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Iraq Tag

Reports have surfaced that "Jihadi John," the masked Brit responsible for the beheadings of four western hostages, was injured last Saturday's airstrikes near the Iraqi-Syrian border. Via the Daily Mail:
‘We are aware of reports that this individual [Jihadi John] has been injured, and we are looking into them,’ a Foreign Office spokesman told The Mail on Sunday. This newspaper has received an independent account of how Jihadi John was injured and rushed to hospital after a devastating air strike in Al Qaim, in Anbar Province, Western Iraq. The Foreign Office spokesman added: ‘We have a number of sources of information coming in. ‘The incident occurred last weekend, and so we have received the reports in the last few days. We don’t have any representation inside Syria, and so it is difficult to confirm these reports.’ The Foreign Office also issued an official statement saying: ‘We are aware of reports. We cannot confirm these reports.’ A spokesman for US Central Command said they were unable to confirm the details for security reasons. The joint US-Iraqi mission left at least ten IS commanders dead, and around 40 injured. Those reportedly hurt included IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
The Mail provides a great infographic detailing the fractured timeline as we have it so far: 1416081735658_wps_43_BANNER_jpg

America's latest mission in Iraq has been marred from the start by mixed messages, disagreement in Congress, and a slow, steady increase in troop count. In the battle to manage expectations regarding mission time and troop commitment, Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey has remained at odds with the Obama administration over pledges to keep American soldiers out of combat, and has tried to emphasize how volatile the situation in Iraq and Syria has become. Dempsey followed up his announcement that the U.S. would consider sending a small number of ground troops to help Iraqi fighters engage insurgents by making a surprise visit to Iraq to assess the situation on the ground. Reports show that the General was pleased with the progress Iraqi troops had made, but managed expectations by saying that continuing to roll back the influence of ISIS will require deeper involvement in more complex operations. From Fox News:
"I'm not predicting at this point that I would recommend that those forces in Mosul and along the border would need to be accompanied by U.S. forces, but we're certainly considering it," he told the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. He added that the U.S. has a modest force in Iraq now, and "any expansion of that, I think, would be equally modest. I just don't foresee a circumstance when it would be in our interest to take this fight on ourselves with a large military contingent." Dempsey's visit comes just one day after Iraqi forces drove Islamic State militants out of a strategic oil refinery town north of Baghdad, scoring their biggest battlefield victory yet.

Congress is gearing up for the next big budget battle, and the Administration's latest funding request could stir tensions between the midterm election's winners and losers. This week President Obama approved deployment of an additional 1,500 U.S. soldiers to help train Iraqi and Kurdish forces in their battle against ISIS. The additional forces and support activities will tack on an additional $5.6 billion to the budget, but defense officials argue that continuing success in the region means putting more resources to the task:
Lately, with the aid of the U.S. strikes, the Islamic State has suffered a number of losses in Iraq, where it is fighting government forces, peshmerga and Shiite militias aided by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah group. Last week, Iraqi forces recaptured the town of Jurf al-Sakher. ISIS also lost Rabia, Mahmoudiyah and Zumar, a string of towns near the Syrian border, last month. Besieged Iraqi troops have also managed to maintain control of Iraq's largest oil refinery outside the town of Beiji north of Baghdad, despite numerous attempts by the Islamic State group to capture it. At the same time, some have warned the U.S. operation is insufficient. In particular, there have been calls to send troops to the western Anbar province, where extremists have been slaughtering men, women and children. A senior military official said one of the operations centers being set up by the U.S. will be in Anbar Province, and that it is likely that the bulk of the additional troops will be in Iraq by the end of the year. ... The money will also go toward “replenishing or replacing munitions expended while conducting air strikes against ISIL, including from Air force and Navy platforms” as well as “financing operations and maintenance costs for air, ground and naval operations, including: flying hours; ship steaming days; and fuel, supplies and repair parts,” according to the White House.
The elephant in the room, of course, is this past week's elections, which many believe served as a mandate against President Obama's policies at home and abroad. The media has already begun to hint at trouble brewing for this new mission and its funding.

The U.S. Military is on a mission to manage expectations regarding the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. military operations against Islamic State, gave an update at the Pentagon about the military campaign in Iraq, and emphasized that while U.S. forces have made gains against Islamic State militants, we still have a long way to go. From AP's Big Story:
Army Gen. Lloyd Austin said he believes the Iraqi government will successfully enlist the support of Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province to turn the tide in that important region, where the militants have made recent gains. And he said he sees no imminent threat to the international airport west of Baghdad, where U.S. Apache helicopters are monitoring IS efforts to make inroads on the capital. "The campaign to destroy ISIL will take time and there will be occasional setbacks along the way," Austin told a Pentagon news conference, using another acronym for the Islamic State group, "and particularly in these early stages of the campaign as we coach and mentor a force that is actively working to regenerate capability after years of neglect and poor leadership."
I recently wrote a rather frustrated article about the actions of the Obama administration in conjunction with our mission in northern Iraq; the optics surrounding this administration are embarrassing on an international level, which is why I believe that it's a smart move for the military to temper expectations while emphasizing plans and progress.

I was in high school when U.S. troops laid siege to Baghdad. My boyfriend at the time helped secure and eventually occupy several of the palaces, and his phone calls from the first warzone either of us had ever known helped me gain a deeper understanding into what it means to send our troops in to "take" a city. So you'll understand when I say that I find the recent developments in northern Iraq and Baghdad a little difficult to swallow. Today's report from Bloomberg details how ISIS militants are using their own unique tactics to push back against U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq:
Islamic State claimed responsibility for a triple suicide bombing in northern Iraq that killed at least 58 people as militants defied U.S.-led airstrikes to stage attacks across Iraq and Syria. The group said on a jihadist website that three foreign fighters carried out the attacks yesterday in Qara Tappah in the ethnically mixed province of Diyala, 75 miles north of Baghdad. A roadside bomb also killed the police chief of the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, where security forces are struggling to repel militant attacks. Islamic State has so far resisted efforts by the Iraqi military to wrest back control of Sunni areas of the country, while continuing its own offensive in Iraq and neighboring Syria. President Barack Obama’s senior military adviser warned that militants were blending with Sunni populations in communities near Baghdad, increasing the likelihood of attacks on the Iraqi capital. “I have no doubt there will be days when they use indirect fire into Baghdad,” the adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey, said in an interview yesterday with “This Week” on ABC. Indirect fire can refer to use of mortars or artillery fire.

A Muslim civil rights lawyer and mother of three was found guilty of apostasy by an ISIS-founded sharia court in Mosul. Her offense? She posted a blog post to Facebook that was critical of ISIS' destruction of places of worship. She was then tortured for days and suffered a public executed by masked firing squad. According to Newser:
The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq says Samira Salih al-Nuaimi was seized from her home on Sept. 17 after allegedly posting messages on Facebook that were critical of the militants' destruction of places of worship in Mosul. According to the UN mission, al-Nuaimi was tried in a so-called "Sharia court" for apostasy, after which she was tortured for five days before the militants sentenced her to "public execution." She was killed on Monday, the UN mission said. Her Facebook page appears to have been removed since her death. "By torturing and executing a female human rights' lawyer and activist, defending in particular the civil and human rights of her fellow citizens in Mosul, [ISIS] continues to attest to its infamous nature, combining hatred, nihilism, and savagery, as well as its total disregard of human decency," Nickolay Mladenov, the UN envoy to Iraq, said in a statement. 
An AP wire story posted on Women of Grace has more details:

The NY Times made a rather large error the other day, and then issued a correction:
"...[Our article] gave an incorrect comparison between efforts by the president to seek allies' support for this plans and President George W. Bush's efforts on such backing for the Iraq War. The approach Mr. Obama is taking is similar to the one Mr. Bush took; it is not the case that "Unlike Mr. Bush in the Iraq war, Mr. Obama has sought to surround the United States with partners."
Hot Air points out that the Times is hardly alone in its egregious error (or was it a purposeful falsehood, otherwise known as a lie?) What's more, what took the Times ten days to figure it out, when the Times own contemporaneous coverage of the Iraq War easily refuted it? It's the old "fool or knave" question again. You might ask why we should care anymore, and I have to admit I care a lot less than I once did, because I have grown accustomed to the MSM's tendency toward stupidity/ignorance, reckless disregard for the truth, propensity to lie, blatant bias, and intense and shameless arrogance. But the process by which the Times and the rest of the MSM forms the opinions of the public (and it still is highly influential in doing so) remains a huge problem.

After years of political opposition, conflict, and even comparisons to our infamous involvement in Vietnam and southeast Asia, lawmakers---especially those up for re-election this year---are hesitant to send another round of money and troops into Iraq. Last week, Congress approved the funding required to arm and train Syrian rebels opposed to ISIS as part of a continuing resolution to fund the government through mid-December. When the CR expires, so will the funding for Syria, and top leaders in Congress are questioning President Obama's long term strategy for the Middle East. Via the AP:
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., haven't said whether they'll take up a broader authorization. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who hopes to replace Reid as the Senate majority leader, also isn't committing to such a process; he was a major force in ensuring the training element of Obama's plan be kept on a short leash. "I lean toward giving the president more latitude, and some of my colleagues want to be more restrictive," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a leading proponent of even more forceful military action, said. "I don't know if we'll work out those differences or not." Still, McCain faulted the Obama administration for not explicitly asking for Congress' blessing on the larger war strategy. "This is going to be an extended conflict, and they're going to need an authorization," he said. "And they're being very short-sighted by not asking for it.
On the other end of the spectrum from Senator McCain is Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who voted "no" on the funding for training and arms for Syrian rebels:

Today, the House approved a $500 million measure dedicated to the arming and training of Syrian rebels.
The authorization is limited in scope to training up to 5,000 members of the Syrian opposition in Saudi Arabia. It provides no new funding and requires the administration to provide status reports to Congress. The Obama administration said the mission may be funded by international contributions, but the resolution authorizes the Pentagon to shift funds from other accounts if necessary.
Although the vote was bipartisan (273-156), both Republicans and Democrats have serious concerns about the President's plan to roll back ISIS. Via the Washington Post:
Democrats are concerned that without clearly defined parameters passed by Congress in the coming months, new U.S. military operations in the Middle East could fester for several years with no clear strategy or definition of success. Republicans have worried that Obama's plans so far are too limited. One top GOP leader suggested Congress could go as far as giving the president blanket military authority, even if Obama doesn’t want it, when Congress holds a much broader debate after the November elections about the fight against Islamic terrorists.

Barack Obama's address to the nation regarding the threat of ISIS was met with both cautious optimism and unbridled mockery from pundits on both sides of the aisle. No one was more optimistic than CNN's latest hire, former Obama Administration press secretary Jay Carney. Unfortunately for Carney, however, CNN had also invited Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who was more than a little irritated at the media's willingness to overlook the fact that Obama chose to ignore the possibility of the current crisis when he decided to pull the occupying force out of Iraq.
Facts are stubborn things, Mr. Carney. His entire national security team, including his Secretary of State, said we want to arm and train and equip these people and he made the unilateral decision to turn them down. And the fact he didn’t leave a residual force in Iraq, overruling all of his military advisers, is the reason we’re facing ISIS today. So the facts are stubborn things in history, and people ought to know them. And now the president is saying basically that we are going to take certain actions, which I would favor. But to say that America is safer, and that the situation is very much like Yemen and Somalia shows me that the President really doesn’t have a grasp for how serious the threat of ISIS is.
Carney eventually managed to respond, in true Carney fashion:
It is a mis – basically a whitewash of history to suggest that there weren’t periods of enormous chaos and fighting and bloodshed in Iraq when there were tens of thousands of Americans troops on the ground. That is a fact. And that was true in 2004, it was true in 2007. And it was true even when we had the highest number of U.S. troops on the ground. We cannot – the United States of America – ask our military to be a permanent occupying force in a country like Iraq.

Our "boots on the ground" troops in Iraq are receiving mixed messages, and it's causing more than just a morale problem. Officials overseas are calling out the Obama Administration on their jumbled approach to current actions being taken against the Islamic State in Iraq. The current mission against ISIS calls for diplomatic protection in addition to airborne and humanitarian missions, and military leadership can't get a clear read on just how far President Obama is willing to go to destroy (or shrink, he can't decide) Islamic extremism. Via Fox News:
Biden on Wednesday delivered what was probably the toughest statement to date from the administration, declaring, after another U.S. journalist was beheaded by the Islamic State, "we will follow them to the gates of Hell until they are brought to justice." But his tough talk was at odds with a message delivered earlier in the day by President Obama, who said that while his administration's goal is to "destroy" ISIS -- it also is to "shrink" it to a "manageable problem." Amid the mixed messages, a source in contact with special operators in Iraq told Fox News that "frustration and confusion reign" among Americans on the ground there. The source relayed the complaint of an unnamed special operator: "Chase them to the Gates of Hell? How the [f---] are we going to do that when we can't even leave the front gate of our base!?"
President Obama recently agreed to send 350 additional troops to Baghdad to protect our diplomatic mission, bringing our troop total on the ground to just over 1200. According to the White House, those troops were meant to relieve previously deployed units while "providing a more robust, sustainable security force for our personnel and facilities in Baghdad.” Now, it seems even the President and the Vice President can't get their messaging straight.

Advocating for foreign intervention is not something you usually hear from libertarian poster children like Senator Paul. And yet, that seems to be what he's preaching. From WaPo:
"If I were president, I would call a joint session of Congress," Paul told the AP. "I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily."
Good. Someone should have a plan to deal with those monsters. But as WaPo points out, Paul is supposed to be the only non-interventionist in the bunch of potential 2016 contenders. Compare Paul's statement to the rest of the pack of GOP potential candidates, as compiled by WaPo:
Chris Christie: ""The ISIS situation is one that deserves a really detailed answer, which I'm not going to give you while walking down the boardwalk and taking selfies." Marco Rubio: "If we do not act now to assist our Iraqi partners and moderate Syrians who oppose ISIL, as well as utilize our own forces to directly target ISIL’s leadership, the result will be more suffering and tragedy for our people.”

The White House has agreed to send 350 additional troops to Baghdad following a State Department request for more protection at the U.S. embassy and other installations. Via Time:
“This action was taken at the recommendation of the Department of Defense after an extensive interagency review, and is part of the President’s commitment to protect our personnel and facilities in Iraq as we continue to support the Government of Iraq in its fight against [ISIS],” [White House press secretary Josh] Earnest said. “These additional forces will not serve in a combat role.” ... “The President has made clear his commitment to doing whatever is required to provide the necessary security for U.S. personnel and facilities around the world,” Earnest said. “The request he approved today will allow some previously deployed military personnel to depart Iraq, while at the same time providing a more robust, sustainable security force for our personnel and facilities in Baghdad.”
According to CBS News, this will bring the U.S. troop count sent to Iraq to deal with the current crisis to 800, and the total U.S. troop presence in Baghdad to 1,213.

In what has become a nearly daily occurrence, President Obama summoned the media to discuss the situation in Iraq (and Ferguson, Missouri) from his vacation spot in Martha's Vineyard. The President seemed to take a victory lap on United States' efforts to stabilize the Yazidi refugee crisis in Northern Iraq.
President Obama announced Thursday that U.S.-led airstrikes have broken the siege by Islamic militants against religious minorities who were trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq -- but made clear the U.S. mission in the region is not over yet. The president, in brief remarks from Martha's Vineyard where his family is on vacation, said he expects the specific operation at Mount Sinjar to wind down. He said military planners will be leaving in the coming days, aid drops will stop and a U.S.-led evacuation is likely no longer needed. "The situation on the mountain has greatly improved," Obama said. "We broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar. We helped vulnerable people reach safety." But Obama said U.S. involvement will not come to an end, as militants with the Islamic State -- also known as ISIS, or ISIL -- continue to brutalize the civilian population in the region, especially minorities like Iraqi Christians and Yazidis. Obama said "we will continue airstrikes" where necessary to protect American personnel and facilities in Iraq.