Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Mosul Operation and Saddam’s Long Shadow

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 28, 2016

Islamic State parade with captured equipment in Mosul, 23 June 2014 . (AP Photo, File)

The offensive to wrest the Iraqi capital of the Islamic State’s (IS) caliphate, Mosul, from the terror organization began on 17 October, led on the ground by Iraqi and Kurdish forces and supported from the air by the U.S.-led Coalition. While progress has been generally steady, IS has been able to mount a series of diversionary attacks, the most significant in Kirkuk City. Among those subsequently arrested for a role in planning the terrorism in Kirkuk is a cousin of Saddam Husayn, a micro-example of the influence of the fallen regime on the current situation in Iraq. Continue reading

The Price of the Iran Deal

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 26, 2016

Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at a mosque in Tehran, Iran, (March 2015)

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported on the “free fall” of President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy. While the President had “inherited a messy situation in the region with the war in Iraq … by the time he took office, [President George W.] Bush’s troop surge and Gen. David H. Petraeus’s strategy change had helped turn the war around”. This relative stability has given way:

Today there is no single overarching issue but multiple ones. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are caught up in war. Turkey and Jordan are inundated by refugees. Russia has reasserted itself as a major player in the region. Libya is searching for stability after the fall of its longtime dictator. The Kurds are on the march. Egypt is fighting off a terrorist threat at home. And Saudi Arabia and Iran are waging a profound struggle for the future of the region.

Many of America’s allies disagreed with Bush’s focus on Iraq, considering Iran to be the larger threat, but if they had considered Bush too assertive, they find Obama too timorous, stepping back as the situation spins out of control. Continue reading

Activist Group Lists Ten Most Important Islamic State Leaders Killed

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 22, 2016

Coalition airstrikes in Mosul (source)

The activist group, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), which works against the Islamic State (IS) in its Syrian capital, published a list on Thursday on Twitter of the eleven “most important” IS leaders who have been killed in Raqqa Province. Continue reading

Russia Moves in For the Kill in Syria

Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 21, 2016

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is “deploying all of the Northern fleet and much of the Baltic fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War,” a NATO diplomat told Reuters on Wednesday night. These Naval assets are designed to buttress a final offensive by the remnants of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, which is effectively controlled on the ground by the Islamic Republic of Iran and an assortment of foreign Shi’a jihadists, against the insurgent-held east of Aleppo city, crushing once and for all the strategic threat posed by the rebellion to the regime, a threat that had already been all-but ended in the first months of Russia’s intervention. Nearly a year ago the U.S. began a political process with the Russians intended to end the war and begin a political transition. Moscow has subverted this process, using force to buttress its political efforts to secure Assad in power. The timing of this attack is seemingly intended as one final humiliation for President Barack Obama. Continue reading

Martyr for the Cause

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 20, 2016

Mohamedou Ould Salahi

Mohamedou Ould Salahi, a Mauritanian, was released from Guantanamo Bay back to his home country on Monday. This comes as part of Barack Obama’s effort to drive the number of inmates at the detention centre down as far as possible before his Presidency ends. Salahi is the first detainee transferred since the mass-exodus in August, leaving sixty men at Guantanamo, nineteen of them already approved for transfer. Salahi is among the many detainees who claims he is innocent and that he has been maltreated in custody, and he has written a book, Guantánamo Diary, to that effect. The known facts about Salahi’s pre-detainment behaviour suggest caution should be exercised in accepting his version of events. Continue reading

Coalition Prepares the Ground for Mosul Offensive


By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 9, 2016

U.S.-led Coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State (AFP)

Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS) is an activist group working from within the capital of the Islamic State (or so-called capital of the so-called Islamic State, if you prefer) to bring news to the outside world of the horrors therein. For this they have paid a heavy price. On 22 September, RBSS published a list on Twitter of eighteen Islamic State (IS) operatives who had been killed by the U.S.-led Coalition between 20 August and 21 September 2016. This list, presented below with some notes and context, shows the preparations being made for the rapidly-approaching offensive on IS’s Iraqi capital. Continue reading

The Blog Is Moving

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on October 7, 2016

After two-and-a-half years of writing in this space, I will be moving the bulk of future work. The archive here will remain and there might be occasional future posts here about non-work issues—movie reviews, British politics, and so forth. But otherwise the subjects I focus on day-to-day—Syria, Islamism, terrorism—will appear on the website of the Henry Jackson Society.