Friday, August 08, 2014
The Kurd's Last Stand - And America's Shame
The Kurds are at their last extremity. Having been denied anything in the way of arms or help by the Obama Administration, outgunned by the jihadis of the Islamic State armed with American arms, tanks and artillery they obtained from the fleeing Iraqi army and from the Obama Administration, the Kurdish Pesh Merga have been pushed back to a defensive line at Kalak, about 25 miles northwest of Irbil, Kurdistan's capitol.
A refugee camp at Kalak that was packed with thousands of refugees who’d fled Mosul and the newly conquered Christian towns just two days ago when it fell to the Islamic State was emptied as Kalak became the new front line.
As this was happening, Kurdish officials continued to beg the Obama Administration for direct military support, arms and supplies.
Falah Bakir, the foreign minister for the Kurdistan Regional Government, told CNN that the Kurds needed immediate military help. “We are left alone in the front to fight the terrorists of ISIS,” he said, using the old acronym for the Islamic State, which used to call itself the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (Syria).
“I believe the United States has a moral responsibility to support us, because this is a fight against terrorism, and we have proven to be pro-democracy, pro-West and pro-secularism,” Bakir said.
“I now know that the towns of Qaraqosh, Tal Kayf, Bartella and Karamlesh have been emptied of their original population and are now under the control of the militants,” Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniyah, told the AFP news agency. These were the largest Christian communities in Iraq. They have now been ethnically cleansed, with the inhabitants either driven off, killed or in the case of females, forcibly converted and enslaved.
The Kurds are brave enough, but they have largely antiquated weaponry from the Saddam-era and limited ammunition to defend their homeland against the Islamic State forces armed with advanced American weaponry.The Maliki government and the U.S have consistently refused to give the Kurds any arms or military aid.
“The Americans keep saying they will help us,” Rosg Nuri Shawess, the Kurdish military commander who was overseeing the defensive preparations was quoted as saying. “Well, if they plan to help they had better do it now.”
Last night, President Obama finally addressed this situation, saying "Today, America is coming to help."
And what was that help? Food and water drops to the trapped refugees on Mount Sinjar, and 'targeted airstrikes, if necessary' to 'protect American personnel and facilities.' We have a consulate in Irbil, and a small number of American oil company personnel staying there.
The president then went on to make vague mention of 'urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces' and spent the rest of his time repeating the lie about how he ended the war in Iraq, apologizing to his base and assuring them that he would "not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq." Because, in the president's words, "there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.'
In other words, the president is saying that the U.S. is not committed to fighting Islamic State jihadis (what a surprise, coming from him!) but that we're just going to double down on the $25 billion we've already spent and throw good money after bad into the basically worthless Iraqi military. And the Obama team will continue to wait for the Shi'ite Maliki government to get its act together and reject tribalism, hoping for a 'reconciliation' that isn't going to happen.
So the Kurds aren't going to get so much as one bullet from this president or from Maliki. That in itself should tell you that President Obama's blather about 'reconciliation' is sheer horse manure designed to sound good and reassure his base that America's retreat will continue.
And the airstrikes? I suspected when the president mentioned them that they would be mostly cosmetic, and I wasn't mistaken.
A couple of targets were bombed last night around Makhmour, a town near Irbil. When asked about it, the Pentagon denied U.S. planes were involved, and Kurdish sources confirmed later that the strikes were made by Iraqi and Turkish planes.
According to one of my sources, the strikes last night were pretty much ineffectual and did little damage to the Islamic State's forces. This isn't surprising tome at all since it would suit the Maliki government and Erdoğan's Islamist Turkey just fine to see the Kurds overrun and weakened severely. And neither government has any particular interest in the safety of American personnel or facilities. The 'strikes' amounted to dropping a few bombs haphazardly and flying off.
The president had hoped he wouldn;t be forced into a decision, what withhis vacation at Martha;s Vineyard coming up, but the ineffectual nature of the Turkish and Iraqi strikes forced his hand, something that was evident in his televised speech. That's exactly why U.S. planes went into action today. A couple of F-18s off the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush took out what's described as 'a mobile artillery target' (a tank? a missile launcher?) that Islamic State was using to attack the Kurdish lines “near U.S. personnel,” according to a statement by Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
“As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities,” Admiral Kirby said, referring to the Islamic militants by another translation of their Arabic name.
In other words, as the Admiral stated, our commander-in-chief's orders are crystal clear. As long as the handful of Americans in Kurdistan aren't directly targeted, Islamic State can have free reign and kill as many Kurds as they want to. And if things get dicey, hey, we'll just fly our people out and let the Kurds be overrun. Does anyone get the feeling that this decision was pure politics, to avoid another group of dead Americans at a U.S. Embassy on President Obama's watch?
With that in mind, there will likely be a few airstrikes here and there, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were spaced out and irregular rather than coordinated and decisive.
Just compare this to President Obama's aerial war against Khaddaffi to save the Islamist jihadis in Benghazi, or his strident lobbying for Hamas in Gaza. There's a pattern here.
Full scale air strikes on the Islamic State's positions would hand them a huge defeat,just as it did to Khaddafi's forces. But that's not what President Barack Hussein Obama wants, obviously.
And the Kurds?
These were the pro-American, pro-western, naturally democratic and prosperous people who should have been the model for former President George W. Bush's successful Muslim democracy.Al-Qaeda in Iraq never got the slightest foothold in Kurdistan and we could rely on the Pesh Merga to hold that territory. Unlike the Shi'ite bloc under Maliki and Moqtada al-Sadr, they literally begged us to put our bases there. Former Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani once even suggested that America should make Kurdistan the 51st state because "we would defend you and provide you with oil."
Kurdistan could have been our loyal ally, a firm friend, a secure base in the region, helping us to protect the Persian Gulf and offset Iran. Instead we betrayed them to please the likes of Islamist fascist Tayipp Erdoğan and Iran's own man in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki.
And now, at this last extremity, the final, foul betrayal by President Barack Hussein Obama.I have never been more ashamed.
This entire disaster is the fault of President Obama and his team. It was only a short while ago that Secretary Kerry was asking congress for half a billion of your tax dollars to arm and train 'the Syrian Rebels', which is exactly how ISIS got so strong in the first place..the covert arms and training this president handed them via Qatar and Turkey without bothering to inform congress. That, plus the gently used American arms and equipment they inherited from the Iraqi army who dropped them and left them behind, the better to run away a little faster.
The Kurds are not stupid, and they have survived catastrophe before. Their first instinct will probably be to bow down and try to come to terms with Iran. As a matter of fact, there are indications this may have already begun. If this is correct, it marks a major change for the Kurds. After all, if the West and particularly America is retreating, why not try to come to terms with the Strong Horse who's staying in order to try to survive?
There will be an independent Kurdistan some day, but they may have very different feelings about partnering up with America.
UPDATE, 8/11/14: Things have changed since I wrote this. I'm pleased to announce that finally, the Kurds are reportedly getting arms and ammo directly from our CIA. This about face has a lot to do with the Obama Administration's deteriorating relationship with Iraqi PM Maliki on which more shortly.
But at any event, the Kurds are finally getting the arms they need. Thank G-d.