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Ed Webb

President Trump's thoroughly confusing Fox Business interview, annotated - The Washingt... - 0 views

  • When you see that, I immediately called General Mattis.

    I said, what can we do?

    And they came back with a number of different alternatives.  And we hit them very hard.

    Now, are we going to get involved with Syria?

    No.  But if I see them using gas and using things that — I mean even some of the worst tyrants in the world didn't use the kind of gases that they used.  And some of the gases are unbelievably potent.

    So when I saw that, I said we have to do something.

    • Ed Webb
       
      This seems to confirm that the President decides to act based on what he sees on television.
  • people just don't see this, the level of brutality, the level of viciousness.
    • Ed Webb
       
      Plenty of people have been documenting the brutality of the conflict for over five years, including journalists and activists who have given their lives to do so.
  • I was sitting at the table.  We had finished dinner.  We're now having dessert.  And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it.

    And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded, what do you do?

    And we made a determination to do it, so the missiles were on the way.  And I said, Mr. President, let me explain something to you.  This was during dessert.

    We've just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing.

    BARTIROMO:  Unmanned?

    Brilliant.

    TRUMP:  It's so incredible.  It's brilliant.  It's genius.  Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five.  I mean look, we have, in terms of technology, nobody can even come close to competing.

    • Ed Webb
       
      I wonder if delivery of this news put Pres. Xi off his chocolate cake. It is striking that both Trump and the interviewer are astonished by guided missile technology that has been around for decades.
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  • So what happens is I said we've just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq and I wanted you to know this. And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.
    • Ed Webb
       
      Maybe he was silent because he was very confused about why you would be attacking Iraq, rather than Syria...
  • But I think he understood the message and I understood what he was saying to me.
    • Ed Webb
       
      I am sure Xi understood what he was dealing with.
Ed Webb

How Many Guns Did the U.S. Lose Track of in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Thousands... - 0 views

  • In all, Overton found, the Pentagon provided more than 1.45 million firearms to various security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, including more than 978,000 assault rifles, 266,000 pistols and almost 112,000 machine guns. These transfers formed a collage of firearms of mixed vintage and type: Kalashnikov assault rifles left over from the Cold War; recently manufactured NATO-standard M16s and M4s from American factories; machine guns of Russian and Western lineage; and sniper rifles, shotguns and pistols of varied provenance and caliber, including a large order of Glock semiautomatic pistols, a type of weapon also regularly offered for sale online in Iraq.

    Many of the recipients of these weapons became brave and important battlefield allies. But many more did not. Taken together, the weapons were part of a vast and sometimes minimally supervised flow of arms from a superpower to armies and militias often compromised by poor training, desertion, corruption and patterns of human rights abuses. Knowing what we know about many of these forces, it would have been remarkable for them to retain custody of many of their weapons. It is not surprising that they did not.

  • the Pentagon said it has records for fewer than half the number of firearms in the researchers’ count — about 700,000 in all
  • Overton’s analysis also does not account for many weapons issued by the American military to local forces by other means, including the reissue of captured weapons, which was a common and largely undocumented practice.
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  • In April, after being approached by The New York Times and reviewing data from Armament Research Services, a private arms-investigation consultancy, Facebook closed many pages in the Middle East that were serving as busy arms bazaars, including pages in Syria and Iraq on which firearms with Pentagon origins accounted for a large fraction of the visible trade
  • The American arming of Syrian rebels, by both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department, has also been troubled by questions of accountability and outright theft in a war where the battlefield is thick with jihadists aligned with Al Qaeda or fighting under the banner of the Islamic State.
  • One point is inarguable: Many of these weapons did not remain long in government possession after arriving in their respective countries. In one of many examples, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that 110,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 80,000 pistols bought by the United States for Iraq’s security forces could not be accounted for — more than one firearm for every member of the entire American military force in Iraq at any time during the war. Those documented lapses of accountability were before entire Iraqi divisions simply vanished from the battlefield, as four of them did after the Islamic State seized Mosul and Tikrit in 2014, according to a 2015 Army budget request to buy more firearms for the Iraqi forces to replace what was lost.
  • many new arms-trading Facebook pages have since cropped up, including, according to their own descriptions, virtual markets operating from Baghdad and Karbala
  • According to its tally, the American military issued contracts potentially worth more than $40 billion for firearms, accessories and ammunition since Sept. 11, including improvements to the ammunition plants required to keep the cartridge production going. Most of these planned expenditures were for American forces, and the particulars tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched. More than $4 billion worth of contracts was issued for small arms, including pistols, machines guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles, and more than $11 billion worth was issued for associated equipment, from spare machine-gun barrels to sniper-rifle scopes, according to Overton’s count. A much larger amount — nearly $25 billion — was issued for ammunition or upgrades to ammunition plants to keep those firearms supplied. That last figure aligns with what most any veteran of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan could tell you — American troops have been involved in a dizzying number of gunfights since 2001, burning through mountains of ammunition along the way.
  • The data show large purchases of heavy-machine guns and barrels. This is a wink at the shift in many American units from being foot-mobile to vehicular, as grunts buttoned up within armored trucks and needed turret-mounted firepower to defend themselves — a matériel adaptation forced by ambushes and improvised bombs, the cheaply made weapons that wearied the most expensive military in the world.
  • a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s, commonly called rocket-propelled grenades, and recoilless weapons, including the SPG-9. Each of these systems fires high-explosive (and often armor-piercing) projectiles, and each was commonly used by insurgents in attacks. After the opening weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was American or associated with allied and local government units, which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling. Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.
  • a portrait of the Pentagon’s bungling the already-awkward role it chose for itself — that of state-building arms dealer, a role that routinely led to missions in clear opposition to each other. While fighting two rapidly evolving wars, the American military tried to create and bolster new democracies, governments and political classes; recruit, train and equip security and intelligence forces on short schedule and at outsize scale; repair and secure transportation infrastructure; encourage the spread or restoration of the legal industry and public services; and leave behind something more palatable and sturdy than rule by thugs.
  • The procession of arms purchases and handouts has continued to this day, with others involved, including Iran to its allies in Iraq and various donors to Kurdish fighters. In March, Russia announced that it had given 10,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to Afghanistan, already one of the most Kalashnikov-saturated places on earth. If an analysis from the United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or Sigar, is to be believed, Afghanistan did not even need them. In 2014 the inspector general reported that after the United States decided to replace the Afghan Army’s Kalashnikovs with NATO-standard weapons (a boon for the rifles’ manufacturer with a much less obvious value for an already amply armed Afghan force), the Afghan Army ended up with a surplus of more than 83,000 Kalashnikovs. The United States never tried to recover the excess it had created, giving the inspector general’s office grounds for long-term worry. “Without confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to account for or properly dispose of these weapons,” it noted, “Sigar is concerned that they could be obtained by insurgents and pose additional risks to civilians.”

  • What to do? If past is precedent, given enough time one of the United States’ solutions will be, once again, to ship in more guns.
Ed Webb

10 new wars that could be unleashed as a result of the one against ISIS - The Washingto... - 1 views

  • the U.S. strategy for defeating the Islamic State relies on a variety of regional allies and local armed groups who are often bitterly at odds. Though all of them regard the Islamic State as an enemy, most of them regard one another as enemies, too. As they conquer territory from the militants, they are staking out claims to the captured lands in ways that risk bringing them into conflict with others who are also seizing territory. New wars are brewing, for control of the post-Islamic State order.
  • WAR NO. 1: U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces and Turkish-backed Arab forces

    This is one of the wars that have already started, and it is also one of the more complicated ones.

  • when Turkey intervened in Syria two weeks ago to help Syrian rebels capture Islamic State territory, it was clear that the Kurds were as much of a target as the Islamic State
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  • WAR NO. 2: Turkey and the Syrian Kurds

    This war would be similar to war No. 1, but bigger

  • WAR NO. 3: Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government

    The Syrian government also feels threatened by the territorial ambitions of the Kurds. Until recently, they had maintained an uneasy alliance, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad boasted on a number of occasions that his government provides the Kurds with arms. But the relationship has soured since the autonomy declaration by the Kurds, and the two sides have fought brief battles in areas where they both have forces.

  • WAR NO. 4: The United States and Syria

    This is a war that could have erupted on any number of occasions in the five years since President Obama called for the ouster of Assad.

  • WAR NO. 5: Turkey and Syria

    The Turkish intervention in Syria has for now been confined to fighting the Islamic State and Kurdish forces. Turkey has also taken steps to mend fences with both Russia and Iran, Assad’s most important allies, who appear to have given a green light to Turkey’s intervention in northern Syria.

    If Turkey’s fight against the Islamic State goes well, however, the Turkish forces will soon find themselves up against Syrian government front lines around the contested city of Aleppo. That could get messy.

  • WAR NO. 6: Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government

  • Iraqi Kurds moved into areas of Iraq that were once under Iraqi government control. The U.S.-backed Iraqi government says it intends to reclaim these areas once the Islamic State has been fully vanquished. The U.S.-backed Kurds have said they won’t let go of any territory Kurds have shed blood to conquer.
  • WAR NO. 7: Iraqi Kurds and Shiite militias

    This would take place for reasons similar to war No. 6, except that it has already started to simmer.

  • WAR NO. 8: Kurds against Kurds
  • WAR NO. 9: Sunni Arabs against Shiites and/or Kurds

    In pursuit of the goal of defeating the Islamic State, towns and villages that are predominantly Sunni are being conquered by forces that are mostly Kurdish or Shiite. Many Sunnis are teaming up with them to help defeat the militants. Many are overwhelmingly relieved when their oppressors are driven out.

  • In the absence of genuine reconciliation, including political solutions that empower Sunnis, a new form of Sunni insurgency could emerge.
  • WAR NO. 10: The remnants of the Islamic State against everyone
Ed Webb

Russia, Turkey and the rise of the Islamic State | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • One of IS’s great survival skills has been to make itself an enemy of everybody and priority of nobody
  • Foreign donors do contribute to IS, but the amount they contribute has never mattered
  • the real source of its wealth: captive populations
Ed Webb

Blaming Islam for ISIS: A convenient lie to prepare us for more war | Middle East Eye - 2 views

  • We can’t defeat ISIS if we misrepresent what and who ISIS actually is. Far from being the apocalyptic Islamist group that Wood contends they are, actual IS documents and blue prints reveal IS to be methodical state builders, led by secular Baathists – who aim to restore Sunni-Baathist power in Iraq. These documents also make clear that Saddam’s former generals (anti-Islamists) use Islam as a recruitment tool. “They [ISIS founders] reasoned that Baghdadi, an educated cleric, would give the group a religious face,” notes the German newspaper Der Spiegel.
  • recruits are drawn to ISIS for reasons that have little to do with extremist Islam. “They are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering questions about Sharia law, militant jihad, and the Caliphate,”
  • the media welcomes only those who blame Islam or “radical Islam” and not those who speak to the conditions that make ISIS appealing
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  • blaming Islam makes us feel good about ourselves. Blaming Islam is good for television ratings. Blaming Islam makes it easier to sell new wars
Ed Webb

Why the U.S. (still) can't train the Iraqi military - The Washington Post - 1 views

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    Research on military effectiveness suggests that even very brave, highly motivated soldiers won't be successful in their efforts to take territory if they fail to master these key skills. It also suggests that these skills are particularly unlikely to develop in regimes that are more concerned with maintaining power, especially in the face of political threats from their own military organizations, than combating conventionally powerful adversaries. This problem has historically plagued most Iraqi efforts to generate effective military forces, dating to the time of Saddam Hussein.
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