Tag Archives: Iraq

Mark Collins – Syria/Iraq Update: ISIS, Raqqa, Kurds…and Turkey, Plus Mosul

Further to this post,

Sublime Erdogan the Magnficent Pushing his Syria/Iraq Turkish Delight

the latest on the explosive ex-Ottoman mixture at the invaluable MILNEWS.ca:


“US Expects Anti-Daesh Operations in Raqqa, Mosul to Drag On”“Battlefield developments threaten to trigger Turkish intervention in Iraq and Syria against Kurdish and Iraqi Shia militias”…

Raqqa Latest “Raqqa: US, Turkey agree to develop plan for ISIS-held city”“U.S. Tries Convincing Turkey to Work with Kurds Against Islamic State in Raqqa”“US, Iraq Back Syrian Kurdish-led March on Raqqa, Turkey Objects”“Syria’s SDF: a risky US ally to take Raqqa”“Isolation, Liberation of Raqqa Key in Defeating ISIL, (Pentagon) Spokesman Says”“Turkey paranoid that Syrian Kurds will take Raqqa as their capital after dislodging Daesh”…

Mo’ on Mosul “The Campaign for Mosul: November 4-7, 2016” (ISW blog) “Mosul battle rages as IS strikes around Iraq”“Food Pre-Positioned for 1.25 Million People in Mosul”“Kurdish Peshmarga Storm Daesh-Held Town in Iraq as Army Battles in Mosul”“Peshmerga storm Daesh town in Iraq as army battles in Mosul”

Very interesting but dangerously messy.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Sublime Erdogan the Magnficent Pushing his Syria/Iraq Turkish Delight

The ever more maximum president is certainly making things difficult for POTUS and many others:

Erdogan reasserts Turkey’s role in wars in Syria and Iraq

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday [Oct. 27] that he had informed President Obama of Turkey’s intent to participate in an offensive in northern Syria. His remarks are a reminder of the strategic conundrum facing the United States, which is working to defeat the extremist Islamic State in Syria and Iraq with both cooperation from Turkey as well as from Syrian Kurdish militias being targeted by the Turks.

In a televised speech from the Turkish capital, Ankara, Erdogan said he told Obama that Syrian rebels backed by Turkey in an ongoing operation called “Euphrates Shield” would advance on the Syrian border town of al-Bab, which is held by the Islamic State. They would then march on to Manbij, a northern Syrian city that earlier this year was liberated from the Islamic State by a coalition of Syrian militias led by a Kurdish faction known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. The Turkish government considers the YPG an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist faction that has waged a decades-long insurgency within Turkey and is deemed a terrorist group by both Ankara and Washington.

Then, Erdogan said, “we will go toward Raqqa” — the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Syria.

raqqa.jpg

…[In Iraq] too , Turkey hopes for “a place at the table.” As WorldViews noted earlier, Erdogan has demanded a role for Turkish troops in the Mosul campaign that nobody — neither the Americans, nor the Iraqis — has planned for and has invoked grievances from World War I and sectarian rhetoric while doing so.

“We did not voluntarily accept the borders of our country,” Erdogan said, referring to the defeated Ottoman parliament’s disregarded 1920 territorial claim to Mosul and its oil-rich environs…

Oh dear. More here on President Erdogan.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Iraq: Upcoming Battle for Mosul Update

Further to this post, things could get exceedingly nasty; can Iraq stay united (and how far will the Turks go, both around Mosul and to prevent any independent Kurdistan?). At Defense One’sD-Brief“:


Iraq’s counterterrorism police of the Golden Division have reportedly departed Camp Speicher en route to positions near Mosul.
Reminder: the upcoming offensive could become a big mess, the Washington Post’s Loveday Morris warned on Wednesday [Oct. 12], reporting from Baghdad.

For a sense of just how messy it could get, here’s a broad glance at the Mosul manifest: Iraq Army; CT police; PKK; Turkey-backed tribes; Shia militia [Iran-backed]; Assyrian, Christian and Yazidi militia; and, of course, the U.S.-led coalition. That makes seven generic categories of different forces, most of which can be further broken down into more specific elements. More here.

The humanitarian toll of the offensive is going to be enormous, and could include: use of civilians as human shields, chemical weapons use, and the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, the UN warns.

How’s the UN prepared for all that so far? In a word: inadequately. “In order to house and support and accommodate 1 million people at dignified standards we would be looking at an operation of $1 billion,” said Lise Grande, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq [UN website here].

Reuters: “That is more than four times the $230 million the international body has received so far for the effort, funds which have only recently arrived. So far, a total of six camps have been built that can accommodate 50,000 people. Efforts are underway to construct 11 more, said Grande.”..

Lots more at MILNET.ca, scroll down to “Iraq”. And what role will the Canadian Forces’ closely assisting the Kurdish Peshmerga have in how Kurdistan matters play out? Our government should be giving that furious consideration.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Iraq: Upcoming Battle for Mosul, Plus Turkey

The latest at the invaluable MILNEWS.ca:

Closer to Mosul Push “Anti-ISIS fight will get harder after Mosul, says Canadian general”“Canadian general: ‘Fall of Mosul is inevitable’ ““Mosul’s Liberation From ISIL ‘Inevitable,’ Canadian General Says” (US DoD Info-machine)“Coalition general: ‘Final rehearsal’ before Mosul fight underway”“Plans Take Shape for Iraqi Assault on Mosul”“Islamic State conflict: How will the battle for Mosul unfold?”
“To Drive ISIS from Mosul, a Complicated Coalition Joins Forces”
“Canadian general warns Islamic State fight will get harder after Mosul”
“Daesh leaders defecting before Mosul operation: general”
“Abadi to Mosul residents: “victory is near” “ – “Iraq Prime Minister Promises Victory In Mosul”
“Iraq: Impending Mosul assault puts 600,000 children in line of fire – Iraq” (Save the Children)
“IS Plans Widespread Destruction in Mosul as Conditions Worsen for Residents”
“Shia Badr forces will consider foreign troops intervene in Mosul battle”
“Turkey’s presence at Bashiqa military camp in northern Iraq is at the request of Kurdish authorities who recognize their forces in the country, Turkey’s deputy prime minister declared on Wednesday, adding that no one has right to object to their presence …”
TUR-IRQ Friction “Turkey-Iraq Tensions Rise as Battle of Mosul Approaches”“Iraq Warns of Regional War With Turkey”“Turkey not in Iraq as occupiers: Deputy PM”“Turkey says it does not aim to be an occupier in Iraq”“Iraq asks UNSC to discuss Turkish presence in N. Iraq”“Iraq seeks emergency UN Security Council session over Turkish military presence”
“Pro-govt Iraq fighters ‘likely’ killed in coalition airstrike near Mosul – US official”“At least 20 Iraqi Sunni tribal fighters die in mistaken air strike”“Pentagon probes pro-govt Iraq fighter deaths in coalition strike”…

Not exactly simple.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – The 2003 Iraq Invasion and the Decline of the UK Foreign Office

Further to this post (note second comment),

UK Internal Diplomacy Pre-Iraq Invasion 2003

a letter at the London Review of Books:

Failures at the Foreign Office

I was employed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office until 2010, long after Oliver Miles left, and there is to my mind a lot of force in his assessment of its failure to speak truth to power over Iraq (Letters, 11 August). Returning in 2005 after eight years abroad, I quickly came to understand that this was not the FCO I knew and (almost) loved – an institution traditionally full of the most talented, eccentric and outspoken individuals. The new atmosphere of conformity and demoralisation was palpable, aggravated by the rapid turnover of foreign secretaries and junior ministers.

Firmly in charge were the Blair collaborators, underpinned by a new generation of liberal interventionists propelled to stardom by the Yugoslav crisis of the 1990s – some having arrived sideways from politics, the UN, charities or the media. Longer-serving diplomats formed a passive resistance, or a silent majority at any rate, and seemed to be regarded with suspicion, as if fatally infected with the scepticism and circumspection learned during the long conflicts of the Cold War. Now, career advancement was expressly linked to volunteering for (futile but preferably repeated) stints of duty in war zones like Baghdad, Basra, Kabul and Lashkar Gah, a willingness to be shot at seemingly trumping all other qualifications.

At the same time, in response to mounting pressure on resources from 2007 onwards, the FCO fell victim to a cult of managerialism that seemed to regard foreign policy as an inconvenient side-issue. Under a faddish doctrine of providing a ‘facilitating platform across government’, the FCO stopped trying to do anything well on its own, and was soon known to the general public only for its travel advice. The FCO entered the coalition years as a hollowed-out shell, symbolised by the scrapping of the diplomatic service language school and David Miliband’s dismantling of the splendid Victorian library.

Some think that Thatcher started the rot by sucking foreign policy away to Number Ten. But it was Iraq that decisively ended the FCO’s position as a great – once the greatest – department of state [but the Treasury?]. Where was it, for instance, in the EU referendum debate, the biggest foreign policy issue for generations? The appointment of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary might be seen as the final sick joke, a nadir of institutional humiliation. Ever the optimist, I cling to the thought that the same was probably said of Ernest Bevin, who turned out an unexpected success [see this lovely book review: “Capability Bevin“].

David Roberts
West Horsley, Surrey [more here]

I served as a foreign service officer (aka a dip) with the Canadian Department of External Affairs, as it was then called, from 1974 to 1988; similar rot to that described by Mr Roberts was well setting in within us by the end of that time. In 1995 the department officially became the “Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada”; it has since been re-branded “Global Affairs Canada” by the current government, enough said.

By the way, the reason Canada’s international relations ministry was originally called “external affairs” rather than “foreign affairs” was because dealings with members of the British Empire–later Commonwealth–were not considered foreign unlike those with other states. Now we keep trendily changing nomenclature to show how grown-up or hip or something we are whilst India, which had a much more severe colonial experience than us, sticks with a “Ministry of External Affairs“. Go figure. Grown-up, eh?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Aussies vs ISIS: Targeted Assassinations by Air Strikes?

That seems one reasonable inference from this change in their ROEs–at MILNEWS.ca:


“Australia to expand anti-ISIL campaign in Iraq and Syria”“The Australian Defence Force now has the full authority needed to target all members of Daesh, in accordance with international law. This ensures we can continue to meet the evolving national security threat of this decade and well beyond. The Government has reviewed its policy on targeting enemy combatants and made an important decision to ensure our forces are empowered to act against Daesh in Iraq and Syria to the maximum extent allowed by international law. This now includes targeting those who may not openly take up arms but are still key to Daesh’s fighting capability …” (AUS PM statement) – “Australia outlines tough new measures against Islamic State”“Australia Foreshadows Expanding Role in Fight Against Daesh in Syria and Iraq”…

Rather more robust than anything that would fly in Canada, one thinks. Relevant:

Who’s Doing What in Anti-ISIS Coalition?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Who’s Doing What in Anti-ISIS Coalition?

Compare our effort with others’, listing starts at p. 10 PDF at link below–at Foreign Policy’sSituation Report“:


Crib sheet. Here’s a very handy little report from the Congressional Research Service listing what countries are taking part in the U.S.-led fight against ISIS in Iraq, what their contributions are, and where their troops [and air personnel] are based…

Even without CF-18s engaged in bombing (the current government clearly does like the routine application of deadly force), our contribution does not appear inappropriate to me. Especially given the CAF’s operation in Ukraine and the ones upcoming in with NATO in  Latvia and with the UN in  Africa (somewhere).

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – “Part 2: Interview with Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of [Canadian] defence staff”

At Vanguard magazine, with a link to Part 1–interesting (curious?) that there is no specific mention of either NATO or NORAD.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Syria Update: Bomb, Bomb, Bomb by Russia (help from Iran) and Assad

The Moscow-Damascus-Tehran axis continues to flex muscles (with help from Baghdad which is permitting Russian bombing overflights to Syra). Two at Defense One’s “D-Brief”:

August 16:

Russia is now bombing Syria from Iran, giving it two strategic air bases in the Middle East. “In a move underscoring Moscow’s increasingly close ties with Tehran, long-range Russian Tupolev-22M3 bombers [really big mothers] and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers used Iran’s Hamadan air base [in northwest Iran] to strike a range of targets in Syria,” Reuters reports. The move is also “thought to be the first time that Iran has allowed a foreign power to use its territory for military operations since the 1979 Islamic revolution.”

The decision also embroils Iraq a bit more in the conflict since planes will most likely have to use some of its airspace — meaning they’re flying over ISIS to bomb anti-Assad forces.

Coming soon: More Russian cruise missiles in Syria. That news follows a report from Russia’s Interfax news agency Monday announcing Moscow’s defense ministry “last week sent requests to Iraq and Iran to use the airspace of these countries for the passage of cruise missiles.”..

August 18:

In another alleged first for Syria’s war, Assad jets bombed YPG facilities in northeastern Syria, Kurdish news and Reuters report this morning from an attack that so far has reportedly killed one civilian and injured two-dozen others. “The bombardment came after clashes broke out in the city on Tuesday between the Syrian Kurdish Security forces (Asayish) and the militias affiliated with the Syrian government,” Kurdistan24 News reports.

A bit of context via Reuters: “The YPG controls wide areas of northeastern Syria, where Kurdish groups have established an autonomous government, exploiting the unraveling of central state authority over the country since the start of the conflict. The Syrian government still has footholds in the cities of Qamishli and Hasaka, both in Hasaka governorate, co-existing largely peacefully with YPG-held swathes of territory.”

A hospital was among the targets hit, Kurdish security forces said.  Here’s some video of the aftermath, via Kurdish Rudaw News. More from Syria below the fold…

Lovely. POTUS sure is being outplayed badly by Bad Vlad.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Iraq and ISIS, Mosul and After: Who’ll be Killing Whom?

Even with ISIS losing ground–the Caliphate has just been ousted from strategically important Manbij in Syria by, mainly, the local Kurds–the prospects for a serious peace in Iraq (and Syria) may be  pretty dim:

With ISIS on the run, new wars could erupt in Iraq

TUZ KHURMATU, Iraq — The front line south of this bleak and dusty town looks much as it did two years ago, when the Islamic State was the enemy and controlled a village less than a mile away.

Now, however, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters holed up behind sandbags and barbed wire are peering across the line at Shiite militias, ostensibly their allies in the fight against the Islamic State.

Whether their alliance will outlast the Islamic State is in question. The militants’ defenses have been crumbling fast across Iraq. An offensive for the city of Mosul, the Islamic State’s last major stronghold in Iraq, is likely by the end of the year, U.S. commanders and Iraqi officials say.

If the battle goes well, the defeat of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq, at least in terms of the territory it controls, is on the horizon.

And so, too, are new problems — and potentially new conflicts. For the past two years, Kurdish peshmerga, Iraqi army forces, Shiite militias and some Sunni ones have largely overlooked long-standing differences to confront the menace facing them. But their feuds and grievances — over vital issues such as the distribution of power, land, money and oil — have not been resolved.

The manner in which the war has been fought — by an assortment of locally armed groups with often competing agendas — has compounded the existing problems with new and potentially more intractable disputes. Among them are the questions of who will govern the areas vacated by the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS, and how.

“The moment there is what you might call victory against ISIS, then you are up against all the problems that caused this crisis in the first place,” said Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Middle East Center
iraq.jpg

More on the players and their agendas follows. Recall that the Canadian military is deeply involved in the campaign, even if no longer actually fighting and that our forces on the ground act largely on behalf of the Kurds. How will that fit in if things start going blooey between the Kurdistan Regional Government–with its eye on independence–and Baghdad? Some clear and hard forward thinking is warranted. And by quite a few governments besides our own (oddly enough this story does not mention Canadian troops).

By the way the famous “who whom” (кто кого) is rather different from what most of us thought.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds