After Capture of Mosul, Militants Extend Control in Iraq
BAGHDAD — In a lightning advance, Sunni militants who overran the northern Iraqi city of Mosul as government forces abandoned their posts pressed south toward Baghdad on Wednesday, occupying facilities in the key oil refining town of Baiji and seizing the city of Tikrit without facing much resistance, security officials and residents said.
Insurgents also raided the Turkish consulate in Mosul and seized the consul general and 47 other Turkish citizens, including special-forces soldiers and three children of diplomats, the Turkish prime minister’s office said. The development raised the possibility that Turkey, a NATO ally that borders both Syria and Iraq, would become directly involved in the fast-moving crisis in northern Iraq.
Maybe Turkey will bail out Obama? Presumably they would request some NATO support, and maybe Obama would even go along.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was holding an emergency meeting with top security officials on Wednesday to discuss the crisis, and the Turkish foreign minister cut short a trip to New York and was returning to Ankara, government statements said.
Turkey has long taken an interest in northern Iraq for economic reasons and because of the sizable and often restive Kurdish minority, which straddles the border and controls a region of Iraq east of Mosul.
Back to the collapse:
Citizens in Baiji, a city of 200,000 about 110 miles south of Mosul, awoke Wednesday to find that government checkpoints had been abandoned and that insurgents, arriving in a column of 60 vehicles, were taking control of parts of the city without firing a shot, the security officials said. ...
The militants’ advance spread alarm in Baghdad, 110 miles south. Though the city seemed calm, residents said they were shocked by the news and feared that the insurgent group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, would push on toward the capital.
The swift capture of large areas of the city by militants aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria represented a climactic moment on a long trajectory of Iraq’s unraveling since the withdrawal of American forces at the end of 2011.
The rising insurgency in Iraq seemed likely to add to the foreign policy woes of the Obama administration, which has faced sharp criticism for its swap of five Taliban officers for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and must now answer questions about the death of five Americans by friendly fire in Afghanistan on Monday night.
Critics have long warned that America’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq, without leaving even a token force, invited an insurgent revival. The apparent role of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Tuesday’s attack helps vindicate those, among them the former ambassador to Syria, Robert S. Ford, who have called for arming more moderate groups in the Syrian conflict.
In Obama's head, Bush was wrong to enter Iraq in 2003 so therefore it was right to exit Iraq in 2011. As to arming the moderates in Syria, well, Obama has made pretty speeches and drawn red lines, so really, what else could he have done?
As to what happens next, this CNN opinion piece has a mixed message:
The international community has a humanitarian and strategic prerogative to act against ISIS's most recent gains in Iraq; the Iraqi government needs as much support as it can get in challenging ISIS.
Aside from a robust military response, Iraqi President Nuri al Maliki's government needs to challenge the jihadists ideologically. He needs to reach out to the disenfranchised Sunni population, a group that has become marginalised economically and socially during his time in power, for this is the well from which most ISIS fighters are drawn. Taking a purely heavy-handed approach will just feed into the jihadist propaganda.
Encouragingly, al Maliki seemed receptive to such suggestions in March when he attended, alongside Quilliam representatives,Baghdad's first anti-terrorism conference. One thing is for sure, though, and that is that this is Iraq's war now, and no one else's.
Puzzling - this is "Iraq's war now, and no one else's" but the international community "has a humanitarian and strategic prerogative to act"?
Mosul was the last major city to serve as a bastion for the ISIS after the US and Iraqi forces launched counterinsurgency operations as part of the surge that began in 2007. By the time US forces left Iraq at the end of 2011, the ISIS was operating as terrorist cells in the city. Close proximity to Syria allowed the ISIS to continue operating in Mosul and the northwestern province of Ninewa. The ISIS began reasserting itself as the Syrian civil war picked up steam in the summer of 2011 and US forces withdrew from Iraq a few months later in December.
Jimmy "Best Case" Carter has left the building.
MORE: I should include the Administration response, as reported by the Times:
In Washington, the State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said in a statementthat the United States was “deeply concerned about the events that have transpired in Mosul,” and that the Obama administration supported a “strong, coordinated response to push back this aggression.” The statement said the administration would provide “all appropriate assistance to the government of Iraq” and called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region.”
Not even a hashtag? As to supporting a "strong, coordinated response", how about organizing one? Or is Obama planning to lead from behind on this?
MUMBLING OUT LOUD: Imagine that events play out and insane Sunni jihadists take over a big chunk of once-Shia led Iraq. Do the militant mullah of Iran (a) decide they need more friends from the West and show new flexibility on their nuclear program, or (b) decide nobody - especially no Sunni ISIS jihadists - can out-crazy them and it's time to nuke up?
If it were me, I would consider nuclear weapns a deterrent against the West, not against ISIS - what, are the Iranians going to nuke Falluja? But I am not a militant mullah, for whom the "nuke Falluja" question might give them a chance to bust out their impressions of the comically miserly Jack Benny.