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19 May 2015

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confusedponderer

FB Ali,
re: the population in Ramadi and ISIS on the defence - the defence of Petrograd against the Whites in the Russian revolution suggests itself as a precedent, and it underlines your sceptical take.

"This rendered possible another threat to the Red Army – one from General Yudenich, who had spent the summer organizing the Northwestern Army in Estonia with local and British support. In October 1919, he tried to capture Petrograd in a sudden assault with a force of around 20,000 men. The attack was well-executed, using night attacks and lightning cavalry maneuvers to turn the flanks of the defending Red Army. Yudenich also had six British tanks, which caused panic whenever they appeared. The Allies gave large quantities of aid to Yudenich, who, however, complained that he was receiving insufficient support.

By 19 October, Yudenich's troops had reached the outskirts of the city. Some members of the Bolshevik central committee in Moscow were willing to give up Petrograd, but Trotsky refused to accept the loss of the city and personally organized its defenses. He declared, "It is impossible for a little army of 15,000 ex-officers to master a working class capital of 700,000 inhabitants." He settled on a strategy of urban defense, proclaiming that the city would "defend itself on its own ground" and that the White Army would be lost in a labyrinth of fortified streets and there "meet its grave".[43]

Trotsky armed all available workers, men and women, ordering the transfer of military forces from Moscow. Within a few weeks the Red Army defending Petrograd had tripled in size and outnumbered Yudenich three to one. At this point Yudenich, short of supplies, decided to call off the siege of the city and withdrew, repeatedly asking permission to withdraw his army across the border to Estonia."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Civil_War#Estonia.2C_Latvia.2C_and_Petrograd

Abu Sinan

Spot on FB Ali, exactly what I was thinking whilst I was reading the post. It will be more of the Da3sh whack a mole. Every time this happens the West designates these issues as hugely significant. After the GoI takes Ramadi back the "experts" will be on American TV talking about how this is a turning point against Da3sh, until Da3sh takes another town or region no one thought they would.

The model is this. Da3sh attacks and GoI units fold and retreat. Shi'a militias are sent in to the heavy fighting and they take back the target that has long since been emptied of all but basic Da3sh numbers and resources. Shi'a militia act badly in Sunni areas, as Shi'a militias are want to do, it makes for a huge propaganda victory abroad for Da3sh and hardens the locals against the GoI and Shi'a.

The US,GoI and others involved are falling into a well planned out methodology, and is doing so repeatedly.

Abu Sinan

Da3sh has recently come out with threats against Shi'a shrines and places of worship. This has caused various Shi'a groups and militia to start sending troops and other resources to these areas to protect them. We are all well aware that if Da3sh seeks to attack these locations, they will.

Abu Sinan

It isnt a big deal, but not for the reasons why the WH is saying. Da3sh will soon give up Ramadi after a long drawn out fight by a rather small amount of Da3sh supporters, then move on to the next model. They have been doing this very same thing for months and the GoI and US have been responding in the very same way.

Da3sh is leading the US and GoI down a road here and they dont realise it. Some on this thread do, however. Ramadi, in and of itself, means very little and Da3sh will soon give it up and move on to the next objective.

William R. Cumming

IMO the US has informed Iraq it will NOT help retake Ramadi!

William R. Cumming

General Ali! A very perceptive comment IMO and absolute correct analysis!

William R. Cumming

IMO sectors of Baghdad!

William R. Cumming

Would you agree that retaking MOSUL definitely off the table?

Patrick Bahzad

For now yes, they can't do even one thing at a time properly, let alone two ! Besides the Kurds are not keen to launch an assault on Mosul, because that could truely turn into a massgrave for those who look death in the eye !

turcopolier

PB

The notion that the PM and all other Kurds can drive IS out of Mosul is simply laughable. What you have in the PM is a lightly armed force that is not suitable for operations against a heavily armed enemy like IS. What is likely is that we will soon see withdrawal of Iraqi/Shia forces to an area south near Samarra. The IS action in Anbar makes the Iraqi/Shia forces at Tikrit and Baiji very vulnerable to interdiction of their LOCs to the Baghdad area. pl

Patrick Bahzad

Agree on both accounts !

LeaNder

apparently the ones fleeing are not so sure about that.

The freeing of prisoners only reminds me of the sad state of affairs in Egypt.

******

Not sure what to think about the girls over here, the young female ISIS fighter bride aspirants. Propaganda? - I am told there are such ladies.

Back to the report: I am a bit wondering about selling underwear being illegal. If I believe the Huffington Post report, at least these young girls weren't told that this is a forbidden item.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/03/10/syria-schoolgirls-list_n_6837898.html

*******

but yes, freeing prisoners may make feel at least a hypothetical informer wanting to leave too. ;)

LeaNder

Makes no sense as a response to FB Ali's comment, it feels.

Maybe since US air force is missing?

I find his comment exquisite. How can the US act without adding still further reasons for resentment? While necessarily acting inside the parameters set by the current Iraqi admin?

William R. Cumming

IMO Kurds have veto power over MOSUL ops!

Tyler

Abu,

Might not be a big deal to you, but for those of us who fought there its a little troubling, but then again this whole situation has been since 2003.

confusedponderer

Leander,
historical analogies only go so far, but there are some parallels between the outside intervention in the Russian civil war and the mess in Iraq.

What I was getting at was that ISIS, if Ramadi was facing Shia security forces or militias trying to take back the city, may just be able to count on the support of the local Sunni who they compelled into staying. The latter have based on experience nothing good to expect from the Shia.

The worse ISIS sectarian killings get, the worse will be the Shia backlash, driving the Sunni into ISIS arms. ISIS massacres are a means to an end as much as an end in itself.

Soo, to make the analogy explicit, like Trotzky arming the workers of Petrograd, ISIS could arm the Sunni of Ramadi. To motivate them they could use the rather justified fear of the Shia backlash against the Ramadi Sunni.

In the areas it controls ISIS is already drafting locals in numbers. There is no reason to assume they are not going to do the same in Ramadi.

Even in the absence of the USAF in Petrograd, foreign dependence of the opposing force is a factor in Iraq as well. And so is foreign direct intervention (the US did a mission to Siberia) and supply (Yudenich's tanks came from Britain).

In Iraq, Shia forces have frequently run out of ammo, food and water. Their logistics suck and they are incapable of prolonged operations.

ISIS cannot just make all the plausible moves FB Ali laid out and 'move like a butterfly and sting like a bee' - they can also make Ramadi as unappealing a target to liberate as possible, perhaps to an extent that the Shia will (have to) avoid it. The fighting would take too long - and they may be outmanned in a mobilised city.

Abu Sinan

Sure, I was talking in a regional and geo-political aspect. I am sure it is a big deal to those who live in and around the city or have family from there.

FB Ali

Since yesterday there's been total silence on the Ramadi situation. I suspect that's a sign of the disarray in Iraqi and US government and military circles caused by IS's capture of the town.

I doubt there is going to be any early attempt at recapturing Ramadi. The move of Shia militias to Habbaniyah was probably a defensive one - to shore up the panic-stricken troops and police fleeing from Ramadi, and to block any IS move on Baghdad. There is also probably some bickering going on between the Iraqis and Central Command over air support for the militias. Because that is all that Iraq has for the time being. Its vaunted SF, the Golden Division, appears to have folded at Ramadi.

Speaking of air support, there's this curious 'the dog that didn't bark' aspect to it. There has been a marked fall-off in the number of sorties recently; I believe there were only 8 on the day Ramadi was being taken over.

Is that because US target acquisition and analysis resources have been diverted to support the Saudi campaign against Yemen? Or/and, because the Saudis and Gulfies have pre-empted the use of their airfields for their own air forces flying sorties into Yemen?

bth

If ISILs leadership is about the long-term task of building a viable nation then a few things are required: Electricity, O&G and in particular refined gasoline, wheat harvests and trade routes. If that is the case then a move directly for Haditha Dam and then making a right turn and driving straight to concentrate on taking and holding the massive refinery complex at Baiji is essential to IS. IS actions pointed at Baiji and I think it is because with limited oil in the Sunni Arab areas of Iraq, a viable state will require something to trade with its neighbors (IS is land locked) and refined petrochemicals would be one of those items. Given the poor investment climate that means existing infrastructure must be taken intact if possible by IS. Baiji gets it oil namely from the Kurdish Kirkuk region. IS made a run for those fields a few months ago and failed, then they went back to going after the Biaji refinery. I submit that IS must take the Baiji refinery complex and return it to some state of operation and then cut a deal with the Kurds for oil pipeline access to the complex.

Further if you buy the IS needs infrastructure argument, then electricity and water are also key and the Haditha Dam will have to be taken in an operational state. We can talk about land trade routes and wheat harvests at another time. I would note in passing the IS has no reservations about destroying infrastructure when it suits them such as bridges that would block government or militia movements.

Another observation is that IS, Shia and Kurdish concentration of forces have been generally accurately reported in news services almost real time over the last year. This is in stark contrast to US and Iraqi government statements. So what? Well news sources now report large force concentrations from the Shia and from IS building around Habbaniyah, between Ramadi and Fallujah, if news is correct and I just wonder what keeps that base from being cut off from supplies and forced into collapse? And if you buy the news sources are the best current indicators argument and the government shills are unreliable then we can speculate with better than even odds that no one is going to go after Mosul in the near future and that no group seems able to long control territory that is not demographically consistent with their cause. This seems like a reliable statement. That probably means Baghdad might be terrorized but unlikely the IS will get far besides shooting down some airliners or mortaring the green zone and car bombing the neighborhoods. In contrast news sources report Karmah and Baghdadi are seeing IS activity that would cut off government supply lines west. So one would wonder how Ramadi would ever be retaken by government forces, Shia militias or not, without a supply line it could count on. Lastly the Kurds have made it pretty plain that they aren't going to push into Arab Sunni territory but will maintain control of their own turf and their oil fields around Kirkuk.

So in sum.

First IS needs to take existing infrastructure intact. IS has demonstrated the ability to destroy but there is no indication of any hard infrastructure building besides bootleg mini-refineries.

Second, none of the three main power groups in Iraq demonstrate the ability to take and hold territory that is not ethnically compatible and what outposts the government has to the west are being systematically eliminated. There is no reason to think this trend will not continue in the near term .

FB Ali

I would agree generally with your conclusions, especially the second one.

It is difficult to take existing infrastructure intact when you have to fight to seize it. It is also pointless to build much elaborate infrastructure when it is going to be promptly destroyed by air bombardment.

bth

I think Baiji is damaged but not destroyed.

Do you think the Iraqi government would destroy infrastructure like refineries, electrical grids, pipelines and bridges to prevent them from falling into ISIL hands?

This might sound like a hypothetical question but it isn't. If IS were to make a run toward Baghdad or if dams and refineries are lost to IS would the Iraqi government be willing to destroy the facilities with all the permanence that entails. The one thing the Iraqi government still has going for it is oil cash flow and that brings with it the ability to reconstruct. IS doesn't have that ability if it can't get large quantities of recurring cash.

In other words could a scenario be constructed so that support for ISIL equates to being without electricity, a job, pension or way out of a land locked warring medieval nightmare?

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