Since Iraq and Syria are now all part of the same greater Sunni/Shia conflict, let’s take a look at recent developments in the broader theater:
The War Nerd pinpoints the biggest reason for ISIS’s rapid Iraq advance: the flat geography of the area they’ve taken: “It’s the Bonneville Salt Flats of insurgency, the place you go to set new speed records.” He also thinks the Kurdish Pesh Merga will slaughter them if ISIS is foolish enough to make a big push into the northern hill country.
Michael Totten has a depressing interview with Lee Smith, the author of The Consequences of Syria:
For all Obama’s talk of arming Syrian rebels, no arms seem to have actually made it there. Indeed, the whole thing seems to have been a disinformation campaign the press lapped up. “This White House has been bad for the press, and the readership’s faith in our press, but it seems most journalists don’t much care.”
“The administration feared that helping topple Assad, an ally of Iran, might have angered the Iranians and pushed them away from the negotiating table, and getting a deal with Iran was the White House’s chief goal in the Middle East.” So the goal of the Obama Administration isn’t a free Middle East, or a stable Middle East, but signing a piece of paper with the ayatollahs.
Since Obama’s serial retreats have put us in a situation of such profound weakness, they won’t even be getting that: “What we’re seeing [is] a United States in retreat in the Middle East. So I don’t see what the accommodation would look like. It’s not a grand bargain with Iran, but an American fire sale, with the US virtually giving away its assets. The US is retreating from the region and leaving it in Iranian hands.”
“What we’re seeing in cities like Mosul is a Sunni rebellion against Maliki and the Iranians. In addition to ISIS, there are also former Baath party figures, like one of Saddam’s deputies, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, as well as Sunni tribes. ISIS would appear to be playing the role of Sunni shock troops, who are dispatched to the fronts to terrorize and create havoc. Behind them are the Baathis and the tribes.”
Reason for ISIS’ rapid advance? Maliki’s brutal sectarian incompetence. “What Maliki and the Iranians have done is unite the tribes and ISIS through their anti-Sunni policies.”
Read the whole thing.
A look a Syria’s Christians, who are getting it from both sides.
Here’s a piece that suggests that moderate Sunnis are just using ISIS to get Maliki out. (Well, what are a few Shia mass graves anyway?) Yeah, not buying it. It’s the guys with guns who use “moderates,” not the other way around. Also argues for a de jour rather than merely de facto partition of Iraq.