The Iraqi Cauldron
The "new" rumor of war blazes across the world stage- Iraq. The old rumor of war "Syria" continues to roll along with its numbing casualties as the world simply ignores it. Both are intertwined by the same nefarious force-ISIS, the 10,000 man army that fights in Syria sets its eyes on Iraq.
Like a bad dream that simply gets worse, Iraq is well on its way to breaking apart as it was predicted by many experts-the Kurds in the north, the Sunnis with ISIS to the west of Baghdad and the Shiites holding onto Baghdad and Basra. ISIS seized millions of dollars during its recent capture of Mosul and is very well funded now. They continue to get Sunni recruits who stripped themselves of Iraqi army uniforms and four army divisions have simply vanished since ISIS has been encircling Baghdad. So far, vital infrastructures like a dam on the Euphrates and oil refineries remain under Iraqi control with loyal Shiite soldiers.
Overhead, more dark clouds occur. Syrian aircraft have flown into Iraqi airspace and have conducted attacks upon ISIS, the same group trying topple Assad. Jordanian aircraft have also attack ISIS in Iraq along their border as ISIS tries to seize border crossings. Both Iran and the US have their own drones flying over Iraqi airspace to gather and provide intelligence to themselves and Iraq. In the Persian Gulf, there is a US aircraft carrier with ready aircraft.
This is a recipe for disaster when their has been no coordination between these countries. One can see conflict in the sky above. Meanwhile, the conflict on the ground gains momentum for ISIS. As towns fall to ISIS, a hysteria creeps in, people and soldiers flee to save themselves. It is like a blitzkrieg. ISIS probably intends to isolate Baghdad or occupy part of the Sunni areas. If you cut off this city from water, electricity and oil pipelines, you can be sure the population will panic. This creates more avenues for ISIS to exploit. It is like the Nazi army ripping through Russia in 1941, millions fled or were killed. The Russian army fought and lost every battle from June to October. The status of Iraq's largest oil refinery, the Bayji facility in Salahaddin province, is now questionable, as ISIS is said to control large areas of the sprawling facility.
ISIS clearly has the momentum and initiative. They have cut off Syria from Iraq by controlling the border crossings. No longer can Iran send supplies to Syria overland. It seems ISIS has realized that toppling Assad in Syria is more unlikely now and have focused resources on Iraq to carve out its own strict Sunni state, which they have done. Iran has bitched to the US for interfering , yet, they already have two battalions of special forces in Iraq helping.
Iraq's army, after millions of dollars spent on training and supplies, is just like the South Vietnamese Army in the Vietnam War. Unless American troops or advisers were present on the battlefield, the troops proved inferior and gutless in combat. Morale went from fair to bad. When the North Vietnamese army attacked the South Vietnamese soldiers, most SVN troops did what the Iraqi does-flee. The only good troops then and now were the special forces. What is happening in Iraq is a repeat of a rerun-the Vietnam war, without jungles. The similarities are startling.
News reports that the Iraqi army is incapable of going on the offensive and are content with letting ISIS come to Baghdad. But, this is not a "Stalingrad", in Baghdad, defense lines are porous in the city of millions with Sunni and Shiite areas. The Iraqi army has decided to man the front lines with ancient Russian T-55 tanks (these are well over 50 years old) instead of their modern M1A1 Abrams tanks of which they have about 150. ISIS loaded with American equipment captured in Mosul depots and money from banks, can easily bribe Iraqi soldiers now for information.
When 500 ISIS fighters can rout an Iraqi force of 2500 men, that is a bad indication for Iraq. American airstrikes could hurt ISIS assuming you can find the dispersed targets that move fast in pickup trucks and Humvees. Airstikes would be more successful directed at the ISIS homebase of Raqqa inside Syria, a place they have held for a long time. Why this has not been done is due to political reasons. The Obama administration wants Assad out of Syria, yet, does little to get the job done. Assad will only go if shoved out by force. Obama has stated that very little American combat use in Iraq will occur unless the Iraqi political system has a solution. Obama wants Maliki out also, or at minimum, appease the Sunnis in the government, yet does nothing. Maliki was our man in Baghdad, but his old Shiite background has made many Sunnis angry. Iraq invited the US to conduct airstrikes, yet, nothing happens.
Does Obama or America want to save Iraq, a country it invaded to save it from tyranny and millions of dollars and lives were spent on? Do we just want to wash our hands of Iraq as another war gone bad? Maybe Obama's strategy is do nothing and Iraq will collapse and Iran will be invited in to save it. After all, Iran is greatly impacted by an Iraqi collapse because of its oil terminals near Basra. If ISIS makes an end run and isolates or takes Basra, they will send shock through the oil fields and Americans will see a rise at the pump. Such a move would bring Iraq to a collapse, for without the oil revenue, it could not survive.
Whether Obama or Americans want it or not, Iraq does matter in many ways. If Iran is invited in to save its Shiite brother, they will never leave. Iran could annex parts of Iraq. None of actors in this new war are trustworthy from an American perspective, there is only more of bad or worse than bad.