• The Baghdad Bombings, Islamic State and What America Still Hasn’t Learned

    July 8, 2016

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq, Military

    Baghdad_Sign from 2004


    The suicide bombings in Baghdad by Islamic State, timed for maximum violence, are only the latest reminders that the United States should not downplay the group.

    Since the wave of Islamic State suicide bombings in May – killing 522 people inside Baghdad, and 148 people inside Syria – American officials have downplayed the suicide bombing strategy as defensive. Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy in the fight against Islamic State, said the group “returned to suicide bombing” as the area under its control shrinks. The American strategy of focusing primarily on the “big picture” recapture of territory seems to push the suicide bombings to the side. “It’s their last card,” stated a compliant Iraqi spokesperson in response to the attacks.

    The reality is just the opposite. Just a day after the June 26 liberation of Fallujah, car bombs exploded in eastern and southern Baghdad. Two other suicide bombers were killed outside the city. An improvised explosive device exploded in southwest Baghdad a day earlier. And now the latest, with a death toll approaching 200.

    Washington should know better than to underestimate the power of small weapons to shape large events. After Donald Rumsfeld labeled Iraqi insurgents as “dead enders” in 2003, they began taking a deadly toll of American forces via suicide bombs. It was the 2006 bombing of the Shi’ite al-Askari Golden Mosque in Samarra that kicked the Iraqi civil war into high gear. It was improvised explosive devices and car bombs that kept American forces on the defensive through 2011.

    To believe suicide bombings represent a weakening of Islamic State is a near-total misunderstanding of the hybrid nature of the group; Islamic State melds elements of a conventional army and an insurgency. To “win,” one must defeat both versions.

    ISIS differs from a traditional insurgency in that it seeks to hold territory. This separates it from al Qaeda, and most other radical groups, and falsely leads the United States to believe that retaking strategic cities like Fallujah from Islamic State is akin to “defeating” it, as if it is World War Two again and we are watching blue arrows move across the map toward Berlin. McGurk, following Fallujah, even held a press conference announcing Islamic State has now lost 47 percent of its territory. That may be true, but it also does not really matter.


    Simultaneously with holding and losing territory, Islamic State uses terror and violence to achieve political ends.

    Islamic State has no aircraft and no significant long-range weapons, making it a very weak conventional army when facing down the combined forces of the United States, Iran and Iraq in set piece battles. It can, however, use suicide bombs to strike into the very heart of Shi’ite Baghdad (and Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and Turkey – as Tuesday’s bombing reminds us), acting as a strong transnational insurgency.


    Why does such strength matter in the face of ISIS’ large-scale losses such as Fallujah?

    Violence in the heart of Iraqi Shi’ite neighborhoods empowers hardliners to seek revenge. Core Sunni support for Islamic State grows out of the need for protection from a Shi’ite dominated military, which seeks to marginalize if not destroy the Sunnis. Reports of Shi’ite atrocities leaking out of the ruins of Sunni Fallujah are thus significant. Fallujah was largely destroyed in order to “save” it, generating some 85,000 displaced persons, mirroring what happened in Ramadi. Those actions remind many Sunnis of why they supported Islamic State (and al Qaeda before them) in the first place.

    Suicide strikes reduce the confidence of the people in their government’s ability to protect them; Prime Minister Abadi was ridiculed at the site of the most recent attack, and a member of his cabinet forced to resign. In Iraq, that sends Shi’ite militias into the streets, and raises questions about the value of civil institutions like the Iraqi National Police. Victories such as the retaking of Ramadi and Fallujah, and a promised assault on Mosul, mean little to people living at risk inside the nation’s capital.

    American commanders have already had to talk the Iraqi government out of pulling troops from the field to defend Baghdad, even as roughly half of all Iraqi security forces are already deployed there. This almost guarantees more American soldiers will be needed to take up the slack.

    Anything that pulls more American troops into Iraq fits well with the anti-American Islamic State narrative. Few Iraqis are left who imagine the United States can be an honest broker in their country. A State Department report found that one-third of all Iraqis believe the Americans are actually supporting Islamic State, while 40 percent are convinced that the United States is trying to destabilize Iraq for its own purposes.

    The suicide bombings — in Iraq and elsewhere — are not desperate or defensive moves. They are not inconsequential. They are careful strategy, the well-thought out application of violence by Islamic State. The United States downplays them at great risk.



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  • Recent Comments

    • rich bauer said...

      1

      Amerika is gonna need those troops in Dallas.

      07/8/16 8:40 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      2

      Peter said:
      “Islamic State has no aircraft…”

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-07-07/armed-drones-used-by-islamic-state-posing-new-threat-in-iraq?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Campaign&utm_term=%2ASituation%20Report

      They do now. And they’ll be more dangerous than ever. Especially in America.

      “….. and no significant long-range weapons, ”

      Who needs “long-range” weapons, when they can purchase or build a AUV anywhere in the world and deploy it in secret and at will. And trying to shoot one of these down when they can fly below radar, is going to be governments worst nightmare.

      “….making it a very weak conventional army when facing down the combined forces of the United States, Iran and Iraq in set piece battles.”

      Maybe in the Mideast.

      “It can, however, use suicide bombs to strike into the very heart of Shi’ite Baghdad (and Syria, Jordan, Yemen, and Turkey – as Tuesday’s bombing reminds us), acting as a strong transnational insurgency.”

      They won’t need suicide bombers in America now. I predict, it’s only a matter of time till one of these weaponized AUV’s will deliver ISIS’s own “death from above” to a large gathering in a US city. The use of weaponized AUV’s now provides ISIS with a whole new way to expand their battlefront to any where they want now. They don’t even need to buy them. They can BUILD them. And the USG knows it.

      And who didn’t see this coming, hmmm?

      07/8/16 9:15 AM | Comment Link

    • rich bauer said...

      3

      “A State Department report found that one-third of all Iraqis believe the Americans are actually supporting Islamic State, while 40 PERCENT are convinced that the United States is trying to destabilize Iraq for its own purposes.”

      Geez, what planet are the other 60 percent living on?

      07/8/16 9:38 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...

      4

      rich bauer said…

      ” ….while 40 PERCENT are convinced that the United States is trying to destabilize Iraq for its own purposes.”

      TRYING??? ummm..what was the last year Iraq was “stable”? Here’s a hint. The year before Bush invaded it. In other words.. where were these 40% SINCE then?

      The other 60% think the USG ALREADY de-stablized it.

      07/8/16 11:12 AM | Comment Link

    • rich bauer said...

      5

      Pitch: The other 60% think the USG ALREADY de-stablized it.

      First Iraq, then the World

      A former partner of the Coalition of the (shilling) Willing badmouths Amerika.

      NYT: The new Philippine president on Friday blamed U.S. intervention for the bloody conflicts in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries in his latest criticism of Manila’s closest security ally.

      President Rodrigo Duterte suggested in a speech that intrusive policy was to blame for terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, saying, “It is not that the Middle East is exporting terrorism to America, America imported terrorism.”

      http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/07/08/world/asia/ap-as-philippines-duterte-us.html?_r=0

      07/8/16 12:34 PM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      6

      What a horrible mess. I tend to say we need to leave the ME to itself to sort it all out – but we are the ones who inflicted al Qaeda and ISIS on them. Don’t we bear some responsibility to rid the earth of these gruesome fuckers? On the other hand, if we send in more “help”, we’re just inflaming things further. (Plus, there is always the inevitable and undoubtably intentional “oops, those weapons went to the wrong guys” and “but these rebels are the good ones, trust us” shit that results when the USA “helps” anybody.)

      So what is the answer? Or is there one? Wrong question, maybe. Given that the several sects of Islam have been warring ideologically for hundreds of years, yet seemed to never have engaged much in actual warfare amongst themselves unless we provoked them to it, perhaps the question should be: is there an answer to all this that involves us in some way?

      07/8/16 2:46 PM | Comment Link

    • rich bauer said...

      7

      As long as some money can be made off this US- created disaster why would anything change?

      07/8/16 2:51 PM | Comment Link

    • teri said...

      8

      Rich,

      Duterte has his work cut out for him. He also has his pluses and his minuses. On the plus side, he is trying to work out some arrangements with China that bypass his American overlords and their plans to get the Philippines into a proxy war with China.
      **************************

      Philippines willing to share South China Sea resources with China
      The Philippines is willing to share natural resources with Beijing in contested South China Sea areas even if it wins a legal challenge next week, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said on Friday. Yasay said President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China following Tuesday’s verdict, with the negotiations to cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. The Philippines filed a legal challenge with a UN-backed tribunal in The Hague contesting China’s claims to nearly all of the strategically vital sea. China’s claims reach almost to the coasts of the Philippines and some other Southeast Asian nations, and it has in recent years built giant artificial islands in the contested areas to enforce what it says are its indisputable sovereign rights. (AFP) – RT newsfeed@

      https://www.rt.com/news/line/
      ***********************

      07/8/16 3:26 PM | Comment Link

    • rich bauer said...

      9

      “On the plus side, he (Duterte) is trying to work out some arrangements with China that bypass his American overlords and their plans to get the Philippines into a proxy war with China.”

      I can imagine the spooks are already planning to ice this guy. FYI: He doesn’t smoke cigars, and he doesn’t use Tylenol.

      Where is the American Eli Weisel to warn US idiots never to forget our own holocausts?

      07/8/16 4:39 PM | Comment Link

    • rich bauer said...

      10

      07/8/16 6:38 PM | Comment Link

    • rich bauer said...

      11

      During a search of Johnson’s home on Friday, Dallas police detectives found bomb-making materials, ballistic vests, rifles, ammunition and a personal journal of combat tactics, the police department said in a statement.

      Police Chief David Brown on Friday described the previous night’s deadly sniper attack as “well-planned” and a “well thought-out evil tragedy.”

      But don’t call it terrorism. After all, he wasn’t a Muslim.

      07/9/16 10:37 AM | Comment Link

    • rich bauer said...

      12

      07/12/16 7:53 AM | Comment Link

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