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Saturday, August 23, 2014

ISIS Just Gave Us a Reason

James Foley, the American photojournalist brutally executed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), did not die in vain.  His death finally caused Washington to wake up and realize ISIS cannot be dealt with by half measures.  SecDef Hagel (who hated the Iraq War) has pledged more airstrikes.  CJCS Martin Dempsey publicly suggested the fight needs to extend into Syria to attack the ISIS base.  These are welcome developments.  ISIS, you just gave us a cause to believe in.

David Ignatius gives a good account of the change in thinking here: The Fight against Evil

Even the Brits are getting it.  Recent news about how many of British citizens are participating in ISIS (hundreds) shook them up.  Some ISIS members will be returning to the UK.  Kill them over there, before they kill over here.

ISIS may be well financed and well organized.  But they cannot hold the territory they grabbed in a power vacuum.  They have no realistic political program that can inspire mass loyalty.  Their objective to form a state is self-contradictory.  In the end, they are a mafia of nihilistic killers.  And strategically, they made a mistake by trying to fight a conventional war. Best estimate is that they number 15,000 fighters.  In the desert, they have few places to hide. Although highly mobile, they can be denied the use of roads by constant aircraft and drone sorties.  

Strick isolationists who fear another "mission creep" and return to Iraq scenario are misguided. This anti-ISIS mission can be accomplished with air power, special forces, and military advisers.  Aircraft are being launched from the USS George H.W. Bush and from Incilik Air Base in Turkey.  Best estimate is that ISIS numbers 15,000 fighters.  The Kurdish peshmerga and decent units in the Iraqi Army (they have M-1 tanks) will do the ground fighting.

Already the US has conducted nearly 60 air missions against ISIS target.  Watch that increase by an order of magnitude.  The Kurds have taken back all the territory lost to ISIS two weeks ago, and are said to be massing for another push into Ninawa province.   The Iraqi Army, very slow to get moving, is starting to pound ISIS around Tikrit. 

As for Iraq: Will the congentially stupid Shia leaders in Baghdad now realize they must make a permanent alliance with Iraq's Sunni tribes and moderate leaders?  Will they stop pointlessly antagonizing the Kurds?  Our military aid should be leveraged to force them to make a deal.

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