Beyond the Cusp

September 3, 2014

Second Beheading and Still No Plans?

In what was probably a moment of unusual crystal clarity, President Obama told reporters, “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet. I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we are at than we currently are.” The President commented further stating, “There’s no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done.” President Obama did have some appropriate statements where he stated, he has asked America’s top defense officials to prepare “a range of options” about what the United States could do to go after ISIS in Syria, which he described as “a safe haven” for the Sunni extremist group. The President’s most salient statement came when he stated, “We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them. At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard. But there’s no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done.” President Obama also made clear that these things take time and require a regional strategy. He also asserted, “We’re not going to do that alone. Clearly, ISIL has come to represent the very worst elements in the region that we have to deal with collectively, and that’s going to require us to stabilize Syria in some fashion. And stabilizing Syria means that we’ve to got get moderate Sunnis who are able to govern and offer … a real alternative.” Obviously those who have hounded and stressed that the President had stated that there is no plan and this meant he was clueless has been somewhat a whole lot of grandstanding.

 

Could President Obama have initially stated his position more diplomatically? Obviously there probably were some poorly chosen phrasings. Did much of the media make a mountain out a mole hill? Of course as it has appeared to become the main job of the mainstream media, to play gotcha and tear down anybody anyway they are able. The fact that he has instructed the Pentagon and other sources to research and present plans and to check out and find allies, especially other Sunni and Arab allies who are willing to assist and thus provide most likely a more deeply understanding plan and a way of addressing the situation which would provide a solution which would be workable beyond any initial military solution which is obviously going to be an integral and important component of any plan. It would have been a far more judicious for President Obama to have stated that he has requested the Pentagon and State Department to coordinate and present him with plans by the end of the week for his and his administration advisors to review and make additional requests and make further inquiries to assure that they all have a full understanding and can make intelligent decisions. He might have added that he desires to make intelligent decisions and not rush in where others fear to tread without a solid and workable plan which has sufficient support from our allies in the Middle East and around the world such that we can maximize those contributing to our success. Actually, it was somewhat unlike the President to feed the ravenous patrons of the media such red meat with his, “We don’t have a strategy yet,” comment. But, as they say, that which has been said cannot be unsaid, especially if any of the mainstream media heard your comment, and as the President was fielding questions there were plenty of media sharks just waiting to feed.

 

This second beheading murdering Jewish-American journalist Steve Sotloff should instill some urgency in the White House, Pentagon, State Department and any intelligence and other contributors in preparing any strategies for moving forward. There will be those who will state the obvious that much of this problem might have been avoided had there been some plan instituted early in the Syrian civil war when the majority of the rebels were presumably mostly secular while others claim that had a Iraq Status of Forces Agreement been reached and the negotiations for such had been initiated earlier so as to allow for separation of time between signing such a treaty from the immediacy of the elections which likely caused reluctance of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fearing that such an agreement would have cost him the election. What those making these protestations refuse to recognize is that the radicalization of Islamist rebels has been growing ever since the Iranian revolution in 1979 which paved the way for a state actor which financed terrorism across the Middle East and even reaching into the far reaches of the globe including governing and entire city in the tri-state area in South America where Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil borders meet. Iran has financed and provided aid and training for Hezballah in Lebanon, supported Bashir al-Assad’s reign of terror in Syria and Hamas in Gaza. Iran recently boasted to having provided Hamas with the technology and production know-how to produce the longer range rockets utilized by Hamas in the recent fifty days plus of rocket barrages which began weeks before the initial Israeli Defense Force (IDF) actions in Gaza and lasted throughout the conflict. As al-Assad with assists from Hezballah and Iran had raised the levels of carnage and destruction to unheard of levels it is almost poetic justice that something like ISIS should come from the dark heart of the Syrian civil war to not only oppose Iran but also threaten the Iranian control of the government and military in Iraq. Still, it is not good for the world that there is another terrorist group which has the violent brutality which rivals those backed by Iran even if they would be a balancing force against the Iranian terror forces. This has been proven with the recent beheadings, slaughters of Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, Shiite Muslims and even fellow Sunni Muslims as well as anyone else who does not match up with their world view and aims. In many ways this current horrific panorama playing out across the Middle East from Gaza and Lebanon across Syria and Iraq and anchored at the other end by Qatari financing and Iranian fanaticism and seemingly every permutation which has evolved into the savagery of ISIS balancing the brutality and insanity of Assad’s Syria and Hamas and Hezballah.

 

The reality of the threats which have grown and spread throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, often abbreviated as MENA, have taken what was originally labelled the Arab Spring and turned into a worldwide disaster where terrorists and tribal armies are fighting for dominance and threatening the established norms from Mali to the tribal lands of Pakistan. ISIS is simply the latest horror to be produced by this misguided attempt to micromanage changes across this large area of the globe turned nightmare. The repairing and rifts and tears will take far longer than the explosive results we are reaping now of which ISIS may appear to be the most pressing, but that remains to be seen as there are likely more surprises waiting just around the next corner. There will be plenty more opportunities for President Obama and whoever wins the coming elections to take the White House to be quoted saying exactly the wrong phrase in response to media questions. What might we take away from this dustup? The first item would be to research exactly what our leaders have said and not rely on any sensationalism which simply takes the worst possible sound bite and edited out the rest of the President’s or other spokesperson’s comments because they did not serve their ulterior motivations. Politics is a dirty little business and it is not made any less so by the media seeking sensationalism from every interview and who cares about the facts and reality. Still, we had best hope that the world as well as President Obama came up with a reasonable and workable set of plans which address not only ISIS but the rest of the formidable and escalating situations spreading across the globe. Yes, sure, we can all run about screaming and pointing fingers as our world crashes down about our shoulders or we can pull together and try to find a reasoned and workable set of solutions which will actually address these problems before they explode even further. Time is getting short and these problems are not about to get any easier to find solutions so we had best find ways to support solutions and leave the games of the mainstream media outside of the realm of reasonable people seeking real solutions. Feeding the media frenzy will not produce a single solution and might only serve to exacerbate the problems beyond any ability to find a path leading to solutions before we pass this world on to our children and grandchildren, and they really do not need the residual disasters which we refused to find solutions for before it became too late.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

August 23, 2014

Revulsion or Revolution, The ISIS Conundrum

First perhaps we need clarify that we here at BTC refuse to recognize the terrorist bands which makeup ISIS and have declared themselves a new name of IS claiming that they are now an actual nation state and the home to the new Caliphate. Due to this decision not to honor the declarations of an overgrown terrorist group on the order of Hezballah, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Muslim Brotherhood and their delusions of statehood, we will continue to use their initial name ISIS, the name of a terrorist group which terrorizes through such horrific actions as beheadings leaving the heads on poles as a display of their hold and threat on an area, crucifixions, mass graves, rapes and slavery including sexual slavery among other depraved actions in order to terrify, cower and intimidate those it holds the power of the sword and a legitimacy spelled in the spilling of blood. Should our doing so be perceived as an insult then all the better as we could not be more proud than to be detested by such as ISIS.

 

The beheading of American photojournalist James Wright Foley provided the Western world the unavoidable definition of the barbarity which is ISIS, or as they now refer to themselves, merely IS. This is not to minimize the horrors which included the mass murders of Christians, some by a torturous crucifixion, the attempted genocide of the Yazidi Peoples, rapes and enslavement of numbers of women and children, forced conversions, mass killings, burial of victims alive and other horrors, all of which had been reported in many newscasts since ISIS initially broke out of Syria sweeping across western and central Iraq. The sickening and repugnant video which was released this past week which included the threat to further behead other American and Western hostages being held by ISIS such as Steven Joel Sotloff, also an American journalist captured in Syria covering that civil war, should the United States continue their campaign assisting those resisting further ISIS advances. The United States limited bombing efforts have been described as being an assist enabling the Kurdish forces to turn back the advances of ISIS and even gaining back some ground which provided the Kurds with access to a route to rescue a number of Yazidi families and individuals as well as retake the Mosul dam which had ISIS carried out their threat to destroy the dam would have caused massive casualties and damage on the cities and villages downstream potentially past Baghdad all the way to the Persian Gulf.

 

The brutalities and threats to life, civility and modernity posed by ISIS through its ideals and definitions of Islam as practiced and brutally applied by their leadership is now unavoidable by the leadership of the Western nations. This new clarity of threat that is ISIS screams out for unified action to prevent the further spread and genocidal purification of the population threatened by the advance of ISIS. Somehow, such an effort appears to be quite slow in developing and consists mostly of sporadic bombing by the United States and the early return to Washington by President Obama and similarly British Prime Minister David Cameron will also curtail his vacation plans and return to London. Any announcement of a change in tactics and applying force on the ground with the application of troops has been noticeably silent thus far making any such reaction at best slow in materializing. The purported American war weariness appears to have not been broken by the acts from ISIS including the beheading of James Wright Foley and threats to behead Steven Joel Sotloff along with other American and Western hostages. Whether these emotions will show signs of weakening is verily a contestable premise with many claiming that there appears to be no limit to the ability of the people, or at least the media portrayal of the people, to ignore current events and remain cocooned in their isolationist tranquility. This political inertia also readily ignores the presence of American military advisors who are stationed in the Kurdish capital of Irbil in support to the Peshmerga Militias who are currently confronting the Islamic State forces.

 

The future horizon holds its hopes on the new leadership in Baghdad as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is set to step down offering a glimmer of hope for a more stable Iraq in the face of the challenges ahead due to ISIS threats and a situation which President Obama on Monday called “a promising step forward.” Still, this remains something which, if it will actually signal any improvement, is a distant solution in a situation demanding immediate responses. The main available and viable presence which can and has already made advances in not only stopping the advances by ISIS but has actually tuned the tides and retaken lands formerly consumed by ISIS as they swarmed out of Syria and across Iraq, has been the Kurds from their semiautonomous lands in northern Iraq. It has been those Kurdish Peshmerga Militias who relieved much of the siege of the Yazidis and retook the critical infrastructure of the Mosul Dam both with limited but sufficient assists from United States airstrikes. This would be the perfect time to fully assist the Kurdish forces while simultaneously recognizing their independence and rewarding them with the statehood they had been promised at the resolution of World War I but were later denied this promise when oil was discovered in their promised areas and the British already had an advantageous contract with the leadership they had approved for Iraq. Kurdistan could become the first best weapon which could possibly circumvent the necessity for Western troops to place boots on the ground limiting the Western support to mostly a bombing campaign with some need for close air support in those cases where such would prove critically necessary, something not all that different than what President Obama has already committed to perform and perhaps a doubling of efforts.

 

The real challenge the ISIS threat might pose would be an attempted invasion beyond Iraq. The probability of ISIS turning their forces towards Turkey is almost completely out of the question as Turkey is either a current ally or a future ally of ISIS and stands for much the same application of extreme Islamist Sharia. Their turning to the east and into Iran would also be unlikely as ISIS lacks the manpower and military abilities to take on Iran as they are equipped with elite forces, airpower, heavy battle tanks and huge numbers of troops. Turning west into Jordan poses a similar problem even if on a lesser scale as far as numbers of troops capable of being fielded. Jordan does possess an air force but might turn to their western neighbor, unofficially of course, and request that Israel aid the Jordanian efforts through timely air support as necessitated. That pretty much leaves southward as ISIS’s most likely and viable choice. This would narrow their choices to Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. This choice is also dictated by geography and the self-imposed imperative whereby ISIS desires to avoid any direct confrontation with Iran. This forces ISIS into taking a western approach around Baghdad and also leaving room between themselves and Jordan which brings them to the northern border of central Saudi Arabia. This would place the ISIS penetration points somewhere west of the main Saudi Arabian oil fields and east of the main Saudi Arabian main military airfield which houses their squadrons providing the initial line of attack or defense from Israel. This airfield is home to a large contingency of United States provided F-15s and F-16s, some of which are very probably the latest and most modern variety available for export.

 

Such an attack would be in line with the ISIS announced agenda of facing and defeating the Islamic leadership which they view as impure. They have previously listed the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia as the pin-up leaders representing impure and non-Islamist governance which is in need of being destroyed and replaced with the pure Islamic governance which only ISIS is capable of providing. Additionally, should ISIS gain a sufficient foothold in the Saudi Peninsula, they could conceivably gain control over major parts of the Saudi Arabian oilfields, and an area heavily populated with Saudi Arabia’s minority Shiites. This would add additional impetus for ISIS fighters as they would not only be working to place their extremist purified Islamism over what they view as an unholy governance, they would also be able to force these Shiite, more accurately non Sunni, apostates in the eyes of ISIS to convert before the cleansing sword of the ISIS elite leadership. This could serve ISIS as a further recruitment piece of propaganda similar in scope but potentially far more significant in the numbers of new recruits under their control. This is what ISIS defines themselves by, areas and numbers under their control, a measure which they will only accept as sufficient by their control and rule over the entire world. As absurd as such a claim may sound, to the fighters and leadership of ISIS this is exactly what their entire purpose by which success is defined. Many also believe that they cannot be defeated and that their quest to rule over all of mankind is a blessed undertaking in Jihad and their success is guaranteed for as long as their actions receive the approval and support of Allah. Perhaps this would be a good place to define the difference between the Judeo-Christian G0d and Allah; the two are not simply separate manners for naming the same entity. The most readily and easiest way of showing this is actually cut and dry. Where G0d of the Jews and Christians is defined as the G0d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Allah is the god of Abraham, Ishmael, and Mohammad. They are as different as composed tranquility and chaotic ferocity. The reported actions, proclivities and self-definitions all prove the violence and explosive animosities which lie at the root of ISIS and from where its adherents derive their power and strength.

 

The hope is that the burning vehemence with which their new recruits are empowered with will consume them so completely that soon only the smoldering husk of ISIS will remain; a fragile structure that the slightest breeze is capable of destroying. The fear is that the only two results which will result from the efforts of ISIS, either their dream of an Islamist Sharia governed world will remain and will resemble a charred husk of uniformity enforced by the swords what molded it or the destruction of ISIS and the breaking of their swords before they carve up any more of the globe. The former will be the inevitable should the Western world refuse to engage and defeat ISIS militarily while at this juncture the later would be readily achieved with the timely application of overwhelming force of a full deployment of the entirety of the ready response forces which are available to NATO in case of any emergency, and if this does not so qualify then those forces are as useless as a chaperone on ones’ wedding night.

 

We are facing a challenge to civilization similar to the buildup to World War II when Germany could have been defeated as a response to their aggressive claims on northern Czechoslovakia or their poisonous interference in the Austrian elections and subsequent near bloodless invasion. Should ISIS remain uncontested and thus gain a foothold in the Saudi Arabian oilfields, then they will have gained a source of power, influence and financial riches beyond anything any previous Islamists have been capable of attaining. Sure the Taliban and al-Qaeda had control of Afghanistan and parts of the tribal regions of Pakistan and the financial largess of Osama bin Laden’s fortune and Hezballah influences the every move by the Lebanese government and the benefit of Iran providing them with weapons and their other necessities, ISIS would be gaining size and an endless cash flowing in that they could take their time and build a modern, well equipped and sizeable military force which would provide them with sufficient force that they could likely intimidate major Sunni Arab nations and potentially beyond to bend before their threat and surrender to ISIS approved governance. Add their increased ability would make Iran vulnerable to an ISIS attack which is currently out of the question today and such an accomplishment by ISIS would provide them with the arms to threaten Europe, North America and the remainder of the globe with their gained possession of Iranian nuclear and missile capabilities and power. The best thing would be for ISIS to be confronted now and not be left to Saudi Arabia, the GCC member nations and Israel to ally solely for the end of ISIS. Threats to the balance of power and the injection of a radical and extremist group be they anarchists, religious or Islamist like ISIS can produce alliances between some of the most divergent and even antagonist powers. Right now the plans and thoughts should be centered on how to and with what forces ISIS can be utterly and completely defeated in such a manner that no other groups will dare push that challenge point again. Let us hope that the leadership of the world awakens and deals with this challenge which thus far they have ignored pretending it is not there. Unfortunately, pretending that ISIS does not exist will do little to actually realize ISIS not existing but will more likely set up the scenario where many lives will be senseless sacrificed and far too much property and infrastructure will be destroyed making the worldwide repairs and recuperations unnecessarily long and arduous. Will the world awaken or are we doomed to once again repeat history by not answering the threat of the screaming barbarians at our gates.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

June 27, 2014

Will Telling Them to Play Nice Work in Iraq?

United States Secretary of State John Kerry was dispatched on an emergency call to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al–Maliki to depart the message direct from the White House instructing him to play nice with the Sunnis and promise them even representation and equal rights if he ever wants to have peace in Iraq and retain his position as Prime Minister. One must wonder how far into the discussion before al-Maliki decided to point out to Secretary Kerry that the problems might just have progressed beyond the possibility for a reconciliation and that ISIS, one of the most violent and well-armed terrorist armies, was just a day or two from the very place in Baghdad that the two were meeting. This ice-breaking comment was probably followed up with a serious discussion on what would be required for al-Maliki to be rescued from this impending disaster by an influx of American military power. Imagine when after al-Maliki completed painting a picture of the dire situation facing continued safety for the millions of Shiite Muslims who would necessarily be liquidated if they refused to comply with demands to convert to Sunni Islam and swear fealty to the leadership of ISIS upon hearing Secretary Kerry replying with demands that al-Maliki take steps to facilitate equality for the Sunni Iraqis and showing greater flexibility and openness to equality between Shiite and Sunni Iraqis. The actual message which was received was more akin to a challenge that you are all on your own here and we have left and shut the door. We, meaning the United States, had done everything to provide Iraq with everything necessary to fashion a democratic country with equality and political representation for all Iraqis and not to favor one sectarian group over the others.

 

The discussion between these two men could not have come from two people with more divergent assessments of the situation unfolding in Iraq, who was responsible for these difficulties, what is required from the United States and exactly how the crisis can be resolved taking the difference between the two sides as to what was necessary and what the United States is willing to provide. In the end, al-Maliki was now certain of exactly how little United States President Obama was willing to provide as far as military intervention and that if al-Maliki has any hopes of retaining his position, as well as very likely his life, his sole hope is to turn to the Iranians and sell his soul to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei if that is what is required for their greater assistance. Secretary Kerry made clear that the United States will not be providing air-support, especially close-air-support for troops engaged on the ground, and the United States was not going to send additional troops to come to the rescue for Iraq from being overrun by ISIS terrorist forces claiming that the training and support that the United States had already provided would need to suffice. The point was laid down as the law, the United States had left the country and nothing, even the imminent threats posed by ISIS, would drag United States forces back into the conflict, the war in Iraq was over as far as the powers in Washington were concerned. The idea of Washington to the rescue has been dashed completely leaving al-Maliki looking to Iran for salvation which may not result in a future in Iraq which would be favorable to the United States and with good reasons.

 

Perhaps a little history of the events in Iraq which have led to this predicament is in order. The initial war in Iraq had run into stringent opposition mostly from the Sunni militias, many of which probably mourned the defeat of Saddam Hussein and feared Shiite retribution and revenge for the years of mistreatment by the Sunni under Saddam Hussein’s rule. Some of the military leadership of the American troops in Iraq proposed a new approach to the situation in Iraq. This change in approach featured two main changes, a temporary but sizeable increase in numbers of troops in Iraq and a change in mission statement stressing protection of the Iraqi people regardless of their religious or tribal origins. This strategy became known as the surge and was implemented despite heavy resistance back in Washington. After the surge the levels of violence were greatly decreased and the al-Qaeda forces in Iraq had been largely defeated with the leadership killed, fleeing or captured. This was a highpoint in the United States application of force and policy. Part of the future plans from the United States included a George W. Bush negotiated agreement for continued American troops in Iraq through the decade and until 2011 and the holding of open, free and fully monitored elections. These elections resulted in a predominant presence of Shiites over Sunnis in the parliament and, as arranged, a Shiite Prime Minister which necessitated the runner-up which was a Sunni as the second in power. As the end of the term of service of the residual American troop presence approached, Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki made unacceptable demands which resulted in no further protections for continued presence of American forces which led directly to President Obama choosing to remove entirely any American troop presence. This removal of an American presence had dire consequences.

 

Within an extremely short period of time had passed after the final American troops were removed from Iraq, charges were filed against the leading Sunni in the government, the Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak escaped Baghdad after rumors surfaced that an assassination attempt was imminent. He was subsequently brought up on charges which were eventually dropped as it became obvious that the charges held no merit and were political in their origins. Systematically the Sunni influences and representations within the Iraqi government were slowly excised with the Shiites taking complete control over all of the levers of power. This trend only grew over time which led to great feelings of powerlessness and lack of representation in the Sunni communities. This led initially to increases in terrorism which was spawned by sectarian animosities and tribal rivalries. This began to feed al-Qaeda which eventually made the attempt to conquer all of Iraq by the Sunni forces of ISIS, an offshoot of al-Qaeda who has distanced themselves from ISIS over the overt and inhuman violence implemented by ISIS to establish their preeminence over conquered lands and in order to remove any opposition supporters. It was ISIS which was responsible for much of the intra-rebel fighting in Syria which pitted ISIS against the secular and less stringent Sunni rebel forces in an attempt to completely take charge of any alternative to Syrian President Bashir al-Assad.

 

The forces of ISIS have been purifying the areas of Iraq over which they have taken control leaving numerous horrific scenes in the wake of their advance. One can only imagine the absolute and hysterical panic gripping those in the Iraqi government with the Shiites sheer horror being off-scale immeasurable with ISIS closing in on Baghdad. They have to be viewing ISIS of a horrific retribution calling them out and posed to impose a torturous slaughter upon every living creature anywhere near the halls of power. This is the panic which drives Nouri al–Maliki in his desperate pleas to Washington for the return of the United States military in force sufficient to protect him from the cleansing destruction of ISIS which assuredly has his name near the top of their lists for special treatment. The refusal by the United States to come riding over the horizon in the nick of time and saving the day will force al-Maliki to turn to the only other source of military power anywhere near sufficient to turn back the onslaught of ISIS, Iran. The question which should have been fully debated in Washington was whether it was the intent of the United States to force Iraq into the waiting embrace of Iran by refusing to provide an alternative source of power to help defend the Iraqi government other than the Iranian military. The United States did agree to provide a number of trainers, advisers and intelligence specialists possibly numbering around three-hundred personnel but has refused to provide ground forces or even air-support. That leaves the Iraqi government to visualize their sole salvation being invested with the Iranians no matter what the strings attached. This will finish driving Iraq into a complete and enduring alliance with Iran and the Mullahs and the Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei. This alliance will most certainly divide Iraq into three separate autonomous regions, the Kurdish regions in the north, the Iranian allied and controlled south and the center incorporated into a new nation which will include the heart and central areas of Iraq and the areas within Syria controlled by ISIS and possibly all of Syria if ISIS eventually defeats al-Assad and the other rebel forces fighting al-Assad. Beyond the divvying up of Iraq, there will be other far more dire ramifications of the United States moving inexorably out of the Middle East as they depart Afghanistan and having already departed Iraq. The stage is set for the struggle for preeminence and complete control of the Middle East regions and the oil fields found there. Will the caliphate become a Shiite or a Sunni dominated power and will the fighting result with an inevitable nuclear exchange between Iran and Saudi Arabia and who else will be drawn into the eventual conflagration and will it make any difference. These are questions whose answers lie in the future and of which discourse will be fraught with dire alternatives offered.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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