News Iraqi unrest, Syrian unrest, and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh

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mheslep

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I'm confused, I always thought that you need a declaration of war to go to war with someone. How is congress voting consent on war without a declaration?
Good question. Congress has formally declared war only five times (including some sub-declarations in the WWs). Since shortly after the founding, there's been some tension between the Constitution's division of power between "Congress shall have the power to to declare War", and the equally authoritative "The President shall be Commander in Chief...". For now, military action by the President with authorization by Congress seems to be the agreed on resolution to the tension.
 

Evo

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I'm confused, I always thought that you need a declaration of war to go to war with someone. How is congress voting consent on war without a declaration?
You know that the Vietnam War was not a war for the US, not declared by the US, it was a conflict, we never declared war.
 

Maylis

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I understand we had the Barbary Wars, but how can we compare a relatively tiny conflict with literal decades long occupations of nations. We have been at war since the 1960s with one group or another. Somehow I don't think the founders ever imagined we would be occupying many countries and overthrowing elected leaders, and then backing rebels who later use the arms we gave them against us.
 

Maylis

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You know that the Vietnam War was not a war for the US, not declared by the US, it was a conflict, we never declared war.
I know, and I wouldn't even try to justify that war. It was started by a staged event.
 

Evo

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Good question. Congress has formally declared war only five times (including some sub-declarations in the WWs).
Actually, congress has declared war 11 times, but I guess you are grouping the WWII wars as one.

Official Declarations of War by Congress


The Constitution grants Congress the sole power to declare war. Congress has declared war on 11 occasions, including its first declaration of war with Great Britain in 1812. Congress approved its last formal declaration of war during World War II. Since that time it has agreed to resolutions authorizing the use of military force and continues to shape U.S. military policy through appropriations and oversight.
http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/history/h_multi_sections_and_teasers/WarDeclarationsbyCongress.htm
 

mheslep

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I understand we had the Barbary Wars,...
Perhaps not. Take a look at the reference. The US was in conflict with the Barbary states for decades, and when the nascent Navy finally acted most of the existing ships were required.
 

Dotini

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Somehow I don't think the founders ever imagined we would be occupying many countries and overthrowing elected leaders, and then backing rebels who later use the arms we gave them against us.
Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibility in this respect, IMO. I believe it has more than a whiff of decadence and corruption.
 

nsaspook

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http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/15/world/middleeast/russian-military-uses-syria-as-proving-ground-and-west-takes-notice.html?_r=0
The strikes have involved aircraft never before tested in combat, including the Sukhoi Su-34 strike fighter, which NATO calls the Fullback, and a ship-based cruise missile fired more than 900 miles from the Caspian Sea, which, according to some analysts, surpasses the American equivalent in technological capability.
...
He and others said that the biggest surprise so far has been the missile technology on display. The cruise missiles fired from Russian frigates and destroyers in the Caspian Sea were first tested only in 2012. With a range said to reach 900 miles, they had not been used in combat before, and despite the loss of four cruise missiles that crashed in Iran in one salvo, they represent a technological leap that could prove worrisome for military commanders in NATO. He noted that the advances in missile technologies improved the precision and firepower even of aging Soviet-era ships or aircraft.

“This is an amazingly capable new weapon,” he added.
 
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Comment: But 4 lost somewhere in Iran and 26 getting to Syria is not bad. Of course there is no much point in using not fully tested cruise missiles when there is no anti-aircraft fire, but somehow I doubt that it were Syrians who were supposed to be ones to be impressed.
http://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/world/2015/10/10/73628682/

Russians violated Turkish airspace twice and put a radar lock on Turkish jets who came to intercept intruders:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/06/nato-chief-jens-stoltenberg-russia-turkish-airspace-violations-syria
Yes, standard procedure in fighting ISIS... ;)

By occasion - have anyone noticed one part - Russians brought with themselves SAM battery to Syria. Any info about ISIS airforces? ;)

On Polish web pages there is an info, that based on adds from Russian web sites, Russians are desperately recruiting mercenaries/soldiers to fight in Syria (no idea whether they would be there officially this time). The most interesting part was that they started recruiting among their mercenaries who occupy Ukraine, what looked like a sign of awful manpower shortage.
(I may give a link in Polish if anyone is interested)

So far, I consider recent Russian involvement of mostly a stunt, intended for both internal and external propaganda, with dream of boosting image, confronting the West and maybe scoring some political aims, unrelated to ISIS. I already saw a horde of Russian paid trolls glorifying great Russian successes in combating ISIS. There is also a genuine part, and its involve saving Assad, which is not going to be so easy.

Recent Russian strategy resembles somewhat what they did in Chechenya - kill first all democratic and moderate opposition, so when only genuine radicals are left (either by attrition or by convincing moderates that radicalism is the only way), no one would whine about need for any political compromise with opposition. Needless to say in Chechenya case it backfired a bit. This time it seems a bit harder, because of geographical separation. Nevertheless Russia claim that killed already a few Chechens trained by ISIS who planned attacks against Russia, but this claim can not be independently checked, while Kardyrov has, politely speaking, limited credibility:
http://en.apa.az/xeber_is_gunmen_killed_in_chechnya_prepared_la_233189.html

From the good part, Russians already made Turkey and Saudi Arabia furious. I love the smell of cheap Saudi oil flooding the market.

EDIT: Turkish just shot down one tiny drone, that violated its airspace. No one admits that it was their. According to unconfirmed rumours it looks like Russian Orlan-10. (one may just google the photo and compare it, because Turkish just posted the photo of what they hunted)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/16/turkey-shoots-down-drone-near-syrian-border
 
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Astronuc

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Syrian army, allies advance near Aleppo with Russian cover
http://news.yahoo.com/syria-army-allies-advance-near-aleppo-russian-cover-144740103.html
Syrian troops have gone on the attack in Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Latakia provinces taking advantage of Russian air strikes against Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and other rebel groups.

Three senior Nusra members, one of them a US-designated "global terrorist", were killed in an air strike in Aleppo province on Thursday, a monitoring group said.

Regime forces control the western part of Aleppo city -- Syria's pre-war economic hub -- but much of the surrounding province is held by rebel groups -- Al-Qaeda and others in the west and IS in the east.
So much for going after Daesh.
 

Maylis

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What's wrong with killing al Qaeda?
 

Dotini

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What's wrong with killing al Qaeda?
In Syria it's a terrible faux pas to kill al Qaeda, since there we prefer to define them as moderate democrats, allies in our quest to remove the established government and create a new failed state. :rolleyes:
 
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So, are the rebels we're arming the same ones the Russians are bombing?
Good question. I have no clue. My understanding from the map in the previous link is that Russians are primarily targeting non-ISIS Islamist rebels. The main Islamist rebel group is the so-called Army of conquest (Jaysh Al-Fatah) which is a coalition containing A Qaeda-affiliate Al Nusra group along with Ahrar Al-Sham which is another self-identified Salafist group.

It's all very messy and I found it hard to dig deeper into the motivations, goals, and ideologies of each group and how they differ from each other. From the little I could gather, it seems they all are Jihadi-Salafist, which means they're anti-democracy, pro-Shariah militants, though they may not be aspiring for a global caliphate and hence are not expansionists. This seems as the only thing that sets them apart ideologically from ISIS.

In any case I hope the US is not arming or in any way helping these guys.
 

Astronuc

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Russian goals in Syria - http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-19/putin-officials-said-to-admit-real-syrian-goals-are-far-broader
On the ground, the military operation is expanding, with Syrian and Iranian forces using Russian air support to advance against rebel forces with the goal of recapturing strategic territory lost around the capital Damascus and the cities of Homs and Hama, as well as retaking Aleppo, the main commercial hub and second-biggest population center.
. . . .
Russia’s air attacks have mainly occurred in areas outside of Islamic State’s control so far. The U.S. State Department declined to comment on Russia’s broader aims in Syria. Earlier this month, U.S. officials said 90 percent of Russia’s strikes were on other rebel groups. Russian officials say the U.S. refuses to cooperate on targeting.
 

Dotini

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So, are the rebels we're arming the same ones the Russians are bombing?

Are we at the beginning of a proxy war between the US and Russia?
Overnight BBC radio (Stephen Sackur) interviewed Robert Stephen Ford, former ambassador to Syria. He said the US CIA is supplying advanced anti-tank missiles to rebels upon whom the Syrian army, closely supported by the Russian air force, recently tried to advance. Ford said the Syrian army lost 25 tanks in the battle. The Russians are bombing all rebel groups who threaten the stability and the government of Syria, they say.

The Syrian army is getting tired. They are being increasingly supported by Iranian trained troops led by experienced Iranian officers, and now by Russian air power - although the Russians appear to be resisting putting boots on the ground. To me this seems to be a proxy war, although it could sure get a lot worse.
 

nsaspook

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I don't know about 25 tanks but they did shoot one bulldozer.
 
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I feel sorry for the women, pregnant women. the children and the elderly, it is pretty hard to endure a war, food becomes scarce, piped water supply might be cut, unless living near to a river makes it a bit bearable and hope none of your family gets hurt, If anyone of us is there suffering through, we would be wondering why the rest of the world does not help, why do they aloud this to happen. I hope we are there on those bases, appealing to the morals and principles of the American people and rest of the rich world.
 

mheslep

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[QUOTE="Dotini, post: 5262956, member: ]

The Syrian army is getting tired. They are being increasingly supported by Iranian trained troops led by experienced Iranian officers, and now by Russian air power - although the Russians appear to be resisting putting boots on the ground. [/QUOTE]do you have a source for that assessment of "tired"?
 

mheslep

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Kissinger has an essay out on Syria and ISIS. Like the recent Bob Gates and Rice essay he's very critical of the current policy.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-path-out-of-the-middle-east-collapse-1445037513

[ quote ]That geopolitical pattern is now in shambles. Four states in the region have ceased to function as sovereign. Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq have become targets for nonstate movements seeking to impose their rule. Over large swaths in Iraq and Syria, an ideologically radical religious army has declared itself the Islamic State (also called ISIS or ISIL) as an unrelenting foe of established world order. It seeks to replace the international system’s multiplicity of states with a caliphate, a single Islamic empire governed by Shariah law.[/quote ]

And he has a plan
 

mheslep

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Kissinger has an essay out on Syria and ISIS. Like the recent Bob Gates and Rice essay he's very critical of the current policy.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-path-out-of-the-middle-east-collapse-1445037513

That geopolitical pattern is now in shambles. Four states in the region have ceased to function as sovereign. Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq have become targets for nonstate movements seeking to impose their rule. Over large swaths in Iraq and Syria, an ideologically radical religious army has declared itself the Islamic State (also called ISIS or ISIL) as an unrelenting foe of established world order. It seeks to replace the international system’s multiplicity of states with a caliphate, a single Islamic empire governed by Shariah law.
And he has a plan

So long as ISIS survives and remains in control of a geographically defined territory, it will compound all Middle East tensions. Threatening all sides and projecting its goals beyond the region, it freezes existing positions or tempts outside efforts to achieve imperial jihadist designs. The destruction of ISIS is more urgent than the overthrow of Bashar Assad, who has already lost over half of the area he once controlled. Making sure that this territory does not become a permanent terrorist haven must have precedence. The current inconclusive U.S. military effort risks serving as a recruitment vehicle for ISIS as having stood up to American might.

• The U.S. has already acquiesced in a Russian military role. Painful as this is to the architects of the 1973 system, attention in the Middle East must remain focused on essentials. And there exist compatible objectives. In a choice among strategies, it is preferable for ISIS-held territory to be reconquered either by moderate Sunni forces or outside powers than by Iranian jihadist or imperial forces. For Russia, limiting its military role to the anti-ISIS campaign may avoid a return to Cold War conditions with the U.S.

• The reconquered territories should be restored to the local Sunni rule that existed there before the disintegration of both Iraqi and Syrian sovereignty. The sovereign states of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Egypt and Jordan, should play a principal role in that evolution. After the resolution of its constitutional crisis, Turkey could contribute creatively to such a process.

• As the terrorist region is being dismantled and brought under nonradical political control, the future of the Syrian state should be dealt with concurrently. A federal structure could then be built between the Alawite and Sunni portions. If the Alawite regions become part of a Syrian federal system, a context will exist for the role of Mr. Assad, which reduces the risks of genocide or chaos leading to terrorist triumph.

• The U.S. role in such a Middle East would be to implement the military assurances in the traditional Sunni states that the administration promised during the debate on the Iranian nuclear agreement, and which its critics have demanded.

• In this context, Iran’s role can be critical. The U.S. should be prepared for a dialogue with an Iran returning to its role as a Westphalian state within its established borders.
In short, focus on ISIS not Assad. Enlist Sunni states Jordan and Egypt to destroy ISIS, by arms agreements as was done decades ago, which at the same time forms a counter to Shia Iran. Stand ready to negotiate with Iran nonetheless.

I question how to deal with Israeli objections to closer western ties and arms agreements with Jordan/Eygypt, but Israel is unable to help with ISIS. At least this plan is coherent.
 
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Russia has big successes in bombing FSA (45 dead including civilians), while it seems (unconfirmed) that 3 Russian "advisers" are on their way back home in coffins:
http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/10/20/Russian-air-strikes-kill-45-including-rebel-commander-monitor.html


Mheslep:


"The Syrian army has been decimated by four years of fighting, with the number of soldiers dropping due to casualties and desertions from a pre-civil war strength of around 300,000 to about 80,000 to 100,000, according to diplomatic sources in Beirut. Even the emergence of numerous loyalist militias – including foreign Shia fighters from Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – is proving insufficient to hold onto the further reaches of the country, let alone decisively defeat the rebel forces."

Assad:
“There is a lack of human resources [in the army] … the problem facing the military is not related to planning but to fatigue"
“It is normal that an army gets tired, but there’s a difference between fatigue and defeat. … We are not collapsing. … The word defeat does not exist in the Syrian army’s dictionary.”


http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/7/27/with-armys-fatigue-assad-pulls-forces-back.html
 
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And he has a plan
It's more like a wish list than a plan to be honest. Or at best a plan with HUGE hurdles.

it is preferable for ISIS-held territory to be reconquered either by moderate Sunni forces
Are there any right now? I really wish I could convince myself they exist, even if we have to stretch the term "moderate" a little bit.

or outside powers
Enlist Sunni states Jordan and Egypt to destroy ISIS, by arms agreements as was done decades ago
This sounds more like a fantasy. If by "decades ago" you're alluding to the first gulf war, then the Arabic/Sunni contribution was tiny, almost symbolic, compared to the American forces (which doesn't seem to be on the table this time round). I can't speak about Jordan, but I have seen no evidence that the Egyptian forces are capable of mounting such an attack, especially that they seem to be struggling with ISIS affiliated insurgents in their own borders. El-Sisi might be tempted to take on a leading role in such a plan so that the west ignores how much of an oppressive maniac he is, but he'll also be very cautious that the likely failure might cost him everything.
Another problem is that neither Egypt nor Jordan have a huge incentive to fight, and Iraq was a very good illustration of how important motives are in this war. Arms agreements and closer ties to the US won't cut it, and Arabic nationalistic sentiment isn't particularly high at the moment.

focus on ISIS
The Russians need to be convinced of that as well. In the unlikely case that Arab states agree to take a leading role in an offensive inside Syrian borders, Assad will see this as a threat to his rule and there must be guarantees that the Russians won't be convinced to interfere on his side against this new coalition.
 

Dotini

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Mheslep:

"The Syrian army has been decimated by four years of fighting, with the number of soldiers dropping due to casualties and desertions from a pre-civil war strength of around 300,000 to about 80,000 to 100,000, according to diplomatic sources in Beirut. Even the emergence of numerous loyalist militias – including foreign Shia fighters from Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – is proving insufficient to hold onto the further reaches of the country, let alone decisively defeat the rebel forces."

Assad:
“There is a lack of human resources [in the army] … the problem facing the military is not related to planning but to fatigue"
“It is normal that an army gets tired, but there’s a difference between fatigue and defeat. … We are not collapsing. … The word defeat does not exist in the Syrian army’s dictionary.”

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/7/27/with-armys-fatigue-assad-pulls-forces-back.html
@mheslep
http://www.newsweek.com/assad-admits-syrian-army-suffering-shortages-and-setbacks-357568
According to the BBC, the Syrian army previously had 300,000 troops, but around 80,000 have been killed in the war. Defections and draft-avoiders have also contributed to lower numbers, Al Jazeera reports. Last month, the Syrian army renewed calls for young men to fulfill their military duty, promising better pay for frontline troops and at least one hot meal a day, The Associate Press reports.
 

Astronuc

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