Friday, October 10, 2014

Still Paying the Pottery Barn

 According to the Washington Post, ISIL fighters are about to overrun Anbar Province in Iraq, putting themselves within artillery range of Baghdad.  This would give them effective control of western Iraq to the Syrian Border and provide an uninterrupted  supply line from bases in Syria.  It would also bring two key Iraqi military bases and supplies under ISIL control.

Prospects for thwarting ISIL's advance look poor.  US airstrikes have not stopped ISIL's momentum.  Sunnis will object to Shi'ite militias fighting alongside a Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi Army in the Sunni homeland of Anbar.  For their part Iraqi soldiers have no love for the countrymen or the government they are supposedly defending.
For days we begged for airstrikes and they never came,” said a 38-year-old soldier who survived the onslaught at Saqlawiyah....  The leadership doesn’t care about us, the people there [in Anbar] don’t care about us. They called us Shia dogs, How can I fight for any of them after this?”
The Sunnis have cast their lot with ISIL, just as they did with al-Qaeda during the American Occupation until they became fed up with al-Qaeda fundamentalism and lured by American case and promises to switch sides.  Maybe they think they can pull off another pivot after the Iraqi army is defeated but ISIL may not be easily ditched.

As I noted earlier, about the only thing likely to stop ISIL is a well-trained military force that is motivated to fight back, well supplied and supported with air assets.  The US and the "coalition" can certainly provided supplies and air support but it seems that no member of that coalition has the wholly unalloyed goal of defeating ISIL.  Sure they all want ISIL gone but each has their own separate agenda that limits their support.  The one thing all agree on so far is that no one wants to commit ground forces against ISIL.   That leaves the out gunned Kurds and some Iraqi army units.

With Baghdad in range of ISIL artillery I can already hear the neo-con war mongers accusing Obama of "losing Iraq" since they believe that somehow our success in buying off the Sunni tribes after 2007 was some sort of vindication of their decision to invade Iraq and to destabilize the Middle East.  If Baghdad falls to ISIL, it will be the unintended consequence of Dick Cheney's decision to invest American lives and treasure in Iraq.  Maybe the Obama Administration can and the American military can somehow come up with something to stave off disaster.    

If not...

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