Beyond the Cusp

June 14, 2014

ISIS, Iraq, Jordan, Kurdistan, Palestine, Israel, and the Middle East

The Middle East has once again exploded into a flaming cauldron of turbulent sectarian and terrorist violence leaving a scorched earth of death and destruction in their wake. ISIS, an al-Qaeda offshoot which was denounced and expelled from official al-Qaeda support by Ayman al-Zawahiri over their overt and inhuman violence of innocents, has taken the battle against Bashir al-Assad out from Syria and into another Iranian allied nation of Iraq. After having held Fallujah for the past several months, ISIS is striking at the central heart capturing Mosul, Tikrit and briefly held Kirkuk until the only apparent forces well enough trained and willing to engage ISIS on the field of battle, the Kurdish militias, liberated the town. Kurdish spokespersons have stated that they will provide protection and address the needs of the thousands of refugees who had fled northwards into Kurdish protected areas rather than southward into areas guarded by the unreliable Iraqi military. Perhaps it would be nice, even if a little out of character, to place some good news here at the start of what will be a dark summation and predictions of the reality unfolding. The Kurdish Autonomous Area has thus far been spared any assaults by ISIS who have initiated their takeover of Iraq in the Sunni provinces in the central regions of Iraq and are working their way southwards away from the well-armed and capable Kurdish ruled areas towards Baghdad and the Shiite south of Iraq. This may finally and at long last promote the formation of Kurdistan. Such an eventuality will be a welcome event despite it requiring the rest of Iraq to either fall into the hands of the ISIS terrorists or be held solely by the force of arms dispatched by neighboring Iran who has mobilized and deployed Quds Forces units, the elite units of the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), to defend Baghdad and then turn the tide of battle and possibly liberate the ISIS held areas and expel the terrorist forces. This crisis can be viewed as simply as the terrorists who are fighting to force Bashir al-Assad from the leadership of Syria having expanded their interests into taking the Sunni and Shiite areas of Iraq and thus threatening Jordan where there have been threats made in the name of ISIS to execute Jordanian King Hussein for his supposed crimes against Islam.

 

There have been the usual mixed and confused messages out or Washington DC as on Thursday President Obama implied there may have been an urgent need requiring the deployment of American military might for a brief period to stabilize Iraq and push ISIS back out of Iraq. By Friday, President Obama was announcing that no American boots would be placed on the ground in Iraq but that he was also monitoring the situation closely and all options remained on the table. Perhaps there is an upside here as now all those options regarding preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons that President Obama has emphasized many times remain on the table now have another full set that runs the gamut of option now joining them on the table. It must be a very large and sturdy table set aside for holding only options. Apparently, in the stead of American power being deployed to address this emergency situation we will have the new hegemonic power in the Middle East, Iran, taking the central position and coming to the aid of Iraq. In many ways this is exactly how it should be and President Obama may have taken the high road of principle and realized that there were few if any and no really vital American interests being threatened. The only problem which might be expressed as a failing would be the advancing influence and hegemonic positioning of Iran though one must recall that Iraq had turned to Iran and semi-officially entered into Iranian orbit after the United States withdrew. This was mostly an Iraqi choice to circle Iran placing their future and their security to the Iranians rather than the United States despite the American efforts which had removed the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and then performed massive, expansive and expensive nation building efforts and assisted in establishing stable democratically elected governance. Not sure where to place any responsibility for losing the American influence with Iraq though all things considered, hindsight could easily conclude it was a monumental mistake to have ever even entered Iraq in the first place.

 

The threat is that once ISIS has, if they are able, taken command over the southern three-fifths of Iraq, they would then have their own nation state in which to train, raise funds, do weapons research including nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction research and manufacture. Should this become evident, then there very well could be a Western interest in preventing such a situation from continuing. This would present the conundrum of how to best attack such an eventuality. Many would say that if the United States were to intervene in such an instance, that such an intervention should be limited to the destruction and removal of ISIS and other terrorist interests operating within the Iraqi borders largely depending on air-power and minimal ground troops and then once that mission had been accomplished, leave and allow the Iraqis to put everything back together. This is only an option because along with requests for assistance from a nervous Jordan, the Iraqi leader al-Maliki also expressed a desire for American assistance. It is doubtful that there will be any deployment of American ground forces though should ISIS turn its attentions towards Jordan, there is a definitive probability that they will find Jordanian troops backed by Israeli air power much as occurred during the brief adventurisms by Syria into northern Jordan. ISIS cannot be permitted to own sufficient lands to make them the equivalent of a nation state such as what currently exists with Hezballah being the coalition leader in the governance of Lebanon or as similar to the terrorism sponsors in Iran through the IRGC and the Quds Force, Basenji Militias, and other more secretive units.

 

But panicked Jordanian Monarch and leadership, terrified Iraqi leaders, especially those who are Shiites, a full blown civil war in Syria and spreading rapidly across Iraq causing threats to arise from Iran and Turkey who all are demanding ISIS stop their horrific, blood-soaked path of slaughter slicing through Iran from its center downwards towards the capital of Baghdad gathering spoils along the way which include heavy weaponry and armored units from the American armed Iraqi military which fled offering minimal if any resistance and from bank vaults where they have stolen millions of dollars’ worth of currency as well as gold bars of unknown quantities and worth. This has rearmed and introduced whole new options for the military-like strikes that ISIS will now possess as well as sufficient wealth in stolen monies and precious metals to make ISIS simply as wealthy as numerous nations. The frightening possibility that ISIS will establish their own nation state, even if it only encompasses a large swath of central Iraq, will pose challenges and threats beyond imagination, or at least taxing imagination, some of us have very astute or wide-eyed paranoid imaginations. This must not be permitted as three or four terrorist or drug cartel run nations is more than sufficient a threat already, why allow another?

 

Meanwhile, there is the situation in Israel where it appears that three teens returning from services at a Samaria located Synagogue disappeared and are feared kidnapped. Their disappearance comes subsequent to a call by Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, otherwise now known as the Palestinian Authority governance, had all demanded that their terrorists and their supporters within the Palestinian populace take to any extreme in order to kidnap Israelis, preferably IDF but any Israelis would suffice. Palestinian Authority chairman Abbas issued a statement that the Palestinian enforcement personnel would assist in any way necessary to aid in finding the lost teens. This statement has been issued previously as has the denouncement made once again by Palestinian spokespersons that the Palestinians had absolutely nothing to do with the kidnapping if such had actually occurred. The IDF, Border Patrol and other Israeli law enforcement units are combing the areas around where the youths disappeared and are expanding their search as necessary. The United States State Department also expressed their being “very concerned” over the facts around the missing teens. It is so nice that there have been so many expressing their concern yet these teens are still missing and were unlikely to go much astray from a small area which has been thoroughly searched and is still be searched repeatedly. We all hope these young men are found in good health and some innocent reason comes forth for their disappearance. The misfortune is past experiences with youth disappearances, especially when such youths were expected to be somewhere by a particular time, has not been one which ends happily. There have been cases where some youths, usually two, three or four at most, have disappeared and their remains not discovered by the searchers and only are retrieved when some hiker or jogger comes across their remains purely by happenstance. Should these young men have been kidnapped and offered in exchange for another thousand terrorist prisoner releases, this should signal the end of any relations between the Palestinian leadership and Israel. Israel should simply go forward as if there existed no such entity as the Palestinian Authority and the only leadership are the terror masters leading Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and all of the other plethora of terrorist and clan entities which have been regularly attacking Israel. There cannot be any silence or forgiveness going forward as majority of the world, even to include supposed friends such as the United States, have displayed their colors as they rushed to be the first to announce recognition and willingness to continue to work with, fund, support, negotiate, and take as fact any claim they make against Israel of the unity governance over the Palestinians which includes Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and whoever else has applied and been included. This total disregard for Israel’s safety and the rejection of terrorist entities in any negotiations or other recognized political dealings leaves Israel with the realization that her views, needs, requirements and citizens’ safety are worth nothing in the machinations in much of the rest of the world and if Israelis are to be protected, then Israel is going to have to go it alone. The sooner Israel takes her own future into her hands and acts selfishly rather than selflessly as Israel has given and given repeatedly for absolutely nothing in return but continued terrorist attacks, rioting, rocks hurled through windshields, firebombs and numerous other offences including the now likely kidnapping of three teenage boys who were simply walking home from religious services. May they have G0d’s protection and be returned to us healthy and unharmed.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

November 6, 2013

Ready for Iraq War III?

As many other than just we here have noticed, Iraq has started to come unraveled and violence has risen to levels rivalling or exceeding those from before the surge brought relative calm to the country. There has been a resurgence of al-Qaeda with car-bombs and suicide-bombers, many of whom have targeted the police and security personnel and government offices in particular. There are a number of reasons which we will discuss but the overriding reason which has exacerbated all of the others increasing their deadly effects and that was the inability of United States President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reach an agreement which would have permitted American forces to remain in Iraq and assist in establishing and maintaining tranquility. Many of the other problems are persistent throughout the Middle East and derive from the culture and manner in which the area has been ruled since the Biblical era. That is what made the United States presence so vitally necessary because the United States personnel and leadership were able to propose compromises and make such compromises acceptable solely because a third party was making the proposal and was responsible for any compromises that were required. Without the United States as mediator these compromises became impossibly difficult to arrange as neither side was able to culturally accept anything less than victory over any adversary and is culturally unacceptable. This has been evident throughout the so-called Arab Spring (we like to call it Arab Winter) especially in Egypt where this week the trial of former and now deposed President Morsi was to be tried for his role in the deaths of protesters but he refused to recognize the court’s authority as he still claims to be the rightful elected President of Egypt and refuses to accept any other reality.

 

One of the primary problems that face any governing body in the Arab world is that compromise is interpreted as a weakness and that the customs dictate that one is wise to follow the strong horse over the weaker horse. When a leader or government makes a compromise then those with whom they made an accommodation as being in a stronger position and the government is diminished as they were forced to make accommodations instead of forcing their will upon the situation as they are expected by the population to have done. The area has been under the leadership of Kings, Caliphs, Dictators, Emperors, Warlords, or other totalitarian or monarchial governance and this has produced a history and culture which values strength and dominance and seldom if ever compromise and acquiescence. This culture makes the governing forms of such as democracy, republic, parliamentary representation and other governances found throughout the industrialized world virtually impossible to have leading these nations in the Middle East and Northern Africa as these systems work on reaching accords through debate and compromise. The people other than a percentage of the youth find debate a weaker and untrusted manner to resolve differences when it is much preferred to simply demand and threaten and use brutish force in order to implement whatever position the leadership desired without regard for the ideas and concerns of the opposition. The question is how this caused the apparent breakdown in Iraq.

 

The problems came when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki no longer had United States officers who would have enabled differences to be solved through compromises which the United States personnel would suggest and as the United States with its military victories was unmistakably a strong horse so their suggestion being implemented was seen as their dictating their desired solution despite that it was actually a compromise worked out between all the parties with the United States moderating. Without the ability for moderation the government returned to the norm for the culture which led to the Shiites who were in the majority and had the power eclipsing the Sunni who were now in the weaker position. This was aggravated and made worse as after the decades under Saddam Hussein and Sunni dominance many Shiites were ready for some serious payback. Early after the United States withdrew the vast majority of personnel and the remaining troops were placed in a base outside of the cities out in the desert, the Shiites led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began removing many of the Sunnis in positions of power. They even placed a number of the Sunni leadership on trial for charges of crimes against the government where the charges were irrelevant as the verdict was predetermined. This led to the Sunnis returning to their position of weakness and under dire threat by the Shiite majority. So what do you think the Sunni did? They turned to the same people who had caused the United States to commit more troops in a strategic move named the Surge where the Shiites were made to accept Sunni near equal participation in government and the Sunni allowed and some even aided the United States in clearing out the elements from al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, the same al-Qaeda now invited to return by the Sunnis as this provided the protection and power necessary to blunt and possibly turn around the Shiite dominance and oppression. Now there are bombings and shooting and the beginnings of a war which will be every bit as destabilizing and deadly as the civil war is raging in Syria. The results of the renewed violence has murdered over thirteen thousand people with over one thousand in October alone.

 

Currently, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in Washington conferring with President Obama and other government officials. The rumors are that al-Maliki may be requesting that the United States intervene and provide some answers to the situation that the mismanagement of having the dominant position of power in ruling the nation and refusing to compromise or do anything that might appear as showing weakness leading to the disasters now befalling Iraq. By providing answers al-Maliki means troops, at least sufficient troops to make al-Qaeda think twice about continuing the violence. The problem is the American people very likely do not care or would even permit without large protests for troops to be retuned into a war situation in Iraq. The problem for President Obama is that the al-Qaeda difficulties in Iraq are directly tied to the violence in Syria and in Syria al-Qaeda has been somewhat on the same side against Syrian President Bashir al-Assad but are fighting against what is the presumed United States ally in Iraq, al-Maliki. With the mishandling of Syria from the very beginning President Obama is now in the unenviable position of being for and against the same people as along with al-Qaeda working to aid the Sunnis in Iraq there is also their allies the Muslim Brotherhood, which also was the father organization from which al-Qaeda was spawned. So, will President Obama be supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia while being sort of supportive of them in Syria except when they attack the pro-democracy minority called the Free Syrian Army, and dead against the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq? Add to this that the Shiites in Iraq have also cozied up and become very close to the Ayatollahs in Iran and have aided the Iranian efforts to preserve Bashir al-Assad in power in Syria by allowing overflights and transport across Iraq for Iranian supplies, weapons, materials, and troops mostly from the IRGC who are fighting against the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, the Free Syrian Army and anybody else not aligned with al-Assad. So, will President Obama decide to engage in Iraq War III and who can he blame it on this time, certainly no George W. Bush, thinking on it some more, maybe we should not rule that out.

 

Beyond the Cusp

September 16, 2013

Syrian Chemical Weapons Returning to Iraq

It is like déjà vu in reverse as there are reports of heavily guarded convoys of large trucks crossing the Syria-Iraq border without any inspections. The report from the Lebanese paper Al-Mustaqbal told of twenty such heavy trucks. There will be detractors who will point out that Al-Mustaqbal is affiliated with the anti-Syrian political camp in Lebanon. The last time this occurred it resulted in cries of where are the WMDs with leftists and the anti-war-anti-Bush crowd in the United States conveniently forgetting the trains of trucks over the last weeks leading up to the second Gulf War transporting clandestine cargo from Iraq into eastern Syria and beyond. It will be interesting this time to see who will conveniently ignore these shipments crossing that same border only in the opposite direction. Anybody who claims where are the WMDs in a challenge to President Obama who was not a member of the President George W. Bush detractors should be ashamed of themselves as they are simply being spiteful, and that goes double for those who were supports of President George W. Bush as they should definitely know better. What I am wondering is exactly how much assistance are the Russians providing this time around as they were up to their necks in removing Saddam Hussein’s chemical and nuclear weapons materials and placing them safely beyond the border in Syria in order to embarrass the Americans and could easily be seen to be playing the same shell game once more.

 

Of course there are already denials from the Iraqi government which logically would not want to be suspected of receiving chemical weapons against numerous treaties. Saad Maan, a spokesperson for Iraq’s Interior Ministry was quoted as saying, “These accusations are all rumors and useless and no one believes them.” Additionally, Ali al-Mosawi, an advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki claimed, “Iraq is against the possession of these weapons and other weapons of mass destruction anywhere in the world and under any pretext.”  All of this is especially curious coming on the heels of a Russian authored resolution to the crisis over the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict presumably by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashir al-Assad and the accusatory reaction to such reports by United States President Barack Obama. This had served to cross President Obama’s stated “Red Line” which was to result in severe reprisals from the United States including but not necessarily restricted to military intervention. President Obama was dithering and stalling in obvious attempts to find some path which would meet his threats while not including necessary military actions. It was in response to this predicament that Russian President Vladimir Putin made his grand gesture entering the scene rather overtly and dramatically providing President Obama a graceful, but not excessively graceful or without inflicting some pain and shame, path to redemption. Word of advice to President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, take your medicine quietly and please cease your efforts to amend your images as anything other than woefully inadequate in the face of a crisis which was of Obama’s making in the first place is useless. Allow Putin to strut as he may overplay his hand and one should never stop a foe from overplaying their hand, and it would be to your advantage that this entire episode plays out as quietly and quickly as possible. There is no face saving coming your way.

 

This movement across the Syrian border into Iraq will need to be watched carefully and intently in order to verify any continued transfer of items by convoys as time proceeds. Attention should also be paid to the Lebanon border for any transfers of chemical weapons or other materials from Syria into Lebanon. Needless to point out that the Israelis will be paying special attention looking for any such movements and would likely be able to provide detailed information on any transfers from Syria into Lebanon and thus to Hezballah. Perhaps the world should be happy for small mercies as there is no need to worry about any other of the Syrian borders as neither Turkey nor Jordan would allow any chemical weapons to cross into their lands. The importance of this news and the implication of any of al-Assad’s chemical weapons being transferred across the Iraqi border depend on your main concerns. If your concern is simply the use of such weapons in the Syrian conflict, then this may be arguably acceptable resolution, but if your aim is like the majority appears to be demanding, that the chemical weapons not only not be utilized in the Syrian theater of war, but that the chemical weapons be completely destroyed, then this would be unacceptable and should be taken very seriously. If previous willful lack of concern when so much of Saddam Hussein’s weapons crossed this same border in the opposite direction prevails, then it will not cause any great concern on the world stage, especially at the United Nations, that such weapons and other related items such as warheads and precursors to such chemicals as Sarin and other binary agents are spirited off to be used in some future war. Such is one of the sad realities of politics and the enticement of turning one’s head in order to take the easiest route out of any situation no matter the ramifications as they can be blamed later on somebody else, they always are and there always is a somebody else, or so it seems.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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