Monday, August 18, 2014

The End of the Beginning

American advisers to help with planning, weapons, and air strikes have enabled Kurdish forces to retake a crucial dam in the north. While the jihadis held it, they could have cut off water and electricity to Iraq or even unleashed flood waters that would have devastated a lot of downriver Iraq.

This is good:

A consortium of Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by American airstrikes, captured the Mosul Dam back from the ISIL on Monday, delivering the biggest blow to the radical Sunni group yet.

Iraqi aircraft participated, too. Elsewhere I read that Iraqi special forces took part, but this article does not mention that aspect.

A Kurdish advance that retakes Mosul itself would threaten to cut the Islamic State forces further south near Baghdad off from their Syrian branch.

If that is done, Iraq's forces north of Baghdad might face a shakier enemy that Iraqi forces can handle.

And Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar still need to be retaken. But we seem to be working on that, too.

I may bitterly regret that President Obama looked away while Iraq got to this state. But he is at least acting now to recover. So I credit him for being willing to act against the jihadis.

UPDATE: Other Iraqis are wondering where we are and why the Kurds are uniquely favored:

As U.S. warplanes tilt the battlefield against Islamic militants in Kurdish-controlled territories, Iraqis in the rest of the country are growing resentful that the U.S. so far is not intervening more forcefully to protect Arabs who have been fighting extremists for months.

These Iraqis have a point. But they should not neglect their own role in letting the sitution in the rest of Iraq get so bad. Yes, I think we should have been there all along to keep the Iraqis from shooting themselves in the foot. But the Iraqis did the actual foot-shooting.

When Iraqis have a core military force to fight in Anbar to exploit our air power--as the Kurds have provided--I imagine we will provide it.

UPDATE: On Tueday, I read that the main Iraqi forces are having another go at Tikrit:

Buoyed by an operation to recapture a strategic dam from the jihadists after two months of setbacks, Iraqi army units backed by Shi'ite militias fought their way towards the center of Tikrit, a city 130 km (80 miles) north of Baghdad which is a stronghold of the Sunni Muslim minority.

No mention of American air power. Why? Although I'm sure the Iraqis have the benefit of our aerial recon if not our smart bombs.

Let's hope this isn't the Isonzo River.