Oct 7, 2014
In the Art of War, Sun Tzu identifies deception as a principle of war. Deception takes on many forms, including propaganda. Today, Islamic State or (ISIS/ISIL) seems to have mastered Sun Tzu’s art of deception. ISIS’ barbaric acts of beheading, crucifying and raping innocent people incites fear in their enemies. Fear disrupts the battle lines, as evidenced by the U.S.-trained Iraqi army fleeing the conflict zone and abandoning its weapons, even though they were far better equipped and trained.
American’s focus should remain on the end-state of the Islamic extremists and not become strategically distracted by the horrific acts they commit. These social media savvy jihadis have purchased Western hostages from other “moderate” Muslim rebels, suggesting the Islamic groups have far more in common than just “religion.”
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Take Turkey for example. It’s a NATO partner, next-door neighbor to civil war enflamed Syria and it was the last country to join America’s coalition war on terror or Gulf War III. But Turkey creates a conundrum for the West as it harbors ISIS’ militants. Multiple news reports show video documenting the jihadis’ free movement in Istanbul, Turkey.
For months, international news reports highlighted Turkey’s wink, wink tacit support of jihadi fighters by allowing them to freely cross its borders and allowing black market Iraqi and Syrian oil to transit within Turkey to the port of Ceyhan in the Adana District of southern Turkey. (Note: Ironically, the oil probably ends up in European/NATO Markets).
But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned ISIS that the 28-country alliance is united. “Our responsibility, the basic responsibility, is to stand up and be very clear that we are going to protect Turkey.”
Luay al-Khatteeb, director of the Iraqi Energy Network, a consultancy that advises the Iraqi parliament said, “the future of the fight against ISIS rests in Turkish former Prime Minister turned President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hands.” Not only is Turkey home to the largest most advanced military, it has established an effective blueprint to track Islamic extremists that can halt illicit money exchanges and impede illegal oil routes to the Mediterranean Sea.
However International Business Times reported, “two days ago ISIS fighters were captured on camera entering Syria from Turkey to fight in Kobani,” the latest flare up along the Syria/Turkish border. It also looks like the Kurdish town will fall in the coming days and the impending the massacre will undoubtedly cost thousands of lives. The harbinger here is Turkey’s president seems content to let ISIS take care of “his” Kurdish enemies and the U.S. has only conducted five airstrikes.
Despite the weak appearances, Turkey’s hamstrung Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu claimed they would stop ISIS’s advances on Kobani, Syria. Complicating matters in that part of the world is the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), a group that wants to establish an autonomous country outside Turkey and something Erdoğan and the Parliament voted it would never agree and even used the PKK as a reason to commit military troops. Meanwhile, last month the PKK marched into Iraq and fought alongside the Peshmerga to repel ISIS in Erbil, Iraq and it’s not likely they will give up their newfound influence in the Middle East.
Back along the Syrian/Turkish border the PKK continues its fight in Kobani. “ISIS will never be able to take this city,” a resident speaking from the office of the Defense Minister, Ismet Hasan told The Guardian. “We are prepared to face them inside Kobani – if they enter, this city will become their grave.” The resident said they had plenty of fighters but no weapons or ammunition. “We need heavy weapons and more ammunition, we are running low, all we have is ammunition for light arms.” So far America’s air strikes have only slowed the ISIS progress. Nassan implied “strikes in Raqqa and Idlib (Syria) had made matters worse. ISIS fighters from these provinces come to join the fight on Kobani (aka Kobane); they run from there to come here. We need air strikes to help us.”
Enter U.S. combat “Boots in the Air”
Enter the combat “boots in the air” in the form of U.S. Apache attack helicopters. Over the weekend the Pentagon said the commanders in Iraq responded to requests for more targeted attacks near Kobani (aka Kobane). The unassuming statement revealed the U.S. began using attack helicopters. This marked a tacit departure from Obama’s signature “airstrikes.” The danger of using the Apache attack choppers is their “low and slow” approach makes them easier targets than attack aircraft for surface to air missiles.
Plus, the Obama administration officials have repeatedly promised the U.S. would not put “boots on the ground.” Jeffrey White, a former senior Defense Intelligence Agency analyst told Stars and Stripes, “The use of helicopter gunships by the United States means that U.S. troops effectively are now directly involved in ground battles… It means however we were applying air power previously (that) didn’t work to stop them from putting together offensive actions. One of the hopes was that using air power would impede them from using offensive operations. But apparently, they have been successful in doing that despite the airstrikes.”
Retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor concurs and said, “The Apache deployment (in Iraq) is a gesture on behalf of the Army that is otherwise absent from the fight.”
Also, former Democrat Congressman Dennis Kucinich leveled a stunning accusation at the neo-cons and President Obama. The ardent critic of America’s involvement in Syria claims America “is being played.” An opinion piece that appeared in the Huffington Post said, “Qatar and Saudi Arabia can now overtly join with the U.S. in striking Syria, after they have been covertly attempting for years to take down the last secular state in the region. We are now advancing the agenda of the actual Islamic States — Saudi Arabia and Qatar — to fight the ersatz Islamic State of ISIS.”
Where are the weapons and bullets coming from?
A new Conflict Armament Research report delves into the dark world of weapon proliferation and illustrates how difficult arming “moderate” jihadis to fight a proxy war can be.
“The lesson learned here is that the defense and security forces that have been supplied ammunition by external nations really don’t have the capacity to maintain custody of that ammunition,” James Bevan, director of Conflict Armament Research said.
The tracking of global weaponry is part of an ongoing study funded by the European Union to monitor terror group’s firepower. The results are posted on iTrace.
The findings concluded that 1,730 cartridges came from 21 countries and were primarily used in machine guns and rifles. The Conflict Armament traced the cartridges by using head stamps on the recovered munitions.
Russia tops the casings left behind followed by China and the U.S. rounded out the top three, the report concluded. The generalness of the study does not differentiate between ammunition of Russian origin supplied to nations like Syria or Libya, so it is not possible to attribute the specific source countries of final end-user. The study also established that local security forces could not be trusted to protect the arsenal from falling into radical extremists procession.
Weighing into the ISIS conflict at last week’s UN meeting was Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari who spoke harshly about U.S. efforts of “dividing terrorists into good terrorists and bad terrorists and distinguishing moderate terrorism from extremist terrorism. Terrorism is terrorism.” Ja’afari also noted that sovereign countries must be recognized before a military campaign is launched to fight ISIS.
It’s worth pointing out that the U.S.-drafted an UN resolution that requires governments to act when people travel to foreign countries seeking to join terror groups or provide financial support, but it seems to be sporadically enforced.
ISIS pays prevailing wages to recruits with oil profits
Part of ISIS’s success in the region is made possible by oil sales in the black-market. The Islamic extremists have been particularly adept at producing and selling oil from the refineries they have captured in the last year. ISIS collects approximately $1 million per day in oil revenue.
According to the International Business Times (IBT),“The group has sold both crude and refined oil to locals in Iraq and Syria, and purportedly on the black market in Turkey.” According to Luay al-Khatteeb, director of the Iraq Energy Institute, the destruction of oil refineries has opened the door to other Middle Eastern countries desperate for cheap crude and ISIS is more than willing to sell the ill gotten spoils for $20 and $50 a barrel. He also said ISIS is moving approximately 7,000 barrels through a well established Turkey “smuggling network.”
IBT also intimated that the oil money is difficult to track. “It is unclear exactly how much the group generates in oil sales, or where exactly is gets the rest of its money. Qatari and Saudi businessmen have been implicated in the funding of ISIS directly. Financial analysts and oil experts told International Business Times that if ISIS is taking in millions of dollars a day, some of that revenue is distributed in cash for soldier salaries, and is connected, at least in part, to the banking system. But so far that cash flow has gone undetected.”
UN report on war crimes
The report released last week by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said after interviewing 500 witnesses it concluded the terror group ISIS committed an astounding number of war crimes; “The array of violations and abuses perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups is staggering, and many of their acts may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity,” according to Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a UN Rights high commissioner.
The report notes 9,347 civilians deaths and 17,386 wounded this year through September. The report emphasizes that the majority of the murders took place in June.
The largest massacre took place on June 12, when ISIS captured 1,500 Iraqi soldiers and promptly posted their execution on social media. An additional 1.8 million Iraqis have been forced to leave their homes and become refugees.
Former military general and new civilian Czar drums up support
A statement from the Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki released details of newly appointed civilian “ISIS War Czar” retired Marine General John Allen and Iraq Ambassador Brett McGurk’s first overseas trip to gin up international support. “Over the weekend, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk traveled to Erbil (Iraq) where they met with Kurdistan Regional Prime Minister Barzani, other senior KRG officials, provincial leaders, and tribal sheiks. Noting important recent victories by joint Sunni-Shiite tribal fighters and with Peshmerga forces – excuse me – and Arab tribes joining to retake the vital border crossing at Rabia. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk conveyed our strong support for all Iraqis coming together as a national front to defeat ISIL, including through the formation of integrated National Guard units that would work in concert with a restructured Iraqi army.
General Allen and Ambassador McGurk confirmed that the United States and other international partners are prepared to support these security reforms in a manner consistent with Iraq’s constitution, sovereignty, and independence. They also discussed the urgent need for the coalition to support the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, which is a critical line of effort in the comprehensive campaign to degrade and defeat ISIL.”
The latest Pentagon update on America’s air campaign disclosed that the U.S. and its allied coalition partners targeted three enemy positions.
“Separately, in Iraq U.S. military forces used helicopters and attack, bomber, and fighter aircraft to conduct six airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq. In Syria, one strike northwest of Al Mayadin destroyed an ISIL bulldozer, two ISIL tanks and destroyed another ISIL vehicle. Two strikes northwest of Ar Raqqah struck a large ISIL unit and destroyed six ISIL firing positions. To conduct these strikes, the U.S. employed fighter aircraft deployed from the U.S. Central Command area of operations. All aircraft departed the strike areas safely.
In Iraq, four strikes northeast of Fallujah struck two mortar teams, a large ISIL unit and two small ISIL units. One strike southeast of Hit destroyed two ISIL Humvees. One strike northeast of Sinjar destroyed an ISIL Humvee. To conduct these strikes, the U.S. employed helicopters and attack, bomber, fighter aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. All aircraft departed the strike areas safely.”
A nugget missing from the real conversation America’s Congress should be having with its citizenry centers on U.S. foreign policy. A Special Operations Forces Situation Report (SOFREP) harkened back to the 34th U.S. President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower warning of a military industrial complex. While “Ike’s” final speech was softened, an original draft written by Malcom Moos, prophesized current events and the dangers the U.S. would face when engaging in foreign entanglements.
“We must never let power, implicit in this combination, endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert, knowledgeable, and wise citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that both security and liberty may prosper.
In the councils of government, we must jealously guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We can ignore it only at our peril.”
Was President Obama’s reluctance to act against ISIS when it was traversing the Damascus to Baghdad Highway to raid Iraq because of warnings issued by Qatar to butt-out? The application of U.S. airpower against the ISIS convoy heading across the desert would have resembled the Highway of Death the Iraqis suffered in the Kuwait Gulf War. But instead of turning the Damascus to Baghdad Highway into the Highway of Death II, the U.S. hesitancy turned it into the Highway of Plunder as ISIS travel east to plunder Iraqi (read: U.S.) military equipment it subsequently used against Syria and the Kurds in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
What is it that changed in the ensuing 3-4 weeks of the ISIS raid and murder of Mr. Foley that the U.S. decided to oppose ISIS with the assembly of yet another “coalition” of nations?
ISIS’ applications of Sun Tzu’s “Principle of Deception” has been so effective that even the U.S. does not know whether the enemy is ISIS or whether it is our “friends” Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the “moderate” jihadis. Sun Tzu would be pleased.
Last story, Afghanistan agrees to keep American troops (and money) for 10 more years: Link here
While bewildered Obama warns the world, Chinese capitalists’ build the world: Link here
Previous ISIS story: Link here
Previous Afghanistan series: Link here
Ukraine Tensions Threaten Reincarnation of a Chinese-Russian Alliance: Link Here
Previous China story: Link Here
Previous drone story: Link Here
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