Small Wars Journal

The Strategy is Working in Iraq…for Iran

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 9:52am


The Strategy is Working in Iraq…for Iran

Joseph R. Núñez

Secretary Ash Carter, under questioning from Sen. John McCain this week, Defense acknowledged his concern when McCain asked if it alarms him that Iran “has basically taken over the fight.”  “It does.   It does,” Carter replied, adding, “We’re watching it very closely.”  Watching, but not participating.

Yet top US military officials are actually sanguine, in many respects, about the presence of Iranian advisers. They know that they’re there – and what’s more, they add, these Iranian-backed forces might actually be able to help.  Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, endeavored to explain why to outraged lawmakers this week.

“It’s worth reminding ourselves, Iran and its proxies have been inside of Iraq since 2004,” General Dempsey noted during his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week.  “Frankly, it will only be a problem if it results in sectarianism.”

- Christian Science Monitor article extracts

The U.S. strategy in Iraq is not working, but Iran is doing very well.  Hoping that Iran will neither add to the sectarian divide nor expand its influence and control is more than fanciful.  Iran has been thwarting Iraqi sovereignty and American efforts to foster security, democracy, and development for more than a decade despite what political, military, and diplomatic leaders might argue.  We are either delusional or naïve about Iran’s actions and ambitions in Iraq and throughout the region.

In a nutshell, U.S. strategy and policy implementation have been like a pendulum, swinging too far in each direction.  From an ill-timed and poorly executed invasion in 2003 – especially the post-invasion operations – to pulling all of our troops out of Iraq in 2011, we are an inconsistent and impatient power.  Our inconsistency is due to the growing domestic political divide that has now poisoned national security and strategy.  We are wrong to walk away from Iraq or to rely on major U.S. military units to reclaim territory for Iraq.  American impatience is part of our political culture, something that Alexis de Tocqueville documented over 175 years ago.  This strange duality confounds our allies and inspires our enemies.

On the other side, Iran is consistent and patient.  Though there long has been significant friction between Arabs and Persians, this has been ameliorated by the Shiite Islam connection.  Over time, Iraq’s population has become more Shiite and that is now reflected in the national government.  When Sunni insurgents rolled into Iraq last summer, the first ally on the scene was Shiite Iran, and they immediately reinforced security when the Iraqi Army collapsed from corruption, incompetence, indiscipline, and lack of training.  Like other rogue, emerging, and unitary states, Iran does whatever needs to be done on the front end, often through covert means, but they are not shy about “exacting payments" on the back end.  Witness the cases of Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.

The Persian buffer now extends to the Mediterranean; this rising hegemon is encircling Saudi Arabia, along with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.  Given Iraq’s geostrategic position and natural resources, not to mention important Shiite shrines, Iran has no intention of taking a backseat to Iraqi sovereignty or any other power trying to aid this troubled country on its western border.  The United States believes it can coexist with Iran inside Iraq, but that view is not shared by Iraq’s Arab neighbors.

The American military response to Iraq’s invasion was far too slow.  While American intransigence may have helped push PM Nouri al-Maliki aside, its larger impact was to create a security vacuum that Iran was only too happy to fill.  The ubiquitous Iranian Quds Force General Qassem Suleimani has led Iraqi Shiite militias in many battles, just as he assisted them to kill American soldiers going back more than a decade.  Clearly, he is emblematic of Iranian consistency and patience as their “poster boy hero” in Iraq while maintaining a light footprint.

The American plan is to – once again – train Iraq’s Army so it can take the fight to the Islamic State and reclaim Mosul, a very sore point for Iraq.  As the second largest city, it also reflects the atrocities committed against minorities, such as Christians, and the destruction of important archaeological sites.  The U.S. plan looks fine on paper, but the pressure is on to get forces out to fight as Iranian military leaders direct Iraqi Shiite Militias in battle to reoccupy Sunni areas now.  Compounding this pressure and frustration is the reality that it is going to take more than several weeks to recast Iraqi soldiers as effective fighters.

What to do?  Well, contrary to “Big Army” bureaucratic thinking, we could also employ an unconventional strategy to get positive impact on the ground – recognizing that air power does not control terrain – right now.  When Iraqi Minister of Defense Khalid al- Obeidi, a Sunni from Mosul and former Iraqi General, is touting Iranian contributions to the assault on Tikrit, it is time for the United States to regain influence on the ground to materially shape combat outcomes.  If Iraqi Army units are lacking in senior leadership, bold and creative American officers – preferably from elite Special Operations units – could be inserted as leaders, mentors, and trainers until Iraqi officers step up.  That would accelerate military unit availability for the fight, thereby bolstering the U.S. position as effective ally.

 The American strategy rests on motivating disparate religious and ethnic groups to cooperate and recognize national authority.  Two important groups, Kurds and Sunnis, have not gotten the support they deserve from Baghdad or Washington.  Whether Peshmerga or al-Sahwa, neither of these forces have what they need, equipment and training, to serve as fully effective components of the security force equation.  Bluntly stated, the Shiite government in Baghdad is wary of the Kurds and Sunnis, so they have been content to drag their feet, whether it is paying Peshmerga or nationalizing al-Sahwa.  Sympathetically, the United States endorsed this stance by not directly supporting the Kurds and kept quiet while al-Sahwa leaders were assassinated and their fighters were abandoned by their government.  This is illogical and contrary to American goals.

Kurds and Sunnis are frustrated with Baghdad, and Washington helps maintain this poor relationship by its lack of action to balance forces to better reflect the multi-ethnic/religious realities.  Worse yet, the Kurds have been strongly pro-American for many years, and have done more to advance democracy and capitalism than the rest of the country.  As for the Sunnis, they developed a pro-American stance during the surge, but clearly feel abandoned today.  In the fight against the Islamic State, Kurdish and Sunni troops are needed for their martial skill, ethnic and tribal motivation, and their legitimacy in the west and north, respectively.

Hmm…how successful will the occupation of Sunni Tikrit be if it is carried out by Shiite militias and their Iranian advisors?  Can Mosul be taken without a better equipped Kurdish blocking force?  Supporting irregular forces used to be a core competency for our Special Forces.  True, they are in Iraq, but their ability to serve as a force multiplier against insurgents has not yet been properly weighted to change the equation on the ground by leveraging Kurdish and Sunni martial potential.

Interestingly, Jordan has begun to provide arms to Sunni militias in Anbar Province.  This will help, but much more is needed and as soon as possible.  More Arab countries need to pitch in on the ground.  Egypt’s leader, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (former general and U.S. Army War College graduate) has recommended creating a standing Arab force to fight the Islamic State and other insurgent threats.  Clearly, such a unit would be very helpful to balance, legitimize, and win in Iraq, and then Syria.  It will take U.S. support to make this a reality, and it is in our interest to back this force.


About the Author(s)

Colonel (Ret.) Joseph R. Núñez, Ph.D., spent over five years in Iraq between 2007 and 2013.  After serving as a professor at the Army War College, he deployed to Baghdad in support of the Department of Defense advisory effort and then served as an advisor for the Department of State.


Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 7:56am

Does this count as friendly fire?--as I am not sure who the US is supporting in Iraq anymore......?

AP BREAKING: Iranian Guard says US drone killed 2 of its advisers in Iraq; US says it struck militants

One in fact could argue what the heck the IRGC is doing inside Iraq and were they advising Shia militia's so the US term militant could actually apply.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 1:33am

Many of us wrote here that if the US started bombing IS in Iraq it would be eventually seen as supporting the Shia against the Sunni and now that has in fact happened and it is around "ethnic cleansing" of Sunni's.

Did anyone in the NSC foresee this at all??? Now we are being told who and who not to bomb after being told the Shia militias together with the Iraqi Army could take Tikrit by themselves and ignoring the US.

"The U.S. Is Providing Air Cover for Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq." Scathing, from @michaeldweiss and @mppregent…

Iraq's fNSA issues a warning to Obama, Dempsey, Austin: don't hit Iranians or their proxies or else. Amazing.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 1:00pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Seems the KSA rhetoric is heating up ---if one thinks about it the US has never called Russia out on their massive weapons shipments to Assad nor when the Assad/GRU intel center was recently captured by Syrian rebels.

Saudi FM responds to Putin. "Assad lost his legitimacy as Russia continues to arm the govt killing the Syrian people"…

The US has long known of the KSA dislike of Russian involvement in the Sunni Syrian conflict but done little to moderate the view that the US does not really care what goes on inside Syria--red lines then no red lines, chlorine bombs being dropped with the US response "we will check on it and get back to you" and now Yemen.

To we will support the Muslim Brotherhood and then we do not and on and on and yet the WH states we have a strategy for the ME.

What is amazing is that they US ships 500M USD in lethal aid to Yemen AND then loses it somewhere and yet refuses to send ATMs to the Ukraine--does that make sense to anyone??

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 12:07pm

It just keeps getting worse with the accusations that this Administration does not have a ME strategy and or worse just "winging it" in order to get an Iranian agreement.

Seems the Administration's worst nightmare is coming back to haunt them--when the WH wanted LTG Flynn to leave DIA they did not anticipate a great intelligence officer being rather blunt.

Former intelligence official: Obama’s Middle East policy is ‘willful ignorance’

Then this comment does not bode as well:

Carl Bildt ✔ @carlbildt (former Swedish FM)
The thesis that one can sort things out in the Middle East with some bombing has a - mildly speaking - somewhat debatable track record.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 10:29am

Seems that it is the KSA who fully understands the role of Russia in the ME whereas the US leadership "hopes" for Russian support in the Iranian negotiations.

Seems that the KSA does have another opinion of Russian efforts especially in Syria and now Yemen.

Putin letter to Arab summit triggers strong Saudi attack

Sun Mar 29, 2015 8:40am EDT

By Yara Bayoumy and Mahmoud Mourad

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of hypocrisy on Sunday, telling an Arab summit that he should not express support for the Middle East while fuelling instability by supporting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

In a rare move, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that a letter from Putin would be read out to the gathering in Egypt, where Arab leaders discussed an array of regional crises, including conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya.

"We support the Arabs' aspirations for a prosperous future and for the resolution of all the problems the Arab world faces through peaceful means, without any external interference," Putin said in the letter.

His comments triggered a sharp attack from Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.

"He speaks about the problems in the Middle East as though Russia is not influencing these problems," he told the summit right after the letter was read out.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia have been cool over Moscow's support for Assad, whom Riyadh opposes. The civil war between Assad's forces and rebels has cost more than 200,000 lives in four years.

"They speak about tragedies in Syria while they are an essential part of the tragedies befalling the Syrian people, by arming the Syrian regime above and beyond what it needs to fight its own people," Prince Saud said.

"I hope that the Russian president corrects this so that the Arab world's relations with Russia can be at their best level."

The Saudi rebuke may have been awkward for summit host Egypt, which depends heavily on billions of dollars in support from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab allies, but has also improved ties with Moscow.

In February, Putin received a grand welcome in Egypt, signaling a rapprochement.

(Writing By Shadi Bushra; Editing by Michael Georgy and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 9:47am

Seems that the White House and the NSC "forgot" Khomeini's constant references to his "Green Crescent" in his "revolutionary Islam" rhetoric and they seemed to have forgotten as well that the IRGC are the "defenders of the faith".

For those that do not understand the "Green Crescent" and how though it really comes out of AFG and extends into Lebanon.

New Shia Crescent map for journalists. Please disregard the old map. There's been an interesting development in Yemen

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 7:32am

The White House needs urgently to figure out exactly what that strategy was for the ME they first claimed to have but in reality did not have and they need to fully understand the role Iranian terrorism has played in the ME since 1979 before they decided on their "legacy in 2017".

The ME is unwinding at a pace never seen before and sides are being drawn in the Sunni Shia divide.

Carl Bildt ✔ @carlbildt (former Swedish Ambassador)
Saudi and allied air strikes in Yemen. Intense last-minute talks with Iran in Lausanne. And Netanyahu goes ballistic in his rhetoric.

Sputnik ✔ @SputnikInt
Sides in #Yemen Ask Moscow for Help in Conflict Resolution

Something the US has not fully understood is the role of what Russia has been doing behind our backs at the same time they "claim" to be supporting our efforts.

Russia drives a two track policy--appearing to help at the same time providing weapons, training and yes even GRU centers/troops to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 6:27am

In reply to by Bill M.

This just reinforces the above article:

What is US strategy in MENA, seriously? America Loses No Matter Who Wins the Next Great Middle East War

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 5:20am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill--and if you recall the quote I wrote from the IS commander when IS marched into Iraq---when he pointed to the Iraq/Syrian border crossing sign and stated Sykes-Picot is dead.

This is what is it all about right now---it is ugly, brutal and bloody but Sykes-Picot is being redone by the civil societies in their own areas.

You might be right about the new forming Arab Armies ie Egypt/KSA but I see it as an expression of the Sunni nations finally saying to Iran enough is enough and we can match you militarily and we will when you get to far outside your regional hegemon area--that line was crossed in Yemen.

Obama has been if the reporting is correct from a very proIranian editor who has been covering the nuclear talks and who defected yesterday in Switzerland ---has become the "Iranian spokesperson" to the rest of the P5+1 group and has been trying to get the Europeans especially the French to soften their stances on having a harder nuclear containment agreement.

My serious question is --just what is it in that coming agreements with Iran does both Kerry and Obama NOT want to share with Congress? If it is a ground breaking agreement as they both are alluding to then share it and "normally" Congress goes along BUT if it is not this Congress is just vocal enough to say it is not--that is what they fear most.

Maybe this is at the heart of the current Israeli views towards Obama--namely he is giving away the shop in exchange for his "legacy" in 2017 and thus unleashing a nuclear race in the ME which has started now with nuclear power plants being planned for the KSA and Egypt.

Bill M.

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 10:17pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

“Now we have to make a choice. Not taking a stand in Syria was the original mistake that helped to open the gates of hell.”

Invading Iraq and conducting a regime change, which basically handed Iraq to Iran was the original mistake.

The second mistake was the stupid way we pulled out of Iraq.

The third mistake wasn't failure to get involved in Syria, it was the U.S. government sending false signals that we would get involved with State Department flakes cheering on the uprising in Syria. In many ways we gave the impression we were going to help the rebels, without even understanding who they really were. State department reps who promote Arab Spring movements have blood on their hands. A whole lot of blood. If we got involved in Syria, the only difference is we would have several hundred more U.S. casualties, but the Middle East would still be a mess. Iraq was the balance of power against Iran, and we altered that balance, plain and simple.

On one hand, we look weak to Iran, and Iran is pushing into that weaken. On the other hand, I suspect Iran is desperate. Lebanese Hezbollah considers the situation in Syria an existential threat, LH is Iran's principle proxy (well maybe Iraq is now), so it is important to them, and they Iranians have taken several casualties in Iraq and Syria. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out. Admittedly the Obama administration is rightfully viewed as weak, but that could be enough to prompt Arab states to rise up and take action on their own. In time we'll be asking if we really wanted them to do that, because I suspect the 2d and 3d order effects of that will be seen as undesirable in time.

Its a mess, the borders that the Sykes-Picot agreed to will ultimately need to change.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 5:45pm

The White House says they have a strategy--but really do they??

Following recent event ie Yemen, updated diagram of geopolitical relationships in the Middle East…

“We see Iran involved in Syria and Lebanon and Yemen and Iraq and God knows where,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said during talks earlier this month with Secretary of State John F. Kerry. “This . . . must stop if Iran is to be part of the solution of the region and not part of the problem.”

Some former senior U.S. military commanders, meanwhile, said they have been warning for years of the need to do more to deal with what they see as Iran’s efforts to sow chaos through its armed proxies. “The policy was benign neglect and turn the other cheek,” said retired Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a senior intelligence officer at U.S. Central Command. “We’ve consistently refused to do things to the worst of the worst guys over there.”
Other Middle East experts said the Obama administration’s efforts to avoid wading into sectarian civil war has unnerved the closest U.S. allies and emboldened Iran.

“A vacuum was created that Iran exploited,” Martin Indyk, executive vice president of the Brookings Institution and Obama’s former Middle East envoy, wrote in an e-mail. “Now we have to make a choice. Not taking a stand in Syria was the original mistake that helped to open the gates of hell.”

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 11:58am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

More from Yemen that has been overlooked in western media this past several months.

In Feb 2015, #Russia denied(!) anything to do with arms shipment that arrived in #Yemen & seized by #Houthis fighters

This is on top of the 500M USD in Us weapons that "disappeared"???

#Russian (and Chinese) government reps met #Houthi rebels in #Yemen in January 2015 to discuss economic alliances.…

Just this week there was an Iranian freighter offloading 185 tons of military equipment that flowed to the Houthi side—not a single comment by the West.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 11:40am

Can now all SWJ commenters finally admit that this White House has absolutely no ME strategy whatsoever other than to get an Iranian agreement come what may simply for 2017 "legacy reasons"?

Right now it appears to any sane individual simply monitoring the ME that the US really does not know what it wants nor does it any longer "know" who is friend and or foe--it has not been this confusing in the last 60 or so years.

There were serious warnings here in SWJ that if the US got re-involved in Iraq and we began a bombing campaign against the IS we would in fact be seen as protecting the Shia and killing Sunni's---that has now occurred.

It has been written here often that the US did not get the Sunni/Shia divide and the regional hegemon aspirations of Iran nor had Iran fully distanced itself from their own forms of terrorism since 1979--and that has not happened.

THEN the following which fully indicates just how disconnected this White House is in the ME just as it is disconnected with the Russian/Ukrainian issues.

For an administration believing in "soft power" the voice of "hard power" in the ME seems to be ruling now.

Peter Harling on US policy: “In many years of working in the region, I have never seen such a distance between statements and fact.”

A Policy Puzzle of U.S. Goals and Alliances in the Middle East

Our new Mideast order: CENTCOM given an hour's notice before a major multilateral Arab war is launched in Yemen:…

AND if you think this White House is confused on the ME then check these comments concerning Yemen:

We collected the Obama team’s quotes defending their Yemen policy. It is just a complete mess. …

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 11:23am

Does any of this below indicate that we have currently any clear strategy for Syria, Iraq, and now Yemen when Iran is involved--and or the nuclear talks right now which is setting the stage for a regional hegemon to assume full power/influence over a number of ME countries that have Sunni majorities.

Iran’s Coming Leadership Crisis via @WSJ

"Yemen is becoming another black hole like Libya only with the Iranians the big winner.":…

Iran expands regional 'empire' ahead of nuclear deal

Yemen foes square off as fears of war, Saudi-Iran rivalry grow

Iraq’s Politics And Its Discontents An Interview With Col. Joel Rayburn:…

Produce the Fatwa

1:05 PM, Mar 20, 2015 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN

In his annual statement marking the Persian new year, President Obama said he believes that Iran and the U.S. “should be able” to resolve the dispute over the mullahs’ nuclear program “peacefully, with diplomacy.”

With his very next words, Obama said the following: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has said that Iran would never develop a nuclear weapon.”

Of course, the existence of Khamenei’s alleged fatwa is hotly disputed. If the president is so confident it exists, then his administration should be able to produce a copy of the fatwa, revealing when it was written and what it says. The Washington Post’s fact checker went looking for the fatwa in November 2013, as administration officials were citing it at the time, and couldn’t find it.

The Iranians are well aware of the controversy over Khamenei’s supposed declaration. They have countered by pointing to Khamenei’s public statements, in which he has said that Iran considers “the use of such weapons as haram (religiously forbidden).” In 2013, USA Today’s Oren Dorell reported that Iran's press office at the United Nations cited one of Khamenei’s speeches in 2006 as evidence that the fatwa was real. With respect to building nuclear weapons, Khamenei said, "any benefit would not be worth the cost."

The Iranians were, therefore, trying to substitute Khamenei’s public rhetoric for a formal, binding religious edict. (The very nature of such edicts, and whether they are binding or not, is itself in dispute.) Importantly, the Iranians’ argument at the time was an implicit concession that no such edict, or fatwa, actually exists. If it did, then they could easily produce it. They still haven’t.

There is another basic logical problem with the Iranians’ argument. Khamenei says all sorts of things, many of which we know are false – blatantly so. For example, he has repeatedly claimed that the Obama administration supports the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

And Khamenei has clearly lied about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In February 2012, Khamenei reportedly said the following (emphasis added):

“The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

No one seriously believes this. The U.S. intelligence community, which erroneously argued in 2007 that Iran had “halted its nuclear weapons program” in 2003, doesn’t think this is true. Even at that time, the intelligence community noted Iran had been pursuing a bomb. The Iranians couldn’t halt those efforts if they didn’t pursue them in the first place. There are conflicting assessments about how quickly Iran can assemble a bomb, but the intelligence doesn’t support Khamenei’s claim that Iran “has never pursued” such a weapon. The evidence collected by the IAEA also shows the opposite is true.

Amazingly, according to a column by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, Obama believed that these same remarks by Khamenei in February 2012 marked “a potential starting point” for serious negotiations. That is, Obama viewed a blatant lie about Iran’s nuclear past as a diplomatic opening.

Khamenei was indeed lying in 2012 when he said Iran had “never pursued…nuclear weapons.” It stands to reason, therefore, that none of his public statements on Iran’s nuclear program can be taken at face value, let alone portrayed as a binding religious ruling.

If Khamenei issued such a fatwa, then the Iranians and the Obama administration should be able to produce it. Many have searched for the fatwa. None have found it.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 6:08am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Some commenters stated here at SWJ that this would start happening if the Shia were not under control and this just drives the Sunni civil society into the arms of IS.

We the US are great about talking about IS atrocities but somehow ignore Shia atrocities.

Largely confirmed by HRW.

#Iraq: More and more pictures allegedly showing Shia militias and their "trophies": Disturbing and very alarming.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/22/2015 - 1:15pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Seems that another US agency thinks the same thing:

CIA director: Iran general 'destabilizing' efforts in Iraq

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/21/2015 - 2:06pm

Would advise the Administration and the NSC to seriously read this article and then ask themselves are they headed in the totally false direction with Iran?

Welcome to the narrative: How Iran Is Making It Impossible for the US to Beat ISIS @khamenei_ir
We reject US fraudulent offer of reaching a deal w #Iran first then lifting sanctions. Lifting sanctions is a part of deal not its outcome.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/21/2015 - 1:48am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Seems Tikrit is sucking the life out of the Iranians as well---seems that the IS guerrilla tactics in first taking cities and towns works as well as their defense of cities seems to be working.

With a minimum of fighters and massive numbers of IEDs and snipers they have effectively stopped a 30K Iranian militia and Iraqi Amy force with an estimated 1K in fighters.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards leader Sadiq Yari reportedly killed in Tikrit. #Iraq

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/20/2015 - 3:59pm

The current non existent US ME strategy is simply going from bad to worse and the Sunni Shia conflict is just getting warmer and warmer as the US is trying to get anything for an agreement with Iran.

Notice now where Iran is expanding their militay support.

LTG (R) Mike Flynn @MTPFLYNN

Iranian ship unloads 185 tons of weapons in Yemen: Shia / Sunni conflict on the rise in the Middle East.…


Thu, 03/19/2015 - 9:29pm

Coming from a guy that has been at your side since 2010, I believe you are hitting the nail on the head. We are basically creating another power vacuum for the Persian Shiites to come in and take power in what they may consider valuable Sunni Rebel areas. We can already say that the Iranians have a large influence in the eastern regions of the provinces of Basrah, Maysan, Wasit, Diyala, and Suly just due to the geographical closeness to Iran.

The US pull out, in my opinion, was a political blunder that has cost countless Iraqi civilian lives. Keeping our troops in key areas like Anbar could have mitigated this, but politics and media attention would have focused on continuing troop deaths instead of the overall picture of success in the country. Do I believe we could have continued the mission in Iraq and have seen it to success? Absolutely, but we need to be all-in as a country and this shouldn't have been a politicized subject. Overall, a safe and secure Iraq means a safe and secure region.

Joe...I have seen you through multiple venues in multiple provinces and have seen success in those areas. I feel as though progress was given up too soon when we closed COB Adder. We also lost ground in Basrah when the DOD left because we lost access to significant regions to provide services. I'm sure Kilcullen mentioned being able to fight the long fight when it comes to any COIN campaign. We were not as patient as our enemies and US Diplomacy suffers.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 4:05pm

The following is virtually what we said would happen if the US went back into Iraq with none boots on the ground and when the bombing campaign against IS was also being discussed.

Now chemical attacks over the last few days in Syria and the Iraqi assault stalled in Tikrit this is a timely article.

How Iraqi forces are destroying their own best shot at peace

03/16/15 06:34 PM

By Erin Evers

Iraqi forces are currently fighting to recapture Tikrit, an encouraging sign after months of uncertainty about whether the government could retake command of the city from the extremist Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

But the military battle has also shone a spotlight on the appalling abuses against Sunni civilians in the region by government troops and especially by the Shia militias that are a central part of the Iraqi fighting force. As reports of abuses by pro-government militias multiply, both Iraq’s methods and U.S. policy toward Iraq are coming under increased scrutiny.

“Putting an end to ISIS will not be achieved by committing new atrocities and perpetuating more abuses.”

Yet the reality is that both the Baghdad government and successive U.S. administrations have been aware of the Iraqi security forces’ appalling record of abuses for years, not just during this campaign. Human Rights Watch, along with many other rights organizations and media outlets, have published copious documentation of these abuses. Sadly, neither the Iraqi nor the U.S. authorities have indicated that they are prepared to address the problem, including holding those responsible to account.

An ABC News report on March 11 was only the most recent to document the atrocities by Iraqi security forces and militias in their fight against ISIS. Human Rights Watch reviewed the horrific compilation in its entirety before the report was aired. It showed graphic evidence of Iraqi government forces committing torture, summarily executing civilians – including children – and even beheading captives.

While we were unable to verify the authenticity of every photograph and video, we have repeatedly documented the pattern of abusive conduct by Iraqi forces during the fight against ISIS and its predecessor group long before the current campaign began. Late last year, in and around the town of Amerli, we found a pattern of abuses by Iraqi security forces and Shia militias and other fighters assisting them after they forced ISIS to retreat. The destruction of villages, forced displacement of thousands of residents, and kidnappings of civilians by government forces appeared intended to permanently remove Sunni civilians from that area.

As the fighting engulfed Tikrit, people in the region have been similarly devastated by conflict, their populations displaced and divided, while many homes, businesses and even entire villages have been destroyed.

The attention to these abuses now couldn’t come at a more critical time. The advance on Tikrit is a major step toward regaining Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which ISIS has controlled since last June. But regaining territory is only part of the battle. If the people who have long lived there are afraid to come home or have nothing to come home to, the prognosis for Iraq as a functioning state only grows dimmer.

“Iraq’s government, not the unaccountable militias and abusive security forces, should step up and set out clear policies to protect all civilians.”

So it will be crucial for the Baghdad authorities, the U.S., and other governments participating in the fight against ISIS in Iraq to keep Iraqi forces under tight control. The forces need to focus their efforts on defeating ISIS, and to end their atrocities against civilians and those they take prisoner.

And the authorities in Baghdad and Iraq’s international allies need to put in place a post-conflict policy to begin the arduous process of reconstruction that these areas, and the remaining inhabitants, so desperately need.

There are no apparent plans to bring people home. There are no apparent plans to confront sectarian violence and bring about reconciliation between Sunni and Shia communities. These are key gaps that need urgently to be filled. If the government leaves it up to security and militia forces and their commanders who have been implicated in atrocities to decide who can, and who cannot, live in these areas, it will only increase the human misery and division in Iraq.

Iraq’s government, not the unaccountable militias and abusive security forces, should step up and set out clear policies to protect all civilians without discrimination, promote reconciliation and establish the rule of law in the areas that its forces recapture from ISIS. And the U.S. and other governments contributing to the fight against ISIS should make it clear to Baghdad that this is absolutely essential. Putting an end to ISIS will not be achieved by committing new atrocities and perpetuating more abuses.

Outlaw 09

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 11:14am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

If this is what "winning looks like" then I hate seeing what "losing looks like". Based on the average size of an Iraqi infantry company about one lost a day--no army can keep that up for any period not even with thousands of extra Shia militia.

AND the RUMINT is that IS is holding out with only 500-800 fighters vs 20K plus.

Cemetery workers estimate 40-60 Iraqi combatants dead daily, mostly militiamen, from Tikrit fighting:…

Outlaw 09

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 5:29am

If 20,000+ #Iraq troops struggle like this in outskirts (rectangle) the center of #Tikrit (oval) will be heck 2 take

Claim now they need US air support after ignoring the US and following Iranian command advice-nice.

Plus they went early ignoring US suggestions stating "we can do it on our own" and with the Iranians.

Did everyone notice that while the Iraqi's and Iranians are hung up in Tikrit it frees up IS to engage in other areas?

Outlaw 09

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 5:45am

After Kerry's comment that we will have to negotiate with Assad EXACTLY what "red line" has been crossed again and again in the last week---use by Assad forces chemical weapons against civilian targets ie chlorine barrel bombs and then THIS:

Breaking: Hundreds of Suffocation Cases due To poisonous Gases reported in Sarmin #Syria

I wonder which will get the most attention, ISIS using chlorine or Assad using chlorine, hmmmmm

#Assad is attacking town of #Sarmin with chlorine gas

So what is now Obama/Kerry's next move??

More talks and more red lines or finally a definitive set of actions that reflects the thinking of "adults" with a set of values worth defending not children on a playground just trying anything out.

How will the DC "non adults" now respond since social media is now picking up and effectively spreading the truth?

Chlorine bombs in Syria are not used for their military potential ("low"), but for their political significance: "We still do what we want"

No doubt other dictators are taking notes on how many toddlers you can kill with chemical weapons before the world cares. They also note the flaccid reaction of international community to the Syrian government's use of chlorine as a chemical weapon Worth noting in the recent report from the UN's commission on Syria they clearly state they believe the Syrian government has used chlorine

More videos RT @rConflictNews Did the Assad regime just use chlorine bombs in Idlib? #Syria… …

Chlorine gas attack reported on #Syria's #Sarmin yesterday. Videos v @SyriaCivilDef

Field doctor talks of at least 70 suffocation cases following a regime chlorine gas attack in Sarmin, #Idlib, #Syria

The #Assad regime attacks #Sarmin with two barrel bombs filed with Chlorine gas, in defiance of UNSC resolution

Nice and yellow.
Just another #Assad terror attack in the town of Al-Tamanah today.


Rescuers searching for victims in just another #Assad regime terror attack in northern #Syria …

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 1:16pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

It just keeps getting worse:

Before #Iran began a nuke program they were fighting #Iraq just to survive. Today they OWN Lebanon, Yemen, Syria AND Iraq #WellPlayed

Upcoming UN report confirms that ISF&militias conducted extrajudicial killings

If the #Iraq army still looks as sectarian as it does in #Tikrit now I'm sure many #Mosul residents will stay and fight alongside #ISIS

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 11:43am

The WH and the NSC would do well if they read alterative media sites instead of the standard intel briefings concerning Iran and their interests in Iraq as they are assuming Iran will be a bulwark against IS and support the US in the ME.

Well worth the read of this article that came out today--there are a number of sentences in this article that do not bode well for the ME and actually give insight into the Iranian geo political goals for the area--

Wonder if the WH/NSC fully understands just what the Kerry comment is actually supporting--the belief that Khomeinism will die in 10 or less years is a figment of imagination:

Published: 16/03/2015 03:12 PM

“Throw off Arabism,” Iran
news agency tells Iraq

An op-ed from the semi-official Mehr news agency follows on the heals of Iranian officials' rhetoric on Tehran's expansionary role in the region.

BEIRUT – One of Iran’s leading news agencies has called on the Iraqi people to “throw off Arabism,” in a vitriolic editorial calling for the war-torn country to move into Iran's orbit.

“The time has come for the Iraqi people to say their final word. [They must] choose between false Arabism and true Islam, and brush the dust of Arab humiliation off their clothes,” the semi-official Mehr news agency wrote over the weekend.

“The Iraqi people—the Iraqi parliament to be precise—must move towards unity with their true friends [Iran] and throw off the garments of false Arabism.”

The news agency also argued that “there can be no doubt that Iranians and Iraqis share religious and historical bonds that connect the two peoples over history.”

The controversial op-ed comes amid Tehran’s increasingly confident proclamations of its influence in the Middle East, after Iranian-backed Houthis took control of Yemen’s government in February while Iran has helped coordinate the Iraqi government’s new offensives against ISIS.

Last week, one of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s advisors said that “all of the Middle East is Iranian,” while a top Revolutionary Guards officer touted that Iran was playing the leading military role to prop up the Syrian regime.

The Mehr news agency editorial echoed these comments, saying that “Iranian commanders have rushed to save the Iraqi people” while “Arab generals are in the cabarets of Las Vegas not caring what happens in Iraq.”

The op-ed also flattered Revolutionary Guards Qods Force chief Qassem Soleimani, who has been the subject of a media campaign as he visits the front lines near Tikrit, where Iraqi forces in the past two weeks have waged a battle to seize the city from ISIS.

“A well-known Iranian general has [risked his own] life and gone to the most dangerous place in the world to put his combat experience at the service of the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization [forces] in Tikrit.”

Mehr also called on the Iraqi leaders to adopt a political solution “close to the demographic and confessional reality in Iraq,” in reference to the Shiite majority in the country.

After replacing Nouri al-Maliki as premier, Haidar al-Abadi has worked toward enlisting disaffected Sunni tribes to help the government in its fight to reclaim lost territory from ISIS.

Instead of supporting such efforts, Mehr slammed the tribal culture in Iraq, implicitly calling it “racist.”

“Iraq needs a new solution, far from ‘the kufiya, the agal and the dishdasha’, [traditional tribal Arab garments] that heads for a new culture,” it said.

“All the sorrows of Iraq are caused by the presence of the Araban [desert Bedouin tribes] who stalk the Iraqi people and wish them no good.”

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 9:55am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

An Iranian T-72 and a U.S. M1 Abrams operating alongside each other in Iraq:

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 8:00am

I often wonder if the DoS and the WH ever worry about "unintended consequences" when they make policy statements?

One has to wonder who is in charge in the DoS and WH and what role does the NSC play these days.

Kerry comments 'acknowledge Assad legitimacy': Syria media

"What is there to be negotiated with Assad?" Turkey slams Kerry's call for dialogue w/ Assad

VIDEO: Iran 'expanding occupation of Iraq'

#Syria has begun deploying Iranian Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jets. 1st sighting in Talbiseh, #Homs:… …

AFP: #Syria's Assad awaiting 'action' after Kerry comments -… … #US

Stop the weapons flows from Russia and Iran and pull Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shia militias out and Assad would have been gone long ago--it is that simple.

BUT when you exclude Iran and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations and or terror supporters from your recent intel report then what leverage does one in fact have?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/16/2015 - 7:44am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Seems my comment from yesterday was actually correct.

De facto recognition now by the WH and the NSC that Hezbollah is not and never was a "terrorist organization"?????

US intel report scrapped Iran and Hezbollah from list of terror threats via @timesofisrael

So again the question begs to be asked--who is getting thrown under the bus by the US administration?

Goes again to the next question is in fact the US attempting to pull out of the ME and use Iran as the regional hegemon to "stabilize" the region??

Just as it was attempting to pull out of Europe using Germany and the EU--that was until Russia messed things up???

That is I guess a strategy of sorts.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/15/2015 - 4:44pm

In reply to by CBCalif

It was easy to miss the nature of P5+1 talks—unless US moves at Geneva were seen in parallel to US moves in region

You needed to see them in tandem—e.g, acknowledge right to enrich uranium & tell Iran Assad would not be touched in Syria campaign

Grant sunset clause normalizing a revolutionary state sponsor of violent extremism—and sign off on Suleimani leading Tikrit campaign

Share intel w/Hezbo, leak Israeli strikes on Hezbo convoys—and relieve sanctions on the regime

These of course are only a few examples of how US and regime moved in parallel, in P5+1 talks and the region. This was not detente.

Rather, it was a larger regional accommodation, historical reconciliation, a grand bargain.

Sideline the Isreali’s along the way and even threaten them via intel cutoff and threats to shot down IAF.

Question is who did the US throw under the bus ---the Syrian civil society, the Iraqi Sunni’s and or the Sunni Arab nations?

Explains why the WH wants to sideline and basically ignore Congress.

Or is it being driven by a “legacy desire” in 2017?

THEN this today—does it cross the Obama “red line” for using chemical weapons against civilians?

Today in Hreitan: barrel bomb doesn't explode, then leaks gas which discolors the soil. Ideas anyone?

Hreitan today. UXO barrel - gas cloud caused breathing difficulties.

From today's suspected CW attack on Hreitan. Third time seen this pink soil discoloration. @OPCW

AND more:

Shiite militias, Iranian generals, and US weapons. A little on the fight for Tikrit.

I listened this morning to
retired) Admiral Mullins being interviewed about our strategic situation vis a vis the advances of both ISIL and Iran in the Middle East and the strategic threats posed by both parties to American interests in that region.

Mullins recognized the threat posed to the West by both Iranian intentions and their past and present actions, but believes the first requirement is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and then in Syria, even if defeating ISIS furthers Iran's achievement of its goals -- which Mullins believes we can worry about later, i.e. after we defeat ISIS. Current events indicate Mullins' approach unfortunately appears to mirror that our current political and military leadership.

If our national level strategic leadership is capable of perceiving matters from a strategic perspective, they wiil grasp that it is not in the West's interest to preserve Iraq in its current form. Instead, properly managed, the breakup of Iraq and enabling ISIS to control the (once) Sunni Areas, provides the West with a strategic vehicle for defeating Iranian (de facto imperialistic) objectives by drawing it and its Arab Allies into a protracted conflict with ISIS.

A protracted conflict which could simultaneously drain or destroy ISIS and perhaps Al Qaeda.

American leadership must cease responding emotionally to the brutal acts carried out by ISIS and cease politically trembling every time some terrorist representative threatens to attack us. By so responding we merely demonstrate that we are strategically immature.

American leadership should, however, recognize the need to move simultaneously against both ISIS and Iran. And, recognize the need to so move at a low cost to this nation. To do so, they should attempt to achieve our strategic objectives in this theater by leveraging others, and -- despite our dislike for one or both parties, we need as much as possible ebable them to engage in protracted conflict against each other. A lengthy struggle during which each side can bleed each other to political death. The Iranian / Arab Shiite versus ISIS / Sunni Radical situation is now ripe enough to allow that to occur.

The US should limit its direct participation in the Arab parts of that region to assisting and directly aiding Kurdish independence, and to once again selling significant supplies of weapons systems to the Sunni States -- with reduced transfer restrictions on some weapons. Allow them to provide reasonably minimal qualities of those weapons to ISIS if that will protract that war.

If the US continues to act in a politically unwisely in the Middle East, the Sunni States will eventually enter into a strategic relationship with the Russians and Chinese that is beneficial to those parties. Then this country and the West will become the outsiders looking in.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/15/2015 - 3:47pm

This comment from a social media blogger who followed 24 X7 Syrian events for over 2.5 years through the brutal bombing of civilians by Assad to chemical weapons being used to the barrel bombs now coupled with chlorine--it basically sums up the total failed US foreign policy/strategy of the entire ME.

Flies in the face of the 10K photos of unnamed Syrians who were captured, tortured and then killed by Assad forces that is currently at the UN.

Flies in the face of "supposedly supporting moderate resistance forces" with virtually now weapons after promising weapons support and on and on.

Flies in the face of a crossed supposed "red line" threat.

Really seems to sum up just how great or far down US ME policy has come and or gone to.

James Miller @MillerMENA
4 years ago the world was changing, seemed to embrace human rights & democracy above all else. Now so cynical the US is partnering w/ Assad

And this is suppose to be "soft power" at work??

Remember: there's really no Assad regime left to fight ISIS. There is, however, Iran. That's the point.

Surely coincidence this Kerry announcement comes at the end of Iran talks. But remember, there's no grand bargain:

Seems that many in the US seem to have forgotten that 70% of the civil society of Syria is in fact Sunni dominated by a Shia minority sect and armed/supplied an supported by Russia.

More on the US announcement by Kerry:

The admin has to make up its mind. Either Congress has a role in this deal or it does not:… …

The entire Iran deal rests on the huge bet that Iran isn't really Iran, and that it will be even less Iran-like in a decade.

In 1995, CIA COS Sarajevo had to be no-notice evacuated because Iran plotted his death. This isn't remotely a normal regime.

Senior Iraqi official to me: "Iran has been biting chunks off the region without teeth. Now Obama wants to give them teeth?"

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/15/2015 - 10:02am

After 250K killed and over 2M wounded, 8 million refugees and over half of the country basically destroyed and all the US strategy for Syria is reduced to "talking" nothing but a total failure--they could have done that months ago.

BBC Breaking News ✔ @BBCBreaking
US will "have to negotiate in the end" with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Secretary of State John Kerry says

Found a great restaurant in DC to host the Kerry-Assad negotiations.

AND Iran is not in a controlling of Iraq position through the same type of strategy confusion?

When will this WH understand that nuclear weapons are one thing but somehow we have forgotten the Iranian revolutionary Islam drive and global support for terrorism that we supposedly are against.

#Iraq Qassem Soleimani met with Badr commanders (Al Muhamadawi & Al Bakhitawi) south of Tikrit - today #TikritOp 1

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/15/2015 - 7:52am

Four Iranian T-72s underway in Iraq.

Still searching for Hezbollah's 'moderate' wing: Iraqi Good Guys and Bad Guys 'Tough to Sort Out,' Says CIA Chief:

With World's Attention Turned To ISIS, The Syrian Regime Ramps Up Bombings On Civilians… … via @theworldpost

Not really sure just what the supposedly new US ME strategy has gotten for that region other than expanded Iranian control and or direct influence and our relations with the Sunni Arab states---dropped to zero?

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/13/2015 - 7:48am

Noticed Doctrine Man picked up on the article.

Doctrine Man

It's good to know somebody has a working Iraq strategy. But why does it have to be Iran?

Outlaw 09

Fri, 03/13/2015 - 2:17am

Right now we are experiencing a total failure of any US strategy if there was ever one for the ME.

1. It seems that the political leadership of the US has forgotten Khomeini and his writings from 1942, 1979-85, his call for "Revolutionary Islam" and his creation of the IRGC the "defenders of Islam".

2. It seems that the political leadership of the US has totally forgotten just how many US soldiers were either killed or seriously wounded by Shia militia groups during the period 2005-2010 using EFPs shipped in from Iran.

Does it seem that Iran who was interested in killing as many US military as possible in Iraq is "now" willing to work with the US in Iraq-hardly.

3.It seems that the US political leadership while trying to a "legacy win" is willing to compromise with "Revolutionary Islam" AS long as it is not the IS variety.

4. It appears that while the US is trying to get a nuclear deal with the Iranians it is in fact triggering a nuclear arms race now from the side of the Sunni Arab states--ie the KSA/RSK nuclear deal from this week.

This author is not so far off base in this thinking if one truly takes the time to read this article from the Commander of the IRGC who still calls for the expansion of "Revolutionary Islam".…

Mark Pyruz

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 5:39pm

In the Iraq context, I think COL Núñez is being too emotive in his perspective. Rather, I would focus on the Iraqi leadership and their take on Iran's role in the crisis brought on by ISIL's 2014 Northern Iraq offensive.. Perhaps the most instructive barometer is the Sunni side of Iraq's parliament, where even among the majority of Sunnis, open criticism of Iran has dissipated.

In my opinion its unfortunate the U.S. is not affording the level of commitment in the form of tactical airpower (CAS) seen during the initial stage of OEF-A, during the current Battle of Tikrit. This is not lost on the Iraqis, even among Sunni lawmakers.

And, according to IRGC Commander Maj. Gen. Jafari, the next objectives for the Iran-led coalition and by extension Iraqi forces are Fallujah and Mosul. Will U.S. tactical airpower sit out those upcoming battles, as well?