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16 June 2015


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This multi-author piece on "What should the US do about ISIS" is doing the rounds on the tweeterz:


I have a feeling that several of these pieces would not meet your approval.

William R. Cumming

Agree with your prediction of activity during RAMADAN, unfortunately!

C Webb

About the moors in Spain.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/ba/9b/b8/ba9bb82ac845b2770b59955ac62a0d21.jpg (Hard to believe the extent of the invasion)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelagius_of_Asturias (Asturias is up the very north of Spain)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconquista (Notice Gerald the Fearless. )


C Webb

The invasion? The moors owned most of the country for eight hundred years. pl

C Webb

True. It was well past the invasion stage. :)

IMHO it worth mentioning, because it's not well known (by most folk) the extent to which the country was moorish and what was involved in the reconquest.



The fall of Tal Abyad was on the front page of the WP:

American Air Strikes prevented Islamic State seizure of Kobane and helped drive them out of this town. The report indicates the YPG (People’s Protection Units) now controls the northern Syrian border except for the gap north of Allepo:

Whoever controls the air controls the ground. But, only when the troops on the ground are willing to die for the cause that they are fighting for.

Israel’s end game is clear; keep Muslims fighting among themselves so they won’t fight them.

I’d expect the USA to continue to selectively use its airpower. So far it has been used effectively to help the Kurds. I surmise that there are forward air controllers are on the ground there to direct the strikes. A Kurdish people’s army would want to close the gap in their lines and unite their land. But, would Turkey look the other way? The ethnic cleansing will continue with American assistance. The wars will escalate until they cannot anymore. There is no end game that I can see except an arc of war spreading on the borders of Russia around Iran to China.



"Whoever controls the air controls the ground." Really? pl


The Saudis are currently learning the lesson that after almost 3 months of daily bombardment from the air that not only do Saleh and the Houthis control almost the majority of Yemen but they are also able to launch cross border raids on Saudi Arabia with near impunity.

Watching videos of guys in flip flops carrying RPGs and AKs up mountain passes to then take on Saudi armour and watch them drive them away it seems incredible this isn't making headlines in the US.


The Saudis have complete air dominance and lots of Apaches. Not enough to even cover their own isolated border posts it seems.


"The Saudis are currently learning the lesson "

You're sure about that?

Patrick Bahzad

MartinJ, Thx for the link to the youtube vid ! quite interesting to watch what weapons they use and how they use them ... pretty different from pictures we see from the Iraqi army for example.

I wonder who the morons are in the APCs and the tank ... the "death to America, death to Israel" slogan of the Houthis sounds familiar, but a little funny in this instance.

Anyway, these guys have in their flip flops have cojones, even if they only got some kind of Mexican Federales in front of them !


Do we know anything about ISIS command structures? Are they geographic? Can one commander get resources shifted to him for an offensive or are they essentially autonomous? I thought hundreds of tactical vehicles with foreign fighters were their main means of shifting power for an offensive. If so knowing where they are concentrating would be a key indicator.

When the latest Ramadi event happened there appeared to be a concentration of vehicles that occurred a week or so before. I assume if a new advance is planned there would also be an assembly or at least concentration of forces disguised as civilian traffic within sprinting distance. We also know water levels had been reduced south of Ramadi a few weeks ago. Undoubtedly there would be other indicators such as refugee flows or medical supply concentrations.

If trucking routes to Turkey are indeed now cut, that means refined petrol, hard currency, possibly some foods, medical supplies, ammunition, new recruits, might all be in greater scarcity soon within ISIS. The desire to keep at least some routes open must be intense within ISIS command.

William R. Cumming

What kind of air bases do the Kurds possess? Do they have organic airpower?


"Whoever controls the air controls the ground"???

Somehow the NVA never got this message in 1970 when the 5th Marine regiment had to conduct constant patrolling in the An Hua basin - only about 13 miles southwest of Danang air base.

And as far as patrolling "up to one's ass in alligators", this was the normal situation in this area - as can be seen from Jim Webb's Navy Cross citation (posted some time back on SST).

And I suspect that the recon units, SF units and SOG who worked out in the "mountains" west of Danang had a similar view about the NVA not getting this message....

William R. Cumming

The history of Spain is amazing in its contortions and convulsions!

Is there a good English language history of Spain out there somewhere?

For good or bad IMO by the end of this Century USA and most of Western Hemisphere bi- or tri-lingual.

Did you know that Nicarauga is serious about a sea-level canal Atlantic to Pacific through its terrority?

William R. Cumming

Thanks Charleton Heston!

William R. Cumming

Is my understanding correct that YEMEN like Afghanistan has many habitable caves?

C Webb

You mean Charlton Heston? :)

Johnny Reims

Yes, Catholic architecture in Andalusia reflects this history quite well. As just one example, the Cathedral in Granada (built by Queen Isabella) is triumphal and simply massive.

To use very blunt language, the architecture simply screams, “It took us a long time but we finally kicked you Moors out and we ain’t going anywhere.”

There's a reason the Catholic monarchs - Los Reyes Catholicos -- decided to have their mausoleum in Granada.

For that reason, I have concluded that the takfiri crowd see Andalusia and Spain as a “high value” target at some point.

My methodology, admittedly, is somewhat suspect. It consisted primarily of a least once a day ritual of having a San Miguel beer, followed by a cortado, and a lot of walking in Granada, Seville (including Triana) and Cordoba. Basically, just looking around.

Very interesting. On more than one occasion, I came across cutlery shops on the plazas outside cathedrals in Spain. The Cross and the switchblade, to borrow a title of a book.

Dang, I sure do like it there.


Patrick -

Any idea what the tubed anti-tank/bunker weapon they were mostly using is? Good fire discipline and nice to see the machine gunner using a bipod and firing 3-4 round bursts. They seem to know what they are doing..


You might try A concise history of Spain from Cambridge University. Three hundred plus pages.
Spain was invaded by Africans in the eighth century, the eleventh, the twelfth and the fourteenth. During the caliphate in the tenth century many Berber troops kept order in Al Andalus.
An aside that is important: many people, the generality, opine that the "Arabs" had a very great civilization in Spain. That is a patriarchal view since most of the invading armies readily cohabitated with Spanish women. That is the population was a mixture and at the same time Islamic and it took three centuries to create a homogeneous Islamic mass.

Babak Makkinejad

The weakness of the Arabs in Spain was their pluralism; they tolerated Christian subjects instead of encouraging them to convert, by hook or crook, or by persuading them to leave.

Furthermore, they also suffered of another common affliction - that of dynastic instability as ruling houses came and went - and heads were chopped each time.

And the longer they stayed in Iberia, the more fragmented they became.

The one time that Arabs could construct a long-lasting dynasty - under Abbasids - they modeled themselves on the Sassanids. They were assisted in that by various Persian elements.

When they got rid of the Persians in the Caliphate, it began to decline.

Selejuks suffered the same fate when they removed their Bismarck - the Persian Khwaje Nizam al Mulk.


Tidewater to William R. Cumming and All,

It would seem to be indicated given the focus of this thread--Moorish Spain--that any history of Spain mentioned here would be about that, at least for a quick reply.

From a look at Amazon book reviews I find Maria Rosa Menocal's The Ornament of the World and Richard Fletcher's Moorish Spain are taught these days, and sometimes taught together. I just ordered them out of curiosity.

I have a good library but until I found a toehold by way of biography I really haven't read much Spanish history. Still, Harold Livermore's A History of Spain is said to be a workmanlike study, a good reference book, and it is a nice sized paperbacked book with large print. I have decided I like my copy and have brought it up out of the basement keep, where one walks sideways.

There is also Stanley G. Payne's Spain and Portugal. It is good to remember Portugal, since its entire Atlantic coast is wonderful,the cooking is far better than Spain's, and if one were to risk going offshore to run away from things or to retire, or just to dream about it, Portugal is said to be the great sleeper of Europe.

There is also Raymond Carr's A History of Spain, which is essays by different people; again, I just ordered, so I'm not sure.

There's one thing I am sure about. James Michener's Iberia is a great book. It is a classic, and Michener knew it. He covers the Moorish centuries as well. If you travel these days and have to pay attention to the cost of it, consider this: Michener went at least twenty times to Madrid over the years. (He also survived out in the Pacific the ditching of two PBYs, in one of which the entire lower deck drowned.) He read Spanish fluently, spoke it probably better than he acknowledged, was well-connected, and he studied Spain all his life. He wrote about Spain in the years after it had been ravaged by the Civil War and had not recovered. Franco's Spain. I saw some of that, as well, otherwise known as the 60's. But he covers the whole history. When Iberia came out there seem to have been such a large printing that one can still buy a good copy of it in hardcover practically for the price of the postage.

Many years ago when I first went into the Prado in Madrid, the famous Goya paintings Dos de Mayo and Tres de Mayo were kept downstairs in a special room. When I at length found myself in front of them, the predictable happened, I was stunned. (In a way that I am not by Guernica.) After a long time of intense concentration, in which I noticed the "African edges of things" ('You Hated Spain' Ted Hughes for Sylvia Plath) also suggested in the paintings, I glanced around. I was surprised to see a doorway to another room. I peeked in and found the Black Paintings! Talk about a Double Whammy! I was astonished. I had never seen anything like them. Still haven't. They had been painted on the walls of his estate manor house, Quinta del Sordo, outside of Madrid. You might think by a man who was losing his mind. He could hear the gunfire from the execution squads near, or below his estate, and he went out there late at night to observe the corpses, with a workman who carried a lamp. It is interesting to me to notice in the structure of his painting of the Tres De Mayo on how he lighted his execution scene using the trick of the light of powerful lamps the French soldiers used. I don't think he ever quite looked at his lanterns the same way again.

One of the Black paintings just stopped me in my tracks. In a vast expanse of waste, or sand, interesting artistically, by the way (modernism!) there is a small dog who may or may not have fallen into a ditch, he seems to have seen something that has caused him distress, there are many many ways you can read it--but to me it takes you right to Shirkegarrd -- it is so poignant you can scarcely bear it, if you were to allow yourself to bear it. It is something in the eyes. Sometims I see a little bit of it in the eyes of the Cossack's far too many cats, the trust, anxiety, fear, the need, as if we had the answers. But the dear little dog is not done yet, in the painting. And worse things are happening in the paintings next to him. I like Tyler's "Move on, nothing to see here." (I did weekend night police reporting.)

Years went by and I was in the East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. I was looking at Joan Miro's The Farm. I hadn't been there for a long time and I didn't even know about this painting. At this point please let me suggest that one, if interested, look at the Wiki on Joan Miro, particularly on how Hemingway got the painting--the guy had a serious little collection for someone who was broke!-- and how he must have given it to Mary and she gave it to the National Gallery. Then look at the Wiki of the Black Paintings, the Wiki of Miro and the Wiki of The Little Dog. On the last visit to the Prado that Miro made he chose two paintings to contemplate. One of these was Las Meninas by Velasquez. The other was the Little Dog! It turns out that Goya's little dog is one of the most important paintings in the world to artists!

I think a biography of Goya would be another approach to Spanish history, but its not about the Moors.



I meant they were learning the lesson the hard way but being less flippant I am very sure they know that their bombing campaign will achieve nothing without having someone on the ground to change certain realities.

There is a gradual expansion of the insurgency and in my opinion this is directed by certain figures in Riyadh - a combination of Ali Muhsin (the former president's cousin), the Al-Ahmar family, Islah and figures surrounding the current president.

The problem for the Saudis is the extent to which they can control the various competing forces that will comprise the resistance in order to turn any military gains into political gains.

Johnny Reims

I fully expect you to see this through Persian tinted glasses –and I like reading your perspective -- but it doesn’t change my conclusion. The ISIS “head-choppers” and those of that ilk would place a high value on certain places in Spain. Maybe not as a high a value as you, right now, but I am looking at the grand picture and considering probabilities.

Listen, find me one in the ISIS crowd who would say, “Yes, yes, Babak, is exactly right. The only reason – the sole reason -- for the Islamic presence in Iberia for 800 years is all due to the Persians and their glorious history. Splendid chap, that Babak Makkinejad, lovely name. And, oh by the way, did Babak tell you that the patron Saint of Spain goes by the name of Matamoros? And everywhere you look in Spain, you see statues of this robust European-looking chap on a horse driving a spear through a Muslim, right through the chest. Why would that bother us here in the new caliphate?”

If your find such an ISIS representative, I will at least reconsider my conclusion, but it is highly unlikely that it’s going to change.

My conclusion is nothing groundbreaking. Remember the 04 Madrid bombing? (I am assuming that Al Q was behind that).

Also, please remember I have a different methodology than you. I would have a San Miguel beer followed by a cortado , then lots of walking and looking around. Occasionally, I did that more than once a day. Then I would go to my hotel room and read Michener’s book. Hemingway, etc. (Tidewater below gives some good references I need to check out.)

My guess is that I am more partial to San Miguel than you. Someone told me that it is written somewhere -- not on the beer bottle, as far as I can recall -- that San Miguel knows a lot about the kingdom of Persia. But San Miguel may effect my reality, every now and then.

Also, I am not sure if you are making inferences to the contrary or not, but I am relatively confident the Catholic Spaniards had something to do with the military aspect of the reconquista, and the final collapse of the caliphate did not just happen on its own due to a lack of Persian influence and nothing else. Imo, the Spaniards have a certain fierceness. Knife fighters. The guerrilla in guerrilla warfare is a Spanish word. Ask Napoleon if you don’t believe me. Spain gave him a ulcer.

But dang, I like it these days. Different state of mind in Andalusia.

Charles I

Spent an entire day on mushrooms there trying to confirm that no two tiles were alike. . . .where do the decades go?

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