Tag Archives: Tikrit

The Islamic State’s Strategy Is Working, Its Enemies Are Failing

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 23, 2015

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To hear President Obama tell it, his announced program to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), which began with airstrikes into Iraq last August that were extended into Syria in September, is working, albeit with some tactical setbacks. The implication is that the setbacks of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS campaign are not strategic.

As J.M. Berger phrased it:

In the Washington vernacular, the act of Being Strategic implies a near mystical quality of superior thinking possessed by some, and clearly lacking amongst the vulgarians of the world—heedless brutes such as ISIL. Tactics are short-term ploys, easy to dismiss. Strategy is for winners.

Unfortunately, this soothing view is almost exactly wrong: it is the United States that is relying on various short-term methods—commando raids into the Syrian desert, for example—while ISIS has a long-term goal fixed in mind and is working assiduously to achieve it. The U.S.-led Coalition is losing, in short, and ISIS is winning. Continue reading

Raids in Syria Can’t Defeat the Islamic State If Obama Continues Alignment with Iran

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 16, 2015

26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Maritime Raid Force Marines fire M4 Carbines while conducting a marksmanship training exercise at a range in Qatar, April 22, 2013. Eagle Resolve is an annual multilateral exercise designed to enhance regional cooperative defense efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council nations and U.S. Central Command. The 26th MEU is deployed to the 5th Fleet area of operations aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group. The 26th MEU operates continuously across the globe, providing the president and unified combatant commanders with a forward-deployed, sea-based quick reaction force. The MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher Q. Stone, 26th MEU Combat Camera/Released)

Last night the United States launched a commando raid into al-Amr in Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria. According to the White House statement, Abu Sayyaf (real name: Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi), a senior Islamic State (ISIS) commander “overseeing … illicit oil and gas operations,” was killed, and his wife, Umm Sayyaf, was taken into American custody and is being held in Iraq. The Sayyaf couple had been holding a young Yazidi woman as a slave and she has now been freed.

Unfortunately, this American raid is a tactical success amid a strategic failure—and a tactical success likely to be used to obscure the strategic failure of the U.S. anti-ISIS campaign. Even in the narrowest humanitarian terms: if the freedom of this one Yazidi girl is used to perpetuate a policy that leaves many more Yazidi girls in bondage then it is a failure. Continue reading

Obama’s Iran Deal Increases Nukes, Terrorism, and Instability

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 28, 2015

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The key thing to understand about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear accord announced on April 2 between the P5+1 and Iran, is that it does not exist. The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said at one point, “We envisage being able to deliver a narrative,” adding that this might not be written and—these being forgiving times—Iran’s narrative need not match the West’s. In other words, nothing was signed or agreed to. This is the reason for the wild discrepancies between the American and Iranian JCPOA “factsheets”: both are drawing from a rolling text that is ostensibly to lead to a “final” or “comprehensive” deal and spinning it to their own respective advantage. The administration has as much as said so with its mantra that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

The purpose of the announcement of the JCPOA therefore was, charitably, to “build political momentum toward a final agreement“. Less charitably it was intended to “demonstrate progress in order to fend off congressional action,” as Obama’s former nuclear adviser Gary Samore put it. In that at least it was successful. Continue reading

Why The West Should Support The Saudi-Led Intervention In Yemen

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 11, 2015

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In The Independent of April 10, Daniel Wickham wrote in opposition to the campaign of airstrikes, led by Saudi Arabia, against the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, which has overthrown the government in that country and is now marching on the port city of Aden where the remnants of the fallen regime reside. Wickham notes that the Houthis have behaved abominably since they took the capital, Sanaa, including the “use of torture and extreme violence to suppress dissent,” still “two wrongs do not make a right” and the Saudi-led Operation DECISIVE STORM is “very clearly wrong.” I think this is mistaken. Continue reading

Defeat Jihadists in Syria by Being a Better Ally to the Opposition

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on March 25, 2015

A still  from the video announcing the Ahrar a-Sham-Suqour a-Sham merger

A still from the video announcing the Ahrar a-Sham-Suqour a-Sham merger

Ahrar a-Sham “merged with“—in reality annexed—Suqour a-Sham on March 22. Ahrar’s leader, Hashem al-Sheikh (a.k.a. Abu Jabbar), is the leader of the Ahrar-Suqour formation, and Suqour’s leader, Ahmed Issa al-Sheikh (a.k.a. Abu Issa) is his deputy. Ahrar is the largest and most hardline Syrian insurgent group in Syria, and Suqour has a fairly stern Salafi-nationalist ideology—at least at its leadership level—and was once the largest rebel group in Idlib Province.

The first thing this brought to mind was Sam Heller’s witticism late last year: “the most successful, lasting approach to rebel unification so far has basically been ‘Ahrar al-Sham absorbs you’.” Continue reading

Allowing Iran To Conquer Iraq Will Not Help Defeat The Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on March 15, 2015

Qassem Suleimani

Qassem Suleimani

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of an offensive on March 1 to dislodge the Islamic State (ISIS) from Salah ad-Din Province. Abadi announced that this would be led by the Iraqi army and Hashd al-Shabi, known in English as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), the militias composed overwhelmingly of Shi’ites and directed by Iran.

While the offensive seems to be winding down, it is not over. ISIS is out of ad-Dawr/Dour and al-Awja, south of Tikrit, and Albu Ajeel to the east. Al-Alam to the north seems to still be contested. On March 10, ISIS was driven out of al-Qadissiya, a northern district of Tikrit City. On March 11, the anti-ISIS forces entered Tikrit City, “inched closer to the city center … and took up positions in a military hospital, the police academy and the traffic police headquarters … Forces in southern districts took over three palaces erected by former dictator Saddam Hussein”. Continue reading