Iraq

Is ISIS crazy?

Featured image ISIS’s capture of of Palmyra has aroused fears that the terrorists will smash the archaeological treasures of this ancient Semitic city. The fears of justified, given ISIS’s conduct in places like Nimrud, Khorsabad, and Mosul. But according to Nicolas Pelham, writing in the New York Review of Books, even as ISIS forces made a great show of destroying some antiquities on display in the museum in Mosul, the leadership was »

ISIS gains big in Iraq; Obama remains functionally indifferent

Featured image U.S. policy in Iraq is in a shambles — there can be no serious disagreement about that. Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and a mere 70 miles from Baghdad, has been captured by ISIS. Mosul, Iran’s second largest city, remains in ISIS’s hands. As importantly, it’s now clear that military success against ISIS hinges on the use of Iranian-dominated militias, but that these forces will not be able to »

How Republican Candidates Should Answer Questions About Iraq

Featured image Lately reporters have been asking Republican presidential candidates to admit that the Iraq war was a mistake. The candidates have handled such questions with varying degrees of deftness. But so far, none has responded with: “You are asking whether I think Hillary Clinton made a mistake in voting for it?” After the necessary backing and filling by the interviewer, the candidate can proceed with this answer: “No. The mistake was »

ISIS loses a bigwig, gains Ramadi

Featured image There are two big stories about ISIS this weekend. U.S. forces have killed an ISIS leader in Syria and ISIS has taken control of Ramadi, just 80 miles from Baghdad. The first story seems to be getting most of the press; it’s the headline story in today’s Washington Post. But the second strikes me as more significant. In my view, the most notable thing about the killing of Abu Sayyaf, »

Jeb Bush on the invasion of Iraq

Featured image Jeb Bush is taking heat for his response to a question by Megyn Kelly about the Iraq war. Here is the exchange: Kelly: Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion? Bush: I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody, and so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got. Kelly: You don’t think it was a mistake? »

Uncommon Knowledge with Tom Cotton

Featured image Senator Tom Cotton recently sat down with Peter Robinson in Washington to record an interview for Peter’s Uncommon Knowledge series (video below, 39 minutes). The interview focuses on questions of national security and offers cogent thoughts on the cause of the present discontents. The video is also posted here under the auspices of the Hoover Institution. I’m posting the interview this morning in the hope that readers can make time »

Baathists “pervade” ISIS; weren’t they supposed to be secularists?

Featured image According to the Washington Post, former members of Iraq’s Baathist army play a “pervasive role” in ISIS. This is true, says the Post’s Liz Sly, not only in Iraq but also in Syria. ISIS evolved from al Qaeda in Iraq. It was well known that Baathists played an important role in that outfit. Sly says that the former Baathist officers became even more prominent when ISIS rose from the ashes »

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 »