World View: U.S. Military Returns to Iraq, Almost Three Years After Withdrawing

This morning's key headlines from

  • U.S. military returns to Iraq, almost three years after withdrawing
  • Concerns grow over possible Russian invasion of Ukraine
  • Russia imposes its own sanctions, to counter Western sanctions

U.S. military returns to Iraq, almost three years after withdrawing

President Obama on Thursday evening announced "targeted air strikes" in Iraq, to protect American soldiers in Iraq and to prevent militias from the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS) from committing genocide on 140,000 Christians and Yazidis in Iraq.

Almost three years ago, President Obama pulled all troops out of Iraq, saying, "We're leaving behind a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq." However, with inaction by the United States in the three years since the war in Syria began, we've seen the actions of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, aided by an unlimited supply of heavy weapons from Russia, attempt to exterminate all Sunnis in Syria. This has turned Syria into a "jihadist magnet," drawing jihadists and jihadist trainees from around the world, including America and Europe. In the last few months, the jihadist opposition to al-Assad has metastasized into ISIS, a powerful jihadist army that's now in control of large swaths not only of Syria but also of Iraq. 

President Obama came into office with no foreign policy doctrine except to do the opposite of anything President George Bush did, claiming that an "apology tour" and diplomacy would bring peace to the world. Obama has learned many, many harsh lessons since then, and the complete collapse of his Iraq policy, at the same time that his Afghanistan policy is threatened with collapse, is probably the most bitter lesson so far, with more to come. 

President Obama has been practically paralyzed with fear of adverse consequences of military actions but is now forced against his will to send the military back into Iraq because the crisis is rapidly worsening in a way that he said was impossible when the US troops were withdrawn. 

Major components of the worsening crisis are as follows: 

  • ISIS is threatening Erbil (Irbil), the capital of the Kurdish region, which was considered completely safe until just a few days ago. The administration says that it's going to be "aggressive" in defending the Kurds with air strikes.
  • The highest priority will be protecting 40 U.S. soldiers in Erbil, who are serving as advisors to the Kurds. Saving them will be accomplished either by evacuating them or by protecting them with air strikes. There are also several hundred other American soldiers in Iraq around Baghdad serving as advisors, but they are not currently in danger.
  • Some 100,000 Christians, a quarter of all of Iraq's Christians, were driven out of the town of Qaraqosh by ISIS militias, leaving Qaraqosh practically empty. Many had formerly fled to Qaraqosh when ISIS attacked their former homes in Mosul. These Christians are facing their own humanitarian disaster. They're fleeing in the direction of Erbil, where many are hiding out in Saint Joseph's Church.
  • As we reported yesterday, there are 40,000 people of the ancient Yazidi sect trapped on top of Mount Sinjar, without food or water, and imminently threatened by ISIS. Obama announced that humanitarian airdrops of food and water have already begun to Mount Sinjar, and that airstrikes will be used to protect the Yazidis.
  • ISIS claims to be in control of the Mosul dam, the country's biggest dam. This gives ISIS several choices -- they can control electric power to much of the country, they can control the water supply, or they could use it as a "weapon of mass destruction" by blowing it and let the water drown numerous villages.
  • ISIS completely outguns the Iraqi army, because ISIS has captured much of the army's large stores of American-supplied armored vehicles and heavy weapons. According to reports, the Iraq army has only what it inherited from the Sadaam Hussein regime.
  • Less imminently, concerns are growing for a potential ISIS attack on the city of Baghdad. Already, 150,000 Iraqis have been displaced by ISIS, and the worst may be yet to come.

The Obama administration says that there will be no "boots on the ground," a statement that ignored the hundreds of advisors that are already there. Analysts are mixed as to whether it will be necessary to introduce combat troops in the future. Washington Post and BBC

Concerns grow over possible Russian invasion of Ukraine

On Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and promised "unwavering" support for "the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine." This claim is not particularly credible, since Russia has already annexed Ukraine's peninsula of Crimea, and the annexation is rarely even mentioned. 

Rasmussen blamed Russia for continuing to destabilize Ukraine, having "massed large forces on the Ukrainian border ... to use any pretext to intervene any further." According to Rasmussen: 

So I call on Russia to step back from the brink. Step back from the border. Do not use peacekeeping as an excuse for war-making. I urge Russia to follow the genuine path to peace. To stop its support for separatists. To pull pack its troops from Ukraine's border. And to engage in a sincere dialogue for a peaceful solution.

NATO's support for Ukraine is strong, and to prove it, NATO announced that it will hold a meeting next month. I assume that if Russia invades Ukraine, then NATO will retaliate by holding further meetings. NATO News

Russia imposes its own sanctions, to counter Western sanctions

Russia retaliated against western sanctions with a sweeping ban on food imports -- meat and poultry, seafood, milk and dairy products including cheese, fruit, vegetables and vegetable oil-based products -- from countries that have imposed their own sanctions on Russia for the annexation of Crimea, including the U.S., European Union, Australia, and Norway. 

However, it may be that Russia's sanctions will punish Russia more than the West.  Russia imports 40% of the food it consumes. It's likely that Russia does not have the know-how or infrastructure to keep and distribute fruit and vegetables during the long winter, while the Russian fish and seafood industry, as well as the Russian dairy industry, are too underdeveloped to effectively take over the market freed from Western producers. However, Russia hopes to cover the emerging gap by importing more from Brazil, Israel, Turkey, China, and other Asian nations. Jamestown and LA Times

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Iraq, Mount Sinjar, Yazidis, Kurds, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Qaraqosh, Christians, Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Ukraine, NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen 

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