Saturday, June 14, 2014

IRAN ENTERS IRAQ

English: Image from Iraqi state television. Re...
English: Image from Iraqi state television. Reproduced here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1119969.stm Category:Arab nationalists (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Gulf Daily News » Local News » IRAN ENTERS IRAQ

BAGHDAD: Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards are fighting alongside Iraqi troops against militants in northern Iraq. Tehran's direct involvement in Iraq's battle comes as leading Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani urged Iraqis to take up arms against jihadists' relentless push towards Baghdad amid US President Barack Obama's statement that he was exploring all options to save Iraq's security forces from collapse.
Iran has sent more than 500 Revolutionary Guard troops to fight alongside Iraqi government security forces in Diyala province, a senior security official in Baghdad told CNN.
As Iraq further disintegrated, residents fled Mosul in droves. Militants captured the country's second-largest city this week after soldiers scattered, leaving their uniforms and weapons behind.
A Saudi prince, meanwhile, blamed the Iraqi government of Nuri Al Maliki for the loss of wide areas of northern Iraq to militants, saying Baghdad had failed to stop them joining forces with former Baathists from the Saddam Hussein era.
Prince Turki Al Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief, said the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) insurgency should have come as no surprise.
He said the situation in Iraq was changing so swiftly that it was impossible to say what would happen in coming days and weeks. But he said it could lead to some unexpected outcomes if the US became involved in the fighting three years after its occupation of Iraq ended in 2011.
"One of the distinct potential ironies that may come about is to see Iranian Revolutionary Guards fighting with American drones to kill Iraqis," he said in Rome.
"This is something that will boggle the mind and make one wonder where we are going."
Prime Minister Maliki heads a Shi'ite-dominated government that is backed by Iran and which Sunnis say has marginalised and persecuted them since Saddam's fall to the US-led invasion a decade ago.
The prince also said Saudi Arabia firmly opposed ISIL, noting that it was on Saudi list of terrorist organisations.
A senior Obama administration official yesterday said that the President has not yet made a decision on whether to act on any military options. But another senior administration official indicated that a decision could come as early as today or tomorrow.
Air strikes are among the options on the table, the White House said. But there will be no repeat of a large US troop presence on Iraqi soil.
Secretary of State John Kerry earlier said the latest events had been a "wake-up call" for Iraq's divided political leadership, which has been accused of failing to address growing sectarian divisions.

Obama’s Iraq dilemma: Fighting ISIL puts US and Iran on the same side | Iraq

Nouri al-Maliki meets with George W. Bush.
Nouri al-Maliki meets with George W. Bush. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Obama’s Iraq dilemma: Fighting ISIL puts US and Iran on the same side | Al Jazeera America

The lightning offensive that has seen Al-Qaeda-inspired fighters drive government security forces out of some of northern Iraq’s key cities has left the U.S. facing a strategic dilemma: A fractious and fragile Iraqi state created by the American-led invasion in 2003 is crumbling; putting it back together — or, at least, containing the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — looks likely to require cooperation among foreign stakeholders who are anything but allies.
President Barack Obama, fresh off a speech at West Point where he vaunted the successful withdrawal from a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq,” confirmed in a hastily arranged press conference on the White House's South Lawn on Friday that he wouldn't send U.S. troops back to Iraq.
But after rebuffing requests from Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for U.S. airstrikes on ISIL strongholds for months, according to The New York Times, Obama on Friday made clear that the speed of the rebel advance had prompted his administration to reconsider targeted military action — and maybe recalibrate his noninterventionist approach in the Middle East.
"The United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it's up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems," Obama said.
"We won't allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation in which, while we're there, we're keeping a lid on things, and after enormous sacrifices by us, as soon as we're not there, suddenly people end up acting in ways that are not conducive to the long-term stability of the country."
The president noted that the Iraqi security forces’ setbacks weren’t simply a result of their level of weaponry and technical capacity. Although the U.S. has spent some $14 billion over the past decade bolstering Iraqi forces, the problem is that the state those forces are intended to protect has never transcended its ethnic and sectarian rivalries to forge a stable national consensus, he said.
At West Point, Obama outlined a vision of counterterrorism outsourced to local allies and proxies, but in the Iraqi case, U.S. officials see the politics of the local partner as part of what is driving the security problem. 
Iraq’s post–Saddam Hussein political order remains deeply divided, and U.S. officials have long expressed frustration at Maliki’s failure to forge an inclusive political compact with the political representatives of the country’s Sunni minority. Even as Washington considers emergency action to shore up the Iraqi state, there’s no evidence to inspire confidence that Maliki will substantially change the basis on which he governs.
ISIL has flourished amid the alienation of Iraq’s Sunni communities from the Shia-dominated Maliki government. Long before this week’s takeover of Mosul and other towns and cities, Baghdad had lost control of Anbar province and faced widespread Sunni discontent with Maliki’s rule.
The ease with which ISIL now operates there reflects the collapse of the “Awakening” strategy at the heart of the U.S. surge in 2007, when local Sunni militias recruited by the U.S. effectively drove Al-Qaeda and its offshoots out of the region. The Maliki government has progressively antagonized these groups, who don’t appear to be resisting ISIL’s latest surge.
Despite the security crisis, Iraq’s parliament didn’t even convene to consider allowing Maliki to declare a state of emergency, with many Sunni and Kurdish legislators boycotting the session because they oppose expanding the prime minister’s powers.
The situation might have worked out differently had Maliki reached out to Sunnis, Kurds and other Iraqi minorities, some analysts said. The prime minister’s failure to do so creates a dilemma for the U.S., which does not want to — with any potential military support — reinforce the power of a sectarian Shia government that has proved incapable of creating a national political consensus.
“Al-Maliki has become steadily more authoritarian, corrupt, and repressive,” wrote Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday. “He has made the Iraqi security force his political tool, deprived it of effective leaders, used security funds for his own profit, and brought his supporters and relatives into the command chain.” This, Cordesman said, has empowered ISIL.

‘Bunch of thugs’

The challenge for Iraq’s neighbors may be more acute, because their strategic rivalry has prompted Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, among others, to back favored factions as proxies in their regionwide geopolitical contest.
Of all the regional powers, things are most clear-cut for Iran, the neighbor with whom Maliki is most closely aligned — an uncomfortable reality that U.S. conversation about Iraq has tended to overlook. Iran has promised to back Maliki to the hilt, much as it has done for its other key Arab ally, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
At the same time, an unnamed senior Iranian official told Reuters that Tehran is willing to cooperate with the U.S. in confronting the challenge of ISIL in Iraq.
Saudi Arabia, Tehran’s regional archenemy, is in a trickier position. Riyadh “has regarded Maliki as little more than an Iranian stooge,” wrote Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Although vulnerable to Al-Qaeda-types at home, [Gulf] countries (particularly Kuwait and Qatar) have often turned a blind eye to their citizens funding radical groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the most active Islamist groups opposed to Bashar al-Assad in Syria,” he wrote.
Even then, however, ISIL’s emergence as a key player in the region is deeply threatening to the Saudis and their allies, too.
But as Iran steps forward to help its ally in Baghdad — a source in Tehran said Iran’s elite Quds Force has already deployed 150 men to help its neighbor — more robust Iranian involvement could further antagonize Iran’s regional rivals.
The dynamic on the ground, meanwhile, appears to foreshadow further fracturing. Even Thursday’s good news for Baghdad — that Kirkuk had been reclaimed from ISIL — was a mixed blessing: It was not central government forces who expelled the rebels, but militia units of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in the north, which has long laid claim to the oil-rich city. Whether Kirkuk will be restored to control from Baghdad remains an open question.
Maliki has responded to the weakness of the state security forces by calling for an army of volunteers to take matters into their own hands — widely read as a move to revive the Shia militias that had come out on top in the country’s sectarian civil war in 2006–07. That impression was underscored by Friday’s call to arms by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shia.
Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army was one of the largest sectarian militias, officially dormant since 2007, promised to reactivate some of its units to defend Shia holy sites. 
A slide back into sectarian warfare offers ISIL more fertile ground in which to operate, and the increasingly powerful nonstate actor poses a threat to all of the region’s states, the antagonisms among them notwithstanding. But containing the danger will require a measure of cooperation and consensus among regional stakeholders Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S.
“Even if the territorial gains by [ISIL] are reversed, its offensive has already rapidly reframed analytical debates over the nature and fortunes of Al-Qaeda and the jihadist movement, the ability to contain spillover from Syria, possible areas of U.S.-Iranian cooperation and the viability of President Obama’s light-footprint Middle East strategy,” wrote Marc Lynch, director of George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies, on Thursday.
Nuclear talks suggest the U.S. and Iran are emerging from decades of icy relations, but any tentative rapprochement could be put to the test by the challenge of restoring Iraqi security. Even if they share a mutual interest in backing Maliki against ISIL, their broader strategic interests — and those of key U.S. ally and Iran adversary Saudi Arabia — are clearly divergent. But cooperation is hardly out of the question.
“Iran and the U.S. have essentially been the only important allies for the Maliki government, because of its alienation from the Sunni Arab world,” said Michael W. Hanna of the Century Foundation in Washington.
“People are waking up to [that] now because we have it in its undiluted form — the prospect of them both giving direct military aid to Maliki. But that was the case when the U.S. was there — Iran was just playing a more complicated game, funding and training Shia militias.”
Those militias may now rejoin the fight, and the Iranians are likely to expand their own involvement to prop up Maliki — as will the U.S. “I think we will help,” said Hanna. “I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like, but I’m fairly certain we will take some serious steps.”
These steps would be aimed at shoring up the central government and preventing the rebels from marching on Baghdad. But as Obama alluded to on Friday, stopping the resumption of broad-based sectarian civil war will be far more.
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Thursday, June 12, 2014

US Army Reflections on the Value of Military History

US Army Reflections on the Value of Military History | Federation Of American Scientists


US Army Reflections on the Value of Military History


Far from being a subject of merely antiquarian interest, military history is an essential tool for training of soldiers and for institutional accountability, according to newly updated Army doctrine.
But only if it is done right.
In Military History Operations (ATP 1-20, June 2014), the Army discusses what military history is for, its development over time, and the proper way to produce it. Some excerpts:
“The history of Army operations and activities is not documented or written for public affairs purposes. It is not shaped to reflect particular viewpoints, programmatic goals, or institutional agendas. In the past, military organizations and commands exaggerated achievements of individuals, units, or systems while downplaying setbacks. Army field historians guard against these instances and ensure that historical documents, reports, and official histories reflect a full accounting of operations or institutional developments as they occur. Anything less is a disservice to the Soldiers and Army civilians whose actions are documented, those who must learn from them, and to the integrity of the Army as a whole.”
“History cannot be fabricated. Any fabrication corrupts tradition, professional education, and tradition. The integrity and standing of Army history, gained over nearly a century of recognized excellence, can be permanently damaged. The Army is best served by the careful and unbiased recording and analysis of the past. To prevent any potential damages from occurring, the collection, research, and writing of Army history is based on impartiality, objectivity, and accuracy.”
“Historical writing is clear, concise, organized, and to the point. Some historians fail to communicate well. They confuse rather than clarify, are wordy rather than concise, and hide main ideas rather than getting to the point. Good writers communicate in plain English and choose words with care to convey meaning. They avoid trite or vague phrases; stale figures of speech; jargon; acronyms; and pompous, high-sounding, and self-conscious literary language. Historical narratives are in active voice, use strong nouns and verbs, and include short vignettes to illustrate points or enliven the narrative. However, they should not embellish or glorify events or offer judgments of individuals or actions. The narrative recounts events as each one occurred.”
The new doctrine instructs Army historians to maintain awareness of captured enemy documents, and encourages them to seek out non-traditional and unofficial historical resources (like the private video and photographic images that were recently the subject of a classification complaint):
“Both official and unofficial photographs and video imagery enhances historical document collections and [are] included in historical document collections. Combat camera teams and public affairs photographers take official photographs and video imagery and provide copies to command and unit historians or military history detachments (MHD). Additionally, many Soldiers carry digital cameras, video recorders, or mobile phones with cameras and video capabilities. The field historian searches for unofficial photographs and videos of potential historical value. This search includes accessing social media sites, personal blogs, and photo-sharing sites.”
“Military history does not produce solutions for problems and does guarantee success on the battlefield. An approach with these goals leads to frustration and biased or inaccurate history. Rather, military history affords an understanding of the dynamics to shape the present and [provides] soldiers the perspective of viewing current and future problems with ideas of how similar challenges were confronted in the past.”
“If history rarely provides concrete answers, it offers insight and understanding. It promotes how to think and not what to think,” the Army publication said.

Navy cruiser skipper ousted | More Leadership Problems?

The Ticonderoga-class cruiser Cowpens was built at Bath Iron Works in Maine.

Navy cruiser skipper ousted | UTSanDiego.com

photoThe Navy has ousted the skipper of a San Diego-based cruiser as a result of inspections following the ship’s return from deployment in April.
Capt. Gregory W. Gombert, and ship’s commanding officer, and the ship's command master chief, Master Chief Petty Officer Gabriel J. Keeton, were relieved of their positions Tuesday.
A Navy news release cited a loss of confidence in Gombert’s and Keeton’s ability to lead due to the inspections. No other details were available.

Navy Capt. Gregory W. GombertU.S. Navy photo
photo
Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Gabriel J. Keeton— U.S. Navy photo

The Cowpens, known by the nickname Mighty Moo, recently completed a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific that included participating in Operation Damayan, the disaster recovery mission following Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Republic of the Philippines.
An official familiar with the investigation said the removal of Gombert and Keeton is not related to a Dec. 5 incident when a Chinese warship nearly collided with the cruiser in the Pacific.
Capt. Robert B. Chadwick II will assume temporary duties as commanding officer, and Master Chief Petty Officer Richard J. Putnam will temporarily assume duties as command master chief.
Cowpens was part of U.S. forward deployed naval forces in Japan until 2013. After a hull swap with the cruiser Antietam, the Cowpens returned to San Diego.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

D + 10 Years: The 1954 Celebration of the World War II Invasion of Normandy


Today’s post is written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.
This past weekend saw the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy during World War II.  The invasion was memorably portrayed in the movie The Longest Day (1962) and in episodes of the mini-series “Band of Brothers.”  By all accounts, this year’s celebratory events were a grand success.
The same cannot be said about the 10th anniversary celebration in 1954, at least from the American perspective.  The French planners of the events had invited President Dwight Eisenhower, who had been the Allied commander of the invasion, to attend, but the press of business kept him in Washington.  He designated Henry Cabot Lodge, then serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, as his representative and to lead the American delegation.
The celebrations stretched over two days.  On June 5, activities focused on honoring the British and Canadian contributions to the invasion.  Events on June 6 honored American participation in the invasion.  The weather was terrible (cold and rainy); the traffic and parking even worse; Ambassador Lodge and the American military officers attending did not receive the respect they expected; and the events were not well planned or coordinated.  This is all described in the detailed report by the U.S. Consul in Cherbourg.  His report is reproduced in the following ten images.
This record is from File 851.424/6-1154 of the Central Decimal Files(National Archives Identifier 302021), RG 59, General Records of the Department of State.
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