Tag Archives: Iraq

Iraq Coordinates With Assad To Take Out ISIS Fighters Inside Syria

(DCNF) Iraqi forces carried out airstrikes on Islamic State fighters inside Syria Thursday, after coordinating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, according to an Iraqi military spokesman.

The Iraqi air force deployed F-16 fighter jets into Syrian airspace to hit multiple ISIS targets along the Iraq-Syria border, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said, according to Reuters.

“Carrying out air strikes on Daesh gangs in Syrian territories is because of the dangers posed by said gangs to Iraqi territories and is proof of the improved capabilities of our armed forces,” the Iraqi military said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

The strikes “will accelerate the elimination” of ISIS in the region, the military added.

Close coordination with Assad reflects Baghdad’s willingness to work with whatever regional governments that have a mutual interest in the destruction of ISIS. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will “take all necessary measures if they threaten the security of Iraq,” he said earlier this month, referring to ISIS, which at one point occupied nearly a third of the country.

Aside from Syria, Iraq also has a cooperative relationship with Iran and Russia, Assad’s main backers in the Syrian war. That has put it in awkward position with the U.S., which sees both Moscow and Tehran as adversaries in Syria and the greater Middle East. Baghdad was critical of U.S. strikes against suspected chemical weapons facilities in Syria, saying they were a distraction from the fight against jihadi groups in the region.

Top Iraqi defense officials met with their Iranian counterparts Wednesday in Baghdad to discuss security cooperation and post-ISIS reconstruction. The two nations have “donated their blood” in battle against ISIS and will work “shoulder to shoulder” to rebuild Iraq, said Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman al-Ghanimi.

Written by Will Racke: Follow Will on Twitter


This article was republished with permission from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Trump Praises Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Consolidation of Power

Palm Beach, FL – During a private luncheon speech to Republican donors at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday, President Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his recent moves to consolidate power and extend his political tenure.

“He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great,” Trump said, according to a recording obtained by CNN. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”

Trump’s comments followed an announcement from China’s Communist Party that it will be voting this week to alter the country’s constitution to abolish term limits — a move that would theoretically secure Xi as president indefinitely.

In a report for Vox, Carl Minzner, a professor at Fordham Law School, explained:

With the removal of these term limits in the constitution, that also sets up the likelihood — the extremely strong likelihood — that going forward, Xi Jinping is likely to serve in all three roles [head of state, general secretary of the Community Party, and head of the military] indefinitely into the future, which of course would be a significant reversal from recent practice since the beginning of China’s reform era.

CNN reported that during his speech, Trump appeared to reflect that he’d received unfair treatment regarding the ongoing Russian collusion investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in comparison to the lack of legal scrutiny opponent Hillary Clinton received for her activities.

“I’m telling you, it’s a rigged system, folks,” Trump said according to CNN. “I’ve been saying that for a long time. It’s a rigged system. And we don’t have the right people in there yet. We have a lot of great people, but certain things, we don’t have the right people.”

Trump was possibly referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was recently chastised byTrump for opening an OIG investigation into alleged FISA surveillance abuses rather than a criminal probe; Trump described the situation as “DISGRACEFUL” regarding Sessions’ continued refusal to launch a criminal investigation into other potentially criminal activities carried out by Clinton in regards to Uranium One and her private email server.


[RELATED: Reality Check: GOP Memo and FISA Problems]

Trump’s remarks, which CNN illustrated as “upbeat, lengthy, and peppered with jokes and laughter,” also questioned whether Clinton could be a “happy person” after her loss to Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

“Is Hillary a happy person? Do you think she’s happy?” Trump asked. “When she goes home at night, does she say, ‘What a great life?’ I don’t think so. You never know. I hope she’s happy.”

Trump also took aim at former President George W. Bush and the intelligence community that provided false intelligence indicating Iraq possessed WMD’s, labeling the invasion of Iraq “the single worst decision ever made” and likening it to “throwing a big fat brick into a hornet’s nest.”

“Here we are, like the dummies of the world, because we had bad politicians running our country for a long time,” Trump proclaimed. “That was Bush. Another real genius. That was Bush,” he continued sarcastically. “That turned out to be wonderful intelligence. Great intelligence agency there.”

ISIS Kills 18 Iraqi Soldiers in Attack on Key Anbar Base

by Jason Ditz

A group of 10 ISIS fighters, at least two of them suicide bombers, attacked the main Anbar Province air base of Ayn al-Assad over the weekend, killing at least 18 Iraqi soldiers and wounding an unknown number of others.

Ayn al-Assad has several hundred US troops, labeled “trainers,” though the Iraqi Defense Ministry insisted that the ISIS fighters, who did briefly seize some buildings on the base, didn’t actually reach any US facilities.

According to Iraqi officials, eight of the 10 attackers were killed by Iraqi troops defending the base, while the other two blew themselves up. It is unclear how they got inside the base, let alone seized several important offices on such a major base.

Despite claims that ISIS is “on the run” in Anbar Province after the fall of Ramadi, the group has continued to launch major attacks in both Anbar and Baghdad.

Pentagon Proposes Further Expansion of Role in Iraq War

by Jason Ditz

Always on the look out to escalate their involvement in the war against ISIS, Defense Secretary Ash Carter today told reporters that the Pentagon is planning a series of proposals for the Obama Administration to approve more activities for the thousands of US troops on the ground in Iraq.

“We’re talking about more of the things that we did in Ramadi, but we are talking about additional things of the kind that we’ve offered previously,” Carter insisted. Though that seems deliberately vague, he is known to have pushed the idea of US attack helicopters and embedded US troops in Iraqi combat units previously, and those are likely among the proposals.

The administration’s efforts to sell “no boots on the ground” to the American public, at least early in the war, has meant it has taken dozens of small deployments to get the US up to its 5,000 or so ground troops in Iraq, and myriad efforts to get them out of the bases and onto the battlefields.

Selling the White House is likely the easy task, however, as the Iraqi government has repeatedly resisted giving the US ground troops too much direct involvement in the war, and is facing strong pressure from Shi’ite militias to keep the US at arm’s length, at least as far as the ground war is involved.

Kerry: If Ceasefire Fails, Partition of Syria is ‘Plan B’

by Jason Ditz

Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested the latest push for a ceasefire in Syria could amount to the last chance for one, and suggested that the US would see a partition of the country as “plan B.”

Kerry didn’t offer any details on how this would work, of course, but that fact that the US is mentioning partition at all is a huge step, as the US has fiercely resisted similar considerations in neighboring Iraq, which itself is facing a near identical war with many of the same combatants.

Kerry said if the ceasefire didn’t get into place, it would soon be “too late” to allow Syria to remain whole, and that the partition of the country could form an “eventual solution” to the civil war, which has raged for the past five years.

Though a de facto partition has existed in Syria for months now, with fighting along the margins, it’s unfathomable that the international community could recognize it as a de jure separation so long as ISIS controls around half of the country, and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front has its own contiguous statelet in the north.

Though “partition” is meant to suggest a split on government-rebel lines, the reality is the rebels don’t hold enough territory to be a country, and the partition would amount to a recognition of the ISIS caliphate as a state of its own.

Pentagon Seeks ‘Hundreds More’ US Troops in Iraq and Syria

by Jason Ditz

Last week, Pentagon officials were talking up a few hundred additional “trainers” for the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria. This appears to have just been the start, as reports now suggest that over the last several weeks, the Pentagon has sought another 800 US troops for the war.

800 would be a big deployment for a war in which the “no boots on the ground” mantra has continued to be repeated by the administration, so the plan is to split this up over several deployments. Over the past 18 months, the US has brought some 3,700 troops into Iraq, over a large number of small escalations.

In all of this the Pentagon has repeatedly suggested coalition partners would make up a lot of these deployments, though recently they’ve complained that many in the coalition are doing “nothing at all” for the war effort, and several have spurned requests for more troops.

Even this effort to get up to 4,500 troops on the ground is just the near-term goal, and doesn’t seem like it’s going to be anything close to the end of the ongoing escalation of the war.

Absent from the Pentagon push for ever more troops is the question of if the Iraqi government will go along with it. Several times in the past they’ve expressed annoyance at the US announcing escalations before asking them, and several Shi’ite militias in Iraq have complained that the US presence is already far too large.

Biden: US Ready to Impose Military Solution in Syria

by Jason Ditz

Speaking at a news conference today in Turkey, Vice President Joe Biden sought to downplay the remote chances of any sort of political settlement coming out of this week’s planned Geneva peace talks, saying the US and Turkey are fully prepared to bypass the process and impose a “military solution” on Syria.

“We do know it would be better if we can reach a political solution,” Biden told the conference, insisting that absent that the US military was still fully capable of “solving” the situation.

US officials later sought to clarify that Biden only meant to say that the US could wipe out ISIS, and not that they were planning to impose a new government on Syria as a whole absent a deal from the international community.

Even that seems like an uphill battle, particularly if it’s to be the US and Turkey working together on the war, as the primary force on the ground fighting ISIS is the Kurdish YPG, and Turkish officials have attacked them multiple times in recent weeks, and warned the US against backing them against ISIS in certain key cities.

Biden made an effort to downplay the differences between the US and Turkey on Syria, even equating ISIS to the Kurdish PKK rebels. This echoes what President Erdogan has said, but in his comments he included the YPG, a close US ally, as equal to both ISIS and the PKK.

While the Obama Administration has repeatedly insisted they intend to “wipe out” ISIS, there is no suggestion that this is anything but a hugely long-term ambition, and Biden’s comments suggest that leaving the war open-ended is something the US is perfectly comfortable with.

Months After Syrian Rebel Training Program Ends, Pentagon Suggests Sending More Trainers to Iraq

Months after ending its rebel training program in Syria, the Pentagon indicated this week that it is considering sending hundreds of additional troops to Iraq to work as “trainers and supporters” in order to take back the city of Mosul.

Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said he sees sending trainers to Iraq as the next step in the fight against ISIS, and that he believes the Iraqis will need at least eight combat brigades for the invasion of Mosul.

“The reason we need new trainers or additional trainers is because that’s really the next step in generating the amount of combat power needed to liberate Mosul,” Warren said Wednesday.

[RELATED: Truth In Media: The Origin of ISIS]

Traveling to Paris to meet with defense ministers from 26 nations to discuss fighting ISIS, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he expects the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to increase from its current number of about 3,600.

“I think we’re certainly open to that,” Carter said. “I mean, I think that’s in the category that the president has indicated wherever there’s additional opportunity to make a difference, according to the strategy, we’d be willing to do that.”

Carter said that although the U.S. is “making a big contribution already,” it expects its allies to “get in the game” against the Islamic State.

I expect the number of trainers to increase, and also the variety of the training they’re giving,” Carter said. “For example, as territory is retaken from ISIL, as moving up and ultimately including Mosul, there are going to need to be not just ground forces that can seize territory, but police forces that can keep security.”

[RELATED: Obama Administration Ends $500 Million Syrian Rebel Training Program]

The Obama administration ended its $500 million program training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels in October, recognizing that the program failed to produce successful ground forces to combat Islamic State militants.

At the time, Carter said that instead of continuing the current “Syria Train and Equip” program, the U.S. will seek to work more closely with capable Kurdish groups, which he called a “more strategic approach.”

Sanders Condemns Overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Supports Overthrow of Assad

During the fourth Democratic Debate Sunday night, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, while pledging his support for the proposed overthrow of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Sanders, a self-declared socialist, has been adamant in the past about the fact that he opposes—and did not vote for—the war in Iraq. During the latest debate, he said he believes the disastrous war in Iraq” was responsible for creating a political vacuum that led to the rise of “groups like ISIS.”

[pull_quote_center]I think the vacuum was created by the disastrous war in Iraq, which I vigorously opposed. Not only did I vote against it, I helped lead the opposition. And what happened there is yes, it’s easy to get rid of a two-bit dictator like Saddam Hussein, but there wasn’t the kind of thought as to what happens the day after you get him and what kind of political vacuum occurs. And who rises up? Groups like ISIS.[/pull_quote_center]

Sanders went on to say that he supported President Obama’s plan to “bring American troops home,” and that he believes the United States’ job is to “train and provide military support for Muslim countries in the area who are prepared to take on ISIS.”

[RELATED: Obama Administration Ends $500 Million Syrian Rebel Training Program]

Democratic rival and former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton said she believes that if there is anyone to blame for the rise of ISIS, “it starts with the prime minister of Iraq,” and is only intensified by Syrian President Assad.

“It is amplified by Assad, who has waged one of the bloodiest, most terrible attacks on his own people: 250,000-plus dead, millions fleeing,” Clinton said. “Causing this vacuum that has been filled unfortunately, by terrorist groups, including ISIS.” 

[RELATED: Reality Check: Proof U.S. Government Wanted ISIS To Emerge In Syria]

In response, Sanders said he agrees with “most of what she said,” and went on to add that he believes there is an “incredible quagmire of Syria, where it’s hard to know who’s fighting who and if you give arms to this guy, it may end up in ISIS’ hand the next day.”

Sanders said Clinton is “absolutely right” when saying, “Assad is a butcher of his own people.” However, he said that while “getting rid of Assad” is a priority, it comes second to “the destruction of ISIS.”

[pull_quote_center]I think in terms of our priorities in the region, our first priority must be the destruction of ISIS. Our second priority must be getting rid of Assad, through some political settlement, working with Iran, working with Russia. [/pull_quote_center]

Sanders has made similar comments about his support for overthrowing Assad in the past. In Oct. 2015, he said he supports President Obama’s effort to “combat the Islamic State in Syria while at the same time supporting those in Syria trying to overthrow the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Assad.”

For more election coverage, click here.

10 Tourists Killed in ISIS Suicide Bombing in Istanbul

by Jason Ditz

A suspected ISIS suicide bomber detonated a bomb in a historic district of Istanbul, Turkey today, killing 10 people, all tourists, and wounding 15 others. The slain were identified as nine Germans and one Peruvian. The wounded haven’t all been identified but are also believed to be chiefly tourists.

Turkish deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus identified the attacker as a 28-year-old from Syria. Though no other officials directly confirmed this, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also said the attacker was an ISIS member.

There has been no claim of responsibility yet, however, and Turkey isn’t exactly short on would-be attackers, with an ongoing war against their Kurdish minority and intermittent suicide attacks from a Marxist-Leninist group that also operates around Istanbul.

Still, targeting tourists in general does seem in keeping with ISIS strategy, and is likely to damage Turkey’s tourism industry, as ISIS attacks have in the past in places like the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. The Turkish government announced an array of new security measures in the district, but panic prevails for the time being.

Pentagon Desperate to Avoid Calling Afghan Fight ‘Combat’

by Jason Ditz

On Tuesday, US special forces accompanying Afghan troops engaged in a protracted firefight with Taliban forces in the Helmand Province. One of the soldiers was killed and two others wounded, and a helicopter was virtually destroyed.

Don’t call it combat though. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook, pressed on the matter, appeared increasingly desperate to avoid the “c-word” when talking about Afghanistan, labeling the mission a “train, advise and assist” operation, and shrugged off the fact it was a gunbattle by saying Afghanistan “is a dangerous place.”

The troops were deployed in response to Taliban gains in Helmand, with an explicit eye toward fighting them off. US warplanes have been increasing their airstrikes against Helmand all the while, so why the pretense of a “non-combat” situation?

Despite being 14+ years into the Afghanistan occupation, Pentagon officials are increasingly loathe to present anything the US is doing as combat, even when it involves shooting people and blowing stuff up. The narrative in Afghanistan in particular is one of the US taking a “support” role, and the admission that US troops have to get into combat to keep the Taliban from seizing important parts of the country undercuts the pretense of progress.

Yet this isn’t just an Afghanistan matter. The Pentagon has similarly struggled with “combat” operations in Iraq, labeling gunbattles against ISIS there as “training” operations too.

Pentagon Seeks ‘New Narrative’ on ISIS War

by Jason Ditz

According to Pentagon officials, they are feverishly at work on a “new narrative” for public discussion about the ongoing war against ISIS, centering on growing criticism of the apparent lack of a concrete plan for how to win the war or any end-game theory.

“To say there’s no strategy is just flat out wrong,” insisted Army Col. Christopher Graves, the public affairs officer for the war, and others say the goal is to present the notion that there is a strategy in place in a “concise, easy to understand way.”

The official narrative on the war has struggled mightily to find its voice so far, in no small part because officials have repeatedly ruled out things like combat troops and “boots on the ground” before announcing deployments into Iraq, and a lot of revision of what was really promised leading President Obama to eventually insist it was only a pledge for no battalions.

It remains to be seen exactly how the Pentagon aims to shift the narrative this time, but conspicuously absent from early conversation on this “new” narrative is laying out exactly what that nebulous strategy to win the war actually is.

And despite Pentagon assurances that they “welcome debate” on the strategy, that’s the one thing that’s least likely to happen, as the administration has so far seemed to base the public narrative of the war on a series of vague pledges to eventually wipe out ISIS in some unspecified way with some unspecified force, all the while escalating in ways that publicly they had insisted were ruled out. There are doubtless more escalations in the cards for the ISIS war, and the Pentagon goal is not to start a debate about that, but rather to convince the public to acquiesce.

At Least 12 Civilians Killed in US Coalition Airstrikes on Mosul

by Jason Ditz

Coalition airstrikes against the major ISIS-held Iraqi city of Mosul leveled homes in a residential neighborhood today, killing at least 20 people, including at least 12 civilians. The claim was that the homes were “used by ISIS.”

Witnesses said one of the houses belonged to the son of a local ISIS commander. Several other houses in the area were badly damaged by the attacks, and officials have conspicuously not commented on the incident so far.

US officials have generally not admitted to large civilian death tolls during airstrikes against ISIS territory, insisting the reports of eyewitnesses in those areas are “not credible” and refusing to investigate the claims more thoroughly.

Mosul is ISIS’ largest city, and has been held by ISIS since the summer of 2014. Though US and Iraqi officials have talked up an eventual counterattack, there is no timetable for trying to reclaim the city, which is still deeply entrenched in ISIS territory.

U.S. Airstrike Killing Iraqi Troops Described as ‘Mistake’

On Friday, a U.S. plane mistakenly killed Iraqi troops via airstrike, killing nine Iraqi soldiers and one officer, according to Iraq’s defense minister Khaled al-Obeidi.

U.S. officials acknowledged that an American plane was responsible for the deaths on Saturday. The strikes also hit an ISIS tactical unit and a construction vehicle, as well as militant vehicles and fighting positions.

One official said the Iraqi troops appeared to have been closer to the target area and they weren’t aware of it. According to both U.S. and Iraqi officials, bad weather may also have been a contributing factor.

The Wall Street Journal noted that “the incident marks the first time the coalition has acknowledged that one of its airstrikes has hit Iraqi forces by accident during the fight against Islamic State.”

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter “expressed his condolences” to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. “It’s tragic,” Carter said. “But he and I both recognized that things like this can happen in war.”

Carter claimed that the strike “seemed to be a mistake that involved both sides” and also welcomed Iraq to join in further investigation.

Iraq’s defense minister, Al-Obeidi, replied by issuing a statement that said “Iraqis would carry out their own investigation to determine whether Iraqi forces or the coalition was at fault for failing to update the information on the position of the Iraqi troops. The Iraqi government will not tolerate the loss of Iraqi blood.”

Thakim al-Zamili, the chairman of the Iraqi Parliament’s defense and security committee, is also demanding an investigation along with some Iraqi officials who are demanding accountability.

The fatal airstrike followed an incident in China in which a U.S. bomber accidentally flew within two miles of an artificial island built by China last week.

“What the United States did was a serious military provocation, complicating the situation in the South China Sea, to the extent of militarizing it,” China’s Defense Ministry declared in a statement responding to the incident.

News of the B-52 flight and the response by the Ministry came days after the United States announced a  $1.83 billion arms sale to Taiwan. China angrily responded to the sale, saying it would place sanctions on U.S. companies that are providing the weaponry.

This article was updated on January 2, 2016 at 12:58 p.m.

Pentagon: ISIS ‘Operationally Active’ in Afghanistan

by Jason Ditz

Delivering its bi-annual assessment of Afghanistan to Congress, the Pentagon today warned that the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan has progressed beyond its “initial exploratory phase to a point where they are openly fighting the Taliban for the establishment of a safe haven, and are becoming more operationally active.”

Previously, officials had downplayed talk of ISIS in Afghanistan being more than a passing branding effort by some disaffected figures in the Taliban, but growing in-fighting in the Taliban, and the ISIS affiliate asserting itself with some territory of its own, appears to be shifting this perspective.

Gen. John Campbell, the US commander in Afghanistan, confirmed that the ISIS faction is growing, and is trying to establish itself out of the city of Jalalabad, saying that there are growing numbers of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria showing up on the ground there.

With the Taliban’s leadership still in disarray, a situation that has grown even worse, and with two factions vying for leadership in the Taliban, ISIS is offering a unified alternative for recruits, giving them a potential new pool of fighters.

Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria More Than Doubled in 16 Months

by Jason Ditz

Roughly spanning the period since the US launched its war against ISIS, the number of foreign Islamist fighters who’ve flocked to Iraq and Syria has far more than doubled from June 2014, providing a huge influx of new fighters for ISIS and other groups.

In June 2014, the estimate was about 12,000 foreign fighters, a huge figure in its own right. The new report now believes the figure is from 27,000 to 31,000, meaning the “more than doubled” assessment of the report is putting it mildly.

The report estimates 6,000 fighters from Tunisia, 2,500 Saudis, 2,400 Russians, 2,100 from Turkey, and 2,000 from Jordan. The European Union member nations in general come to about 5,000, with France the largest at 1,800.

While across the Eastern Hemisphere the recruitment for foreign fighters is soaring, particularly in Europe and Northern Africa, the report says the North American figures are mostly flat, with 150 from the US and 130 from Canada.

The big concern is that an estimated 20% or 30% of these fighters are returning to their western countries of origin, meaning these countries will all be coping with significant influxes of now-seasoned fighters with international contacts.

US Air Strikes Kill 36 Civilians in Syrian Village

by Jason Ditz

US warplanes attacked the Syrian village of al-Khan today, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, killing at least 36 people, all of them civilians. Over a dozen other civilians are missing, and the toll is likely to rise.

Though al-Khan is an ISIS-held village, the Syrian Observatory pointed out that ISIS doesn’t actually have any forces in the village itself, instead having its forces on the outskirts. The strikes, however, hit the center of the village, which was why everyone hit was civilian.

The US offered no comments on the attack itself, but did say they intend to conduct a “credibility assessment” to decide whether the civilian deaths are worth looking into. Of the massive civilian toll in the US air war, Centcom has admitted to virtually none of the killings, indeed refusing to investigate most of the reports on the ground as they didn’t trust the sources.

This was the second scandal related to a US attack on Syria in less than 24-hours, as a previous US strike hit an air base in Deir Ezzor Province, killing at least three Syrian troops and wounding 13 others. The Pentagon has since claimed they think Russia actually launched the strike.

Obama Urges Congress to Authorize ISIS War

by Jason Ditz

During his brief but heavily-anticipated prime time address, President Obama insisted simultaneously that the San Bernardino attack last week was not connected to any terrorist group, but that it represented a “new phase” of terrorism, in which groups are turning to “less complicated” acts.

He spent much of the address, despite having insisted there was no connection to ISIS, in defending the ongoing strategy in the ISIS war, and insisting he doesn’t want a major ground war in Iraq or Syria that would last a decade or more.

Adding to the conflicting messages of his address, Obama then urged Congress to grant him an authorization for the ISIS war, saying it was time for them to demonstrate America’s “unity” and that they are “committed to this fight.”

President Obama also confirmed US special forces were being sent into both Iraq and Syria in growing numbers, trying to contrast that to the larger occupations of previous wars, though as he continues to slowly escalate his numbers that distinction may be less and less significant.

Beyond this, Obama also urged Congress to ban anyone on any no-fly list from buying a gun, and to heavily restrict the buying of more advanced assault weapons by everyone, insisting US intelligence agencies can’t catch all attackers, but they can make it harder for them to obtain weapons.

He also promised to seek more unity among countries fighting in Syria, saying the US would call on their allies and also Russia to step up the battle, while suggesting that some sort of diplomatic settlement of the Syrian Civil War could be on the horizon.

Iraq PM: Foreign Troop Deployments Would Be ‘Act of Aggression’

by Jason Ditz

Despite the Pentagon announcing their latest deployment of combat troops into Iraq in the context of an “invitation” by the Iraqi government, and insisting they had consultations, Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi continues to insist the US deployment was neither discussed with the government nor welcome.

In his latest statement, made through his official Facebook page, Abadi reiterated that no foreign ground troops from any country had been requested by Iraq, and that any new deployment would be viewed as an “act of aggression.”

The US has been steadily increasing troop levels in Iraq and Syria, with Defense Secretary Ash Carter bragging the US now has “tens of thousands of personnel” in the region. The deployments have fueled growing objections from Shi’ite militias the government is depending on in the war.

The most recent announcement had several major militias threatening to shift their focus from fighting ISIS to fighting the growing US presence in Iraq, and this likely obliged Abadi to change his own talking points to keep on their good side.

Iraqis Believe The US is Helping ISIS

By Jonah Bennett A widespread belief among Iraqis is that the United States is secretly in league with Islamic State, as many believe the only explanation for abysmal foreign policy failures is an alliance with ISIS.

That belief has taken root in both Sunni and Shia sects, The Washington Post reports.

Part of the reason for alternative explanations, according to Mustafa Alani, director of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, is that Iraqis don’t believe it’s possible for American foreign policy to be so entirely incompetent and ineffectual. Instead, many Iraqi civilians on the ground believe the U.S. lent a helping hand to ISIS for the purpose of furthering control in the Middle East and solidifying access to oil.

“The reason is that the Americans aren’t doing the job people expect them to do,” Alani tells The Washington Post. “Mosul was lost and the Americans did nothing. Syria was lost and the Americans did nothing. Paris is attacked and the Americans aren’t doing much. So people believe this is a deliberate policy. They can’t believe the American leadership fails to understand the developments in the region, and so the only other explanation is that this is part of a conspiracy.”

Since outcomes consistently run contrary to America aims, Iraqis started looking for other more plausible reasons for the apparent failures, namely that they’re not failures at all, but part of a calculated strategy to support ISIS. As a prime example, the abject failure of the $500 million dollar program to train and equip “moderate” Syrian rebels did not inspire much confidence.

Naseer Nouri, spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, says the government doesn’t buy the argument that the United States supports ISIS. Nevertheless, the belief is understandable.

“It’s because America is so slow that most people believe they are supporting Daesh,” Nouri tells The Washington Post.

Iran is the source of many of the rumors of U.S.-ISIS cooperation, specifically Hezbollah, a Shia militia. According to Kata’ib Hezbollah, video evidence exists showing a U.S. Chinook helicopter supplying weapons to ISIS militants.

While the Russians held back from accusing the U.S. of overt cooperation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted lackluster airstrikes from the U.S. air force are likely indicative of a strategy to keep ISIS alive enough to take down the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria.

In an interview with Rossiya 1 channel, Lavrov says that “the analysis of those [US-led] airstrikes during over a year lead to conclusion that they were hitting selectively, I would say, sparingly and on most occasions didn’t touch those IS units, which were capable of seriously challenging the Syrian army.”

“They want IS to weaken Assad as soon as possible to make him leave somehow, but at the same time they don’t want to overly strengthen IS, which may then seize power,” Lavrov adds.

Col. Steve Warren, the Pentagon’s spokesman in Iraq, says the allegations aren’t even worthy of a response.

“There’s clearly no one in the West who buys it, but unfortunately, this is something that a segment of the Iraqi population believes,” Warren tells The Washington Post.

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter




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