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22 February 2015


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"... the Shia clerics seemed to see the creation of buffer zones between Baghdad and the south central / southern provinces as sufficient and the lives of those in the buffer zones of little consequence, with Najaf blossoming again as a center of religious scholarship." If the Najaf Hawza abandons the idea of reconquering the north and Anbar, de facto partition will occur.

BTW - It is "Maslawi" not "Mosulawi." pl

William R. Cumming

Personally I would ignore MOSUL and help Iraq seal its porous borders. And give it back control of its AIRSPACE.

Both would take time.

But trying to seize and hold MOSUL at this time meaningless. And a fool's errand. Dempsey should reject any intervention In Iraq where the 2.5 million armed forces of the largely SUNNI States are not fully employed.



My initial reaction to the advance announcement of a fullscale assault on Mosul in April or May was: This must be some kind of psychological warfare operation to profile how IS responds to such a threat. It is pretty clear, as the Virginian post and earlier comments by Col. Lang note, that the combined Iraqi Army, Peshmerga, Shia militias and not-yet-formed Sunni national guard forces are not prepared to launch such an assault in the near future. So why advertise? Are there splits inside IS over the question of which territory to hold? Have their losses of fighters and equipment reached a level where they are less prepared to hold Mosul? If they are bringing in new volunteer fighters at a rate of 1,500 per month, as has been reported to me, how well are these fresh fighters being integrated? How serious are they as replacements for combat seasoned fighters who have been killed or wounded and taken out of action? Are there splits between the Baathist and jihadists emerging as talks are continued for a second Anbar Awakening? These are all questions I ponder in response to your thoughtful post.


This looks more like a head fake. If for real, why would they talk so much about it?


This was an interesting interview with Kurdish forces on the 15th near Mosul and it makes pretty plain that they are not interested or capable of going directly after Mosul but are interested impacting its vulnerable supply lines. http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/15/middleeast/lister-iraq-conflict/ Letting the world know we're going to attack Mosul is a great way of drawing off ISIS resources to protect a large and resource constrained city ISIS cannot politically afford to lose. Meanwhile the Kurds, Iraqi Army/militias, Syrians and Jordanians chip away elsewhere. Besides anonymous sources and some talking heads what actual evidence is there of an impending Mosul campaign?


bth Lars

Why? They are trying to force Obadis's government to take action. pl

Charles I

What are the Kurds, nowadays in the news s anti-ISIS stalwarts being told they can have if they co-operate with Iraqi national forces, to assault Mosul?


This pipe dream of retaking Mosul sounds to me like a sop to the U.S. in an effort to keep American money and arms arriving...



Indeed, why would the US announce in advance and then push an offensive for domestic reasons which militarily as likely to fail? After all, as a strategy it worked brilliantly in Ukraine.

Based on past behavior, I foresee US boots in the cross-fire with insufficient logistical support - followed by expanding US re-entry on the ground into Iraq.

I similarly am alarmed at the idea that the US publically argues there are 1000-2000 fighters for a city of 1 million, while Alexander Cockburn argues ISIS is at 100k and growing overall - which with levies, and tapping into ex-Bath Sunni's and those who by survival are experienced in Syria, to me seems more reasonable. So for urban warfare, what is the usual ratio needed: 20 to 1? then the attack Obama is pushing only is feasible if the figure of 2000 is correct (or the city is leveled block by block, and even then (e.g., Beirut).

Equal thoughtful questions are what if the Baghdad Shia militias become over-extended, too.



Senators McCain and Graham are upset that the Mosul operation was disclosed at a Pentagon background briefing. My speculation is that it was done to shine sunlight on the neo-cabal’s insane plan but also to force ISIS to divert fighters to Mosul. Being too old, this appears to me that it will be a replay of Operation Lam Son 719:

I do not disagree with Colonel Lang or Tyler that a defensive war has to be fought against religious fanatics who pray to kill us all. I am just saying that we have to be smart about it. The primary goal should be saving American citizens lives. Fighting wars of choice against Russia and Syria and not closing the Turkish border are not the way to do it.

Quarantine and enticements worked against the USSR.

The Virginian

Colonel, many thanks for the correction!


I'm no military, intel or ME expert (though I've learned a great deal from those who are, including on this site)... however, it occurs to me that Arab cultures do not like to organize armies to fight fast and to-the-death (suicide bombers are a special case, like the kamakazi). If this is in their "cultural DNA" (please educate me if I'm way-off), yet ISIS must expand in order to succeed as an end-times cult, wouldn't a strategy of containment while enabling (encouraging / pressuring / teaching / paying-for... whatever) the surrounding nation-states to get their collective acts together, to join in some fashion in shared self-interest, be a valid policy? {I get the impression that there are now more in the ME who actually WANT to fight these days. true?}
It appears to me that whenever the US leads in a ME conflict, all the "allied" players retreat to non-action, expecting the US to rain lives & $$$... which in their world is a more comfortable kinda economy to pursue than direct warfighting.
If the US is patient... even almost patient by ME standards... & the ISIS pain raises regional fears of loss, won't that force real organized & committed action by those nations under direct threat?
Is ISIS such an immediate existential threat to the US that we must field main combat forces at this juncture?


It would seem Mosul would be too big to turn into another Fallujah/Alamo with the forces available.

But could we force a mass exodus of refugees to the west? Would ISIS allow people to flee? Could they contain that many?

FB Ali

I agree. "They" includes not only the US military but probably also some Iraqi generals.

Generals have an unquenchable desire to win glory on the backs of their hapless soldiers. These ones have, in addition, the need to redeem their pretty badly tarnished reputation.

Obadi is being cautious, wisely so in my opinion. He has much to lose from launching a half-baked attack on Mosul.


From what I understand, Mosul is much larger than 1 Mio people, more like 2 Mio, or even 3 Mio, depending how you count.

I think announcing to start retaking Mosul in a couple of months is a fine move politically. It will bring to the table the question how it shall be done.

But for now, the announcement of retaking Mosul may give an important question more urgency: who shall be the forces retaking Mosul and their capable allies? I think the question will put more urgency o a decision to make a choice: shall the forces retaking Mosul by allied with the FSA or shall they be allied with the IRGC and the SAA? WHich of these potential allies in retaking Mosul are more capable?

While the execution of the plan to retake Mosul may be delayed by a couple of years - what I would suspect - the decision of which forces shall be allies in that undertaking may be planned already today. And, after deciding this question, the political switches shall be aligned accordingly, of course, and that already today, or at least, as soon as possible.

By the way: I just read that the French negotiator in the nuke deal with Iran left the negotiations in disagreemnet and said on his exit "that was it, we are done." What do you think: will such a French position help the prospects of the liberation of Mosul?



Turkey's border is not ours to close.

FB Ali

This was supposed to be in reply to Col Lang's comment at 10:59 AM above. It seems to have wandered off on it's own.


Col. this article says that the commercial routes between Kirkuk and Baghdad has been down for about a month stranding 500 Turkish trucks with their loads. http://www.todayszaman.com/diplomacy_500-turkish-truck-drivers-stranded-in-kirkuk-over-isil-threat_373037.html I think opening the Kirkuk-Baghdad line would be needed for any real Iraqi Army or militia troop movement toward Mosul.


A lot of the Shia militia number inflation may be due to a current debate within Iraq's government about whether militias should be on a government payroll.


isn't holding Mosul is the biggest problem that should be in the mind of anyone who is going to capture it?

I mean Iraqi government theoretically controlled it but they weren't really having a picnic there.



"... isn't holding Mosul is the biggest problem?" I am reminded of what General Ben Harrell said to me about the difficulties involved in breaking out of the Anzio beach head. He was Truscott's G-3 at various levels, division, corps, etc. They had been put in charge when General Lucas had been relieved for not breaking out. Harrell and Truscott were quite sympathetic to Lucas' dilemma. He and Sixth Corps had been put on the beach there in the expectation that they would push inland to cut Route Six thus forcing the Germans to fall back from the Gustav Line just north of Cassino. This was a typical brain f--t on the part of Churchill. The problem was that there were not enough landing craft available because of the build up in England for Overlord. As a result the forces landed at Anzio under Lucas were too small to deal with German mobile reserves including the Luftwaffe Herman Goering Paratroop Panzer Division (go figure). As Harrell said Lucas could reach Route Six but there was no way he could stay there. "Le plus ca change..." pl

William R. Cumming

Excellent comment IMO!

William R. Cumming

P.L. My understanding is that the Anzio attack plan leaked in detail to the Germans. Perhaps my info incorrect.



IMO "leak" is not the right word. The Wehrmacht had some of the best GS officers in history. It was easy for them to see that a landing on the west coast of Italy to force them out of their positions further south was likely. Anzio-Nettuno was the logical place because of terrain. They positioned their mobile reserves accordingly and Lucas's forces were too small. This was all explained to Churchill in advance but he wanted it his way and pressured Alexander the combined commander to do what he wanted. I spent a year with Harrell discussing this. He was a principal. By the time Sixth Corps broke out over the Alban Hills they had 1ooK more troops and some very good SIGINT on exact German positions. pl

Charles I

Its so complicated and subject to fate and banana peels its a miracle anybody's plans ever come off and anybody wins the battle, let alone holds the day. I can see why winners feel God is on their side.

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