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Isis: A Year of the Caliphate
Have US tactics played into Islamist hands?

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The “Islamic State” is stronger than it was when it was first proclaimed on 29 June last year, shortly after Isis fighters captured much of northern and western Iraq. Its ability to go on winning victories was confirmed on 17 May this year in Iraq, when it seized Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and again four days later in Syria, when it took Palmyra, one of the most famous cities of antiquity and at the centre of modern transport routes.

The twin victories show how Isis has grown in strength: it can now simultaneously attack on multiple fronts, hundreds of miles apart, a capacity it did not have a year ago. In swift succession, its forces defeated the Iraqi and Syrian armies and, equally telling, neither army was able to respond with an effective counter-attack.

Supposedly these successes, achieved by Isis during its summer offensive in 2014, should no longer be feasible in the face of air strikes by the US-led coalition. These began last August in Iraq and were extended to Syria in October, with US officials recently claiming that 4,000 air strikes had killed 10,000 Isis fighters. Certainly, the air campaign has inflicted heavy losses on Isis, but it has made up for these casualties by conscripting recruits within the self-declared caliphate, an area the size of Great Britain with a population of five or six million.

What makes the loss of Ramadi and Palmyra so significant is that they did not fall to surprise attacks, the means by which a few thousand Isis fighters unexpectedly captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in 2014.

ORDER IT NOW
That city had a garrison estimated to number about 20,000 men, though nobody knows the exact figure because the Iraqi armed forces were full of “virtual” soldiers, who did not physically exist but whose pay was pocketed by officers and government officials. Baghdad later admitted to 50,000 of these. There were, in addition, many soldiers who did exist, but kicked back at least half their salary to officers on the condition that they perform no military duties.

Yet the outcome of the fighting at Ramadi, a Sunni Arab city which once had a population of 600,000, should have been different than at Mosul. The Isis assault in mid-May was the wholly predictable culmination of attacks that had been continuous in the eight months since October 2014. What was unexpected was a retreat that was close to flight by government forces and, in the longer term, the same old fatal disparity between the nominal size of the Iraqi armed forces and their real combat strength.

A crucial feature of the political and military landscape in Iraq is that the Iraqi army never recovered from its defeats of 2014. To meet Isis attacks on many fronts it had fewer than five brigades, or between 10,000 and 12,000 soldiers, capable of fighting while “the rest of the army are only good for manning checkpoints” – in the words of a senior Iraqi security official. Even so, many of these elite units, including the so-called Golden Division, were in Ramadi, though their men complained of exhaustion and of suffering serious casualties without receiving replacements.

In the event, even the presence of experienced troops was not enough. Just why the government forces were defeated is partly explained in an interview with The Independent by Colonel Hamid Shandoukh, who was the police commander in the southern sector of Ramadi during the final battle. Speaking of what happened to his detachment, the colonel says: “In three days of fighting, 76 of our men were killed and 180 wounded.” Isis commanders used a lethal cocktail of well-tried tactics, sending fanatical foreign volunteers driving vehicles packed with explosives to blow themselves up and demolish government fortifications. Suicide bombing on a mass scale, with explosions capable of destroying a city block, was followed by assaults by well-trained infantry, including snipers and mortar teams.

Col Shandoukh, himself a Sunni Arab, says the root of the problem is simply that neither the Iraqi security forces nor pro-government tribal forces received reinforcements or adequate equipment. He says that the central failure is sectarian and happened “because of [government] fear that, as the people of Anbar are Sunni, mobilising them will threaten the government later”.

He complains that sophisticated weapons are reserved for Shia militias and specialised counter-terrorism units, while the predominantly Sunni Arab police in Anbar received only seven Humvees, far fewer than the number captured by Isis in Mosul.

I am a little wary of Colonel Shandoukh’s explanation that Isis’s victory was thanks to superior weapons denied to his own troops by the Shia-dominated Baghdad government. Lack of heavy arms is an excuse invariably used by Iraqi and Kurdish leaders to explain reverses inflicted on them by inferior forces. But this claim is frequently contradicted by pictures and videos shot by Isis after it has captured positions, showing heaps of abandoned weaponry.

At Mosul last year and again at Ramadi almost a year later, there was the same breakdown in morale among government commanders leading to a panicky and unnecessary withdrawal. In the sour words of General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff “the Iraqi security forces weren’t “driven from” Ramadi, they “drove out of Ramadi”.

Colonel Shandoukh regards distrust between Sunni and Shia as the main cause of the rout. He argues that the people of Anbar, a vast province that makes up at a quarter of Iraq, are “looked at as terrorists by the government; even the Sunni military staff and their detachments are not given full support”. Others blame the corruption and overall dysfunctional nature of the Iraqi state in a country in which people’s primary loyalty is to their sectarian or ethnic community. Iraqi nationalism is at a discount.

ORDER IT NOW

A more precise reason for the military disintegration may be that Iraqi army, and this also applies to the Kurdish Peshmerga, have become over-dependent on US air strikes. In Iraqi Kurdistan, Peshmerga respond to Isis attacks by giving their exact location to the US-Kurdish Joint Operations headquarters in Erbil which calls in air strikes. Significantly, it was an impending sandstorm that would blind US aircraft and drones and prevent their use that was apparently the reason why the order was given for Iraqi forces to abandon Ramadi. Colonel Shandoukh says that “without US-led airstrikes, Ramadi will not be recaptured”.

General Dempsey’s ill-concealed anger at the debacle at Ramadi may stem from his understanding that the disaster involves more than just the loss of a single city, but discredits the whole American strategy towards Islamic State. The aim was to use US air power in combination with local ground forces to weaken and ultimately eliminate Isis. It was a policy that Washington had persuaded itself was working effectively right up to the moment it fell apart on 17 May.

Proof of this is a spectacularly ill-timed and over-optimistic briefing given on 15 May by Brigadier General Thomas D Weidley, the chief of staff for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, as the US-led air campaign to defeat Islamic State is known. “We firmly believe [Isis] is on the defensive throughout Iraq and Syria, attempting to hold previous gains, while conducting small-scale, localised harassing attacks [and] occasionally complex or high-profile attacks to feed their information and propaganda apparatus,” he said.

Gen Weidley revealed that the coalition had launched 165 air strikes in Ramadi over the previous month and 420 in the Fallujah-Ramadi area since the air campaign started, and sounded fully confident that these had stopped Isis’s run of victories.

Keep in mind that on the very day the General was making his upbeat remarks, Isis was over-running the last government strongholds in Ramadi. In other words, whatever the Pentagon thought was happening on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria was wrong. As in Korea in 1950 and South Vietnam in 1968, an enemy that the US military was convinced was on the run had suddenly struck back with devastating impact. The air strikes in the Ramadi area, and a further 330 in and around the Baiji refinery and town, did not prevent Isis concentrating its forces and launching a successful offensive.

The US generals were not alone in their over-optimism. The capture of Tikrit, the home city of Saddam Hussein, by the Iraqi army and Shia militias led to exaggerated assumptions worldwide that Islamic State was on the retreat. On 1 April the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, walked down the main street of Tikrit, basking in the plaudits of his triumphant troops. He later announced that “the next battle” would be for Anbar, a forecast that turned out to correct though not in the sense Mr Abadi intended – since it was a battle decisively won by Isis.

The loss of Ramadi has exposed Western policy for defeating Isis in Iraq as a failure and no new policy has been devised to take its place. If the same thing has not happened in Syria, it is simply because the West never had a policy there to begin with or, put more charitably, in so far as there was a policy, it was so crippled by contradictions as to rob it of any coherence or chance of success (something I will explore in a later article in this series).

The West would like to weaken President Bashar al-Assad, but is frightened that, if he goes, his regime will collapse with him and thereby create a vacuum which would be filled by Islamic State and by Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, which leads a coalition of fundamentalist Sunni Arab rebel groups supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Western-backed moderates play only a marginal role among the Syrian opposition fighters. Robert Ford, the former US ambassador to Syria, and a long-time supporter of the rebel moderates, changed his stance earlier this year announcing that the reality in Syria is that “the people we have backed have not been strong enough to hold their ground against the Nusra Front”.

Nevertheless, Western policy is to pretend that there is still a “moderate” alternative to Assad, whose forces are ebbing in strength. Both Assad, Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra benefit from the total militarisation of Syrian politics whereby no compromise is possible between the contending sides. A state of permanent war seems to be in their interests, since disaffected members of their own side have no alternative but to fight.

After capturing Palmyra, Islamic State is now threatening Deir Ezzor, a Sunni Arab tribal city, one of the few strongholds still held by the government in eastern Syria. Isis is getting closer to Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city, and probably hopes to take it at some point in the future. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Islamic State “has seized more than 50 per cent of Syria and is now present in 10 of its 14 provinces”. It adds that Isis now holds the majority of Syria’s oil and gas fields.

This calculation gives a slightly exaggerated idea of Islamic state control in Syria since its dominance is mostly in the scantily-populated regions of the east. It is under pressure from the well-organised Syrian Kurds, fighting against whom it suffered its biggest defeat when it failed to take the city of Kobani despite a four-and-a-half month siege. On 16 June, Isis lost the important border crossing into Turkey at Tal Abyad after an attack by the Kurds backed by US air power. Earlier this week they were reportedly driven out of the town of Ayn Isa and a nearby military base, just 30 miles north of Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the Isis capital.

Once again, this led to over-optimistic talk of Isis weakening, though it did not try very hard to hold either town as they were encircled by Kurdish troops. As in Iraq, Kurdish willingness and ability to advance into Sunni Arab majority areas is limited so the Kurds will not inflict a decisive defeat on Islamic State. Yesterday there were reports of Isis advancing in other areas.

Isis has more long-term opportunities in Syria than Iraq because some 60 per cent of Syrians are Sunni Arabs, compared to only 20 per cent in Iraq. It has yet to dominate the Sunni opposition in Syria to the extent it does in Iraq, but this may come. As sectarian warfare escalates, Isis’s combination of fanatical Sunni ideology and military expertise will be difficult to overcome.

(Reprinted from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: BookReview, Iraq, ISIS, Syria

33 Comments to "Isis: A Year of the Caliphate"

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  1. The Shia army and the militias are at a disadvantage. They are being blamed no matter what they do. This correspondent specially tries to lay blame on their footsteps in every article he writes. The Sunnis are not fighting ISIS because to defeat ISIS is to empower the Shia government. They would rather live under the draconian rule of ISIS and complain against the Shias than help the Iraqi government. Kurds, with the help of the US, fight ISIS only to protect their turf. They too don’t want to completely defeat ISIS for the same reasons. They want their own country.

    Let us look at the two sides of the Iraq and Syria conflict. On the one side is Iran backing the Shia government and the militias in Iraq and Assad’s forces and Hezbollah in Syria. On the other side , we have ISIS and Al-Qaeda supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Turkey, Israel, the UK and the US. Don’t forget the Sunnis in Iraq are also covertly helping the ISIS. Without their help ISIS could not have captured Tikrit, Mosul and Ramadi.

    All these powers do not really want to defeat ISIS or Al-Qaeda. A country that can put man on the moon and send voyager to Mars and that has the biggest force and the most modern weapons in the world cannot defeat a band of guerillas with all the technology at its disposal. The military is fighting ISIS and Al-Qaeda, while the CIA and its mercenaries arm and train the very guerillas that the military is fighting. How can one take this operation seriously when every one knows that the coalition members are also the biggest backers of ISIS and Al-Qaeda. They want a perpetual war in the middle east to keep Iran from becoming a powerhouse so that Israel can maintain its hegemony in the area.

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  2. So if we can cut off the flow of foreign volunteers to ISlamicState….. they will slowly collapse?

    Many things have been successfully shutdown in my lifetime: child pornography; open use of the “N word”; whiteMale -receiving-moral-returns from investment-in-family-formation; many many things have gone bye-bye in my lifetime.

    By the way, if IsamicState is doing so well and has such excellent prospects…. why haven’t coldblooded, unemotional, pragmatic actors (e.g.: China) opened up embassies?

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  3. Rand Paul Takes A Stand: His New Book Is A Must Read | David Stockman's Contra Corner
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    […] secular dictators.” The pattern repeats itself with monotonous regularity in the cases of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, and Syria’s Bashar al Assad, “and yet, still today, those who steer […]

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  4. Is the desert dry? Is oil valuable? Are military contracts lucrative?

    ISIS knows how to play the West, and it has also caught on to the fact that Toyota reliability is the American Way.

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  5. Losing does generally play into the hands of the winner.

    The US has been losing in the region for a long time. It hasn’t really won anything in a decade at least.

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  6. As in Korea in 1950 and South Vietnam in 1968, an enemy that the US military was convinced was on the run

    At least for Vietnam, more like “an enemy that the US military wanted to have everyone believe was one the run”.

    From https://consortiumnews.com/2014/08/06/the-long-reach-of-vietnam-war-deceptions/

    According to Sorley, when Westmoreland was decrying the “errors, misinterpretations, judgments, and falsehoods” of the press, all of which pertained to himself, he was actively creating falsehoods of success for the press to report. Sorley describes Westmoreland’s active role in LBJ’s “Progress Offensive,” an active disinformation campaign, or Information Operation as it would be called today, designed to mislead the American people and their elected representatives.

    Its objective was consistent with Joint Chief of Staff Chairman General Earle Wheeler’s guidance to portray the war in the most favorable light, in disregard of the facts.

    The “Progress Offensive” was “a systematic effort to convince the American people that the war in Vietnam was being won,” according to Sorley, especially in 1967. Westmoreland was a willing partner in that. But Westmoreland’s deceit began even before he was brought on board the “Progress Offensive.”

    Westmoreland had submitted statistics to Wheeler in early 1967 showing that the enemy was increasing the “tactical initiative.” Sorley wrote that Wheeler was distraught and wailed: “If these figures should reach the public domain they would, literally, blow the lid off Washington.”

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  7. I appreciate the perspective, but Cockburn seems a bit of a cheer leader for Daesh. When their enemies retreat it’s a great victory, when they retreat it’s because “they did not try very hard”.

    I think the Kurds need to follow the US model of working with local Sunni Arab proxies when taking the offensive into Arab areas. Conquest of Raqqa by the YPG/J would certainly give Daesh a huge propaganda defeat.

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  8. Cockburn is full of s**t. When the 1st commenter states…

    “The military is fighting ISIS and Al-Qaeda, while the CIA and its mercenaries arm and train the very guerillas that the military is fighting. How can one take this operation seriously when every one knows that the coalition members are also the biggest backers of ISIS and Al-Qaeda”

    …he nailed it. The Pentagon has known this at least since 2012, which likely goes to the anemic efforts and poor strategies and foot-dragging by the western powers in employing effective ISIS counter-measures (e.g. failing to shut down ISIS oil exports.) Find that hard to believe? A 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency document spells it out, the entire circus had been a strategy to contain Shia power in the region:

    “…there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria .. and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime…”

    ^

    How that came about was the combined criminal behavior of David Petraeus & Bandar Sultan creating a covert intelligence program to empower Salafist militia of which the ‘moderate’ opposition has served little more than a cover as training and weapons were laundered to al-Qaida aligned groups, some of which coalesced into Islamic State. Interested readers might find part two of the following interesting:

    http://ronaldthomaswest.com/2015/06/18/truth-jockeys/

    ^

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  9. Events in the Middle East are no proper concern of the U.S., and in any case we are fighting people who actually believe in something. What does the U.S. believe in?
    Having invested as deeply as we have in decadence, surrender might be the less painful option.

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  10. Can anyone explain the official, the real or just an arguably rational and officially considered reason for trying to hold existing national borders intact in the ME? For example, should Iraq not be three countries? And what’s wrong with breaking Syria up?

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  11. Russia/China aim to create multipolarity, reducing the US from Superpower to Great Power.

    That means backing Shia Iran, dedicated enemy of ISIS. While the US and Iran are nominally on the same side of this war, they are both contesting for hegemony over Iraq.

    ISIS wants no formal relations as a state, they aim for world conquest.

    The biggest informal supporters of ISIS are Assad, who benefits from a radicalized opposition, and Turkey, which wants revenge for the removal of the MB in Egypt.

    Qatar is playing both sides, funding ISIS while hosting US military facilities. I don’t really understand the Qatari strategy, if there is one.

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  12. The principle of the post-1945 international order is that of “territorial integrity” first, and “self-determination” second.

    It’s a reflection fearing “irredentism” of the pre-1914 era. Sunni Arab Syria should not merge with Sunni Arab Iraq, because it opens “Pandora’s box”. The state would be landlocked, and susceptible to Saudi influence and conquest. Territorial expansion gives the Anglo-American world order a fever.

    So, when the US carved out Kosovo from Serbia, Russia carved up Georgia. Go further back, and Turkey carved up Cyprus.

    Further note the Israeli annexation of the Golan, and compare it to Russian annexation of Crimea. Recognize one, you will soon have to recognize the other. And that inverts the principle.

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  13. The guerillas did not win Vietnam for the Communists. After Tet the VC was a non-entity, it was the conventional NVA that won the war. The VC only won a propaganda victory, Giap was aiming for a popular Communist uprising in the South.

    If conscripts had been relegated to support duty, instead of combat arms, we would have had more experience at the unit level, instead of gaining it and then losing it and the end of tour.

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  14. “Russia/China aim to create multipolarity, reducing the US from Superpower to Great Power.”

    If the US leadership were still sane, they would want the same thing – as supported by Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations. Each Civilisation needs its own core state. The safest place to be is Primus Inter Pares, not using your full strength and allowing others some breathing room. Insisting that the only valid world order is one with total US domination is and has been disastrous. It creates the very opposition the US should be seeking to minimise.

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  15. The traditional Anglo foreign policy was to prevent any power on the Continent from unifying it. That, I understand, was the cause of the British entry into WWI, the Crimean War, Napoleonic War, Spanish Succession, etc.

    This is roughly the Israeli policy in the Middle East, prevent the creation of a Pan-Arabist or Islamist Arab state, along with fracturing the Shia Crescent.

    Kaplan has noted the desire of the US to ‘flip’ Iran from the Russia/China block, to the US/EU block. I’ve normally thought that Iran doesn’t really care about Hamas, given that it’s Sunni, they just want to make it look like they are ‘tip of the spear’ against the eeevil Zionists.

    I am nervous about having more than 3 great powers. We had 6 in 1914-1945 (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia). We had 6 1688-1815 (England, Prussia, Russia, Austria, France, Spain). In East Asia now, we’ve got 4 (US, India, China, Japan).

    “Managing decline” was the Postwar-consensus in the UK, and is what Fareed Zakaria wants now, Obama appears to agree. I’m not so sure it’s a good thing.

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  16. an arguably rational and officially considered reason for trying to hold existing national borders intact in the ME? For example, should Iraq not be three countries? And what’s wrong with breaking Syria up?

    whose decisions should those be: the successors to the same western powers that drew the artificial boundaries in the first place?

    How about those powers and their successors, and their little dog too, let the sovereigns and their people decide how to run their lives and where their borders lie.

    USA can’t protect its own borders but seeks to define those of people on the other side of the world.

    The USA has such abundance of land, resources and people-power — it’s got to be the world’s greatest tragedy to see it being led by the nose by a pariah state with zero history heft and heritage.

    Dump Israel.

    ME problems solved.

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  17. Interesting article, but it’s on questionable ground by starting off calling Ellsberg a heroic whistleblower. Ellsberg was in fact a CIA assest, and the point of the Pentagon Papers “leak” was to deflect attention on the Vietnam fiasco from the CIA to DoD.

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  18. ISIS is too crazy for long-term power. As they gain power, they make the Arab world weaker with anarchy and madness. It’s like the Khmer Rouge only made Cambodia weaker.

    ISIS was allowed to grow because US and Israel worked with Saudis to undermine Syria.
    And US and NATO helped further by bringing down Gadhafi in Libya. That led to Libyan arms and fighters going to Syria to wreak havoc.

    Saudis love it cuz they see Shia power as a rival.

    Jews love it because it weakens Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

    As long as Arabs and Muslims fight one another, Zionists will always play divide and conquer and win.

    ISIS is a huge boon for Zionism and Jewish power.

    Even though Jews helped ISIS come to power, Jews in the media also point their finger at ISIS and say “Look at those crazy Muslims. THAT is why US needs to support Israel as the ‘only liberal democracy’ in the Middle East.”

    Muslims and Arabs are so dumb. Dumb people will be exploited and played.

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  19. I am nervous about having more than 3 great powers. We had 6 in 1914-1945 (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia). We had 6 1688-1815 (England, Prussia, Russia, Austria, France, Spain). In East Asia now, we’ve got 4 (US, India, China, Japan).

    If you think 6 is the magic number you have exactly that in East Asia: US, Japan and South Korea vs China, Russia and North Korea. I don’t know where you got the idea that India is a great power in East Asia. I am guessing from the indian-american Zakaria of CNN…

    We are already in Cold War II, and Civil War II in America is not looking so improbable anymore. If, god forbid, WWIII happens the flashpoint will be in East Asia…

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  20. I don’t consider either half of Korea to be of “Great Power” status. The ROK is a middle power comparable with Turkey, not Germany. The DPRK is a puppet, the question will be whether Russia or China dominates. I’m betting that Putin will thread the needle and displace the Chinese. He has a major strategic need to do so.

    I view the Indians as a Great Power in East Asia, rather than just South (where they are the regional superpower), because they have border disputes with China, and an interest in keeping the sea lanes open to Japan/ROC/Korea.

    There are two real naval counterweights to China, India and the US. If China attempts to block the straits of Malacca, it may well be an Indian carrier group and submarines that fight.

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  21. Both Koreas have powerful militaries. North Korea has artillery, missiles and possibly nukes that can do serious damage to South Korea and even Japan if it has developed nuclear missiles, plus it is crazy and unpredictable enough to be truly dangerous. The South Korean military is ranked among the top 10 in the world.

    India’s border with China is not located in the Far East and it is no match for China as the border skirmish of 1962 proved. And you are overestimating India’s ability to project naval power in the waters of East Asia. India has effectively been contained within south asia by China with the help of it’s longtime ally, Pakistan.

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  22. Isis: A year of the caliphate – The Unz Review | In Saner Thought
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    […] Isis: A year of the caliphate – The Unz Review. […]

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  23. >>“Managing decline” was the Postwar-consensus in the UK, and is what Fareed Zakaria wants now, Obama appears to agree. I’m not so sure it’s a good thing.<<

    I never said anything about 'managing decline'. The US is not in decline (in terms of power – obviously culturally it is, so is UK) and that's not my point. The US should seek to be strong in itself and secure genuine vital interests in partnership with other great powers, rather than seeking total global domination as the lone hyperpower. This is so whether or not US relative power has declined, increased, or stayed stable recently. The current US policy of 'invade the world' is a bad idea. Obama rowing back on it a teeny bit was a good thing.

    Re British foreign policy – it worked well vs the French, it was and is disastrous vs the Germans.

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  24. “If China attempts to block the straits of Malacca, it may well be an Indian carrier group and submarines that fight.”

    Yeah, good luck with that, India. I’m fond of India and they can certainly beat up the Pakistanis, but China is a really serious power, more comparable to Russia and the USA* than to India. India has no real chance against China in any war other than a Chinese invasion of India, or India supporting a tough SE Asian proxy (Vietnam or Australia, say) against a Chinese invasion. In the latter case it would be the proxy doing most of the fighting anyway.

    *The USA is a lot more militarily powerful overall than China, but restricting it to east-Asia they become more comparable. China could probably defeat a US ground invasion fairly easily and it’s questionable who would win in a fight over eg Taiwan.

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  25. maj kong
    * If China attempts to block the straits of Malacca, it may well be an Indian carrier group and submarines that fight.* [sic]

    u swallow too much pentagoon craps. !
    malacca st is china’s energy lifeline, the last thing on the chinese mind is to *block * it.
    its the unitedsnake which’s trying to militarise and control the malacca st, in its own words, thats *where we can get the chinese by their balls*.

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  26. China is wisely seeking to diversify its oil/gas sources. They want a pipeline from central asia, and one from Russia.

    They also have a decent, but not overwhelming, domestic supply of shale gas that as far as I know hasn’t been developed.

    The goal of seizing the Straits would be to cut off Japan and ROC from Persian Gulf oil, they could let their own tankers through, but by the time the PRC actually considers going to war, they will be producing enough shale gas to not need the imports from Iran.

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  27. “What does the U.S. believe in?”

    Answer: Gay marriage

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  28. *by the time the PRC actually considers going to war,*

    china would only *goes to war* when backed into a corner, like when the unitedsnake block the malacca straits or use jp, ph to force its hand in the scs.
    the snake has everything in place now, it might not be inclined to wait until china is ready to *go to war*.

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  29. The Islamic State and the Terrible Twos | John Feffer
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    […] the coordinated air campaign had knocked the stuffing out of ISIS. As journalist Patrick Cockburn explains, the […]

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  30. The Islamic State and the Terrible Twos | Information From World
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    […] the coordinated air campaign had knocked the stuffing out of ISIS. As journalist Patrick Cockburn explains, the bombings began last August in Iraq and were extended to Syria in October, with U.S. officials […]

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  31. ISIS and the Terrible Twos
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    […] the coordinated air campaign had knocked the stuffing out of ISIS. As journalist Patrick Cockburn explains, the bombings began last August in Iraq and were extended to Syria in October, with U.S. officials […]

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  32. I am shocked that Mr Cockburn has gotten his stuff mixed up due to the disinformation campaign that the media is spreading without the the crapboots!

    1. Without boots on the ground, there is no way to verify and target ISIS centres of influence and their own local proxies. It is obvious that physical targets are being destroyed but who is in them? We know people are being killed but apparently not enough to degrade fighting capacity of ISIS.
    2. ISIS is a group that has learnt the lesson of betrayal on all sides so they apparently have taken precaution and shadow (appearances and perception) their operation to such a degree that they can use any sides to their advantage as they are members of the former Iraqi Army apparatus. It appears that they may have even worked with US forces at one time and even know the operational mandates to hide their strategies. Al Durri, a former Iraqi commander was recently killed during an offensive so it is know that these are the upper echelons of power.
    3. There was an incident some years ago about a breakout at a holding location (do not recall whether it was a jail or other camp) where the vehicle convoy, black SUVs and appropriate military equipped personnel, was able to snatch and grab some personnel at said location with minimal incident. They were apparently US trained judging by language slang, mannerism, etc) and the job was perfectly carried out. These Iraqis appeared to be the better (if not the best) of some upper echelon QRF and this level of discipline is what is seen in their quick capture of key cities in Iraq.
    4. There is more than meets the eye to ISIS keeping in mind that John McCain on meeting al Baghdadi referred to him as a moderate something or other but it seems that the treachery of war will only continue when US policy is being forced on those who are unwilling and refused to go along with further entrapment and deceit. Only time will tell

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  33. The Islamic State and the Terrible Twos | en.itimes.gr
    says:
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    […] the coordinated air campaign had knocked the stuffing out of ISIS. As journalist Patrick Cockburn explains, the […]

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