(Tom Toles via GoComics.com)
“Gary Brecher” (aka John Dolan), at PandoDaily, says “Don’t fall for the hype… “:
… ISIS is a sectarian Sunni militia—that’s all. A big one, as militias go, with something like 10,000 fighters. Most of them are Iraqi, a few are Syrian, and a few hundred are those famous “European jihadis” who draw press attention out of all relation to their negligible combat value. The real strength of ISIS comes from its Chechen fighters, up to a thousand of them. A thousand Chechens is a serious force, and a terrifying one if they’re bearing down on your neighborhood. Chechens are the scariest fighters, pound-for-pound, in the world.
But we’re still talking about a conventional military force smaller than a division. That’s a real but very limited amount of combat power. What this means is that, no matter how many scare headlines you read, ISIS will never take Baghdad, let alone Shia cities to the south like Karbala. It won’t be able to dent the Kurds’ territory to the north, either. All it can do—all it has been doing, by moving into Sunni cities like Mosul and Tikrit—is to complete the partition of Iraq begun by our dear ex-president Bush in 2003. By crushing Saddam’s Sunni-led Iraq, the Americans made partition inevitable. In fact, Iraq has been partitioned ever since the invasion; it’s just been partitioned badly, into two parts instead of the natural three: the Kurdish north, and the remainder occupied by a weak sectarian Shia force going by the name of “The Iraqi Army.” The center of the country, the so-called “Sunni Triangle,” had no share in this partition and was under the inept, weak rule of the Shia army…
ISIS has always been good at generating scary stories about itself, like the notion that it was kicked out of Al Qaeda for being “too extreme.” It’s true that ISIS has a beef with Zawahiri, the nominal head of Al Qaeda, but the issue isn’t extremism. Their quarrel was a turf war about who would get the Al Qaeda franchise in Syria, and it just showed ISIS’s most pronounced characteristic in action: A real knack for moving in on vulnerable turf.
In fact, ISIS’s quarrel with Zawahiri was a lot like a corporate boardroom feud. It’s always worth remembering that Jihadis are just friggin’ people, and their disagreements tend to be about very ordinary organizational issues. Granted, it’s a little harder to see that when they solve those disagreements with public beheadings and overly-cinematic rituals, but at heart this is just standard human behavior—primates squabbling for rank and power, Game of Thrones with Islamic voiceover…
ISIS now controls most of Anbar as well as a huge chunk of eastern and central Syria. It’s a de facto Sunni state, straddling the Syria/Iraq border between Kurdish and Shia territory.
And that’s as far as it will go. ISIS has done well to take back its natural constituency, the Sunni center of Iraq. It will push against the Shia to the south, but they’ll fight much better on their own turf. And if it has any sense, it won’t even try to push against the Persh Merga. I used to see the Pesh Merga every day, and they ain’t nobody to mess with…
Please do read the whole thing before jumping on your favorite hobbyhorse. Mr. Dolan is not a Very Serious Person, and will never be welcome in the Village Media green rooms, but his predictive accuracy in this area has been morbidly correct.
What Dolan is saying merges very well with what I just heard on the Gist Podcast (Mike Pesca) in an interview with Adam Garfinkle, the editor of The American Interest and one of those bipartisan (has worked for both sides) foreign policy wonkish types.
Meanwhile, it’s 4:30 in Houston and I am trying to get excited about my morning run when it’s 80° outside with 85% humidity and a feels-like temp of 86°.
Time to go commune with the cats and racoons….
From so blog I don’t like except on issues like this:
Beecher makes a lot of sense. Clearly, the only solution is regime change. We should invade to install a strongman Sunni dictator who can suppress the conflict and govern Iraq with an iron fist. Our national security demands it.
It was predicted that Iraq would break into three pieces because the original merger was enforced from outside and ignored all cultural pressures and innate tendencies.
Much like the conservative-favored forms of religion ignors human nature and criminalizes it as merely a lever over the vulnerable.
@raven: Even with military people around there’s a lot of infrastructure required to keep a tank running.
The trucks could be useful.
What a splendid little war…
Thank you George, ‘Pooch Screwer’ Bush. Your devotion to screwing every pooch you could get your hands on has stranded millions of innocents in the middle of this violent mess. This article was extremely informative for me, slightly cheering, but not much. It does suggest that Obama will make some tiny, token gesture so that he can look serious, but in practice take the ‘Not my circus, not my monkeys’ approach.
@Frankensteinbeck: IMHO, rightly so. It’s not our circus, and why should we get in the way of a system that is returning to stability?
That way lies madness.
And thus, the appeal to the Neocons… there doesn’t have to be a purpose to their wielding of power. They just love to use the big stick.
Doesn’t Iran’s involvement indicate that they want the Shiites to remain in control? Understatement of the day, this is not going to end well.
Barack Obama sends troops back to Iraq as Isis insurgency worsens
“The US is urgently deploying several hundred armed troops in and around Iraq and isconsidering sending an additional contingent of special forces as Baghdad struggles to repel a rampant insurgency.
“Barack Obama discussed the crisis with his top national security advisers on Monday night after earlier telling Congress that up to 275 troops could be sent to Iraq to provide support and security for personnel and the US embassy in Baghdad.“
Just enhanced security for now.
Please do read the whole thing before jumping on your favorite hobbyhorse.
I would have anyways. Nice to know Beecher agrees with me!
The important part:
1) Forget trying to ‘help’ Maliki glue what is nothing for that imaginary lines on a map back together. It isn’t going to happen.
2) Forget this stupid idea of trying to force Maliki out (which is a stupid DC/Saudi). He won a bunch of votes. If the Iraqi parliament wants him, they’ll keep him, if not they won’t. The next guy won’t be any better, and fixing a broken democracy by anti-democratic moves works about as well as trying to put your pants on by pulling them over your head. DC the town wants him out because they like their puppets compliant and TV friendly – the Saudis want him out because they want Iraq ruled by the Sunni. Never going to happen now.
3) The Turks are our pals. The Kurds are our pals. The Iranians are not our pals but they are less insane than our ostensible pals, the Saudis, who think this whole ISIS thing is the bees knees. So help the Turks, help the Kurds and accommodate the Iranians in letting them help the Shia.
4) Tell the Kurds to go grab the Kurdish bits which we insisted they not have back in the day because ‘unity of Iraq’. There is no unity of Iraq and the Kurds are better shepherds of the land, the oil and the people.
5) This seems to be unpopular at this point (but then complaining about failing to get bin Laden in 2001 wasn’t popular and neither was calling the Bush administration idiots popular in 2002 or 2003, so I’m used to it), but if we’re going to do anything military, we should pound ISIS in their safe havens (western Iraq/far eastern Syria). The R’s seem to have settled on bombing but they seem to be thinking of some kind of close support campaign (‘precision bombing, surgical strikes’) against ISIS at the Shia front line. That requires embeds and it probably won’t work well anyways due to the usual problems of coordinating with someone (the Shia) who don’t like us all that much and would be keen for us to do their massacring of civilians for them.
I’d much rather find the places where ISIS hangs out for rest breaks far away from the front and pound those instead. Wouldn’t need spotters for that, and not many people live in those places anyways. Mainly I’d be looking for armor and humvees and that kind of thing. And ISIS is pretty nasty so it’s not like they don’t deserve it. If they’re caught with Americans in their rear, Kurds to their northeast, the Shia to their southeast and the local Sunnis/Baathists deciding they can handle this from here on out, they are going to be in a world of shit.
[‘They’re trying to steal third and I think we can catch them in a rundown.’]
Iowa Old Lady
OT: Just touching base to say we made it through last night’s weather all right, though judging from the news, some others weren’t so lucky.
I’m all in favor of sending troops back into Iraq as long as William Kristol and Fred Kagan, Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Bremer, Kenneth Pollack, and Dick Cheney are strapped to the front of the first American tank to roll into Mosul.
@Iowa Old Lady: Good to hear that you’re okay.
But they’ve stolen/acquired $2 billion (at least) in Iraqi scratch. Thats a lot of lucre that can buy them a lot of fancy weapons.
As long as said selfish people also pay for the damned thing, vs asking the rest of us to pay for their frivolous wars.
@Patrick: Oh, didn’t you hear? The Iraqi’s are going to pay for it all.
@Iowa Old Lady: That is a good OT.
@Iowa Old Lady:
Looked like a bad storm in the radar map. You need an Internet hookup in your basement so you can give us live updates.
@max: as I understand it, it is not possible simultaneously to help the Kurds and the Turks. The Turks do not want the Kurds to have anything.
Have seen or heard at least three war hawks from the last administration insisting that ISIS is already “planning the next 9/11” attack on the U.S.
What a load of crap.
Goes without saying that they are brutal, militant and fanatical, but their interests and focus (currently) are regional, not international.
As for aerial bombing – bombing of what? No command and control facilities to speak of, and urban and exurban guerrillas of any stripe are smart enough to not present a concentrated force, particularly a force of such limited enrollment which relies on the tacit backing (or bribing) of a local civilian populace which has not suffered arbitrary death and destruction raining from the sky yet.
Today Show reporting that Oklahoma earthquakes caused by fracking.
@Keith G: I hear you. I walk my dogs at dawn, and even that leisurely activity can be a miserable slog when the humidity wraps around you like a steamed towel. God, I hate summer.
@Iowa Old Lady: Glad you’re safe!
@Iowa Old Lady: Was looking at the OSHA map last night and said, “Wow. Awful colorful up there.” Glad you’re OK.
Don’t forget the generals!
But But But John Mccain says they are an existential threat. of course he doesn’t really know what the word means. Lindsey noun, verb,9/11, Graham is already telling us which office buildings will be attacked. And everyone on the right has agreed that the Kenyan usurper is a secret member of ISIS.
Yes snark. We or at least many of our opinion leaders have become a bunch of sniveling whimpering old ladies who are afraid of the sound of their own breathing. Some super power we are.
@Betty Cracker: Just back from our 2 mile morning hike. You can see the differences in the doggie’s in this humidity.
One HUGE additional reason for the US military to hang well back on this conflict which no one has yet mentioned (here or in blogs or in the MSM) is the potential for ISIS to capture American POWs. Notice how the conflagration in Iraq has provided a brilliant shiny object that’s wiped Bowe Bergdahl off page 1 and back to page 12 (or deeper) all across the board, from right to left to MSM? The only potential new even-shinier object in this conflict for the MSM than photos or videos Iraquis being savagely beaten and executed by ISIS would be how they’d exploit captured American POWs.
BTW: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer is doing his usual yellow journalism role to draw eyeballs to CNN through focusing attention and comment on the most sensationally fearful aspects of the situation – it wouldn’t be appropriate to have a drinking game where you had to chug a mug every time he referred to (and warned viewers about) “extremely disturbing” images and videos CNN was about to show (war porn) – but you get the idea.
The most depressing thought of all is that sooner or later, a Republican will end up in the White House again. And that if the recent past is any guide, that Republican will, somehow, find a way to be worse than George Bush. Given just how fucking awful George Bush was, consider what that might look like…
Headline from my local fishwrap today:
Iraq chaos disheartens Tennessee widow, soldier, senator
Believe me, the Iraqis are paying dearly for it.
The number I read was half a billion in cash & gold that ISIS had acquired thanks to the forceful fleeing of the Army in recent days. That number is pretty scary by itself. If it is $2B our best hope is the leaders of this group will take good care of themselves first & piss away much of it on “hookers and blow”.
We spent more than a decade sowing the wind. We can expect a bumper crop for whirlwind to be reaped for some time.
I still can’t see the word ISIS without thinking about the series Archer.
Makes them less threatening and a little giggle-making, kind of like calling the Moro Islamic Liberation Front “MILF”.
And yes, the 12 year old boy inside each one of us never completely vacates the premises.
@Southern Beale: I expect Coker to be a douche bag but the Vandy prof’s?
@Schlemizel: Not to mention all the blood they have paid.
Also, you know, serving its purpose as a straw man to keep the fear alive, justify $40 billion boondoggles, etc., etc., etc., and so on and so on.
Isn’t this the same guy who claimed that the Iraqi Army was about to retake Failujah just a couple of weeks ago? Or am I thinking of another war blogger?
The saddest part is that anyone reading the other John Cole, the one with expertise in the Middle East, saw this whole mess coming from the very beginning. About the only thing Juan missed on was his prediction that the Kurds would be in a hot war with the Turks. That may still happen and lard knows things are not all sunshine and lollypops in the border region there so it may be too soon to count that against him. But he very accurately predicted Shia dominance, Sunni resentment, Iranian influence and the ultimate partition of the nation into thirds.
Damn good thing nobody listened to him because this might have turned out so different had we gone in with our eyes open.
@Southern Beale: From Coker’s statement
Iraq is a sovereign nation. We could not get Malaki to be reasonable when we had 100k troops in the country. If all of these ideas are so easy to implement why didn’t Bush/Chaney implement them and solve the problem Maliki is not a Nelson Mandela, never was and never will be. An Iraqi Mandela might be the only hope but they don’t make many Mandela’s .
I think “bed sh*tter” is more appropriate. He has shit every conceivable bed there is, militarily, economically…
@D58826: oh goodness. Yes. If only we would rid ourselves of that Nasty Assad, the prospects for Iraq would improve.
My guess is an Iraqi Mandela would look a lot more like an Iraqi Gandhi . . . on January 31, 1948.
Why not both?
@Lurking Canadian: Correct, Turkey has kept their borders open to ISIS to varying degrees in the Kurdish regions in particular. Remains to be seen how much that continues as the IC pays more attention to them.
Just parachute in McCain with a couple of Rambo-esque bandoliers.
Not even a Ferdinand Marcos.
Too tainted by now, too hoisted high by his own petard. His only remaining functional use is to be a political casualty courtesy of Iran or al-Sistani.
@Schlemizel: All to true I’m afraid but it will take a leader who can transcend the SHia/Sunni divide and they are in very short supply. Maybe we can get Jerry Breamer to come out of retirement and work his American mojo magic again.
On second thought maybe better to leave him with his paint brushes.
We got used to the breakup of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia. I think we can get used to the breakup of Iraq.
One of the unofficial arguments for attacking Iraq was that they were behind 911. By all accounts, there was no Al-Queda presence in Iraq prior to our idiotic attack on Iraq. But there sure as hell is now.
If somebody is planning the next attack on the US, the blame should be put squarely on the idiots that authorized the attacked on Iraq in 2003.
It is (and was) no secret that, at the time, al-Qaeda and Hussein despised one another.
@Botsplainer: it reminds me of that Saturday morning show Isis – about female super hero who channeled the power of the Egyptian goddess Isis. I think it was with a ring or a bracelet.
I cannot even look at cable news these days, especially with senator Beverly Leslie on all the damn time. He must wake up fresh from his dream about Ryan gosling and a voting booth and run right to a green room.
Gin & Tonic
@LAC: I’m admittedly a geek, but when I see ISIS I think of the Internet routing protocol. (Actually it’s IS-IS, not ISIS, but I’m letting that slide as they are pronounced the same.)
@Gin & Tonic: Better a geek than someone who just aged herself considerably. :)
from over at sully’s place
probably sums it up nicely
This sounds…a lot too breezy for me. The reports atrocities in Syria and Mosul are depressingly plausible. We should not intervene, but pretending that these guys aren’t murderous fanatics isn’t going to wash. If they really did murder 1,700 people in Mosul in day, their reputation for crazy levels of violence is earned. There certainly were horrific mass suicide murders tied to them during the US-Iraq war.
ISIS, the mightiest adversary ever!
@GregB: Unfortunately the rightwing thinks that is true
@GregB: LOL!! Thank you. It was a necklace – my bad!
Who cares about Iraq? What about BENGHAZI??????
@GregB: Hahaha! I don’t recall the live action series, but I do remember an animated version. I think in the cartoon version, Isis hangs out with Hercules and other opponents of evil?
@LAC: Yes, I remember that show. Oh Mighty Isis!
@D58826: John McCain wanted us to arm them when they were just in Syria…
@Lurking Canadian: I was going to mention that.
Turkey gets very little cred for being a NATO member, and we thus have a mutual defense treaty with them, unlike every other nation in the region ( including Israel).
I’m surprised the gun and “2nd Amendment Remedy” fetish mongers aren’t jumping for joy here. This is their dream scenario…A minority, (the Iraqi and Syrian Sunni populations) having been brutally repressed by their governments (one of which we installed, BTW) have decided to take matters into their own hands. Isn’t this what all the “open carry” and March on DC rallies have been about? The overthrow of an oppressive government?
Hope they’re taking a good look. The Sunni are showing ’em how it’s done.
//obligatory snark disclaimer here
@Gin & Tonic: I’m a geek too, but ISIS makes me think of Bob Dylan:
Always wondered how Bush could get things so wrong. Well Fox has the answer
Bush did listen to those little voices that only he could hear.
Honestly, 275 troops makes me think they’re planning for a mass evacuation of US personnel, not that they’re planning to do any major fighting.
And people who live in other countries have their own plans and motivations that don’t involve the USA? Who’d’a thunk it?
That was my first thought too. I suspect, having seen what Benghazigate looked like, they’re doing everything they can to minimize the chances of any State Department personnel getting caught in the crossfire over there. Hard to blame them.
That seems like a lot, to me.
In this case, “contractors” (probably) = CIA, with some assorted security personnel and State Dept. employees thrown in.
@Mnemosyne: At least the embassy is heavily fortified and by this time everyone should be looking for the nearest foxhole as the go about their daily business.
Unfortunately if an embassy staffer cuts himself while shaving it will be Benghazi part III
@Chris: I agree. But apparently now we are in the business of leaving folks behind, so even that logical step is too much for some folks.
It’s likely to end with the creation of a creature previously only seen in a Tom Clancy book, a “unified” Iraq-Iran run by and from Tehran. Or, alternatively, “end” in an unstable non-equilibrium that will facilitate 400 years of endless sectarian violence.
We got all yer dystopias right here. Pick the one you like best.
Quoted for truth…
I know, it’s a catch-22. Don’t leave our brave boys to die. And don’t waste time and resources bringing home people who’re probably traitors.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were playing Calvinball for political goals, but the MSM has assured me that they don’t do that, and even if they did, both sides would do it, so it wouldn’t be fair to point it out anyway.
Is there one where me and all people that want to live in peace live happy fulfilling lives and where warmongers get embarrassing, painful impossible to conceal skin rashes?
There is no inherent reason Iraq had to fall apart. There’s an economy of scale gained by being a larger nation that a smaller nation does not have.
The USA, for example, benefits from being the third most populace country on the planet because a large population can create a level on inherent demand in the economy. You can start a mail order business and can survive on domestic sales, without needing to worry about clearing customs because the border to the next country is far, far away.
I think the dumb-ass decisions by Bush & Co. to root out all Ba’ath party members from governing positions, dissolving the Iraqi Army and basically creating a power vacuum at every level helped hasten the demise, but it did not have to be inevitable.
It’d take a great statesman to lead a unified Iraq and not every country gets one of those at key moments in hits history, like George Washington defining the Presidency and relinquishing power to Nelson Mandela smoothing the transition in post-Apartheid South Africa.
Oh the horror, the Kenyan usurping mooooslim loving terrorist supporter has truck again From AP
Surely we will have to take up a collection for McCain, et.al. to buy glue to put their heads back together.
Lets see, it took almost a decade for Israel to get the Olympic terrorists, 4 years for Obama to get Ben Laden (leaving Bush out as I don’t think he was really trying) and 2 years to get one of the Benghazi terrorists. We seem to be getting better at this
Enhanced security and probably some intelligence gathering on what the heck is going on exactly.
I do not see us getting our hands dirty in this mess again.
That’s one heck of a history book you’ve been reading from.
Here in the U.S. we didn’t have murderous sectarian factions with a history of all-out warfare. What we did have was slaveholding South vs. non-slaveholding North; that one is still with us, despite the brutal war we fought over it.
Welcome to the Middle East.
Brecher isn’t saying ISIS is the second coming of Ghandi, just that they are no more blood-soaked than the rest of the local sectarian factions. His main message is that they aren’t likely to seriously threaten Baghdad, nor are they going to be car-bombing NYC. They flow into power vacuums, such as the ones in Mosul and Tikrit when the sectarian Iraqi government is locally outnumbered by the opposing religious sect.
I think actually the MSM NEVER answers that question, since it is unserious.
Hmmmm funny how the GOP when combining Benghaz and Bergdahl never mentions this
Now WHO was president in 2007??????
I did not know I wrote that. Thanks for the chuckle. :-)
(a) Looking at how Bolivar failed to hold Gran Colombia together and (b) Napoleon declaring himself Emperor, you sell Washington short on his ability to keep a new nation together.
You overly simplify Middle Eastern history to just say Sunni and Shia’s have always been at each others throats.
I do not know a ton about ME history, but the rift between Sunni and Shia sects is overblown. Most Muslims are from South Asia and Indonesia. EDIT: Therefore differences in the flavor of Islam practiced is more than likely not a cause of violence or else the different flavors of Islam in Asia would be hacking away at each other, which has not happened.
There are geographical ethnic differences between Southern Iraqi’s, Northern Iraqi’s and the Iraqi’s in the middle. My guess is Southern Iraqi’s (Shia’s) identify with Persians (Iran) more than Arabs (Sunni’s), while the Northern Iraqi’s are a different ethnic group.
I do not know, if the Middle East ever experience something like the 30 years war or a stand off between two countries, like Britain and France in the 100 Years War, but I think the overall history is probably not as bloody as Europe’s and wars were not fought on the scale they were in Europe, until the middle of the 20th century.
@gene108: There was also the matter of the ineffective Articles of Confederation, the failure of which led to the creation of the much more centralized Constitution. But even during that there was no parallel to sectarian violence, either in Europe at the time, or in the Middle East today.
Of course despite the lack of a sectarian split, the U.S. ended up with a civil war less than a hundred years after its founding.
To return to the main point, I think the notion of a statesman unifying a peaceful Iraq is a fantasy. A ruthless strongman maybe, but not a statesman. We had one of the former till Bush II decided to take him out.
@Chris: LOL!! Exactly, and I just got an ice cream headache reading that, but you captured the insanity of thought.
they are no more blood-soaked than the rest of the local sectarian factions. His main message is that they aren’t likely to seriously threaten Baghdad, nor are they going to be car-bombing NYC.
You mean ISIS aren’t “an existential threat to the United States” as John McStain proclaimed?
Seriously, the American corporate media resembles the official media in the Soviet Union more and more. Analysts like Dolan don’t have a shot in hell of ever getting a media platform commensurate with how far more astute they are than the DC Village Idiots who clutch the megaphones.
@D58826: Hope we will read more about it here. Unless it is fucking up a narrative. Seems too competent for the asshats in congress to not complain about – there has to be something wrong. :)