Thursday, June 19, 2014

U.S. airstrikes, the next Iraqi Prime Minister and Iran

Above: USAF Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle during a close-air-support mission

Embattled Prime Minister Maliki

According to the Guardian:
A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said he will not stand down as a condition of US air strikes against Sunni militants who have made a lightning advance across the country.
Maliki's spokesman, Zuhair al-Nahar, said on Thursday that the west should immediately support the Iraqi government's military operation against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) rather than demand a change of government. He insisted that Maliki had "never used sectarian tactics".
"Our focus needs to be on urgent action – air support, logistic support, counter-intelligence support to defeat these terrorists who are posing a real danger to the stability of Iraq, to the whole region," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
COMMENTARY: This story broke early Thursday. Maliki appears severely undermined in his bid for a third term as Prime Minister of Iraq . That he would publicly make a statement through a spokesman linking his removal as a precondition for U.S. airstrikes is a strong indication that from the American perspective, the two actions are connected.

Selection of thw next Iraqi prime ministers acceptable to the United States:
Alarmed over the Sunni insurgent mayhem convulsing Iraq, the country’s political leaders are actively jockeying to replace Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, Iraqi officials said Thursday.
The political leaders have been encouraged by what they see as newfound American support for replacing Mr. Maliki with someone more acceptable to Iraq’s Sunnis and Kurds, as well as to the Shiite majority, the officials said.
Over the past two days the American ambassador, Robert S. Beecroft, along with Brett McGurk, the senior State Department official on Iraq and Iran, have met with Usama Nujaifi, the leader of the largest Sunni contingent, United For Reform, and with Ahmad Chalabi, one of the several potential Shiite candidates for prime minister, according to people close to each of those factions, as well as other political figures.
COMMENTARY: The Iraq crisis renders an opportunity for the United States to render a political veto on the selection of the next prime minister of Iraq.  That is to say, the ability of assisting the Iraq government through military action, such as close air support airstrikes, potentially provides the United States with the upper hand over Iran in the selection of Iraqi Prime Minister and formation of the next Iraqi government.

Obama to send 300 ‘military advisors’ to Iraq According to the Guardian:
Barack Obama announced on Thursday that a contingent up to 300 “military advisers” will be sent to help Iraq's beleaguered army repel the advance of Sunni insurgents, but insisted the US would not be dragged into another bloody war in the country.
The troops, drawn from US special operations forces, will assist the Iraqi military to develop and execute a counter-offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Their mission is likely to spread to the selection of targets for any future air strikes, but Obama stopped short of accepting a plea from Baghdad to order US air power into the skies over Iraq immediately.
COMMENTARY: It is the opinion of this writer that Iran is well aware it lacks the capacity to transfer a heavy military footprint onto Iraqi soil for the purpose of effecting a military intervention. Additionally, Iran's air forces-- the IRIAF and IRGC-AF-- are in no state to conduct sustained close air support operations as part of an airwar campaign. What the Iranians have to offer the Iraqis, militarilly, based on the Syrian conflict experiemce, is attrition and stalemate. Obviously the Iraqis will go with the United States military as the means of assisting their country out from its wholy unsatisfactory military and security situation.

The Iranian response to the unfolding dynamics of the 2014 Northern Iraq Offensive will depend to what extent the United States presses its now greatly enhanced position of afvantage within Iraqi politics, vis-a-vis Iran.

Should the United States seek a maximalist approach, in pushing through an Iraqi government unacceptable to Iran, there would likely be Iranian responses somewhat analogous to those encountered during the preceding American military occupation. That said, the temptation for American strategists must be great, given U.S. goals that are now seen as within reach, not the least of which is the detachment of the country from its perceived Iranian orbit. Benefits of such might include the closing of the Iranian logistical corridor into Syria through Iraqi land and airspace. That would certainly hinder Iranian efforts at militarily assisting the Syrian government, and might even imperil Iran's logistical link with south Lebanon. Another prize might be the denial or at least the hindering of IRGC-QF access to Iraq. Up  to now, during this period of the 2014 Northern Iraq Offensive, the IRGC-QF appears to be operating freely and in the open.

The potential drawback for pursuing a maximalist approach? It would likely add to the complexity in what is already a very complicated situation in Iraq; what with the prospect of U.S. military intervention, the formation of the next Iraqi government, the ISIL terror threat, the brining together of Iraq's society, the rehabilitation of ISF forces and more. A somehwat less ambitious approach might actually accomplish more, if at the cost of diminishing tempting U.S. policy goals that come at the expense of Iran. If media reports are accurate, and that's a big if, the surprising inclusion of Ahmad Chalabi in both the American and Iran lists for the selection process of Iraq's next government might offer a hint that the more minimalist approach is being pursued during this period of the Iraq crisis. Then again it might not.


Anonymous said...

Mark you are usually on point but I have to disagree with you.

A new government will not go through because no one group within iraq would recognize it. And the ISIL folks are not looking for a new more sunni premier.

The way i see it, the u.s. has just committed the biggest strategical blunder yet.

By not supporting the Shias and Maliki, they are pushing the majority of Iraq population into the open arms of iran.

As demonstrated in syria, Iranian advisors are sufficient to Train and equip the Shia militia to confront the ISIL.

All of this while the Iranians reverse engineer the M1 Abrams, apache choppers and the F- 16s.

Anonymous said...


I globally agree with the main points you make with regards to the possible Iranian reaction potentially arising would the US push for both extremes of their approach. But there is a case that you have been consistently been making towards the limited capabilities of the Iranian military air branch to mount sustained CAS missions during a hypothetical air war against ISIL. While I do adhere to the idea that despite several modernization and overhaul campaign effectuated over the last 10 years by Iranian and foreign technicians , the IRIAF's current operational status does not make it suitable for such a war, Iran's aeronautics industry not having the current logistical guts to support a prolonged war effort it for now.

But can't the armed forces compensate for such as faulty dimension by relying on their most accurate ballistic assets (notably their SRBMs available in large numbers and in range of needed parts of Iraq) specially developed with that doctrine in mind and reportedly widely used in helping Syria knock out concentrations of forces and local HQs of Al-Nusra in Syria ? secondly, is that perceived inability of its conventional forces truly the real determining factor behind the current apparent restraint and hesitancy towards concrete involvement in your opinion ? are they not rather out of political wariness of getting embroiled into another long-lasting proxy conflict straining their already fragile budget even further ? ISIL forces have nowhere near the need firepower to take on Iran directly and the IRI government has made it clear that it won't allow them to cross the 100km line away from its borders, a fact denoted on this blog on several occasions, and does not in its current state present a requirement for anything other than highly selective and targeted strikes contemplated by the Obama administration, and Iran could make perfect use of its most modern drone combined with squadrons of Su-24s, Su-25s and F4s to perform surgical strikes wherever deemed necessary, since they have a demonstrated ability to work in tandem in such a way. Indeed, we are certainly not talking about the huge resources and manpower needed within the framework of a massive Alpha strike, Kaman-99 kind of deployment, are we ?

Plus, considering the proximity of the aforementioned squadrons in airbase historically close to Iraq's border, and the possibility for Iran to pre-position the bulk of the needed bomber squadrons in advance lifts a lot of logistical weight in the event hostilities lead decision makers to green-light air operations.

Just asking, I have no more than open source documentation available , obtained on the corners of specialized websites to put forward my personal assertions.


ufred said...

I support the use of US airpower against the ISIL insurgents and any Iranian troops in Iraq.
I also support the right of the US to condition US help on getting rid of that incompetent and corrupt idiot Maliki and closing Iraqi airspace to Iranian military aid to the Assad dictatorship

Anonymous said...

a bomb Compaign, can not stop the Jihadist , Terrorist.
It was never successful in the past 10 Years
You need Ground-Troops to stop them
I believe the obama is more wise than Mark Pyroz

Anonymous said...

What's going on with u guys. U are really talking and discussing about democratic for iraq and then u think its legitimate to force the legal government to step down for getting a airstrike support? Im really wondering.
And two years ago even when ppl go out and wanted change 9f government in Bahrain it was ok when saudi arabia sent troops to beat them. What a crazy world. A foreign country s government can openly make such conditions for helping another country's government.

Anonymous said...

Of course ufred, you're always into prefering US-supported dictatorships and puppets over anti-US dictatorships and puppets. we know, no need to worry or take the care of making it clear every time. Let's just bomb the hell lf out Iraq, kick out Maliki, put in some pro-US puppet in his place and sing "Mission Accomplished" in chorus on an aircraft carrier's deck.. Oh wait. Some madman did it in 2003 already. And 8 years after and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths later, its army departed from a devastated country, and "Al-Qaeda corp."came in. That must be the solution. Pax Americana for the win and let's silence and crush any plural solution.

Kemjika said...

to think US can disconnect Iranian QF links in Iraq or transit system through IRaq to Syria is a dream. Iran will fight it and prevent it from happening. dreamers!

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree Anon 6:57. I was among the first to openly call for whatever external or internal force that could put at least a temporary halt on ISIL's catastrophically rapid progress in the face of Iraqi security forces, including US strikes... It didn't take me 24 hours to retract it considering the ongoing recuperation the White House seems to be trying to achieve , again making it clear that the fate of ordinary Iraqis is of a lesser importance to their calculus than it was in 2003 and even worse, dangerously turned into a blackmailing tools along with the very existence of the country, against the very person of Maliki. The clock is ticking and every inch of progress ISIL makes will be more facts on the ground that have the potential to alter the geopolitical balance of the region for the long-term and so for the worse, obviously, and yet we see Obama trying to buy time and literally play with fire in order to influence US agendas in-country rather than urgently stop the current bleeding of the Iraqi state with no other considerations... some decision-makers will simply never learn...


Anonymous said...

Yes you are absolutely right, a bombing campaign is only good at preparing the breeding ground for Al-Qaida appearance, rise and ultimately dominance over the course of time. A good lesson to be taken by Obama. But wait, weren't there ground troops as well over these same 10 years ?

ufred said...

sorry, but it's Iraq begging for the military aid after Maliki insisted that the US military leave. it's Maliki who doesn't command the loyalty of the Iraqi army. it's Maliki who is incompetent and corrupt and who has failed.

the US was entirely wrong to invade iraq but has no obligation to return and has every reason to withhold military aid unless the US gets something in return.

Anonymous said...

We are in aggreement on the 2003 invasion issue. To the exception in my mind that the US is wrong by playing in such an opportunistic way, exchanging help for the Iraqi people with its interests in the region once more, used as a wild card it suddenly gets out of its sleeve. Indeed, taking advantage of a desperate government/situation that you contributed to create in the first place is never right. You cannot fully separate the issue of US invasion and occupation and the dire situation the country and region are facing now, notwithstanding additional players such as Saudis and Iranians coming into play to fill the power vacuum and being as nonconstructive and reckless towards Iraqi national integrity as George W. Bush was. Obama knows full well that Maliki cannot decently turn to anyone but them on the long run and avoid attrition, it is hypocritical to react in the way they, posturing as condescending moralist patrons once again. They just have to wait until Maliki is overthrown or pushed slowly out of power by the predicable worsening of the current tide.

ufred said...

all the US has to do is nothing and Iraq will be closed, in whole or part, to Iranian arm shipments to Syria via land.

Anonymous said...

In ufred's daily dreams, maybe. Reality will be otherwise though I'm afraid.

ufred said...

I didn't dream up the sectarian strife in Iraq, my friend.

it's real and it's been going on for quite some time...... that it's now intensifying is not a product of my imagination.

Anonymous said...

Except that I wasn't referring to the existence of the sectarian strife itself, which obviously, is established, violent, bloody, terrible fact now for all to see. (created in great part by your beloved Americans before Saudis and Iranians even started to worsen the situation, but that's another topic) but rather your quite optimistic assertion stipulating that the US "simply has to wait for Iranian supply routes to Syria be closed". Even if it has to happen on the long run, the situation on the ground is way too chaotic and unpredictable to be so confident and condescending by claiming one outcome or the other, that is all I'm saying, my friend. Time will tell who "wins" and who "loses" aside from Iraqis themselves, big losers already for quite some time, as you say.