Degrading and Destroying ISIS: Something to Be Thankful For

When receiving news of our battle with ISIS in the Middle East does it feel like we really are at war? It seems more like a video game played in the background of a party.  You may notice the action but it has nothing to do with you.   I’d say the main reason for this is because our part of the war is mostly money and machinery, with only a few flesh and blood Americans risking their lives, and no announced casualties for us.   There is something surreal about it all, but enough of that mental meandering for now.

Let’s look at a couple of promising recent developments on the ground.

Ultimately destroying ISIS means developing some kind of political solution in Syria, their home base, and that situation seems best described as “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”, to borrow a few choice words from Winston Churchill aimed at Stalinist Russia decades ago.   As such, we’ll leave that issue for a later time.

But recent news suggests our alliance is at least degrading ISIS in Kobani in Syria and in a few areas of Iraq.   Situated next to Turkey and with most of its residents evacuated, Kobani has been turned into mostly rubble by the fighting of the past couple of months.

During that time the city has seemed constantly about to fall to ISIS, but the combination of continued U. S. air strikes, some 270 of them, and the addition of about 150 Kurdish troops, which Turkey finally let cross their land to get there, seems to have ISIS stymied and actually losing ground slowly, with an estimated 600 of their fighters killed.

In a Huf Post article, according to John Allen, the U.S. envoy for the international coalition fighting the Islamic State militants, losing Kobani would be a blow to the ISIS image of invincibility, so they keep massing their forces there providing good targets for our air strikes.

Also, Iraqi forces have regained a couple of towns taken by ISIS last summer while they are also making progress in retaking Ramadi. According to CNN, “The battle for control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, is shifting in favor of Iraqi and tribal forces fighting ISIS militants, Iraqi officials said Monday.”

While the article does not expand on the degree of Sunni tribal support, it is welcome news to find any at all as turning Sunni tribes against ISIS Sunni fanatics is a key part of our strategy to degrade them.   The failure of the central government in Bagdad to be inclusive of these tribes is what has paved the ground for the easy ISIS advances.  Separating those Sunni tribes from ISIS is essential.  Otherwise, fighting ISIS appears an attack on Sunnis in general, making us seem allied with Shiites as opposed to Sunnis in that age old conflict that contributes so much to what is happening today.

But that’s another thorny issue best postponed to later as well.   Let’s be thankful that ISIS seems in check for the moment, even though there’s a long winding road ahead to check mate them.

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VOX NEWS: A Promising Source for Digestible News

English: Blogger Ezra Klein

English: Blogger Ezra Klein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With Iraq busting out all over compliments of the revolutionary group ISIS, as mentioned in my last post, and a lot of history and details to digest in order to make sense of it all, this is a good time to point out a web site called Vox. com,  on line since early April but just noticed by me last week.  The announcement:

“Vox Media, the online publisher that runs SB Nation sports blogs, launched its general news site Vox.com (in early April), providing a forum for renowned blogger Ezra Klein’s experiment in broadening explanatory journalism.

Klein, who led The Washington Post‘s public policy blog, Wonkblog, left to join Vox Media in January after he failed to secure funding from the newspaper’s editors for a new site.

After several weeks of preparation and recruiting journalists, Klein and Vox Media released … more details on their plans for Vox.com, promising readers news stories packaged with contextual information and graphics. The site’s mission is to make news more digestible by roasting it ‘to perfection with a drizzle of olive oil and hint of sea salt,’ Klein said.”

In my small way, I try to do the same, but Vox has the money and brain power to take it big time.  Actually, it has been my secret fantasy to develop my blog into something like the Vox offering, because I think a site which tries to capture the gist of the news, more impartially than not, is needed in this time of staggering amounts of information about complex issues infested with so many untruths aimed to sway readers to one political agenda or another.

I’m hoping Ezra Klein and company do a good job with this, so I can fantasize doing something else.

While certainly liberal leaning, Klein seems to me to want to capture the essence of events and arguments rather than push a political agenda.   I look forward to studying the site’s offerings over time.

As for Iraq, Vox offers a useful primer on the situation titled:

11 facts that explain the escalating crisis in Iraq

Below are a list of the 11 points expanded upon in the piece which also features several maps to help clarify the nature of the situation.  Click here to link.

1. ISIS used to be called al-Qaeda in Iraq

2. ISIS wants to carve out an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria

3. ISIS thrives on tension between Iraq’s two largest religious groups

4. The Iraqi government has made this tension worse by persecuting Sunnis and through other missteps

5. ISIS raises money like a government

6. Iraq has another major ethno-religious group, the Kurds, who could matter in this fight

7. The Syria conflict has made ISIS much stronger

8. Mosul, the big city ISIS recently conquered, is really important — and ISIS has spread out from there

9. Iran is already involved, and this conflict could get much bigger

10. The Iraqi Army is much larger than ISIS, but also a total mess

11. Iraq may secretly want American drone strikes, and Obama may be considering them

The article ends with:  “So, to recap. Iraq has essentially just began another civil war, and it’s totally unclear how long it’s going to last or how it’s going to end. And no one’s sure what to do about it.”

While all of that summary seems true enough, it is important to realize that the amazing success of ISIS  has been in Sunni dominated areas and they have too few troops (usually estimated at less than 10,000) to really take over large areas that put up a good fight.   While they can make incursions into Bagdad, I cannot imagine them taking over the city, as it has too many people, a majority of which are Shia who do seem willing to fight.   And more aid from Iran and us seems likely.

Stay tuned…..