Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Come With Us If You Want to Live

After some confusion, Strategypage is now coming down on the side of Iraqi militias taking heavy casualties in the battle for Tikrit.

The Iranian-led offensive on Tikrit is showing the results of "scream and leap" tactics (yes, that's a Kzin reference):

Going in the troops were told there would be heavy casualties and that was generally accepted. The 27,000 man force has suffered about 15 percent casualties (dead, wounded and missing) since March 1 st . During that advance some 8,000 square kilometers of territory was cleared of ISIL gunmen. Hundreds of ISIL men were killed and these men often fought to the death.

So that is probably around 1,300 dead for the Iraqi Shia militias that Iran is leading. Which fits with reports.

ISIL has suffered "hundreds" dead.

On the bright side, heavy civilian casualties seem to have been avoided.

And the battle against the thousand or so remaining ISIL defenders in the city center has yet to begin.

We have so far refused to provide air support to the Iranian-led effort. Could this be a problem for us despite the fact that Strategypage rightly notes that the Iranians realize this approach can destroy morale even among the fanatics?

Yet not providing air support also benefits Iran because Iran can make the point that they are a more reliable ally than the Americans who are withholding air support at the cost of Iraqi lives.

I disagree with this is a heads they win and tails we lose dilemma. During the Iran-Iraq War, Iranian offensive alternated between the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guard)-led attacks that resulted in heavy Iranian casualties and the army-directed offensives that relied on better planning and tactics.

If we (America or other Western aircraft) do provide air support going forward (new recon flights likely telegraph this step), we should contrast our help with Iran's.

We should certainly highlight Iran's approach to focus the attention of the Iraqis we are training:

Hundreds of American advisers are working at the Camp Taji military base just north of Baghdad to train Iraqi forces on issues like weaponry and better coordination and integration of ground action with coalition airstrikes.

The goal, U.S. military officials say, is to teach the different divisions of the Iraqi military how to harmonize the operations of its various fighting units.
Played right, we can show a contrast between the death toll that Iranian friendship requires of Iraqis and our methods.

Especially if we circulate propaganda praising the Iranian efforts and thanking Allah for the opportunity for so many Arab Iraqis to achieve martyrdom under the guidance of their Persian brothers.

Remember, Iran is our long-term enemy in Iraq, as awful as ISIL is and as necessary as it is to destroy them:

[CIA Director John] Brennan said he "wouldn't consider Iran an ally right now inside Iraq" even though Iran and the U.S. both consider the Islamic State group an enemy.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, testifying at a congressional hearing this past week, said the U.S. worries that Shiite militiamen eventually might turn against Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis, further destabilizing the country.

But Brennan said he didn't believe the presence of Soleimani and his advisers pointed to Iran having a larger position in Iraq and its future. However, he acknowledged it's not for lack of trying. Baghdad's Shiite-led government has forged closer ties with Iran, its adversary in a 1980s war.

"We're not letting them play that role," the CIA chief said. "I think they're working with the Iraqis to play that role. We're working with the Iraqis, as well."

Former General and CIA director David Petraeus also reminds us that Iran is no partner.

I hope Brennan is right that we can cope with Iran. I've never been in the camp that said our defeat of Saddam threw Iraq to Iran. But I have recognized that our efforts (and presence) are necessary to combat Iranian efforts to do that.