I Ran Away Quickly ...

At one time, the enemies of the Provisional Irish Republican Army jibed that “IRA” stood for “I Ran Away”. Now we have another variant - it would appear that “Iraq” stands for “I Ran Away Quickly”, at least on the basis of recent events in that unfortunate country. The US-trained Iraqi Army has suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of a small, ragtag multi-national army of loony Jihadists (“more fundamentalist than Al-Quaeda”, according to one UK expert), who have taken a large chunk of northern Iraq. In the process, two Iraqi divisions - some 30,000 men - simply turned tail and ran (the most “rational” army in the world, perhaps ?). While it may be that the multinational loonytunes of IRIS (their nickname in Syria is, apparently, the “foreigners”) lack the manpower or expertise in government to hold, or at least much extend their territorial gains, this will be an enormous blow to the corrupt, sectarian, divisive Iraqi regime. It also suggests that some British analysis of the Iraqi army as, not so much an army, but a large-scale job-creation scheme for friends of the regime, may not be far off the truth. One wonders how US citizens will now view the substantial investment of their country in blood and treasure in erecting this ramshackle Iraqi government that now threatens to fall apart (unless, perhaps, they are saved by Iran !) ?

The depressing scenarios for Iraq’s future suggest the emergence of a much worse mess from the point of securing stability and democracee in the Middle East than would that of continued rule by the Iraq Ba’ath Party and the late unlamented Saddam. And that is a very depressing reflection for those who, against all known facts about the place, and against all relevant evidence, executed and supported the western invasion of the country in the first place. Bush Senior’s decision to stop short of an invasion at the end of the Kuwait looks very wise in retrospect. Not to mention that we have now seen the emergence of a new neo-Caliphatist Sunni terrorist army that makes even the late Osama look a bit tame. Very, very depressing. JR.

My understanding from what I’ve heard from a couple of apparently well informed commentators is that IRIS is in part a fundamentalist Caliphate restoration crowd determined to abolish national borders in the region and return to a Sharia law Caliphate, but that a significant motivator is Sunni resentment of the Shia domination post-Saddam and a desire to recover their positions of power and influence. Consequently, there is a large proportion of Saddam’s Sunni dominated old Iraqi army involved, who have extensive military training and combat experience, courtesy of the Iran Iraq war and subsequent conflicts regardless of the result, who may be substantially better soldiers than the current Iraqi army. The Syrian civil war resurrected this lot who were waning beforehand, but who now are drawing in Islamists from various parts of the planet to swell their forces.

It seems to me that, if that analysis is correct, it’s a case of the law of unintended consequences producing exactly the opposite of the move towards secularism and democracy which seemed to flow from the Arab Spring as it was that which inspired what became the Syrian civil war.

Can’t really disagree with any of that, RS*. Seems about the way it is. I see that the Islamists are talking about carrying their battle to Baghdad next. Could it be that the reassuring voices telling us that they had been “contained” this morning be - Heavens forbid ! - lying ? One report I heard may suggest that the insurgents have effectively outflanked the stopping position erected before Baghdad. And maybe they just stopped for a quick prayer (and to destroy a few Shi’ite shrines) before pressing on ? I suppose we shall know soon.

I was in Cordoba a few years back - the seat of the relatively benign and highly cultured (western) Umayyad Caliphate in the Middle Ages, and seeing humorous graffiti on a garden wall calling for the establishment of a new Caliphate. Doesn’t seem so funny now … JR.

Turning back the clock is something only people who lack an understanding of reality, the world around them, and the progress of humanity, would pursue. That’s not to say it can’t be done, and hasn’t been done as in Cambodia with Year Zero and the horrors which followed. But it’s probably going to be short lived, either by self extinction as in Cambodia, and by antagonising neighbours as in Cambodia.

In the ISIS (not IRIS :oops:) case, there may be a prospect that the supposedly Islamist, but probably essentially nationalist and especially Shia, regime in Iran will be alarmed by the prospect of a bunch of Sunnis destroying borders in pursuit of a Sunni dominated region.

Iran Iraq War II?

Leading to the possible, if until about now seemingly implausible, possibility of Western support for Iran against ISIS.

Certainly more plausible than, say, the 1917-1939 prospect of Western support for the USSR / Stalin & Co at any future time.

IRIS or ISIS ? Owing to the suddenness of the emergence of this group, there seems to have been some confusion. Is it “the Islamic Republic in Iran and Syria” or the “Islamic State in Iran and Syria” ? Don’t know. Probably the aspirations of these people would not conform to either description.

Of course, one can never, never “turn back the clock”. I think it was the Lord Buddha that said “one can never return along the Path of Life”. All existence is transition, and transition is always forwards. Mind you, try explaining that to a turbaned nutter … Yours from Up the Khyber, JR.

How to identify a turbanned nutter (they all qualify): http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/06/12/whos-who-in-the-battle-for-iraq/

Iran, as a major sponsor of terrorism, seems to have missed the irony in its sudden and new found determination to oppose terrorism, which apparently means armed action against its mob as distinct from Iran sponsoring armed action against everybody else.

What was left out of the linked article is where the Saudis, the grand masters of underhand sponsorship of another form of Islamic terrorism, stand and what happens if the conflict, as one hopes, extends to those sneaky bastards sitting in the back room funding terrorism by others.

I have to confess to a mounting sense of schadenfreude in seeing these various nutters come into conflict with each other in pursuit of their own versions of Islam, although the suffering they impose upon innocents is no cause for anything but dismay.

It appears that donning of civilian clothes did some Iraq Army members no good as there are now grim photos surfacing online at jihadist websites showing purported mass killings of Shiite men in the regions taken by the ISI…

The “deBa’athification” of Iraq, including and especially the disbanding of the late and unlamented Saddam’s army, is now looking like a major mistake. The Jihadist nutters who started the latest civil war are now, it would appear, being reinforced by large numbers of disgruntled Sunni former soldiers and officers of the former army and Republican Guard. Easy to say that this lot did not do much in previous Gulf wars - but they were outnumbered by the Iranians and outgunned by the Americans, and still may represent a much tougher problem for the hapless Iraqi government than would IRIS on its own. It is interesting that in the last few days, while we have all been concentrating on the gratuitous brutality of the latter, the Sunni rebel forces have been showing a considerable amount of “conventional” strategic and tactical acumen. Could this be a sign that former Saddamist officers are getting a grip on the rising ? If so, things could get really bad for the Bungler of Baghdad. What a mess … JR.

From what I have seen the Shi’ite “troops” are mostly comprised of various militias and armed bands - not so much the regular Iraqi army - maybe they do not trust the regular troops with the expensive kit - suspect loyalty?

The Regular army when I was last there (2006) was very hit and miss - many units more loyal to their commander than the government still, training and equipment varied hugely.

I fear the poor bastards in Iraq and surrounds are heading for something approaching Year Zero under Pol Pot in another incomprehensible exercise of religious / political extermination which makes the Nazis look slightly benign.

While this is partly a consequence of the unjustified invasion of Iraq to deal with the weapons of mass destruction it didn’t have, it is mostly a consequence of religious zealotry within Islam which is going to play out around the world in the next few decades unless it is stopped by vigorous and violent action.

The only way to deal with these zealots is to wipe them out.

Funny thing is - as far as I can make out, the differences between Sunni and Shia are not, to any significant extent, doctrinal. It all seems to go back to a very early division as to who was the proper successor of the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) that has, however, a background in divisions between the early Arab Muslims and some of their conquered-and-largely-converted peoples, notably the Persians and the North African Berbers, and in personality clashes among rulers too ancient really to understand. It also has implications for perceptions of correct authority under Islamic law - always a difficult issue, given that Islam has had a theocratic bent pretty well from the off. Just to make matters more interesting, while both major branches of Islam have a “messianic” thread, that of the Shia is more emphatic and theocratic.

This dispute has been going on for a very, very long time. For example, we westerners tend to think of Saladin as the hammer of the Christian crusaders but, from his viewpoint, his destruction of the (initially) highly aggressive Fatimid Caliphate, based in Egypt, was perhaps viewed by the man himself as at least equal in significance. As the name indicates, the Fatimids claimed descent from Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet (therefore Shia), while Saladin and his uncle and mentor, Nur-ed-Din, were Kurds of the Sunni persuasion. Religion, politics and war - who needs “Game of Thrones” ? There must be a television spectacular in this.

From the little one can really glean about his life, the Prophet (blessings and peace etc.) seems to have been an intelligent businessman with a very positive view of women (his first business partner was also his first wife and, it appears, the first Muslin Believer), who was afflicted with rather obscure visions from God. Whether these were absolutely from God, or whether the consumption of certain rare desert mushrooms played a part, is beyond knowing. I do wonder, however, what this practical, logical, sensible, pious soul would have thought of how his successors handled his legacy. An unhistorical speculation, I agree - but I venture to doubt that he would have approved. In sadness, JR.

I know that Wikipedia always has to be treated with reservations as a secondary/tertiary source, but anybody interested in this topic could do worse than have a look at the Wikipedia entry on ISIS and not leave out the external link to an analysis of their latest Annual Report (!). This document, which provides statistics on the group’s operations (so many bombings, killings, conversions of Infidels, etc.; so much coming from extortion rackets, and so on) would put the annual reports of many great corporations to shame. I may have been a little unfair in describing them as loony towelheaded Islamaniacs or whatever. Actually, they are loony towelheaded Islamaniacs run by an anal-retentive high command with an obsession with statistics. Their numbers still seem to be few but, let loose in the cauldron of Sunni resentment that is northern and central Iraq, where ample more professional and less deranged recruits are potentially available, the fact that they are well (indeed obsessively) organized will not make them any less dangerous. Frightening. I find myself wondering - do they have to attend Strategic Management seminars between bombings ? Or career progress meetings between murders ? Best regards, JR.

The statistical detail merely reinforces my impression that this mob threatens to be an Islamicist reincarnation of other obsessive keepers of records of massive numbers of death of innocents inflicted by organised nutcases who detest everyone who is not a member of their crazy club, such as the Khmer Rouge and the Nazis.

Scarey they just sent me my reserve call up papers again - to remind me that Labour changed the rules of my engagement (post me leaving the Army) and added 20 years onto my reserve commitment - my termination papers (which of course I still have) stated I had no reserve commitment when I left in 2007 after 24 years due to completing a full 22 years (+2 for the Queen, just love joining at 16).

It now appears that IRIS - or whatever Saudi-backed entity centred on IRIS but including an undetermined number of Iraqi Sunni volunteers - control a substantial amount of territory stretching across northern Iraq and Syria. Whether they know how to consolidate this sprawl into something like a state remains to be seen. Even a Caliphate needs an administration - and being good at murdering individual enemies and bean-counting may not be enough. Still, a very disturbing prospect - and I would not be so sanguine as President Obama seems to be about the imminence of resulting threats to western countries. If the “Caliphate” can get a grip on its current territorial spread, the new entity could make Afghanistan at its worst look like a kiddies’ tea party.

@leccy - interesting comment. Short of declaring conscription, can H.M. Government simply rewrite the terms of your enlistment (or ex-enlistment) just like that ? Also, I have sometimes wondered about the system that results in US National Guards-persons being cycled through the Middle East ? Obviously, I have failed to grasp the 21st concept of a “militia”. Best regards, JR.

There is an element of “Nature abhors a vacuum” in this.

The Iraqi government is a fragmented joke incapable of resisting ISIS, as apparently are its armed forces.

ISIS has had rapid and huge territorial gains.

My money is on ISIS, unless the Iranians intervene with their full force.

Be somewhat ironic if Iran cranked up its nuclear program to wipe out the Sunni ISIS and, to complete the job, the shifty Saudis who are behind so much of modern misery in the Islamic world and Islamicist assaults on the non-Islamic world. But, as usual, the US and Britain and others back the wrong horse, being the Saudis because they have oil so the US etc just prolong the pain until sooner or later someone in the west has the guts to confront and defeat the perfidious
Saudis. Or the Saudis get their Caliphate.

Of course, in saying “Saudi-backed”, one is overlooking another more-than-probable backer - tiny, insignificant-looking Qatar. This tiny Gulf emirate has been ruled by the al-Thani family for over 200 years (albeit, for much of this period, under British “protection”). For much of the last century, it was basically a kleptocracy, presided over by robber-emirs who devoted themselves to syphoning off the country’s petroleum revenues into Swiss bank accounts (consistent with the traditional occupation of their ancestors - piracy). On the accession of Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in 1995 (he deposed his kleptocrat father), this enormous source of revenue was diverted more in the direction of the economic development of the state. One of the first fruits of this to impact on the outside world was the creation of the Al-Jazeera news and media network, now a major one in world terms. More recently, another power shift within the al-Thani clan culminated in the abdication of Emir Hamad (consensually) and the succession of his son, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in 2013. The latter seems set to continue his father’s policies but, it would appear, with a more “outward-looking” profile.

The slow reconfiguring of Qatar’s policy towards the outside world as the younger al-Thanis became prominent has become evident in a number of ways over the last few years. One of the more harmless is the impact on thoroughbred horse-racing, at least in Europe. Former Emir Hamad seems to have been a pretty traditional Wahhabi Muslim whose interest in sports was confined to the bread-and-circuses level (promoting football, Qataris’ favourite sport, and other native favourites such as motor racing and cycling). Unlike the situation in close neighbor, Dubai, horseracing is not, as far as I know, present in Qatar (although this may change). In the last couple of years, however, we have seen a major increase in Qatari/al-Thani ownership of racehorses training in England in particular and - pretty well unprecedented - the presence of smiling al-Thani princes at British and Irish racecourses. Their effect on the market in thoroughbreds first became strongly marked in recent sales, driving up prices in much the same way as Dubai’s al-Maktoums did when they arrived on the scene in the 1980s. As with the al-Maktoums, one may assume that a substantial breeding operation will follow.

Less benign, perhaps, is the increased support afforded by Qatar to foreign “liberation movements” - specifically, Sunni Muslim insurgencies and risings from Libya to Egypt and now, it appears, to the ISIS Caliphists. Apart from its fabulous hydrocarbon-based wealth, one reason why Qatar has been very stable, socially and politically, through all the travails of the Middle East is that, in religious terms, it is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, of the Wahhabi cast (like Saudi Arabia). As with Saudi, the Qatar regime sees no contradiction between being a firm ally and supporter of the United States and supporting movements like the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, fringe Libyan Islamic militias, and the likes of ISIS, which may not be quite so positive on matters American. While one cannot envisage the arrival of a contingent from the tiny Qatari defence force outside Baghdad, the application of a portion of Qatar’s truly fabulous oil wealth to the cause of militant Sunni Islam must be important in keeping the jihadis well-armed, fed and advised. I have little doubt that the US State Department are working behind the scenes to limit this - but they do not seem to have had much success in this regard as far as the Saudis are concerned … Yours from the Dungeons of Doha, JR.


From what you say about Qatar, which is vastly better informed than me, it seems like the problem (i.e. funding of Sunni and other radical Islamicists) might be a more generalised problem of rich Wahhabis fomenting their sort of revolution outside their comfortable oil rich and nominally Western favourable enclaves.

My knowledge was limited to the duplicitous Saudi Wahhabis being the problem.

I think I’ve posted along these lines previously (I’m not given to a lot of original thoughts) but if the West took the same ruthless approach these bastards apply, we’d give them an ultimatum to cease and desist by a set date or see Medina first as the second holiest Sunni place and, if problems continue then Mecca, obliterated.

Ideally, I’d start my graduated response with a threat to obliterate the third holiest place, being the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, with a rather large nuclear weapon, which would encourage a number of other troublemakers of various religions in that region to get their act together. And if they don’t, at least we’d be done with any issues of occupation by anyone in that area for a while.

Alas, I’m not the boss of the world, so nothing will change while Western politicians and diplomats practise their weak kneed crafts in the face of people who don’t waste their time on such drivel, wisely preferring instead to conquer by force without wasting their time on weak kneed politics and diplomacy. Not unlike the Israelis with their land grabs, confident that the West upon which they rely for much of their existence will continue the same impotent policy towards them that it applies to the Islamicists nibbling away in Iraq and elsewhere.

Reference to year zero is not a bad one. No tolerance with these savages.
The Cambodian company that made up paret of the CIDG strike force in my camp wanted to go back to Cambodia and kill Sihanouk.
When the camp was turned over to ARVNs in 1971, they were paid off, given some equipment and turned loose. Story I recently got from a Cambodian aquaintence, is they joined up with Pol Pot’s boys.
After a short time, they were deemed “too Vietnamised” and were murdered en masse at a phony celebration.

We went into Iraq and attempted to introduce by force an alien form of government on a bunch of tribalists rooted firmly in the last eon.

Nobody with any sense expected it to work and walking out cold did nothing to help.

The Kurds seem to be the most respectable of the bunch, but so far outnumbered as to be insignificant.

I had a friend many years ago who used to bore us to tears ranting about the future of the mideast and how it would come to affect us.
He is proving to be right in every area.
Afghanistan following right in line.

Growing Sharia outside the area is no small deal, either.

Our government in the US is doing all it can to promote this debacle.
Trouble ahead.