World View: The Size of Iraq Catastrophe Continues to Unfold

World View: The Size of Iraq Catastrophe Continues to Unfold

This morning’s key headlines from

  • The size of the Iraq catastrophe continues to unfold
  • Senator Lindsey Graham says Obama has to order air strikes in Iraq
  • Rep Steve Stockman: U.S. planning a military operation to rescue the schoolgirls from Boko Haram
  • Pakistan launches major military action against Taliban

The size of the Iraq catastrophe continues to unfold

Here’s a collection of facts that I gleaned from the Sunday news talkshows and from some media reports:

  • The Islamic Emirate in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is by far the most powerful and wealthiest terror group in the world now, much more powerful than al-Qaeda before 9/11.
  • ISIS has about $450 million in cash, after raiding the central bank in Mosul. This is in addition to billions of dollars’ worth of dozens of tanks, humvees, helicopters, and other heavy weaponry, mostly American, that they got from weapons stores in Mosul that the Iraqi army was supposed to be guarding.
  • The tanks and helicopters are being driven and flown by former Sunni officers in Saddam Hussein’s army, who have now joined with ISIS, out of disillusionment with and fury at the al-Maliki’s government.
  • ISIS has set up jihadist training camps in Syria, and thousands of foreign fighters have gone there for training and to fight the regime of Syria’s genocidal president Bashar al-Assad. Syria is an international jihadist magnet, as we’ve been reporting for over a year.
  • On May 24, a gunman entered the Jewish Museum in Brussels and shot three people dead, wounding a fourth. It turned out that the perpetrator had been trained in Syria, and had spent a year fighting there. Thousands of young men from Europe have gone to Syria for jihadist training, as have almost 100 Americans.
  • These jihadists are much more dangerous than foreign-born terrorists, like those who perpetrated 9/11, because they have clean American passports, and can come and go as they please. Homeland Security now considers these ISIS-trained jihadists to be America’s biggest domestic threat. Not only could more people die than on 9/11, but ISIS could bring worldwide economic chaos.
  • Within the space of a few days, ISIS marched south in Iraq, capturing Mosul, Baiji, Tikrit and parts of Samarra. That’s about 200 miles in a few days.
  • At the same time, they captured 1,700 Iraqi soldiers who surrendered. ISIS has posted videos showing what happened to the ones in Tikrit. They were put into trucks, taken to a desert area, forced to march into trenches that had been dug, and then shot.
  • Iraq’s president Nouri al-Maliki seems to have been successful in getting new army volunteers, almost all Shias from southern Iraq.
  • ISIS has been stopped about 60 miles north of Baghdad. The army seems to have stopped ISIS at that point, at least temporarily.
  • The citizens of Baghdad are in a state of total panic because they believe they’re next. The city is in chaos.
  • There are thousands of Americans and Westerners living in Baghdad. They are going to be targeted.
  • Baghdad has the largest American embassy in the world, with 1500 employees. Some unspecified number of those employees are being evacuated to Irbil, Basra and Amman Jordan.
  • As the situation worsens in Iraq, President Obama is going to be under enormous pressure to intervene militarily. Air strikes are a possibility, but to be effective they need someone on the ground to pick out target. If the Iraqis do that, then they may target political enemies rather than ISIS. Or maybe we can let Iranian forces pick out targets for us. If Iraq really begins to deteriorate, there will be a lot of pressure on Obama to send in some troops, at least special forces.
  • Obama has made any American military involvement contingent on al-Maliki resolving the bitter political dispute between Shias and Sunnis. That’s not going to happen. It sounds like Obama is in yet another “red line” situation. What’s he going to do next?

LA Times and Israel National News and Slate

Senator Lindsey Graham says Obama has to order air strikes in Iraq

I listened to numerous interviews on the Sunday morning news talkshows, and I felt the best one was the CNN interview with SouthCarolina Senator Lindsey Graham:

DONNA BASH: And, Senator, on the issue of Iraq, I knowthat you have said that you think U.S. airstrikes is the onlyanswer right now. But I want you and our viewers to look atsomething, the toll so far when it comes to Iraq, 4,424 deaths,wounded, 32,239, and then the cost of money, $770 billion. I havegot to ask the question that I’m sure so many Americans out therewatching are going to ask. Why spend one more dollar or risk onemore life?

GRAHAM: Because Iraq and Syria combined are going to be thestaging area for the next 9/11 if we don’t do something about it.The people holding ground in Iraq also hold ground inSyria. Economic instability that comes from a collapsed Iraq willaffect gas prices and our economic recovery. But the main reasonis, if ISIS is not dealt with, that’s the staging area for a newattack on the United States. They — the — the predecessor –they’re the follow-on to al Qaeda in Iraq.

What they will do is use the area between Baghdad, Kurdistan andSyria to operate with impunity. They have a lot of wealth. Theywill plan an attack against our country. And my biggest fear isthat they’re going to march toward Jordan.

And I hope America understands that, if the king of Jordan goes,if he’s the victim of these guys, then the whole Mideast is inturmoil.

BASH: And you really thinks that’s possible?


GLORIA BORGER: What makes — what makes you think they have theorganization to pull something like that off?

GRAHAM: What makes you think they don’t?

Look what’s happened. Look what’s happened. They have basicallyoccupied a portion of Syria. They — they took the second largestcity in Iraq. They’re going into Baghdad.

My number one goal is, let us stop them from going into Baghdad,not the Iranians. If the central government in Iraq collapses –and that’s their goal — they’re trying to get the Iraqigovernment to collapse — the Iranians dominate the south. Theywill own all the resources in the south.

These guys will operate from Baghdad to Kurdistan, all the wayinto Syria. They will consolidate economic and militarypower. They will march towards Jordan and Lebanon. And they willuse that space to attack us. If Baghdad falls, if the centralgovernment falls, a disaster awaits us of monumental proportions.

BASH: Now, the question about the leadership there now, PrimeMinister Maliki, he is somebody who perhaps has not done all thethings that the U.S. should have — wanted them to do, which is, Ithink, an understatement.


BASH: So is he the right man for the — to lead Iraq right now?

GRAHAM: No. Stop the march on Baghdad. Form a new government. SendPetraeus and Crocker over, somebody who knows…

BORGER: How do you form a new government? It’s a democracy.

GRAHAM: There are plenty of voices over there.

He [al-Maliki] should resign. He’s incapable of bringing theSunnis back into the fold. Three things have happened in 2010 and’11 to create this. How did we get there should be thequestion. Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIS, was on theirback, just about gone. Syria blows up. They get reinforcementsfrom Syria into Iraq.

Maliki withdrawals from the coalition. He becomes a sectarianleader. Obama’s administration is completely hands-off, and wewithdraw troops in 2011. That’s the perfect storm.

BORGER: But whose fault was that? You know, the…

GRAHAM: That’s President Obama’s fault.

BORGER: Why is that President Obama’s fault? Maliki didn’t want toleave a residual force there.

GRAHAM: Bush — no, that is not true. That is absolutely a lie.

I was there on the ground, at the request of SecretaryClinton. Maliki, Barzani and the Sunnis were willing to accept anAmerican force. We wanted the agreement to go through parliament,which would have been a disaster.

They got what they wanted. The Obama administration wanted to say:I ended the war in Iraq. I’m going to end the war in Afghanistan.

This was as predictable as the sun rising in the east. I blamePresident Obama mightily for a hands-off policy when it comes toIraq.

BASH: Because, I mean, we can debate this probably for a longtime, because Maliki…

GRAHAM: Look forward.

BASH: OK. So, looking forward, Iran, Bloomberg News had aninteresting op-ed today, saying that they are sort of thefrenemies of the U.S. right now in Iraq. And people might notrealize this, that Iran, who is generally no friend of the U.S.,is now potentially working — going to work with the U.S. on Iraq…. How — does that make you feel comfortable or comfortable?

GRAHAM: No. Hell no, it doesn’t.

Why did we deal with Stalin? Because he was not as bad asHitler. The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure Baghdaddoesn’t fall. We need to coordinate with the Iranians. And theTurks need to get in the game and get the Sunni Arabs back intothe game, form a new government without Maliki.

But, yes, I don’t want Iran to dominate Iraq. And that’s wherethey’re headed. If the central government falls, the Iranians aregoing on the Shia area of — of Iraq, the south. Don’t theIranians save Baghdad. Let us save Baghdad, so there will be achance at a second government.

BORGER: Do you — is it your prediction that, eventually, thisWhite House will go for airstrikes?

GRAHAM: I think they have to. And it’s stunning to me that nobodyin Congress is saying, you have got to come to us first. Everybodyin Congress is scared to death of what’s going to happen inIraq. They won’t come out and admit it. But nobody is saying,Mr. President, don’t use airpower. The air force in Iraq, I think,has been grounded. But Nic will know that better than Ido.


Rep Steve Stockman: U.S. planning a military operation to rescue the schoolgirls from Boko Haram

A U.S. Congressional delegation is in Nigeria to discuss the terroristgroup Boko Haram, which continues to abduct schoolgirls. According toTexas congressman Steve Stockman, the U.S. is planning military actionin Nigeria:

“We get briefed by the military and pending theapproval of the government of Nigeria and our government, we planto take action, but I don’t think we are going specifics thistime; it was a classified briefing. We stand ready to help and assoon as our government and Nigerian government approves, we willtake action.

What I want to say is that I think what it is right now is to workwith the Nigerian government in training of the military. I wantto emphasize again here that we have come all these miles to saythat our Congress stands ready to cooperate and the government ina manner that is appropriate and with the consent of Nigeriangovernment. And I want to emphasize the need for the VictimsRelief Fund because there is so much suffering going on by theyoung girls and the their families that have been touched by thisviolence.”

World Stage Group (Lagos, Nigeria)

Pakistan launches major military action against Taliban

Last week’s massive terrorist attack on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, on Sundayhas shocked the nation, and pressured the government to order the armyto do something it’s never done before: to go in and clean out thehideouts and weapons stores in the North Waziristan Agency inPakistan’s tribal area that are making the terrorist strikes possible.

According to a Pakistan army statement:

“On the directions of the government, armed forces ofPakistan have launched a comprehensive operation against foreignand local terrorists who are hiding in sanctuaries in NorthWaziristan Agency. The operation has been named Zarb-e-Azb. …

Using North Waziristan as a base, these terrorists had waged a waragainst the state of Pakistan and had been disrupting our nationallife in all its dimensions, stunting our economic growth andcausing enormous loss of life and property. They had alsoparalyzed life within the [North Waziristan] agency and hadperpetually terrorized the entire peace loving and patriotic localpopulation.

Our valiant armed forces have been tasked to eliminate theseterrorists regardless of hue and color, along with theirsanctuaries. With the support of the entire nation, and incoordination with other state institutions and law enforcementagencies, these enemies of the state will be denied space anywhereacross the country. As always, armed forces of Pakistan will nothesitate in rendering any sacrifice for themotherland.”

An unnamed official says, “Thousands of troops will participate inthis action. You can roughly say 25,000 to 30,000 troops will beinvolved in the operation.”

Reports indicate that many people, both civilians and militants, haveleft North Waziristan in the last few days because the army offensivewas anticipated.

The prime minister Nawaz Sharif has tried everything possible to avoidthis moment, including attempted “peace talks” with the Taliban thatcould never have succeeded. This is a very significant change indirection for Pakistan. Daily Times (Pakistan) and Dawn (Pakistan)

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