[Marxism] Obama sends drones and missiles to Iraqi regime

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 26 07:31:25 MST 2013


(So what will John Rees and the Becker brothers say about this? I 
suspect nothing since there is a double standard when it comes to 
imperialist intervention. Now that jihadists have become the 
unprecedented brunt of combined "anti-imperialist", liberal, and 
conservative fury, anything goes.)

NY Times December 25, 2013
U.S. Sends Arms to Aid Iraq Fight With Extremists
By MICHAEL R. GORDON and ERIC SCHMITT

WASHINGTON — The United States is quietly rushing dozens of Hellfire 
missiles and low-tech surveillance drones to Iraq to help government 
forces combat an explosion of violence by a Qaeda-backed insurgency that 
is gaining territory in both western Iraq and neighboring Syria.

The move follows an appeal for help in battling the extremist group by 
the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who met with President 
Obama in Washington last month.

But some military experts question whether the patchwork response will 
be sufficient to reverse the sharp downturn in security that already led 
to the deaths of more than 8,000 Iraqis this year, 952 of them Iraqi 
security force members, according to the United Nations, the highest 
level of violence since 2008.

Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has 
become a potent force in northern and western Iraq. Riding in armed 
convoys, the group has intimidated towns, assassinated local officials, 
and in an episode last week, used suicide bombers and hidden explosives 
to kill the commander of the Iraqi Army’s Seventh Division and more than 
a dozen of his officers and soldiers as they raided a Qaeda training 
camp near Rutbah.

Bombings on Christmas in Christian areas of Baghdad, which killed more 
than two dozen people, bore the hallmarks of a Qaeda operation.

The surge in violence stands in sharp contrast to earlier assurances 
from senior Obama administration officials that Iraq was on the right 
path, despite the failure of American and Iraqi officials in 2011 to 
negotiate an agreement for a limited number of United States forces to 
remain in Iraq.

In a March 2012 speech, Antony J. Blinken, who is currently Mr. Obama’s 
deputy national security adviser, asserted that “Iraq today is less 
violent” than “at any time in recent history.”

In contrast, after a recent spate of especially violent attacks against 
Iraqi forces, elected officials and civilians, Jen Psaki, the State 
Department spokeswoman, issued a strongly worded statement on Sunday 
warning that the Qaeda affiliate is “seeking to gain control of 
territory inside the borders of Iraq.”

Pledging to take steps to strengthen Iraqi forces, Ms. Psaki noted that 
the Qaeda affiliate was a “common enemy of the United States and the 
Republic of Iraq, and a threat to the greater Middle East region.”

But the counterterrorism effort the United States is undertaking with 
Iraq has its limits.

Iraq’s foreign minister has floated the idea of having 
American-operated, armed Predator or Reaper drones respond to the 
expanding militant network. But Mr. Maliki, who is positioning himself 
to run for a third term as prime minister and who is sensitive to 
nationalist sentiment at home, has not formally requested such intervention.

The idea of carrying out such drone attacks, which might prompt the 
question of whether the Obama administration succeeded in bringing the 
Iraq war to what the president has called a “responsible end,” also 
appears to have no support in the White House.

“We have not received a formal request for U.S.-operated armed drones 
operating over Iraq, nor are we planning to divert armed I.S.R. over 
Iraq,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security 
Council, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance 
missions. For now, the new lethal aid from the United States, which Iraq 
is buying, includes a shipment of 75 Hellfire missiles, delivered to 
Iraq last week. The weapons are strapped beneath the wings of small 
Cessna turboprop planes, and fired at militant camps with the C.I.A. 
secretly providing targeting assistance.

In addition, 10 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones are expected to be 
delivered to Iraq by March. They are smaller cousins of the larger, more 
capable Predators that used to fly over Iraq.

American intelligence and counterterrorism officials say they have 
effectively mapped the locations and origins of the Qaeda network in 
Iraq and are sharing this information with the Iraqis.

Administration officials said the aid was significant because the Iraqis 
had virtually run out of Hellfire missiles. The Iraqi military, with no 
air force to speak of and limited reconnaissance of its own, has a very 
limited ability to locate and quickly strike Qaeda militants as they 
maneuver in western and northern Iraq. The combination of 
American-supplied Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, tactical drones and 
intelligence, supplied by the United States, is intended to augment that 
limited Iraqi ability.

The Obama administration has given three sensor-laden Aerostat balloons 
to the Iraqi government, provided three additional reconnaissance 
helicopters to the Iraqi military and is planning to send 48 Raven 
reconnaissance drones before the end of 2014. And the United States is 
planning to deliver next fall the first of the F-16 fighters Iraq has 
bought.

The lack of armed drones, some experts assert, will hamper efforts to 
dismantle the Qaeda threat in Iraq over the coming weeks and months.

“Giving them some ScanEagle drones is great,” said Michael Knights, an 
expert on Iraqi security at the Washington Institute for Near East 
Policy. “But is it really going to make much difference? Their range is 
tiny.”

“The real requirement today is for a long-range, high-endurance armed 
drone capability,” added Mr. Knights, who frequently travels to Iraq. 
“There is one place in the world where Al Qaeda can run a major 
affiliate without fear of a U.S. drone or air attack, and that is in 
Iraq and Syria.”

In an effort to buttress the Iraqi military’s abilities, the Obama 
administration has sought congressional approval to lease and eventually 
sell Apache helicopter gunships. But some lawmakers have been hesitant, 
fearing that they might be used by Mr. Maliki to intimidate his 
political opponents.

A plan to lease six Apaches to the Iraqi government is now pending in 
the Senate. Frustrated by the United States’ reluctance to sell Apaches, 
the Iraqis have turned to Russia, which delivered four MI-35 attack 
helicopters last month and planned to provide more than two dozen more. 
Meanwhile, cities and towns like Mosul, Haditha and Baquba that American 
forces fought to control during the 2007 and 2008 surge of American 
troops in Iraq have been the scene of bloody Qaeda attacks.

Using extortion and playing on Sunni grievances against Mr. Maliki’s 
Shiite-dominated government, the Qaeda affiliate is largely 
self-financing. One Iraqi politician, who asked not to be named to avoid 
retaliation, said Qaeda militants had even begun to extort money from 
shopkeepers in Ramadi, Anbar’s provincial capital.

A number of factors are helping the Qaeda affiliate. The terrorist group 
took advantage of the departure of American forces to rebuild its 
operations in Iraq and push into Syria. Now that it has established a 
strong foothold in Syria, it is in turn using its base there to send 
suicide bombers into Iraq at a rate of 30 to 40 a month, using them 
against Shiites but also against Sunnis who are reluctant to cede control.

The brutal tactics, some experts say, may expose Al Qaeda to a Sunni 
backlash, much as in 2006 and 2007 when Sunni tribes aligned themselves 
with American forces against the Qaeda extremists.

But Mr. Maliki’s failure to share power with Sunni leaders, some Iraqis 
say, has also provided a fertile recruiting ground.

Haitham Abdullah al-Jubouri, a 40-year-old government employee in 
Baquba, said that “the policy of the sectarian government” had 
“contributed to the influx of desperate young elements from the Sunni 
community to the ranks of Al Qaeda.”

In Mosul, most of the security force members who are not from the area 
have left the city, and Al Qaeda controls whole sections of territory.

“In the morning, we have some control, but at night, this is when we 
hide and the armed groups make their movements,” said an Iraqi security 
official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, out of fear of 
retaliation.

Ayad Shaker, a police officer in Anbar, said that Al Qaeda had 
replenished its ranks with a series of prison breakouts, and that the 
group had also grown stronger because of the limited abilities of Iraqi 
forces, the conflict in Syria and tensions between Mr. Maliki and the 
Sunnis.




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