Mosul: The New Front Line

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This attack on an Iraqi-American forward base near Mosul signals that there still some effective insurgent military forces in area, as opposed to suicide bombers.

A mortar and rocket attack timed to produce dozens of wounded and kill 22 is not amateur hour. It also lends credence to the notion voiced by some U.S. commanders that their attackers receive support from nearby Syria, and/or Iran. The Kurds are also upset with elections planned for next month and are talking boycott.

All in all, a classic snafu.

Update: There is now a claim that the attack was a suicide bomber mission, but the official investigation continues.

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  1. It should be pointed out that the linked story about the Kurds specifically states that the boycott threat is limited to provincial elections, not the national elections.

  2. I’m having trouble visualizing exactly what I should be hoping for in Iraq. I’ve got a list of things I DON’T want to see, as long as my arm. But when I try to think positively, all I can come up with either pathetically naive (I hope nobody else dies; I hope the insurgents decide to call it a day, finish their degrees, and live peaceful lives), or just plain pathetic (I hope the elections don’t make things worse), or so abstract as to be meaningless (I hope, someday, people in Iraq are able to live in a peaceful, democratic society).

    Help me out here, hawks. What concrete instances of progress should I be hoping for?

  3. Concrete instances of progress in the bank:

    (1) The Hussein dynasty ended.
    (2) No more funding of Islamist terrorism by Iraq.
    (3) No resurrection of Iraqi WMD programs on the horizon.
    (4) No more invasion of its neighbors by Iraq.
    (5) No more strategic threat to regional oil by Iraq.
    (6) Islamic terrorist activity now focussed defensively on its Middle Eastern base, not offensively on the West.
    (7) Rising tide of democratic sentiment throughout the Middle East.

    Concrete instances of progress to look for:

    (1) Elections held on schedule.
    (2) Big piles of terrorist corpses.
    (3) Fielding of an effective internal Iraqi security force.
    (4) Lack of bad news from anywhere not in the Sunni triangle or Mosul (also a Sunni stronghold).

    Was that so hard?

  4. R C Dean:
    One word: Whack-a-mole.

  5. (1) The Hussein dynasty ended.

    And the very real possibility of a Shia-dominated regime aligned with Iran.

    (2) No more funding of Islamist terrorism by Iraq.

    No, but plenty of Islamist terrorists operating freely in Iraq.

    (3) No resurrection of Iraqi WMD programs on the horizon.

    I’ll give you that one.

    (4) No more invasion of its neighbors by Iraq.

    Sure, but Iran may soon gain a sympathetic neighbor. (Here’s hoping that I’m wrong.)

    (5) No more strategic threat to regional oil by Iraq.

    Remind me again how many barrels per day Iraq is currently pumping? And what’s the current price per barrel? Hmm…

    (6) Islamic terrorist activity now focussed defensively on its Middle Eastern base, not offensively on the West.

    Maybe, but a lot of Americans are still being killed, and the national mood ring hasn’t changed to a friendlier color recently.

    (7) Rising tide of democratic sentiment throughout the Middle East.

    How does one measure that? There have always been dissident Arab intellectuals calling for more freedom. Are they making any more progress with their kleptocrat leaders than they were making before the invasion of Iraq?

    Don’t get me wrong, there have been a few benefits, but the unintended consequences are a real bitch here as well.

  6. “I hope the elections are held on schedule.” That’s just plain pathetic.

    “I hope there big piles of terrorist corpses.” Wishing for the slaughter of your enemies doesn’t exactly count as positive.

    “I hope the Iraqi security forces become strong enough that…what?” That terror bombing are cut in half? That the casualties being taken by American soldiers are taken instead by Iraqi soldiers? That the Baghdad government can put down any resistance that might arise anywhere in the country? That the Iraqi National Guard will be able to inflict significant losses on the Kurdish peshmerga next year, when the debate over autonomy heats up?

    “Lack of bad news…” again, sort of pathetic. “I hope the number and severity of terrorist bombing is below the threshold that makes the news.”

  7. It really sucks having your balls in the hands of a Ayatollah.

    They never even saw that coming.

  8. SR:

    One could argue that the Kurds staying out of local elections is worse than a boycott of national elections in that it keeps several provinces in flux, without “true” governments.

  9. R.C. Dean,

    (1) The Hussein dynasty ended.

    Not until Saddam Hussein is dead; right now it is suspended. The historical record is replete with instances of tyrants returning to power after being kicked off their thrones.

    (2) No more funding of Islamist terrorism by Iraq.

    Is that really true? Seems to me that we’ve reports of Iraqi oil money going towards terrorist activities (hey, its a corrupt country).

    (3) No resurrection of Iraqi WMD programs on the horizon.

    That was apparently true before the war started.

    (4) No more invasion of its neighbors by Iraq.

    Well, that was over after the First Gulf War.

    (5) No more strategic threat to regional oil by Iraq.

    Now the threat has shifted to insurgents in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Big whoop.

    (6) Islamic terrorist activity now focussed defensively on its Middle Eastern base, not offensively on the West.

    Well, that was always a “prong” of the war; read Kepel’s book; “the near enemy” was always a focus of the various jihadists. And it is still focused offensively on the West; that’s why they keep on breaking up cells in Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid, etc.

    (7) Rising tide of democratic sentiment throughout the Middle East.

    This is one of these wholly unproveable assertions that is conclusory, wholly subjective and easily tossed aside.

  10. R.C. Dean,

    RE: Sunni triangle:

    That explains the attack of Kerbala the other day. 🙂

  11. that’s why they keep on breaking up cells in Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid, etc.

    Wait, are you saying that the Euroweenies are scoring victories in the War on Terror?

    My whole world-view has just been challenged! ;->

  12. What concrete instances of progress should I be hoping for?

    A 100% decrease in the number of people fed into wood chippers for smudging Uday’s Pumas.

    The first ME Arabs outside of Isreal to participate in elections with the opportunity to have representation of their own choosing.

    20 years of infrastructural decay being reversed.

    The environmental/cultural damage being reversed by recovering the Tigris and Euphrates marsh areas.

    The bushy moustache going away as a ME fashion trend; unfortunately replaced by the mullet.

    http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110006050

  13. Just think about it: your United States Army at the mercy of some old cleric with a black turban.

    If he says the word, millions will rise up.

    You are lucky he’s got “moral values”.

  14. Naive military question:

    Why isn’t it fairly easy to stop the inflow of arms/warriors from Syria, and to a lesser extent, Iran?

    Can’t they seal the borders a little better? It’s not like there’s a Ho-Chi-Minh Trail to hide in.

  15. Ironchef,
    As someone who knows about the Ho Chi Minh Trail:
    If you limit yourself from going into the country on the other end/side of the trail, then you have one hand tied behind your back.
    Sealing borders is a fool’s errand.

  16. Junyo,

    “A 100% decrease in the number of people fed into wood chippers for smudging Uday’s Pumas.”

    Along with a very large increase in the number of people killed by roadside bombs, 500 pound bombs, artillery shells, and land mines.

    The Russians had elections, too. Paul Mugabe was elected. I’m supposed to be hopeful that the Iranian allies are allowed to come to power?

    “20 years of infrastructural decay being reversed.” I hope the damage done by the war, the battles against insurgents, and the saboteurs is less than the construction being done. Um, ok.

    “The environmental/cultural damage being reversed by recovering the Tigris and Euphrates marsh areas.”

    I think I’ve got a winner. There is actually a good chance this siutation will improve, and it is of sufficient scope and nobility that I don’t feel pathetic saying I hope it happens.

    “The bushy moustache going away as a ME fashion trend; unfortunately replaced by the mullet.”

    Again, the Trade-Saddam-for-Iranian-Puppets thing 😉

  17. “Security is really heavy,” Mr. Blair said. “You can feel the sense of danger that people live in here.”

  18. Don’t you know, fyodor? Tony Blair is the new Jacques Chirac since Jack Straw announced that the UK wouldn’t participate in military strikes against Iran. Expect to see articles in NRO, the Weekly Standard, etc. within the coming year excoriating “weak-willed limeys” and the “Cowardly Lion”.

  19. R C Dean: (3) No resurrection of Iraqi WMD programs on the horizon.

    thoreau: I’ll give you that one.

    I haven’t been keeping up. Was that an imminent threat or not?

  20. “A mortar and rocket attack timed to produce dozens of wounded and kill 22 is not amateur hour.”

    We’re hoping here that it was a lucky 1 in a million shot for them.

  21. SR,

    At least nineteen of the dead are American soldiers; so much for your prediction that it only be American contracters.

  22. Bring the troops home now! What reasonable expectation is there for Iraq that could possibly justify any more US deaths.

    (I said that 500 deaths ago.) This is so sad.

  23. Rick Barton,
    Our military and our contractors sitting down together for lunch…
    How high must Dubya dial up the contractor ratio to incentivize sitting/moving ducks?
    I’m more than willing to face terrorists here rather than send our finest over there to be ducks in a shooting gallery.
    So sad.

  24. Big piles of terrorist corpses.

    We cheapen the word “terrorist” when we use the term to label all those in Iraq who use violence against our government’s presence in their country.

  25. Rick Barton,
    If we cut and run now, we will end up having far more deaths than we are now. Not to mention the Iraqi deaths that will occur as a result.

  26. kwais,

    There does come a point when cutting and running becomes perferable in comparison to all other options. Sometimes you just can’t salvage the souffle.

  27. Gary,
    True there does come such a point. But we are not even close to that. I don’t think it is time to give up on the 60 million Iraqis yet.

    If that point ever does come, us getting out of Iraq wont be the end of our problems. Those financing the bad guys are not interested in Iraq, they are interested in the USA in the middle east. And in some cases they are interested in the USA in general.

    If they defeat us here, it is not going to signal them to stop.

  28. What a mess! We can’t leave, even if there’s no point in staying, just because of the bad PR associated with leaving.

    And to think, I used to roll my eyes when my father told me the run up to Iraq looked just like the runup to Vietnam.

  29. kwais:

    If we cut and run now, we will end up having far more deaths than we are now.

    What?? If we leave, we will eliminate US deaths.

    Not to mention the Iraqi deaths that will occur as a result.

    That’s not clear at all. The focus of the violence is the US presence. It’s not like they’re killing each other with out regard to our government’s occupation. There is no civil war brewing that the US troops seem to be thwarting.

    joe:

    We can’t leave, even if there’s no point in staying, just because of the bad PR associated with leaving.

    Better PR is not worth kids growing up with out their Moms or Dads.

  30. Rick, I gotta disagree. Bush’s little adventure has transformed Iraq – transformed it from a place that posed little or no threat to you and me, into a place that poses a considerable threat, on the model of Taliban Afghanistan. There was absolutely no chance that that jihadists who used to control Falluja could have seized control of the Iraqi state in 2002. Today, absent American troops, there is a very good chance that those people will come to power, and have the resources of an oil-rich state at their disposal.

    There is a sort of landmine that gets activated when it is stepped on, but doesn’t blow up until you take the weight off. Idiot Bush stepped on a landmine. Yes, it was dumb to step on the landmine. That doesn’t mean taking his foot off the trigger now is the smart, right thing to do.

  31. joe,

    I know that a majority, if the polls are to be believed, of Iraqis want our government out of their country, but I don’t see any evidence that there is a jihadist majority. But even if, and they came to power in such a way as to control the oil and wanted to come after us, they would then be a conventional government with fixed assets (like the oil wells) and they would show the same reticence as other nations when it comes to aggressing against the worlds only super power. But let’s say they did anyway. We could easily defend ourselves against what ever they could throw at us.

    How many US folks have died over there? 1200? 1300? Way more than the 9/11 Pentagon attack. About as many as one of the Twin Towers. I’m thinking that we already took our foot off the land mine and that there are a lot more in the area.

    There is also another danger of our troops staying in Iraq. It will be much easier for the neocons to launch a successful propaganda campaign for attacking Syria or Iran with our government’s forces already in the region.

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