Sunday, March 1, 2015

March on Mosul – A Potential Mideast Bay of Pigs

The battle of Kobani is over and now the battle for Mosul will begin this spring. The U.S. prepping an untested Iraqi army for the invasion of ISIS-occupied Mosul and plans to provide air cover and intelligence information during the operation.

According to news reports, the U.S. won the political tug of war and persuaded the Iraqi government to assign experienced Iraqi combat troops to lead the assault. This result came over the earlier objection of the Iraqi government who preferred to have the experienced troops stay behind to guard Baghdad and instead use raw recruits for the invasion.

Militarily the use of experienced troops is far preferable better to coordinate a major attack. However in many countries (Iraq is no exception) experienced troops have a powerful loyalty connection to the leadership and are physically positioned close to the ruling military and governmental powers to protect them from possible coups.

Even with experienced troops the retaking Mosul is an enormous undertaking.  It took months to retake Kobani, a significantly smaller urban area than Mosul, despite significant U.S. air support and logistic aid.

Up until now President Obama has yet to lose a military confrontation albeit all of which have been small and limited.  He eliminated Osama Bin Laden, rescued hostages from pirates on the high seas, and liberated Kobani with air support.  This time the venue is far different, a fight on ISIS turf, where their resistance may stiffen considerably.

The spring planned March on Mosul could stain his legacy should the invasion fail. The U.S.-trained Iraqi army faces an implacable fighting force entrenched amongst the civilian population who they can use as hostages and provoke an unimaginable moral and humanitarian crisis.

There’s the disturbing distinct possibility that this invasion attempt may be déjà vu with respect to a potential Middle East Bay of Pigs. Once again it’s the training and use of locals to recapture territory from an oppressive regime with American logistical, and in the case of Mosul, active military air support.  This eerie parallel is developing with the Mosul assault, a mostly Shiite Iraqi army attempting to forcing take a city with a majority Sunni civilian population who were discriminated against by a Shiite run government.

All the intelligence and air support not enough if the estimated 15,000-20,000 Iraqi and other troops do not have the will to engage in what will be a prolonged and bloody battle in an unforgiving urban environment. This is the major military showdown that ISIS has long desired.  Even a stalemate or siege would be a victory for them.

Politically “failure is not an option” even if no American lives are lost in the battle.  All ISIS needs to inflame the situation is to capture of an American pilot or military personnel that will put President Obama in an extremely difficult position with respect to sending in ground troops.

A failed invasion, a Middle East Bay of Pigs, will provoke severe political repercussions in Middle East providing an enormous propaganda coup to inspire militant groups both established ones like Boko Haram in Nigeria, and nascent ones festering worldwide.

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