Friday, March 27, 2015

Meanwhile Back on the Main ISIL Front

So now we get to demonstrate that having America as your friend is better than having Iran as your friend. Can the Obama administration pull this off?

We insisted on sidelining the Shia militias as the price for our air support:

The United States persuaded Iraq to sideline Iranian-backed Shiite militias as a condition to American airstrikes in the strategic Iraqi city of Tikrit, a senior U.S. general said Thursday. The move limits Iran's influence, at least temporarily, and could re-invigorate a ground offensive that U.S. officials said had become stalled under Iranian leadership.

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, told a Senate hearing that he had insisted that Iranian-backed militias pull back before the U.S. began flying intelligence-gathering flights over the weekend and dropping bombs Wednesday in support of a reconfigured Iraqi force of soldiers and federal police.

We said--rightly--that the militias were essentially Iranian forces rather than Iraqi forces.

The militias claimed they were offended by our air support and were taking their partial collection of marbles home:

Akram al-Kaabi, secretary-general of the Harakat al-Nujaba militia, threatened the United States.

"The US-led international coalition is trying... to hijack victory," said Kaabi, whose outfit is a splinter from the powerful Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia.

"They agreed with the government but the government did not consult the Hashed Shaabi or commanders on the ground," he said.

There have been no reports of US military advisers or other forces on the ground in Tikrit but he warned nonetheless that his group were on "maximum alert" to target US troops.

Lovely lads, those Iranian puppet militia fellows. Having Iran's arm so far up his posterior that Iran can pick his teeth from the inside doesn't count as "foreign" influence.

We definitely did not want that Iranian atrocity-waiting-to-happen to be involved in pacifying the mostly Sunni Arab city.

Perhaps we figured the militias had been bled enough in the assaults thus far.

But with only 4,000 Iraqi regulars in the area, the militias are still needed to hold the lines around the city even if the assault relies on Iraqi special forces and other regulars and federal police units.

Yes, if the ISIL jihadis have mere hundreds holed up in the city center, this should be enough with our air power in close support. But we don't want the jihadis to infiltrate reinforcements.

Or will more Iraqi regulars be brought up?

Now it is important to show a contrast of fighting methods: Iran will fight to the last Arab while we send the other side to Paradise.

UPDATE: I try not to be infected with Obama Derangement Syndrome. So let me just remind you that I do think that our basic strategy for Iraq (and Syria, if we follow the logic and conclude Assad really does have to be defeated) is correct, but that I worry we lack a sense of urgency:

While I think our strategy for dealing with ISIL in Iraq is basically sound--if our enemy gives us the time to set up the killing blow--Iran could yet undermine any battlefield victory we achieve. It's well past time the Obama administration recognized that Iran is no partner.

Yemen falling apart as ISIL, al Qaeda, and Iran pick apart the carcass of the former state of Yemen is one problem with giving enemies the most precious resource of all--time.

UPDATE: In a bit of a schadenfreude moment, I guess we can look forward to President Obama being accused of war crimes for using air power to support our friends (and lower tier enemies) against our priority enemy:

Here at the headquarters of Iraqi ground forces, after three days of American airstrikes that at times witnesses here described as “carpet bombing,” Iraq’s military seemed in no great hurry on Saturday to press its advantage.

"Carpet bombing," they say. In the lead paragraph.

Carpet bombing is using massed bombing to drop huge numbers of unguided bombs in such a dense pattern that there are wall-to-wall explosions that are a virtual carpet of indiscriminate death.

You'll recall the BS charges during the Bush administration that we were slaughtering Iraqis from the air.

Of course, this is all part of the most clever integrated air defense network ever devised by mankind.

It requires useful idiots to be effective. But there's no short supply of that in the world.

UPDATE: The Iraqis are working to fill the holes in their front lines because of the militia skedaddle:

Some Shiite militiamen have drawn back from the fight to protest U.S. involvement. While that may suit the American commanders, who do not wish to be seen giving air cover to Iranian-backed paramilitary groups, Iraqi officers on the ground are struggling to plug the gap while negotiations take place to persuade the militiamen to return to the battle.

Some regulars have been brought in.

Also, let me note that Iraq's urban warfare experience at Khorramshahr took place when they captured the city from Iran in 1980 and not 1981.