The Mind of Soleimani

The force behind Iraq’s Sh’ia militias is a force to be reckoned with.  Major General Qasem Soleimani is no angel. He is above all enthusiastic in his loyalty to the regime he serves. A man whose star rose early and whom fate smiled upon, he came to command Iran’s Quds Force at an age that was similar to all of his other career accomplishments: well before his peers. In his capacity as commander of the Quds Force, Soleimani’s influence is extensive. He is alleged to have special access to the present Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei. Major General Soleimani has been active in Iraq affairs for some time, the details of which are somewhat shrouded in secrecy. In one chapter of that involvement, Soleimani is rumored to have played a behind-the-scenes role in ending the violence between Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), occupying U.S. forces in Iraq, and the المهدي جيش, Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM). Briefly, in March 2008, then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki quietly ordered his military forces to undertake a large operation, known as … Continue…

A Shoot down, Then Awkward Silence

Since 1991, the course of action for American airpower is that it where it goes where it ought to go, when it needs to go there. That simple approach tends to work. In the background it is understood that when an attack on a U.S. aircraft occurs the retaliatory U.S. response will be cause sufficient pain as to make the other force think twice about other counter-attacks. That is, unless that government is Syria and that force is Syria’s air defense force. This post will unpack some of the components and implications of the recent Syrian shoot down of what was likely a U.S. unmanned aircraft system (UAS) flying within Syrian sovereign airspace. America and its coalition partners opted to operate within defended Syrian airspace to conduct surveillance, reconnaissance, and attack missions. While that is interesting it is not the thing of greater interest. Rather, the following exchange quoted from an exchange between the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen and Bashar al-Assad in a BBC program that aired in early February of this year provides interesting insight … Continue…

Yelling Back At ISIL’s Information War…It’s Not Working

America is attempting to counter-message terrorism and terrorists…better. In September of 2011, President Obama issued Executive Order 13584 titled, “Developing An Integrated Strategic Counterterrorism Communications Initiative.” Then, the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or “Daa’sh”) was not on the radar. When the executive order was signed, the U.S. was less than 90 days from shuttering its Iraq combat mission. “Iraq, over to you.” In the fall of 2013, low-level Daa’sh presence in Iraq skyrocketed across a turbulent, divided, and weakened Iraq. Over the next 18 months, Iraq unraveled and became another example of gross state security incompetence. Since late 2013, thousands of foreigners and some disaffected Iraqis joined the ranks of Daa’sh’s corps of militants. Among the things that Daa’sh did well from the start was innovate its use of social media. Daa’sh’s messages take on the form of well-crafted productions, with numerous field videos and tens of thousands of supporting Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts. Yet since late 2011, the U.S. State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) has, as … Continue…

Retaking Tikrit: The Beginning of What Next?

Iran, the only other nation in الشرق الأوسط (Middle East) to commit its people and resources on the ground in a direct combat role occupies center stage, politically and militarily in Iraq. While Iran may not be getting everything it wants from its ongoing P5+1 nuclear negotiations, in Iraq it is a winner in at least two important ways: first, its leadership is visibly at the forefront of an apparently successful effort to drive Islamic State of Iraq and Levant داءش (Daa’sh) insurgents from Tikrit; and second, while the U.S. deserves credit for halting the rapid expansion of Daa’sh forces across Iraq last summer, Iranian backed militias brought the heft that demonstrated to the Baghdad regime what winning looks like. In the interests of accuracy the most likely composition of forces in the field against Daa’sh during the Tikrit campaign were Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) composed of Iraqi Counter-terrorism Service (CTS or “I-SOF” as they call themselves), several Iraqi Army (IA) maneuver units, and likely some hardened Federal Police (FP). The exact force composition figures are not … Continue…

Mosul As A Symbol & Its Significance

 With so much to accomplish beforehand, why an announcement now to retake Mosul later? Can Iraqi forces be expected to successfully accomplish that task—the largest task the Iraqi Army has undertaken since before 1990? The recently announced intent of the Government of Iraq (GoI) to forcibly eject ISIL (Daa’sh) forces from Mosul is a plan; unfortunately a plan that like many others made by successive Iraqi governments, may not withstand contact with realities. Indeed, whether any well-crafted and viable over-arching multi-national strategy exists that synchronizes U.S. and Coalitions actions to an attainable GoI plan to fix and repair itself remains debatable. So, the announced retaking of Mosul may only be what it is: the existence of a military objective on a regime planning map sought after by a desperate Iraqi leadership, enabled by several forms of U.S. assistance. But here’s the dilemma: as some Americans learned from the aftermath of the 8 year U.S. occupation of Iraq, plans not embedded within a realistic, comprehensive strategy are incapable of producing a better peace. Step off the … Continue…