... an interview with Jim Webb sounding very much in presidential wannabe mode. He also looks like he's had some botox work done, another sign of an impending campaign.

Meet the (Potential) Candidate: Former Senator Jim Webb on MTP http://www.nbcnews.com/watch/meet-the-press/meet-the-potential-candidate-former-senator-jim-webb-on-mtp-338020931964

turcopolier

bth

"A ship of fools." pl

Bandolero

Unready
Yes, I think it's very relevant.

The Aleppo suburbs (pro-forma towns, but in reality more like suburbs) on the road from Leiramoun to Turkey, like Kafr Hamra, Anadan, Hreitan, Hayyan, etc, are in part packed with huge housing blocks, 8 to 10 floors high, with hundred thousands people living there, lot's of tribal things going on there and home to many rebels.

For the Syrian army these unfriendly and densely packed suburbs are like a wall, the army cannot just go into these suburbs and occupy them. But what the army can do is to encircle these suburbs. From their new position in the Handarat area the army can link up to the Shia city complex Nubol and Zahraa, it's about 10 km over open fields, with only some very small villages on the way, ideal terrain for the army. West and northwest of Nubol/Zahraa is all Kurdish YPG controlled territory, not usable as rebel supply line.

So linking up Handarat with Nubol/Zahraa would completely cut off supply lines of rebels in Aleppo and in these huge suburbs (Kafr Hamra etc) to the northern border with Turkey (Gaziantep). It would leave for rebels in Aleppo only some narrow mountain paths (from Kafr Hamra & Anadan via mount Simeon area to Daret Izza) to the western border (Reyhanli) with Turkey open. If the Syrian army then decides to do so, the army should have no problem of occupying that largely uninhabited mountain terrain, thereby closing a solid ring around Aleppo including the nasty big suburbs of Kafr Hamra etc.

I think that could be the Syrian army's plan. Will it work? We will see.

curtis

I think the influence of millennial thinking is being discounted in a lot of thinking about "why" in this case.

Thomas

Curtis,

Would you mind sharing your perspective of millennial thinking and its contribution to "why"?

Thanks in advance.

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