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June 10, 2014

Sunni Insurgents Rout Iraqi Army at Mosul, Capturing Iraq's Second-Largest City, and Huge Cache of US-Supplied Arms

Obama notoriously failed to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the government of Iraq. Keeping a ready reserve of US troops to assist the Iraqi Army -- not join them in patrolling, but assist them in major actions -- would have helped us keep the gains we'd made there.

But Obama wanted out.

Anbar province, the region of Iraq that 1,300 American soldiers died pacifying, is at risk of being taken over by al Qaeda jihadists and their affiliate, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Fighting between Iraqi government forces and the jihadists is currently going on in Ramadi and Fallujah, the latter city the site in 2004 of the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War. If the Iraqi government fails to retake the city and push back against the jihadist “al Qaedastan” fiefdom now forming in eastern Iraq and western Syria, the American hard-fought victory in Fallujah will be the emblem of how once again an incompetent administration snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, with repercussions for the whole region.
Mosul, located not in Anbar but the the northern province of Ninevah (bordering on the Kurd-dominated far north), has now fallen.
Islamic militants overran parts of Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul on Tuesday, driving security forces from their posts and seizing the provincial government headquarters, security bases and other key buildings. Gunmen cruised through neighborhoods, waving black banners while residents fled.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pressed parliament to declare a state of emergency.

The fight for Mosul was a heavy defeat in Baghdad's battle against a widening insurgency by a breakaway al Qaeda group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has been trying - with some success - to seize territory both in Iraq and neighboring Syria.


On Tuesday, Mosul residents said the militants appeared to be in control of several parts of the city, raising the black banners that are the emblem of the Islamic State.


"What happened is a disaster by any standard," [parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi] said. "The presence of these terrorist groups in this vast province ... threatens not just the security and the unity of Iraq, but the whole Middle East."

They say that the Al Qaeda-linked insurgents are now eyeing an assault on the province just north of Baghdad.

More good news: Mosul is hugely important as far as oil production and export, and the Sunni insurgents are allied with the Syrian insurgents (aka the Al Qaeda forces we nearly went to war for).

The rout in Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city after Baghdad and an important center of the country’s petroleum industry, was breathtaking in its speed and appeared to take government officials by surprise, not to mention residents of the city and surrounding Nineveh Province. A major humiliation for the government forces in Iraq’s Sunni-dominated areas, the defeat also reflected the stamina of the Sunni insurgency, which has been growing with the war in neighboring Syria.

Here's some more good news: The Sunni insurgents captured large caches of American weapons, which are now essentially in Al Qaeda hands.

The insurgent fighters who routed the Iraqi army out of Mosul on Tuesday did not just capture much of Iraq’s second-largest city. They also gained a windfall of arms, munitions and equipment abandoned by the soldiers as they fled — arms that were supplied by the United States and intended to give the troops an edge over the insurgents.

Despite Obama's bungling here, I'm not sure that fighting for a Shiite-dominated, artificial-borders-intact Iraq makes great sense. The state of Iraq is obviously a fiction. The ethnicities will not accept a government except that controlled by their own tribesmen.

If the state cannot remain intact, it should not exist, and a negotiated peace, ceding Sunnis their own smaller state (and, hopefully, giving the Kurds their own state as well) is probably the only stable solution.

Thanks to @comradearthur.

On the Politics: This is a dangerous topic for the GOP, because they will naturally argue we should be part of this fight, and the American public is strongly against that.

Conjuring images of a GOP foreign policy in which America's best and bravest are back patrolling the streets of f*cking Fallujah is a guaranteed loss in 2016.

To the extent the GOP talks about military involvement here, they must talk only of intelligence, surveillance, bombing, drones, and massed tanks and artillery. Long-distance or heavily-armored stuff, and definitely not American infantry doing the jobs that Vietnam boys, I mean Shiite Iraqi boys, should be doing themselves.

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posted by Ace at 02:43 PM

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