29 Oct 2016

As a former soldier and war correspondent who has covered 14 conflicts, I look at all the media hoopla over tightening siege of Mosul, Iraq and shake my head. This western-organized “liberation” of Mosul is one of the bigger pieces of political-military theater that I’ve seen.

Islamic State(IS), the defender of Mosul, is a paper tiger, blown out of all proportion by western media. IS is, as this writer has been saying for years, an armed mob made up of 20-something malcontents, religious fanatics, and modern-day anarchists. At its top is a cadre of former Iraqi Army officers with military experience.

These former officers of Saddam Hussain are bent on revenge for the US destruction of their nation and the lynching of its late leader. But IS rank and file has no military training, little discipline, degraded communications, and ragged logistics.

In fact, today’s Islamic State is what the Ottoman Empire used to term, ‘bashi-bazouks,” a collection of irregular cut-throats and scum of the gutter sent to punish and terrorize enemies by means of torture, rapine, looting and arson.

What has amazed me about the faux western war against ISIS is its leisurely nature, lack of élan, and hesitancy. In my view, ISIS was mostly created by the US and its allies as a weapon to be used against Syria’s government – just as the Afghan mujahadin were used by the US and the Saudis to overthrow the Soviet-backed Afghan government. Israel tried the same tactics by helping create Hamas in Palestine and Hezbullah in Lebanon. Both were cultivated to split the PLO.

ISIS is an ad hoc movement that wants to punish the West and the Saudis for the gross carnage they have inflicted on the Arab world.

Western and Kudish auxiliary forces have been sitting 1.5 hours drive from Mosul and the IS town of Raqqa for over a year. Instead, western – mainly US – warplanes have been gingerly bombing around these targets in what may be an effort to convince breakaway ISIS to rejoin US-led forces fight the Damascus regime.

Note that ISIS does not appear to have ever attacked Israel though it is playing an important role in the destruction of Syria. Some reports say Israel is providing logistic and medical support for IS.

The siege of Mosul is being played up by western media as a heroic second Stalingrad. Don’t be fooled. IS has only 3-5,000 lightly armed fighters in Mosul and Raqqa, maybe even less. The leaders of IS are likely long gone. IS has few heavy weapons, no air cover at all, and poor communications. Its rag-tag fighters will run out of ammunitions and explosives very quickly.

Encircling Mosul are at least 50,000 western-led soldiers, backed by heavy artillery, rocket batteries, tanks, armored vehicles and awesome air power

The western imperial forces are composed of tough Kurdish pasha merga fighters, Iraqi army and special forces, some Syrian Kurds, Iranian ‘volunteers’ irregular forces and at least 5,000 US combat troops called “advisors”, plus small numbers of French, Canadian and British special forces. Hovering in the background are some thousands of Turkish troops, supported by armor and artillery ready to ‘liberate’ Iraq – which was once part of the Ottoman Empire.

For the US, current military operations in Syria and Iraq are the realization of an imperialist’s fondest dream: native troops led by white officers, the model of the old British Indian Raj. Washington arms, trained, equips and financed all its native auxiliaries.

The IS is caught in a dangerous dilemma. To be a political movement, it was delighted to control Iraq’s second largest city. But as a guerilla force, it should not have holed up in an urban area where it was highly vulnerable to concentrated air attack and being surrounded. This is what’s happening right now.

In the mostly flat Fertile Crescent with too few trees, ground forces are totally vulnerable to air power, as the recent 1967, 1973 Israel-Arab wars and 2003 Iraq wars have shown. Dispersion and guerilla tactics are the only hope for those that lack air cover.

IS forces would best advised to disperse across the region and continue their hit-and-run attacks. Otherwise, they risk being destroyed. But being mostly bloody-minded young fanatics, IS may not heed military logic and precedent in favor of making a last stand in the ruins of Mosul and Raqqa.

When this happens, western leaders will compete to claim authorship of the faux crusade against the paper tiger of ISIS.

Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2016

This post is in: Iraq, ISIS, Mideast

4 Responses to “LAST STAND FOR ISIS?”

  1. ISIS remains a populist movement of a few thousand ideologically motivated fighters, bolstered by wide public support amongst Sunni Iraqis, who would opt for any alternative than a Shia-led government. To put into perspective, it’s like asking the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland to put aside their differences and submit to a leader from the other sect.

    Once the Shia-Sunni schism in Iraq that was ignited by the Bush-led invasion, begins to subside and the Sunni Iraqis have complete territorial integrity, the ruling government may look very different. We have seen this in recent times in the Middle-Eastern war theater, where military take-overs and rebellions have leveraged all ideological groups capable violence, without eventually including them in future government.

  2. A couple of comments:
    This handful of ‘bashi-bazouks’ is sure causing a lot of problems. I always thought that the term ‘bashi-bazouks’ was disingenuous, to diminish or illegitimatise (wd?) the antagonists, ie. To make them something less that what they were. It might be that the protagonists don’t want this war to end. This twenty something group, without military training and first grade equipment, seems to be withstanding the onslaught of modern military training and equipment and greater numbers. In an urban setting, the enemy ‘all look alike’ almost reminds me of the Viet Nam conflict (I’m not sure the Americans recognise this as a war, yet). A few dedicated combatants can do a real ‘monkeywrench’.
    Whenever a guerrilla type of conflict is put in an urban backdrop, the consequences are generally damaging to the civilian population.
    A paragraph might have been included to touch on the Kurds and the Turks and how they interact in this primordial swamp.

  3. Another great article, Eric. I agree with what you’re saying about IS., including your mention that some reports are saying that Israel has been providing logistical and medical support for IS. But I have a feeling that Israel’s support for IS goes well beyond that. Once IS has fully served Israel’s malevolent purposes in ruining Syria, the Israelis will, if necessary, move in quickly to obliterate that rag-tag bunch. Obviously, Israel has the means and capability to do so now, if it wanted to, but the fact that it hasn’t done so yet or demanded loudly that the US and its allies move quickly to do so, suggests to me that ISIS is very much a tool of the Israeli government.

    • I’m amazed as to how quiet Israel and IS have been about each other. The Assad regime is an old nemesis of Israel, now joined by even older enemies Russia and Iran. Coupled with the new Shia-dominated Iraqi government, the latest Iranian proxy of Syria would mean an Iranian super composed of Tehran-Syria-Iraq right next door to Israel (and Iran really, really hates the Jewish state). Ensuring the survival of IS means Israel gets to keep the Iranian advance at bay, in exchange for covertly supporting IS (no doubt with tacit approval from the US and some Western allies)

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