Iraq

Iranian-backed militias accept Obama’s invitation to pull back from Tikrit

Featured image When President Obama decided to employ U.S. air power to support the effort to dislodge ISIS from Tikrit, he pushed for the Iranian-dominated Shiite militias to leave the battlefield. He did so even though these forces made up more than 80 percent of the attacking force. The Shiite militiamen didn’t need to be asked twice. According to the Washington Post, they have refused to continue fighting. One militia threatens to »

U.S. air power finally being used in the battle for Tikrit

Featured image Not long ago, it appeared that Shiite militias controlled by Iraq, with some assistance from the Iraqi army and Sunni tribesmen, would expel ISIS from Tikrit. The attacking forces, by all accounts, had significant numerical superiority over the ISIS defenders, and at one point reportedly had captured most of the town. After completing the job in Tikrit, it would be on the Mosul — a more difficult operation. The U.S. »

ISIS comes to town

Featured image Tonight 60 Minutes broadcast a segment on the persecution of Christians and Christianity by ISIS in Iraq (video below). The segment was reported by correspondent Lara Logan. CBS News has posted a transcript of the segment here. The emergence of ISIS in Iraq is attributed to the withdrawal of American forces by President Obama in 2011 by one of Logan’s eloquent Christian interlocutors at one point; she carefully attributes equal »

Victory in Tikrit, but should we rejoice?

Featured image Iraqi forces have swept into Tikrit and appear poised to push the Islamic State (ISIS) out of Saddam Hussein’s old hometown. Reportedly, the Iraqi forces have retaken nearly all of the city, though ISIS is still resisting in some areas. By “Iraqi forces,” I mean government troops, a small number of Sunni tribesman, and (above all) Shiite militias directed by Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force, and bolstered »

U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq after all

Featured image The Washington Post reports that some former U.S. troops have taken up the fight against ISIS in Iraq: [A] growing band of foreigners [is] leaving behind their lives in the West to fight with new Christian militias against the Islamic State extremist group. The leaders of those militias say they have been swamped with hundreds of requests from veterans and volunteers from around the world who want to join them. »

Iraq Had WMDs After All

Featured image Until now, I have been willing to go along with the conventional wisdom that Iraq did not possess significant stockpiles of WMDs prior to the 2003 war. Leftover chemical munitions were discovered here and there during and after the invasion, but it was plausible to think that they were odds and ends, not part of a usable stockpile subject to the regime’s control. Today, however, the New York Times dropped »

U.S. relies on Iraqis to interrogate ISIS fighters

Featured image Eli Lake reports that ISIS fighters captured in Iraq — of whom there reportedly are almost 100 so far — are being interrogated by Iraqis, not by U.S. intelligence officers. Thus, we’re left to rely on reports from Iraqis to obtain information from the captives. This may not be all bad. U.S. interrogation policy severely limits what we can do to extract information from terrorists. It’s likely, moreover, that ISIS »

Fournier’s lie

Featured image When I heard former AP Washington bureau chief Ron Fournier state in passing on a recent Fox News Special Report panel that “Bush lied us into war in Iraq,” I just groaned. Fournier has moved on from the AP to become senior political correspondent and editorial director of National Journal. Fournier presents himself as the moderate voice of reason and common sense, and he is a distinguished journalist, but the »

ISIS on the march in Iraq; al Qaeda on the march in Yemen

Featured image This week, President Obama proclaimed that ISIS is on the defensive and that its morale is low. He cited no evidence, but if indeed ISIS’s morale had flagged, it will receive a pick-me-up from the capture by ISIS forces of an Iraqi town just a few miles away from a military base where hundreds of U.S. advisers are stationed. The town is called al-Baghdadi. The U.S. base lies only five »

Backed by Obama, Iranian militias move to the forefront in Iraq

Featured image Do you remember what President Obama’s excuse was for not helping Iraq fight ISIS, in its post-jayvee incarnation, when it was winning victory after victory and marching towards Baghdad last summer? Obama didn’t want to act until Iraq formed a government more hospitable to Sunni interests. Then and only then would Sunnis align themselves with the government in the fight against ISIS, the president intoned. Iraq eventually formed a new »

Obama whispers “bang-bang” to terrorists

Featured image According to the Washington Post, weapons and ammunition are in such short supply at the centers where Iraqi army units receive training to fight ISIS that the trainees are yelling “bang-bang” instead of shooting. Last August, when President Obama announced that the U.S. would undertake a mostly proxy war against ISIS, I would have said that yelling “bang-bang” is the perfect metaphor for his anti-terrorism campaign. Today, whispering “bang-bang” is »

While Obama dithered, Iran profited

Featured image If one headline summarizes 2014, it’s the title of this post (I say so in all modesty). It is a multi-purpose headline — one that applies, at a minimum, to Iraq, Syria, and Iran itself. When it comes to Iraq, no one has stated the facts more clearly than James Jeffrey, who served under President Obama as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010-2012. Here, via the Washington Post, is »

Assad and ISIS are 2014′s biggest winners, thanks in part to Obama

Featured image During the next few days, pundits will be designating their “winners and losers” of 2014. There can be little doubt about the year’s two biggest winners. Clearly, they are Bashar al-Assad and ISIS. Third place goes to Iran, which finds itself in greatly improved economic shape and within striking distance of becoming a nuclear power. But that’s nothing compared to Assad’s remarkable, turnaround year. As Seth Mandel, quoting NPR, reminds »

What’s the common thread in Obama’s anti-ISIS campaign? Acquiescence to Iran

Featured image How goes the Obama administration’s campaign to “degrade and destroy” ISIS? Badly, according to Max Boot. In Iraq, there have been a few modest successes. But Obama refuses to provide direct support to Sunnis in Anbar and Nineveh provinces, and the Iraqi government, still strongly influenced by Iran, will not supply arms and equipment either. The folly of Obama’s policy in Iraq is self-evident. He relies on proxy forces to »

U.S. air support minimal as ISIS pushes deep into Ramadi

Featured image ISIS has intensified its push to capture Ramadi, a city of nearly half a million people and the capital of Anbar province: Islamic State fighters on Tuesday penetrated to the core of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Iraq’s largest province, prompting local security officials to warn that the city was on the verge of falling to the extremists. Such a gain would be the Islamic State’s most significant victory in »

Chuck Hagel — not a war time consigliere [With Comments by John]

Featured image Good news. Chuck Hagel is out as Secretary of Defense, or will be as soon as a successor is nominated and confirmed. Let’s hope that any effort by the Republican Senate to block the confirmation of Obama administration appointees will exempt the Secretary of Defense position for national security reasons. The reason for Hagel’s ouster (let’s not take seriously the claim that he wanted out) is said to be that »

Still More Troops to Iraq?

Featured image As Glenn Reynolds likes to say, Nobel Peace Prize update: Obama Says More Troops to Iraq Possible. We’re told that the 1,500 additional troops sent last week are for “training” purposes.  What difference will training make at this point, if all the training of the last decade failed so miserably?  The problem isn’t training: it’s that large numbers of Iraqi troops dropped their weapons and ran at the first sight »