Strategic Insights: Would a Post-2011 Residual U.S. Force in Iraq Have Changed Anything?

English: Major ethno-religious groups in Iraq ...

English: Major ethno-religious groups in Iraq Shiite Arabs Sunni Arabs Kurds Assyrians Yazidis Turkmen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

February 9, 2015 | Dr. W. Andrew Terrill

Currently, U.S. policy analysts and governmental leaders are examining the rise of the Islamic State (IS) organization, particularly its seizure of vast expanses of Iraqi territory in the summer of 2014. People legitimately ask what could have been done and would a residual U.S. force in Iraq have prevented the spread of IS from Syria to Iraq or at least its seizure of northern Iraq? Opponents of the decision to withdraw all U.S. forces often contend that a U.S. residual force could have prevented or mitigated the IS offensive in northern Iraq. Supporters of the decision to withdraw usually point out that the Iraqi government would not agree to a Status of Forces agreement (SOFA) that allowed U.S. forces to remain in that country without being subordinate to Iraqi domestic law. The second argument seems to accept the views of the critics, while suggesting that the withdrawal was required as part of an effort to respect Iraqi sovereignty. Both sides seem to agree that a residual force in Iraq was a good idea. They disagree on why it did not occur. Continue reading

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Three Possible Scenarios for Iran’s Nuclear Talks

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tayebeh Mohammadikia
PhD Candidate of International Relations in Allameh Tabatabai University, Tehra

Iran‘s nuclear negotiations have reached their sensitive stage. Now, the time is ripe to review future prospects of these negotiations more accurately and talk about the final outcome of the nuclear talks with more precision. However, the way ahead is still surrounded by ambiguity and problems. Under the present circumstances, analysts focusing on these negotiations are faced with three main assumptions: inability of the two sides to reach an agreement, achievement of a final agreement, and finally, further extension of the negotiations. Each of these possible scenarios is discussed in more detail below.

1. Achievement of a final agreement

Any analysis of conditions that may surface after “achievement of an agreement” will be a function of the arrangement of powers on the two main sides of the equation; that is, Iran and the United States, as well as the analysis of other forces that have their own influence at international, regional and global levels. Here, possible options available to powerful political forces within domestic political scene of these two countries will be explained first before turning to major influential powers in international arena.

   1.1. Arrangement of powers in Iran and the US if an agreement is not achieved

A nuclear agreement has staunch supporters and proponents both in Iran and the United States. However, the other possibility, that is, inability to reach an agreement, has also its own important and influential proponents. Continue reading

Germany’s Intelligence Chief Says At Least 550 Germans In IS Ranks

Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

November 23, 2014

The head of Germany‘s domestic intelligence agency says that some 550 citizens of the country have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

Hans-Georg Maassen told the newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” in an interview published on November 23 that the number of Germans fighting alongside IS militants had risen from 450, the number German officials have previously been using.

Maassen said about 60 of those German citizens were killed in fighting, with at least nine killing themselves in suicide attacks.

Maassen said German authorities believe some 180 jihadists have returned after fighting in Syria and Iraq and since Germany is part of the alliance fighting the Islamic State extremist group, the country is “naturally” a target for the militants.

Continue reading

Arbil-Baghdad deal guarantees stability: Turkish energy minister

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız speaks at a press conference. AA Photo

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız speaks at a press conference. AA Photo

An agreement reached between Baghdad and Arbil is a guarantee of stability for the country and the region, said Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız at a press conference in the northwestern Turkish province of Kocaeli.

“Stabilization in the country means stabilization for the region, so this is pleasing news,” said Yıldız.
Turkey has exported 25 million barrels of northern Iraqi oil, which corresponds to revenue of over $2 billion, Yıldız said.

“This revenue is for the people of Iraq. This situation shows that Turkey’s foresight and strategies are right to the point, and it is a contribution to the region as well,” he said. Continue reading

Why can’t British intelligence services locate Isil hostages?

The Big Question: why has the UK so far been unable to find the suspected British Islamic State killer and the group’s hostages?
Alan Henning

Alan Henning Photo: PA

“We don’t know where he is. Obviously, if we knew where he was, we would be able to look at all sorts of options but we don’t know where he is.”

This unusually candid statement by British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, brought into sharp relief the relative impotence of the West in dealing with Islamic State militants who are holding a number of hostages.

Videos showing the murder of three men, two Americans and one British, have recently been released by the group. A fourth, Alan Henning, a British national, faces the same fate.

Hammond noted that “we are doing everything that we can to protect him”. But without reliable intelligence his options are limited. British and US special forces are highly capable, but their operations must be targeted with precision.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s recent exposures suggested to many that GCHQ and the NSA would be able to deliver such precision. Hitherto, they have not. Continue reading

Isis Propaganda War on the Front Line of Cyberspace

  • By Jarno Limnell  September 15, 2014 09:26 BST

When the White House finally invoked the word “war” on 12 September to describe the new US-led campaign against Isis in Iraq and Syria, the already ominous parallels between 1914 and 2014 grew more resonant still, with the 21st-century wrinkle of cyber conflict adding a particularly destabilizing factor to today’s situation.

Pockmarked by crises – Boko Haram, Gaza, Ukraine and MH17, Ebola, Isis – the unquiet summer just concluded seemed all along to be leading up to something.

In 1914 it took about six weeks after the June assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand for war to erupt between Germany and Austria, the Dual Alliance, and Britain, France, and Russia.

In 2014, similarly, it was only weeks after Isis militants drove hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from their homes in Mosul and Tikrit, and isolated the minority Yasidis on Mount Sinjar, that President Obama announced “we will degrade and ultimately destroy” Isis.[1] (The Isis beheading videos, starting with James Foley’s execution posted on the Internet on 19 August, were a political accelerant.)

The danger of another World War I, a violent continent-wide contest for territory and regional influence that leaves mass casualties and redraws maps, is low. Isis will not soon steam into New York Harbor, guns blazing. But, beyond the narrow and classically kinetic “war on Isis” newly defined by the Obama administration, there is a fierce below-radar war in cyberspace for economic and political influence, involving numerous players.

Isis flag

The black flag has become heavily associated with the Isis group(Getty)

With terrible brilliance, Isis, for one, both commits cyber crime and floats cyber propaganda. It boasts both a “backroom” criminal operation, which raises funds, and a front-of-house “daylight” operation devoted to image building.

Continue reading

Bosnia and the Global Jihad Revisited

English: Kingdom of Bosnia in the XIV century....

English: Kingdom of Bosnia in the XIV century.Category:Maps of the history of Principality of Zeta and Kingdom of Bosnia(XIV th-century) Category:Maps of the history of Bosnia (XIVth-century) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

August 23, 2014

Back in 2007, my book Unholy Terror ruffled quite a few feathers by pointing out the unpleasant truth that, in the 1990s, Bosnia-Hercegovina became a jihadist playground and a major venue for Al-Qa’ida, thanks to malign Saudi and Iranian influences. This was off-message, to put it mildly, to critics eager to defend failed Western (especially American) policies in the Balkans, as well as the usual coterie of jihad fellow-travelers and Useful Idiots, plus those eager, for personal reasons, not to have anyone look too deeply into where Saudi money goes in Europe.

However, my essential message — that Islamist extremism, though a largely imported phenomenon in Bosnia, has put down local roots and is likely to metastasize further due to that country’s intractable socio-economic problems — has been proven sadly accurate over the last seven years. For years, the debate over Islamism in Bosnia, and Southeastern Europe generally, was divided between security practitioners on one side and academics and journalists on the other, with the former group, which actually understood what was happening on the ground, being concerned about growing radicalism, while the latter bunch was generally happy to avert eyes from obvious signs of trouble, and to hurl accusations of bias and “Islamophobia” at those who pointed out what was happening. Continue reading