Obama Battles With His Generals And Now His Intelligence Advisors Regarding ISIS

By Sal Bommarito

On Sunday, President Obama said to Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes” that U.S. intelligence agencies underestimated the strength of ISIS. The comment was stunning as the president failed to take any personal responsibility for the tardy U.S. response to ISIS, in effect blaming the current situation on his advisors.

In the past 48 hours, the intelligence community struck back at their president, indicating that the commander-in-chief was fully briefed that ISIS was rapidly growing more dangerous. Note: Several news outlets have published articles indicating the president did not attend many intelligence meetings.

Frankly, it’s becoming more difficult to believe that the administration is being transparent about the evolution of the decision to attack Iraq and Syria, and about the expectations of the bombing strategy. Most disconcerting is that the president disregarded advice from his intelligence advisors just as he did with his generals relating to the need for boots on the ground.

The mission behind the airstrikes is to defeat ISIS. What does this mean? Will ISIS be incapable of conducting terror activities when the bombing ends? No one knows, maybe not even the president. Yet, most people do not believe the threat of ISIS will disintegrate in one, two or three years without ground support.

The president said Al Qaeda was dead after bin Laden was killed. Not so, especially now that we know ISIS and Khoradan are branches of Al Qaeda.

What about the participation of coalition partners? None are acting militarily against Syria, even though the head of the ISIS snake is purportedly in Syria. And, the U.S. is conducting most of the attacks in Iraq as well. The Arab nations are providing only minimal support, an outrageous division of duties considering that ISIS is a much more serious threat to them than to America.

What is the real truth about Iran? Will the president agree to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for help in fighting ISIS? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel thinks this a horrible strategy and said so at the United Nations yesterday.

President Obama has yet to prove that he is capable of being an effective wartime president. His communication technique always results in more questions than answers. If America is truly going to war, Americans deserve to know what the relevant facts.

What’s Iran Up To In The ISIS Conflict?

By Sal Bommarito

The involvement of Iran in the ISIS conflict is anything but simple. There are a number of issues that will affect the political, diplomatic and military moves Iran makes in the months to come. They include the following:

• Iran borders Iraq.
• The Shiite majority dominates Iraq’s government.
• Iran is predominately Shiite, while ISIS is radical Sunni.
• Iran resents U.S. presence in the Middle East.
• Iran is negotiating with the U.S. and others relating to its fledgling nuclear program.
• Iran is an ally of Syria.

Iraq as a neighbor. Recently, ISIS forces approached the border of Iran during its campaign in eastern Iraq. The Iranian government responded by warning ISIS to keep its distance. The Iranians said they would respond aggressively deep into Iraq if military action occurs near its border. Iran is concerned that ISIS may destabilize its population.

Iraq government is controlled by Shiites. Iraq and Iran have become allies since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni government. It is understandable that Iran would want to help solidify Shiite power in Iraq.

Iran is Shiite and ISIS is Sunni. The tension between Iran and ISIS is predictable as they are on opposite sides of the Islamic scale.

Iran does not want the U.S. to intervene in the Middle East. Even though the U.S. has targeted ISIS, Iran does not want the U.S. to conduct military operation in Iraq unless the Iraqi government continues to encourage American involvement.

Iran’s nuclear program. Iran is willing to work with the U.S. to fight ISIS only if the U.S. negotiates a favorable deal relating to Iran’s nuclear program. This is not likely to be a constructive process.

Iran is an ally of Syria and supportive of Assad. Iran objects to American bombing of ISIS forces in Syria unless Syria invites the U.S. to do so. Iran has indicated that the bombings are illegal by international law.

The bluster of the Iranian leaders during the U.N. meetings last week exposed Iran’s sensitivities towards Iraq, Syria and the U.S. Religious gains together with endorsement of its nuclear program will drive its diplomatic and military decisions.

While ISIS Fights, U.S. Congress Runs Home

By Sal Bommarito

Congressional Democrats are relieved that the president is not going ask for a vote of confidence on his Iraq and Syrian engagements, even if significant constitutional issues are at hand. Obama and Democrats promised to end the wars in the Middle East. So, it would be bizarre for them to endorse air power strikes that could lead to multi-year confrontations right before the mid-term elections.

The president continues to dodge a critial issue that hangs over his latest adventures- U.S. boots on the ground- even when nearly every military expert has indicated the U.S. cannot win the war with ISIS without them.

Let’s face it, the Iraqis are incapable of securing their country against ISIS, and after the war is over, they will not be capable of defending the country against Sunni insurrection and insurgency. The New York Times reports “Iraq Army Woos Deserters Back To War On ISIS.” Is the success of the coalition really dependent upon former deserters to mop after the bombing raids?

In Syria, the moderate rebels together with Syrian government forces were losing ground every day to ISIS. U.S. bomb strikes have supposedly helped stem the tide, but when the air attacks are over, ISIS fighters will emerge from their rat holes amidst the Syrian population and pick up where they left off.

What U.S. politician wants to be on record supporting Obama’s disaster in the making? Even Republicans are content to let the ISIS saga play out for a few months before signing onto any proclamations of war. Verbally, conservatives indicate that they are in favor of aggressive action against ISIS, but they would rather not be labeled warmongers shortly before voters go to the polls.

Regardless of one’s perspective on the air strikes, we should demand that Congress men and women take a stand and vote to support the president or not. Our soldiers and fighter pilots must be scratching their heads about the ambivalent attitude of our leaders, while they are in harm’s way. But it’s politics, all the time in America.

The wisdom of Obama’s decisions is another issue. Most Americans agree that Arabs should be cleaning up their own problems. Why the hell is America spending its money and blood, while the Saudis and Iranians sit on the sidelines and pontificate about American aggression, values and lifestyles? Given this state of affairs, the least the U.S. should do is be sure that ISIS is a real threat to our national security.

It’s easy to be skeptical about this when most experts say ISIS is not a national security threat, and suddenly a new Al Qaeda group appears out of nowhere that is preparing to attack western airlines and subway systems. Really? Maybe so, but I can’t help thinking that Obama wanted to justify his actions, and he manufactured a national emergency.

Finally, if the U.S. is going to take on the responsibility of killing ISIS fighters, why aren’t we doing it with more enthusiasm? Do we need boots on the ground or not? If we do, and are not willing to shed any more American blood in the region, then why are we bombing at all? There is no endgame except a long, drawn out embroilment with violent and very unhappy people.

I miss the days of decisive leadership. Going into war is serious business, and not doing it using every reasonable amount of firepower available is a bad strategy. Obama should not just dip our feet into the swamp known as the Middle East. The police do not try to wound armed and dangerous attackers. They shoot to kill.

“For ISIS, Violence Is An End To Itself”

By Sal Bommarito

The turmoil created by ISIS represents a momentous change within the Sunni sect and will have a lasting impact on the Middle East.

For some time, people have been puzzled by the support of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni monarchies afforded to the U.S. coalition. The initial assessment of their response to ISIS was that these regimes considered the terrorists an existential threat. This is true, but it is exacerbated by a great schism among Sunnis.

For years, Sunnis have battled with Shiites. This feud has been well documented, and frankly, the differences between the two groups have blurred over time. It principally relates back to the original leadership of Islam centuries ago. Nevertheless, the blood lust created by this division of Islam has been responsible for untold violence and political instability. Basically, Sunni nations are badgered by Shiite insurgency and vise versa.

But now, the situation has become more intriguing. The Sunni sect has divided into two groups. The extent that each resorts to violence separates them. The “more peaceful” group recognizes that it must find ways to live with other nations, cultures and religions. Be sure, this group is controlled by serious ideology and customs, mistrustful of outsiders and degrading to women. But, the more peaceful group sees growing violence as a threat to Islam. The latter is so aggressive and emboldened that it stirs the concerns of nations outside the region.

Many of the more aggressive Sunnis (ISIS) have mustered in Iraq and Syria. They are blood-thirsty fighters who want to kill, not just convert, all those who do not worship God the same way they do. The source of ISIS discontent and aggression is the Wahhabi tradition that must “[purify] the community of the faithful,” as the New York Times has described it. This differentiates the ISIS crowd from the also violent Al Qaeda. “For Al Qaeda, violence is a means to an [end], for ISIS, it is an end to itself.”

The result was that Al Qaeda disassociated itself from ISIS because it is too violent. Keep in mind Al Qaeda executed the 9/11 attacks and was the home of Osama bin Laden.

Now, less radical Sunnis from the region have joined the U.S. coalition to fight ISIS. In fact, Sunnis are piloting planes that are dropping bombs on other Sunni Arabs.

It is noteworthy to point out that Sunnis are fighting against other Sunnis in alliance with the U.S. Iran is on the sidelines opposing ISIS along with moderate Sunnis and the U.S. Moderate Sunnis and the U.S. oppose Assad of Syria, while Iran supports him.

The scorecard is difficult to follow. But one thing is sure, ISIS represents the most violent arm of the most violent group on earth (Al Qaeda). The mission to destroy it is noble, wise and critically important to western nations and to Arab regimes. All countries in the region are at risk because recruitment and funding have been expedited by social media as part of a continuing Arab Spring.

More ISIS Bombing And Presidential Contrition At The UN

By Sal Bommarito

The U.S. resumed bombing sorties. Strikes were made on oil facilities commandeered by ISIS. The wells were generating millions of dollars to support ISIS operations.

In the meantime, an ISIS affiliated organization beheaded Herve Gourdel, a Frenchman, in retribution for France airstrikes in Iraq. President Hollande indicated that the atrocity would not deter future airstrikes by French pilots.

The bombing of Khorasan supposedly decreased the chances of a significant terror attack in the U.S. and other western countries. Some say the more likely attacks will be by disgruntled “lone wolves” on a much smaller scale.

It has been reported that Iran may be collaborating with the U.S. Apparently, Iran was informed that the U.S. would be attacking Syria beforehand. Iran then informed the Syrian government so that they would not attempt to shoot down U.S. fighter jets.

The most important diplomatic event was Obama’s appearance at the U.N. The following is a list of significant comments the president made during the day.

-The president was generally apologetic.
-U.S. is not at war with Islam.
-Force is the only language that terrorists understand.
-The president was very sensitive towards Muslims.
-The Ferguson shooting was mentioned as a way to show the world that America has internal problems.
-The ISIS conflict will continue for a while.
-Climate change is just as critical as terror.

The president should not have been apologetic because the U.S. is doing most of the dirty work attacking ISIS. Arab countries should be thanking the U.S. for its leadership in fighting the terrorists.

Shaming America by bringing up Ferguson was a serious mistake. For one thing, the shooting is still being investigated. Second, the comparison of a one-man tragedy to a full scale terrorist invasion of two nations is absurd.

Interestingly, the president did not ask for U.N. approval of Syrian attacks. The Russians would have vetoed it in any case. This is related to the fact that no coalition members are flying missions in Syria.

Obama’s comments about Khorasan being an imminent threat to the U.S. might be a ploy to by-pass Congress. ISIS does not meet the criteria. The president may act unilaterally if national security is at risk.

The handling of the ISIS crisis is being criticized by many. However, the bombing raids are the right tactic. It would be better if the president stopped telegraphing future moves to the enemy.

Can The Coalition Defeat ISIS With Or Without U.S. Ground Support?

By Sal Bommarito

Fact: U.S. military leaders are strongly in favor of a boots on the ground strategy for Iraq and Syria. The president continues to be totally against the use of U.S. ground forces in the ISIS conflict.

Fact: Airstrikes are most effective in open expanses, like the desert. In highly populated areas, airstrikes will result in significant collateral damage, and many innocent civilians will lose their lives.

Fact: Most experts are highly critical of the ability of the Iraqi army to provide ground support. They were ineffective during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and many deserted when confronted by ISIS earlier this year.

Fact: The “moderate” Syrian rebels are not ready for prime time. Exacerbating the situation is that it is impossible to predict whether they will remain loyal to the U.S. if ISIS is defeated. There is a strong chance that the arms the U.S. plans to give to this group may be used against America in the aftermath of the ISIS war.

There have been many reports that the U.S. will not be able to soundly defeat ISIS using only airpower. In this regard, Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense said “[The U.S.] is not going to be successful against ISIS from the air, or strictly depending upon Iraqi or [Kurdish soldiers].”

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey said that if current battle plans do not work out “[he] would go back to the president and [recommend] the use of U.S. ground forces.”

There are other generals who are suggesting more aggressive action on the part of the president. They include Gen. John Allen, Gen. Lloyd Austin and Gen. Jack Kean.

Obama’s response to the suggestion that ground troops are needed was that the U.S. should “use [its] unique capabilities in supporting our partners on the ground so they can secure their own country’s future.” This may be based upon his experiences that massive ground forces did not inhibit insurgency in either Iraq or in Afghanistan over the past decade. The U. S. occupation of Iraq “gave birth to [ISIS].” In Afghanistan, more than a decade of occupation “has failed to destroy Al Qaeda or the Taliban.”

Who should the American people support, Obama or his generals? Many say the generals are the experts in warfare, and their recommendations should carry a lot of weight. But, what if Obama and the generals are both correct? If so, the U.S. will not unable to completely destroy ISIS from the air, and the deployment of troops will not change that outcome.

These contingencies create a grave dilemma for the U.S. Basically there may be no way to destroy ISIS. So, what the hell is the U.S. doing in Iraq and Syria? And, why hasn’t the president made all these issues clear to his constituencies?

Maybe the mission is faulty. Or maybe, the president has not been 100% truthful to America because of political an/or legacy concerns. Perhaps the mission should be to kill as many ISIS fighters from the air, exclusively. Then let the natives deal with the problem of nation building and security after the bombing sorties end.

Questions and the risks relating to the current plan to eliminate ISIS are growing every day, yet the administration has done little to allay our concerns.

Bombs Away! U.S. And Sunni Arab Nations Attack Syrian Terrorists

By Sal Bommarito

The United States and five Sunni Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordon and the UAE, attacked terrorist targets in Syria. The U.S. alone launched an attack against another terrorist group called Khorasan, an Al Qaeda offshoot.

Regarding Khorasan, U.S. intelligence is confidant that the group was planning terrorist attacks against the U.S. and/or western countries possibly involving the detonation of a bomb on a commercial airliner.

An army general indicated that there were three major targets in Syria. Attacks were conducted by manned fighter jets and unmanned cruise missiles.

The general said this was only the beginning of a larger campaign. He insisted that no ground troop deployments were underway. The attacks were labeled successful, but very few details were provided pending further analysis.

In terms of the coalition, the preponderance of munitions came from U.S. warplanes and naval vessels. Nevertheless, Arab jets delivered some bombs in the attack. Some analysts are surprised that the coalition came together so rapidly and that Sunni Arab nations dropped bombs in Syria.

Will ISIS Opt To Go Down In A Blaze Of Glory?

By Sal Bommarito

Because of its complete disregard for human rights, Arabs and non-Arabs around the world despise ISIS. Culminating with the beheadings of three non-combatants, the atrocities committed by these terrorists have disgusted civilized people across the globe. It appears that no deed is too horrible for ISIS; and no nation is safe.

When ISIS succumbs to the impending onslaught of American air power, how will it react? Will the violence taper off rapidly, or will ISIS choose to go down in a blaze of glory. This essay will explore some of these dire possibilities.

First and foremost, any persons being held captive by ISIS will be in grave danger when the group recognizes that the end is close. It is unknown how many prisoners have been taken, but in its final moments ISIS will likely opt to kill all prisoners and slaughter thousands more in populated areas regardless of their religion or race.

If ISIS captures coalition soldiers including Iraqi and Syrian government and militia fighters, it will show no mercy towards them. Presumably, these poor souls would be executed immediately.

The most valuable physical assets in Iraq are its oil facilities. ISIS fighters may sabotage these installations and create a significant oil shortage. The cost of repairing such destruction could ultimately cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Iraqi soldiers blew up oil fields as they retreated in the first war.

If ISIS could somehow obtain a dirty bomb, a small nuclear device and/or a chemical agent from another terrorist group with its vast cash resources, it might use it in a highly populated area.

Another contingency that has been discussed frequently is the potential of ISIS’ newly recruited fighters from the west returning to their homelands and creating havoc. It would not be difficult for these individuals to build unsophisticated bombs and detonate them killing innocents thousands of miles from the killing fields in Iraq and Syria.

A tactic that would hurt Iraq and Syria long-term would be the calculated assassination of local leaders in the areas that are currently occupied. A dearth of leadership moving forward would make it difficult for these countries to recover politically after hostilities ended.

ISIS may already be planning to export terror to other places in the Middle East and beyond. Americans always think they are the next on every terrorist’s list of targets. But, countries neighboring the killing zone might also be targets. Indiscriminate bombings are a potential problem that all should be concerned with.

Philosophically, the successes of ISIS even if it is ultimately destroyed could serve as an inspiration to other groups who feel disenfranchised or oppressed. This is not to say that change is anathema. Rather, the oppressed might opt for violent opposition rather than peaceful reform.

And finally, terrorists around the world are now recognizing the power of social media. It enables large groups to organize quickly. We can only hope that these assemblies of people are seeking peaceful ways to make changes.

ISIS is a phenomenon that was allowed to blossom because of inaction on the part of many. If this terrorist threat had been addressed earlier, it would not have reached epic levels. It will take years to undo everything that ISIS has done, even though it took only months for the terrorists to prove their mettle.

Will The Defeat Of ISIS Lead To Peace In The Middle East?

By Sal Bommarito

True success in the ISIS confrontation would be the total extermination of the terrorists and an era of peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, neither of these is realistic. So, what outcomes would be considered favorable?

The U.S. must emasculate ISIS so that it could no longer effectively fight against government and militia forces in Iraq and Syria. This would entail killing many of the ISIS fighters, eliminating ISIS command and control and cutting off funding. This may be possible, but it will be difficult without boots on the ground to mop up after U.S. bombing sorties. The U.S. needs the cooperation of all Arab nations to ensure ISIS does not receive more financial support to continue its fight.

A successful outcome would mean peace in Iraq and the formation of an inclusive government that shares power with Shiite and Sunni factions. It would also require the cessation of insurgency encouraged by Iran and Saudi Arabia. The chances of these becoming a reality are remote. Shiites will not share power with their former oppressors, and Sunnis will continue to fight for equality. The Iranians and the Saudis will likely continue to use Iraq as a killing field.

A successful outcome in Syria would also be peace. However, the elimination of ISIS is only the first step in this process. After ISIS is dealt with, President Assad must be dethroned. Assad is a tyrant who kills his own people to secure his position and foments radical Islamic ideology in the region. Given that Iran and Russia support the despot, the chances of true peace in Syria are slim. An ancillary issue is how the moderate rebels in Syria will respond after ISIS. Will they lay down their arms or continue to fight with Assad forces and/or the U.S.?

The underlying issues that preclude peace in the region are fourfold, and they are affiliated to one another.

1. The Shiite/Sunni feud is a battle that has spanned centuries and will not end during this generation.
2. Insurgency, which is an outgrowth of the aforementioned item, will likely continue. Shia will cause problems for Sunni regimes, and Sunnis will respond in kind.
3. The existence of Israel infuriates nearly every Arab in the Middle East. The Israelis, with U.S. support, will continue to respond to terrorism and threats of all types.
4. Because the U.S. supports Israel and because America will likely interfere in Middle East matters in the interests of national security, the Arab world will forever be threatened by the U.S. Many still believe the U.S. is principally interested in the region’s oil reserves.

President Obama should be managing American expectations regarding the outcome of the ISIS crisis. There is no panacea after ISIS. The proverbial whack-a-mole mentality will dictate U.S. aggression in the Middle East to the consternation of all Arabs.

ISIS Coalition: Not Very Helpful To U.S.

By Sal Bommarito

At the United Nations this past week, the interested parties took sides in the complex situation confronting the U.S. as it forms a coalition and maps out a strategy to combat ISIS. The episode is documented in a New York Times article on Saturday.

Secretary of State John Kerry “expressed gratitude to a host of allies for bolstering the American-led campaign against terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria . . .” This depiction is odd from a number of perspectives. For one, very few nations are explicitly backing an attack on Syria; and, the coalition has not yet begun operations there. Secondly, the only nation that has participated in military actions besides the U.S. is France. And finally, Kerry thanked Saudi clerics “for condemning the Islamic State as an ‘order of Satan.’” The Saudis should be expressing their gratitude to the U.S. for doing their dirty work and delaying ISIS efforts to de-stabilize the Saudi regime.

In the meantime, Iran was told they were not invited to attend an international meeting to discuss the fight against ISIS. Yet, Iran’s cooperation may be critical to the U.S. mission. In response, Iran indicated that it supported the Assad regime even as it abhors ISIS. Frankly, the U.S. has no choice but to spurn Iran, as the latter’s involvement would “complicate” U.S. relations with Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkey said that Syria is a “patron of extremism,” while Saudi Arabia “blamed it for fueling the rise of ISIS.

Russia is Syria’s principal backer and warned the coalition not to extend the fighting into Syria. Outrageously, the Russians said any attack should be approved by Syria or in a Security Council resolution, or it would be illegal. As they said this, Russia continued its illegal invasion of the Ukraine.

The observation to be made is that the U.S. is asking for permission and thanking others far too often; instead it should be moving forward aggressively against the terrorists. The hypocrisy of the other players is mind-boggling, yet the U.S. does not call them out. The current Arab regimes not yet impacted by the Arab Spring should be going all in with the U.S. to prevent violent uprisings in their own countries. Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni regimes will be on the ISIS agenda if the U.S. is not successful in Iraq and Syria.

As for the Russians, it must be difficult for U.S. diplomats to listen to them suggest that U.S. actions to fight ISIS anywhere are illegal after the vicious way it has de-stabilized another sovereign nation.

The sides are drawn up. The U.S. wants to kill ISIS without deploying ground troops (our generals are saying this will be impossible), topple Assad and placate Saudi Arabia. Iran wants revolution to disrupt its Sunni enemies. It detests the leadership of the U.S. and American military operations in its backyard. The European coalition members, for the most part, want to participate in the destruction of ISIS without any risk of casualties or expenditures. Russia is anxious to support Assad and the oppressive regime in Syria.

What a mess! I hope this all works out.