Just keep digging because with piles of broken crockery and great steaming heaps like this, you just know there’s a Pony in there somewhere.
US to arm Sunni tribesmen in Iraq to bolster defence against Islamic State
Saturday 22 November 2014 15.31 EST
The US plans to buy arms for Sunni tribesmen in Iraq including AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar rounds, to help bolster the battle against Islamic State (Isis) militants in Anbar province, according to a Pentagon document prepared for Congress.
The plan to spend $24.1m represents a small fraction of the larger, $1.6bn spending request to Congress focusing on training and arming Iraqi and Kurdish forces. But the document underscored the importance the Pentagon places on the Sunni tribesmen to its overall strategy to diminish Isis, and cautioned Congress about the consequences of failing to assist them.
“Not arming tribal fighters will continue to leave anti-[Isis] tribes reluctant to actively counter [Isis],” the document said, regarding the group which has seized control of large parts of Syrian and Iraq and is gaining territory in Anbar despite three months of US-led air strikes.
The document also noted Iraqi security forces were not “not particularly welcome in Anbar and other majority Sunni areas”, citing their poor combat performance and sectarian divisions.
Graft Hobbles Iraq’s Military in Fighting ISIS
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, The New York Times
NOV. 23, 2014
“I told the Americans, don’t give any weapons through the army – not even one piece – because corruption is everywhere, and you will not see any of it,” said Col. Shaaban al-Obeidi of the internal security forces, also a Sunni tribal leader in Anbar Province. “Our people will steal it.”
“If each soldier is supposed to get 100 bullets, he will only get 50, and the officer will take and sell the rest,” Colonel Obeidi said. As he showed a reporter the Austrian-made Glock handgun he obtained from United States forces years ago, he added, “If the Iraqi Army had supplied this, the barrel would explode in two rounds.”
Many Sunni tribal leaders, deeply mistrustful of the Shiite-dominated military, are urging the United States to provide salaries and weapons directly to the tribes, much as it did during the so-called Awakening movement against Al Qaeda in Iraq seven years before.
But officials of the Shiite-dominated government say any American attempts to work directly with the tribes would violate Iraqi sovereignty and exacerbate sectarian divisions.
Revealed: UK ‘mercenaries’ fighting Islamic State terrorist forces in Syria
Mark Townsend, The Guardian
Saturday 22 November 2014 16.42 EST
James Hughes, from Reading, Berkshire, is understood to be in Rojava, northern Syria, helping to defend the beleaguered city of Kobani as a de facto “mercenary” fighting on behalf of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, the YPG.
According to his Facebook profile, Hughes served in Afghanistan three times and left the army this year after five years’ service. He appears to be fighting Isis forces alongside his friend Jamie Read, from Newmains, north Lanarkshire, whose Facebook page reveals that he trained with the French army. He describes having been involved in fierce gunfights against jihadists last week.
The Britons appear to have been recruited by an American called Jordan Matson on behalf of the “Lions of Rojava”, which is run by the Kurdish YPG movement and whose Facebook page urges people to join and help “send [the] terrorists to hell and save humanity” from Isis.
Although the Home Office states that taking part in a conflict overseas could be an offence under both criminal and anti-terrorism laws, it clarifies: “UK law makes provisions to deal with different conflicts in different ways – fighting in a foreign war is not automatically an offence but will depend on the nature of the conflict and the individual’s own activities.”
US air strikes in Syria driving anti-Assad groups to support Isis
Mona Mahmood, The Guardian
Sunday 23 November 2014 09.13 EST
Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups are joining forces with Isis, which has gained control of swaths of Syria and Iraq and has beheaded six western hostages in the past few months.
Some brigades have transferred their allegiance, while others are forming tactical alliances or truces. Support among civilians also appears to be growing in some areas as a result of resentment over US-led military action.
A third man, Abu Zeid, the commander of an FSA brigade near Idlib and a defector from President Bashar al-Assad’s army, said: “All the locals here wonder why the US coalition never came to rescue them from Assad’s machine guns, but run to fight Isis when it took a few pieces of land. We were in a robust fight against Isis for confiscating our liberated areas, but now, if we are not in an alliance, we are in a truce with them.”
These and other Syrian fighters told the Guardian in interviews by phone and Skype that the US campaign is turning the attitudes of Syrian opposition groups and fighters in favour of Isis. Omar Waleed, an FSA fighter in Hama, north of Damascus, said: “I’m really scared that eventually most of the people will join Isis out of their disappointment with the US administration. Just have a look on social media websites, and you can see lots of people and leaders are turning to the side of Isis.
“We did not get any weapons from the US to fight the regime for the last three years. Only now US weapons arrived for fighting Isis.”
Abu Talha said he had joined the FSA after being released from prison in an amnesty Assad granted shortly after the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, and became commander of the Ansar al-Haq brigade in Ghouta, an eastern suburb of Damascus. He became disillusioned with the FSA, however, believing it was a tool of foreign intelligence services and poor in combat. After four senior fighters in his brigade were fatally wounded a few months ago, he defected to Isis.
“Since that day, I vowed not to fight under a flag bearing the mark of the FSA even for a second. I looked around for truthful jihadis, to fight by their side. I could not find any better than the jihadis of Isis. I told my fighters: ‘I’m going to join Isis, you are free to follow me or choose your own way’,” he said.
Only a small number openly declared their new allegiance, he added. “Large brigades in Idlib, Aleppo, Derra, Qalamoun and south Damascus have pledged loyalty to Isis in secret. Many senior leaders of brigades in Syria are in talks with us now to get together and fight as a united force against the US aggression,” he said. His claims cannot be independently verified.
Murad, a fighter with the FSA’s 600-strong al-Ribat brigade near Homs, said an offer three months ago by the US-backed Hazem movement to supply his unit with advanced weaponry if it joined the fight against Isis was turned down.
“We rejected this attractive offer, even though we are in great need not only of weapons but food. There is no way that we would fight Isis after the US military campaign against them,” he said.
Fighters from Islamic militias are also joining forces with Isis. In Idlib, in north-west Syria, the Jaish al-Mujahideen army, al-Sham brigade, Ahrar al-Sham brigade and al-Nusra Front were all in conflict against Isis earlier this year. Now they are calling for an alliance. More than 1,000 al-Nusra Front fighters in the area joined forces with Isis in a single week in August, according to Ali Sa’eed, a spokesman for the FSA revolutionary command in Idlib.
“There are senior leaders of al-Nusra Front who are waiting for the zero hour to unite with us. They are more conscious now of the great risks that lie behind the new US crusade against Muslims and jihadis,” he said.
According to those interviewed, civilians as well as fighters are turning towards Isis. The group is gaining support because it implements social measures and increases security, according to Abu Talha.
Isis does not have enough weapons for the number of foreign and local jihadis wanting to join its ranks, Abu Talha said. “Jihadis in Algeria, Morocco and Yemen are declaring their allegiance to Isis. Soon we will be in Gaza and then in Iran. People are starting to be aware that Isis is defending the Sunnis.”
Another Iraq Failure by Petraeus: Graft-Ridden Military
By Jim White, emptywheel
Published November 24, 2014
Back when the Bush Administration and their neocon operators were most proud of their “accomplishments” in Iraq, their poster boy for this success most often was my favorite ass-kissing little chickenshit, David Petraeus. As the public finally became aware of what a disaster Iraq really was and as Obama moved his focus to the “good war” in Afghanistan, I noted that Petraeus’ name was no longer associated with Iraq once it, and especially Petraeus’ multiple attempts to train Iraq’s military, had failed. Today we have further news on how Iraq’s military came to be in such sad shape that many units simply disappeared when it came time to confront ISIS. It turns out that while he was gaining accolades for training Iraqi troops, Petraeus was in reality creating a system in which Iraqi officers were able to siphon off the billions of dollars the US wasted on the whole training operation.
Isn’t that just peachy? We know without a doubt that giving weapons or financial support to the Iraqi military is guaranteed to wind up helping ISIS instead of fighting them. And yet Washington insists on throwing another $1.3 billion going down the same shithole.
Part of the reason that this can’t be stopped is that the US side of the graft is so organized and institutionalized. Moving out from just the efforts within Iraq to the entire campaign against ISIS, we see who really benefits.