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Middle East Aflame
Putting a Brave Face on ISIS Advances

Like many troubled conflicts that have come before it, the war against ISIS has entered that phase where leaders trot out body counts as evidence of success. More than 10,000 members of ISIS have been killed since the start of efforts to eradicate it, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today after a meeting of anti-ISIS coalition partners in Paris.

“We have seen a lot of losses within Daesh since the start of this campaign, more than 10,000,” Blinken said on France Inter radio, using a mildly derogatory term for Islamic State. “It will end up having an impact.”

On Tuesday, Western and Arab states carrying out air strikes on Islamic State fighters backed Iraq’s plan for retaking territory after being accused by the Iraqi premier of not doing enough to help Baghdad push back the insurgents.

“At the start of this campaign (we) said it would take time,” he said. “We have conceived a three-year plan and we’re nine months into it.”

Blinken also said that ISIS controlled 25% less territory than it did late last year.

Body counts and percentages aside, ISIS is making fresh strides in Syria as it advances on the city of Aleppo, the country’s largest city. Some opposition fighters (and notably the U.S. Embassy in Syria’s Twitter account) were alleging that this latest push is being aided by government forces. In the northeast, however, Assad’s troops are said to be in pitched battles with ISIS in and around the Kurdish-majority Hasaka province.

The meeting in Paris, which adjourned without any notable adjustments to strategy being announced, indicates there’s no consensus as to what to do next. What exactly will have to happen for a serious re-evaluation?

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  • Ellen

    Par for the course for the collection of spineless do-nothings who constitute the leadership of the Western world. Don’t expect any leadership from Mr. Lead from Behind in Washington.

    ISIS will continue to carve out an emirate in Eastern Syria, Nusra will carve out an ever-larger emirate in Northwestern Syria, the Kurds will proceed toward a second Kurdish state, and the Southern Front and the Druze in the south will come to some sort of arrangement with Israel as the Assad regime steadily crumbles along with Hezbollah.

    Meanwhile, the real issue is who will intervene down the road to prevent the slaughter of the Alawites in NW Syria as they fall to pieces? Is Iran really willing to put up 30-50,000 troops? I doubt it. Stay tuned.

    Meanwhile, Obama has the gall to tell Netanyahu that his credibility is at stake because some people suspect he doesn’t believe ceding territory to murderous thugs is a recipe for peace. Is he for real?

    • Kevin

      Recent reports show they have recruited and deployed thousands, though not yet tens of thousands, of Shia mercenaries (from Pakistan, etc.) to fight in Syria. I supect Iran will pour a lot more resources into this fight before giving up Damascus.

      • Ellen

        Yes, I read that too. However, the issue isn’t just bodies, as Qassem Soleimani well knows. The Iraqi army outnumbered ISIS at Ramadi by a 10 to 1 ratio supposedly, and they ran away barely firing a shot. The bigger issue is motivation. Will Paki and Afghan Shiite mercenaries really fight to the death against mostly Syrian Sunnis fighting for their homes and what they view as their own country? I doubt it. Neither will Hezbollah when the death toll for them begins to run in the low thousands rather than around 1000, as it is now.

      • JR

        I hope that they do… A bloody war in a place with no oil? Sounds like a wonderful dream….

  • adk

    “What exactly will have to happen for a serious re-evaluation?”
    New administration.

    • Arkeygeezer

      What is a new administration going to do? The only thing I have heard from the Republicans is, “Send in the ground troops again.”

      • adk

        If you believe Mr.Blinken, a new administration will keep doing the same as the current one — fighting ISIS.

        “At the start of this campaign (we) said it would take time,” he (Blinken) said. “We have conceived a three-year plan and we’re nine months into it.”

        Translation: they have no intention to finish up ISIS before they leave office. Just one more “have fun with it” gift to the next guy (or, god forbid, gal), among many others.

  • Dan Greene

    TAI is complaining that Obama is not doing enough to take on IS. But does TAI really want the destruction of IS? I doubt it–not right now anyway. For those whose primary preoccupation is with Iran and the government of Syria, the demand that Obama do something about IS rings hollow. IS is an entity to be used to disrupt the “Shia arc” and not to be eliminated until such time as the “Iranian threat” is destroyed or, alternatively, as a pretext for putting US forces back on the ground. To a certain extent, Obama may actually be using that logic as well, though his objective is to create conditions that contain the strategic reach of Iran while he attempts to bring nuclear negotiations with them to a conclusion and tries to allay the paranoia of the Saudis and fend off Israel’s incessant demands. TAI, based on its coverage history and the positions it has staked out, wants to use IS much more extensively, before its eventual dismantling. The faux-outrage expressed here in connection with the Islamic State is really nothing more than the daily, superficial, anti-Obama attack piece. It conveys nothing else.

    • JR

      Your gift of mind reading must be truly amazing. You know exactly what TAI – an inanimate website – wants? You are an inspiration.

      • Dan Greene

        Thanks, but don’t feel bad about your own meager powers of perception. I’m sure you’re good at something else.

        • JR

          I find your incredulity at the fact that just because you can’t hold more than one thought at a time to mean that nobody posses the ability to do that to be truly endearing.
          What other inanimate object’s thoughts can you read? What does website thinking right now?

  • jeburke

    The 10,000 ISIS fighters killed is transparently total BS. Such a kill count implies at least another 10,000 knocked out of combat by serious wounds and at least another 10,000 needing some medical aid. Even if ISIS had 100,000 troops — a much larger number than any estimate — the group would be badly hurt and on the defensive, which it plainly is not. Anyone familiar with combat knows that a fighting force that loses a third of its complement in a relatively short time is a largely spent force. Even if it enjoys robust recruitment, recruits need training and experience. What’s more, if less than 4000 air strikes can kill and wound 30,000 enemies in any war anywhere, it would be a miracle.

    • adk

      30,000 killed and wounded in 4,000 air strikes would be even a greater miracle considering this:

      “U.S. bombers hold fire on Islamic State targets amid ground intel blackout”

      Nearly 75 percent of U.S. bombing runs targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria returned to base without firing any weapons in the first four months of 2015, holding their fire mainly because of a lack of ground intelligence and raising questions about President Obama’s key tactic in pushing back an enemy that continues to expand its territory in the war zone.

      • jeburke

        Got that right. Plus one other thing: who is counting the bodies? With no troops on the ground in either Iraq or Syria, any so-called count can only be a wild guess, at best.

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