Archive for category Foreign Policy
Protest against Saudi air strikes, March 26 in Sanaa
The news from Yemen is that a humanitarian disaster is rapidly overtaking the Arab world’s poorest country, which the USA helped to destabilize with drone strikes against Islamic militants. The Saudis are poised to finish the job, committing war crimes with U.S. – made weapon systems.
“It is a terrible situation and it is moving so fast,” Julien Harneis, the Yemen representative of the United Nations Children Fund, told The Associated Press. “We are heading toward a humanitarian disaster.”
…In the southern city of Aden, medical supplies are running out. Doctors Without Borders, which operates in the city, said it has received over 500 wounded, including more than 110 on the first day of airstrikes. UNICEF is giving out midwife kits to treat injured civilians because of lack of supplies.
…In al-Houta, a city north of Aden, people are fleeing fighting to nearby villages for safety and to find goods and produce, said 28-year old resident Ahmed Rageh. The local gas station has been closed for nearly three weeks. “It is a disastrous situation. Somalia is now in a better shape than us,” he said.
It’s heartbreaking to see catastrophe overtake a beautiful country with such a rich history and friendly people. I lived there for two years in the early 1990s, traveled to visit ancient ruins and poor but architecturally fascinating villages. There was virtually no crime. But many problems were waiting to surface, particularly the disenfranchisement of Shiites and the uneasy relationship with Saudi Arabia – which has invaded Yemen in the past.
NEW YORK — Rudy Giuliani went straight for the jugular Wednesday night during a private group dinner here featuring Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by openly questioning whether President Barack Obama “loves America.”
…“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
When you start out with, “I know this is a horrible thing to say…” maybe you should not say it?
I think it’s time to question whether the Tea-GOP “loves America.” The Bush administration failed to defend us from the single worst terrorist attack in history. They sent millions of Americans to fight unwinnable wars halfway around the world. They ruined America’s reputation as a defender of human rights, replacing it with wars of aggression and torture. They put the NSA to work spying on all of us. They abandoned New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They topped themselves by crashing our economy, causing millions of Americans to lose jobs, homes, and retirement savings. Then they waged a years-long campaign of economic sabotage in a failed attempt to stop the Obama administration from helping America recover from Bush’s Great Recession, including a government shutdown, a near-default on the National Debt, and the so-called “sequester” (aka austerity budgeting). Now they are trying to take away health insurance from 13 million Americans, and prevent millions more from getting any in the first place.
I am NOT feeling the love!
Source: The Daily Mirror
The Constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.
President Obama asked Congress on Wednesday for new war powers to go after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The draft resolution (PDF) asks Congress to enact a three-year Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS. The resolution notably restricts the use of American ground troops and seeks to avoid a prolonged conflict.
Obama announced his plan to launch airstrikes against ISIS back in September, and the White House’s AUMF resolution seeks to formalize the U.S. military campaign to “degrade and defeat” ISIS.
The draft AUMF has already been criticized as imprecise. For example, it defines the enemy as “ISIL [sic] or associated persons or forces.” But that would include the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels (armed by the U.S.), who routinely fight alongside ISIS. Like the 2001 AUMF (which would remain in effect), there is no geographical limitation in the new draft AUMF. Potentially it could authorize attacking Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Asked today if he agreed that language was “fuzzy,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest replied with a firm yes, saying it is “intentionally” fuzzy “because we believe it’s important that there aren’t overly burdensome constraints that are placed on the commander-in-chief.”
I left the Army with the rank of captain, but it doesn’t take a four-star general to realize you can’t fight a war intelligently unless you know who the enemy is, and where to find them. Oh, and by the way this draft AUMF is probably a violation of the U.N. Charter – though that’s somewhat debatable.
“The devastating and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that when we give military authority to the executive, it should not be a blank check,” Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said.
“Unfortunately, the authorization proposed by the president this week is too broad. In order to ensure meaningful limits on executive branch authority, an AUMF should at a minimum contain a clear objective and geographical limitations. It should also include an enforceable ban on the deployment of ground troops with exception for only the most limited of operations, unambiguous language, and a repeal of the 2001 AUMF,” they said.
Ahrar al Sham T-72 tank at the recent battle of Wadi al Daif in Idlib province, Syria
It’s time once again to check in with The Long War Journal and see how things are going in Syria and Iraq. Oh, not good. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, Ahrar al Sham, and elements of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army have reportedly taken Syrian Army positions in the northwestern province of Idlib.
The Al Nusrah Front, supported by jihadist groups Ahrar al Sham and Jund al Aqsa, and units from the Free Syrian Army, today claimed to have overrun Wadi Al Daif, a Syrian Army base located just east of the city of Maa’rat al Nu’man. In addition, Ahrar al Sham, Al Nusrah, and the Free Syrian Army also advanced on Al Hamadiya, which sits just south of the city; the groups claimed to have taken partial control of Al Hamadiya.
Control of the two bases is critical for the Syrian military as they straddle the M5 highway, the main road from Aleppo to Damascus.
Meanwhile in Iraq, ISIS has renewed its attack on Samarra and nearby towns.
The Islamic State seeks to control Samarra and towns and cites to its south in order to secure the northern Baghdad belt. Jihadist control of this area would make it difficult for Iraqi forces to resupply and reinforce military units north of the city. Additionally, the Islamic State would use this area to disrupt security in Baghdad.
The Iraqi government has allowed Shiite militias, including the Badr Brigade, Hezbollah Brigade, Asaib al Haq (League of the Righteous), and Muqtada al Sadr’s Promised Day Brigade, all of which are supported by Iran’s Qods Force, to reinforce beleaguered and demoralized Iraqi forces in Samarra. These militias have remained on the front line and have secured cities and towns, many of which are predominantly Sunni communities, along the road from Samarra to Baghdad.
ISIS is also trying to consolidate its hold on Anbar Province.
Islamic State fighters launched an assault on al Wafa, which is west of the provincial capital of Ramadi, on Dec. 12 and defeated Iraqi security forces and local tribal fighters.
…The Islamic State maintains the initiative in Anbar province, most of which is under its control. The provincial capital of Ramadi and the town of Haditha remain contested terrain. The Iraqi military, the Awakening, and Iranian-backed Shiite militias have been unable to wrest control of the province from the Islamic state since Fallujah and other cities and towns fell in January 2013.
Since Dec. 10, the US has conducted 16 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, and the US and partners have carried out 29 airstrikes against the group in Iraq. President Obama told US troops: “The time of deploying large ground forces with big military footprints to engage in nation building overseas, that’s coming to an end.”
Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham advance in northwestern Syria
Islamic State releases pictures from recent fighting near Samarra (Note: some gruesome photos here)
Islamic State overruns town in Anbar, executes Awakening fighters
Al Nusrah Front uses American-made anti-tank missile in Idlib (Video)
M-60A3 tanks of Turkish Armed Forces standing by at the Turkey-Syria border, as ISIS and Kurdish armed groups fight for control of nearby Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) on October 6, 2014. (Photo by Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The current situation in the war against ISIS, via CNN:
The United States and its allies have made at least 271 airstrikes in Iraq and 116 in Syria.
The cost? More than $62 million for just the munitions alone.
The effect? Negligible, some say, particularly in Iraq.
One by one, the cities have fallen to ISIS like dominoes: Hit, Albu Aytha, Kubaisya, Saqlawia and Sejal.
And standing on the western outskirts of Baghdad, ISIS is now within sight.
The Long War Journal reports that ISIS captured a battalion of tanks (that’s up to 54 tanks) at Hit after they were abandoned by fleeing Iraqi soldiers.
The U.S. is now flying risky missions around Fallujah using AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. This means the “air war” now openly includes ground combat, because American military doctrine (PDF) classifies an attack helicopter force as a maneuver element, the same as infantry or armor.
Meanwhile in Syria, ISIS is about to occupy the town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) on the Turkish border. Turkey has refused to aid the Kurdish defenders, despite U.S. requests. Air strikes in the vicinity of Kobani have failed to stop the three-week assault on the town.
Why Everyone Is Sitting Back And Letting ISIS Conquer A Key Syrian Town
Turkey’s Refusal To Help Besieged Kurds Fight ISIS Is Backfiring
As They Battle ISIS For Kurdish Town, U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels Question Support
This Is How Close The Fight Against ISIS Is To Turkey’s Border
Islamic State Advances Deeper Into Kobani
ISIS Battles Iraqi Forces Near Baghdad
Former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld famously ruminated on the difference between “known knowns,” “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns” in the intel business. It seems to me that our intelligence services (all 17 of them) have the most difficulty with sorting out the unknown knowns (i.e. things widely reported, whose significance is apparently unknown to the government). The news media told us about the the capture of Fallujah by ISIS 9 months ago. (At that time, ISIS was best known as the employer of fictional spy Sterling Archer). Ought to have been a wake-up call, don’t you think?
President Obama, unlike the last one, is at least able to acknowledge and take responsibility for a mistake:
America failed to recognize the threat posed by Islamic State terrorists and mistakenly relied on the hapless Iraqi army to combat them, President Obama admitted in an interview broadcast Sunday night.
In an about-face from earlier remarks that likened ISIS to a terrorist “JV team,” Obama told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that he agreed with National Intelligence Director James Clapper’s recent assessment that “we underestimated the Islamic State.”
“Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated . . . what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said.
The president also called it “absolutely true” that the United States put too much faith in the Iraqi army, whose soldiers turned tail rather than wage war against ISIS fighters invading from Syria.
Obama’s comments marked his bluntest acknowledgment that the United States bungled the initial response to ISIS, which American-led planes began bombing inside Syria this month.
More info: ISIS Fast Facts
UPDATE: Tom Engelhardt: The Massive Failure of American Intelligence
[F]rom the Egyptian spring and the Syrian disaster to the crisis in Ukraine, American intelligence has, as far as we can tell, regularly been one step late and one assessment short, when not simply blindsided by events. As a result, the Obama administration often seems in a state of eternal surprise at developments across the globe.
President Obama is now the fourth President in a row who’s leading us into war in Iraq. Additionally, he again wants to attack Syria (but Washington seems to have switched sides in the Syrian civil war since a year ago). Considering the outcomes of previous American military adventures in the Middle East, is this really a good idea? The plan, such as it is, will consist of using mostly air power and special operations forces in cooperation with allied ground forces. The stated objective is to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIS. However, we’ve failed to “destroy” any of the Islamic insurgent forces we’ve fought against over the past 13 years – they are all still thriving, including ISIS (which started out as al-Qaeda in Iraq).
Rajiv Chandrasekaran in the WaPo:
“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead… “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”
Adding to the level of difficulty is the fact that the USA will be fighting on the same side as Bashir al-Assad, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Iran. And the nascent Iraqi government of of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is an uncertain ally at best. Probably half the Iraqi Army has been rendered combat-ineffective as a result of ISIS advances.
At this point, I think everyone has finally realized that following the al-Qaeda game plan post-9/11 didn’t turn out well. The aim of strategy is to force the enemy to conform to your will. Al-Qaeda had a strategy, and we really didn’t. The Bush administration sent our military to chase after who-knows-who in some 60 countries. When President Obama says, “we don’t have a strategy yet” to avoid spending more trillions and more American lives to give ISIS exactly what they want, he is stating a fact.
Tom Engelhardt (emphasis added):
Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington. Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy — and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing U.S. counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation. In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise. After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington’s weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who would oppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country.
“Blowback” can’t even begin to describe a strategic failure of this magnitude. It would be nice to think that the Obama administration has the intelligence and fortitude to design a new strategy that goes beyond “don’t do stupid shit.” I don’t think that. Nobody in Washington is prepared to call the Global War on Terror an utter failure, or admit that ISIS could not have triumphed without our help. It’s reasonable to predict the USA will keep doing the same thing (if only for lack of a better idea), hoping for different results.