Surprise! No one was surprised by ISIS sweep

posted at 10:01 am on July 7, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

When ISIS sacked Mosul and Tikrit and threatened Kirkuk and Baghdad, the world seemed shocked — especially the Obama administration, which had long maintained that Iraq could defend its own borders. The sudden change in fortunes exposed how hollow the Iraqi army has become and highlighted the power manipulation of America’s ally Nouri al-Maliki, which left Iraq divided along sectarian lines in its greatest crisis since the civil war of 2006-7. Last week, former State Department consultant Ali Khedery revealed how unsurprising this surprise actually was, and Eli Lake followed up with fresh sources that make clear how long the Obama White House knew that this was coming:

On November 1, 2013, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House, and made a rather stunning request. Maliki, who celebrated when the last U.S. troops left his country in 2011, asked Obama to quietly send the military back into Iraq and help his beleagured Air Force develop targets for air strikes; that’s how serious the threat from Sunni insurgents led by the extremist group ISIS had become.

Twelve days later, Brett McGurk, a deputy assistant secretary of state and the Obama administration’s senior U.S. official in Baghdad since the crisis began last month, presented to Congress a similarly dark warning. ISIS was launching upwards of 40 suicide bombers a month, he said, encouraged in part by the weakness of Maliki’s military and the aggressively anti-Sunni policies of the Shi’ite prime minister. It was the kind of ominous report that American intelligence agencies had been delivering privately for months. McGurk added that ISIS had “benefited from a permissive operating environment due to inherent weaknesses of Iraqi security forces, poor operational tactics, and popular grievances, which remain unaddressed, among the population in Anbar and Nineweh provinces.”

Maliki’s requests were rebuffed; McGurk’s warnings went largely unheeded. The problem for Obama was that he had no good policy option in Iraq. On the one hand, if Obama had authorized the air strikes Maliki began requesting in January, he would strengthen the hand of an Iraqi prime minister who increasingly resembled the brutal autocrat U.S. troops helped unseat in 2003. Maliki’s heavy handed policies—such as authorizing counter-terrorism raids against Sunni political leaders with no real links to terrorism—sowed the seeds of the current insurrection in Iraq. …

Two months later, ISIS captured the strategically important city of Fallujah in Anbar province. Five month after that, Iraq’s second-largest city—Mosul, in Nineweh province—fell to ISIS and an army of Sunni insurgents. At the time, senior Obama administration officials went out of their way to proclaim just how impossible-to-predict the collapse of Mosul was. But interviews with a dozen U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials, diplomats, and policy makers reveal a very different story. A catastrophe like the fall of Mosul wasn’t just predictable, these officials say. They repeatedly warned the Obama administration that something like this was going to happen. With seemingly no good choices to make in Iraq, the White House wasn’t able to listen.

Be sure to read it all. The catalyst for the collapse was Maliki’s sectarian turn, but that was enabled by the complete withdrawal of US forces and the washing of hands on Iraq by the Obama administration. Without that influence and pressure on the ground, Maliki cut out the Sunnis and the Kurds from power in Baghdad and purged them from the military. That left the army short on resources and pushed Sunni tribal leaders from their Anbar Awakening posture into the arms of the enemy, and convinced the Kurds that they had no stake in a united Iraq.

The political and strategic losses that resulted are devastating, but hardly a surprise. Neither will the cultural losses cause much surprise, although they will be shocking — and are already under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:

Soon afterward the minions of the self-appointed caliph of the freshly self-declared Islamic State,Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, paid a visit to the Mosul Museum. It has been closed for years for restoration, ever since it was looted along with many of Iraq’s other institutions in the wake of the culturally oblivious American-led invasion of 2003. But the Mosul Museum was on the verge of reopening, at last, and the full collection had been stored there.

“These groups of terrorists—their arrival was a brutal shock, with no warning,” Iraqi National Museum Director Qais Hussein Rashid told me when he visited Paris last week with a mission pleading for international help. “We were not able to take preventive measures.”

Indeed, museum curators and staff were no better prepared than any other part of the Iraqi government. They could have learned from al-Baghdadi’s operations in neighboring Syria that a major source of revenue for his insurgency has been the sale of looted antiquities on the black market. As reported in The Guardian, a windfall of intelligence just before Mosul fell revealed that al-Baghdadi had accumulated a $2 billion war chest, in part by selling off ancient artifacts from captured Syrian sites. But the Iraqi officials concerned with antiquities said the Iraqi intelligence officers privy to that information have not shared it with them.

So the risk now—the virtual certainty, in fact—is that irreplaceable history will be annihilated or sold into the netherworld of corrupt and cynical collectors. And it was plain when I met with Rashid and his colleagues that they are desperate to stop it, but have neither the strategy nor the resources to do so.

At least the museum will likely be left standing. The same can’t be said for ten or more ancient shrines in the same region, which Baghdadi’s forces demolished, and which they videotaped to demonstrate their total control in the so-called Islamic State:

The public appearance and video released by Baghdadi’s organization sends its own message of permanence:

The leader of an Islamist militant group that has seized control of territory from Syria to Iraq made a rare public appearance last week, urging his followers and other Muslims to use the holy month of Ramadan to escalate their jihad against “the enemies of God,” according to a video posted online Saturday.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared leader of the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State, which declared the restoration of the medieval Muslim caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria last week, is purportedly shown in the video preaching to followers Friday at a mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

The SITE Intelligence group, which tracks extremist movements and statements, confirmed Baghdadi’s appearance in the video, which identifies him as “Caliph Ibrahim.” Baghdadi is a nom de guerre. He is also known as Ibrahim al-Samarrai. The video, published by the Islamic State’s media wing, would be the first that Baghdadi has made, as well as marking one of the few instances that the reclusive leader has appeared in public.

The Iraqi military seemed to have an opportunity to eliminate the so-called Caliph, but apparently was unable or unwilling to press an attack. How many more opportunities will Baghdadi give them?


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Totally unrelated –

Why is Hot Air (and several other sites) embargoing what is going on about the contested election in Mississippi?

Dr. Dog on July 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM

On to Kuwait.

Viator on July 7, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Look out, Jordan.

Philly on July 7, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Sunni religious nuts, that border the Shia religious nuts. Things are going to explode. Sell them the bullets…but no more.

Oil Can on July 7, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Surprise! No one was surprised by ISIS sweep

…they talked about it…on the golf course.

JugEarsButtHurt on July 7, 2014 at 10:12 AM

t is illegal under MS Code § 23-15-561 (2013) to “publicly or privately put up or in any way offer any prize, cash award or other item of value to be raffled, drawn for, played for or contested for in order to encourage persons to vote or to refrain from voting in any election.” And the penalties to candidates who violate that statute are significant. Besides a $5,000 fine…

(3) Any candidate who shall violate the provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall, upon conviction thereof, in addition to the fine prescribed above, be punished by:
(a) Disqualification as a candidate in the race for the elective office; or
(b) Removal from the elective office, if the offender has been elected thereto.

“the allegations are specific, and they involve a Saleem Baird, a staffer for Mississippi’s other senator Roger Wicker who was employed by Cochran in this campaign. He also implicates Cochran’s campaign manager Kirk Sims and Amanda Shook, the campaign’s director of operations.”

http://thehayride.com/2014/07/the-interesting-mississippi-street-money-interview/

Viator on July 7, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Totally unrelated –

Why is Hot Air (and several other sites) embargoing what is going on about the contested election in Mississippi?

Dr. Dog on July 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM

“Nothing to see (t)here… move along.”

– Salem Communications

bofh on July 7, 2014 at 10:15 AM

I thought the Iraqis said they killed/wounded severely him a few days ago in a Cessna raid. Why would they fib about that?

BL@KBIRD on July 7, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Iraq, like Vietnam before it is falling because America’s Democrat party members need it to fall in order to advance their own Marxist political agenda. The Democrats betrayed Vietnam, and now they have betrayed Iraq. It’s almost like it’s a pattern of behavior or something.

oscarwilde on July 7, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Bad news is always unexpected for the Choom Gang.

formwiz on July 7, 2014 at 10:18 AM

I’m shocked. Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s acolyte told me Al Qaeda was “in decline” and I believed him.

MaiDee on July 7, 2014 at 10:21 AM

The Iraqi military seemed to have an opportunity to eliminate the so-called Caliph, but apparently was unable or unwilling to press an attack

Because apparently the concept of self-determination and freedom is completely lost on most of the people in the mideast. These jokers were given freedom on a silver platter stained with the blood of America’s best, and the savages intentionally tipped the platter over into the dust.

Screw them, screw all of them, if they aren’t willing to fight for themselves and their families then forget it. Let the 21st century version of the predatory and regressive “caliphate” take over, our job should be to bomb the ever-lovin’ shiite out of whomever even looks like they’ll create problems for us.

Bishop on July 7, 2014 at 10:24 AM

But who would suspect? This is a religion of peace we are talking about here.
Not like those bloodthirsty Quakers beheading Mennonites.

katy the mean old lady on July 7, 2014 at 10:26 AM

Last week, former State Department consultant Ali Khedery revealed how unsurprising this surprise actually was, and Eli Lake followed up with fresh sources that make clear how long the Obama White House knew that this was coming . . . . .

Ed Morrissey on July 7, 2014 at 10:01 am

.
.
I wouldn’t doubt that the White House aided and abetted ISIS.

listens2glenn on July 7, 2014 at 10:31 AM

The shocking headline that’s missing here…

Obama allowed Al Qaeda 2.0 to take parts of Iraq and Syria.

They have announced Jihad Central is open for business.

faraway on July 7, 2014 at 10:32 AM

It’s no longer ISIS.

It’s IS, and all know it.

Yes, they can.

Schadenfreude on July 7, 2014 at 10:40 AM

“Osama is dead, GM is alive dead and Al Quaida is on the run…and don’t use the term ‘terrorist’, rubes” — your Oaf in Chief

Schadenfreude on July 7, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Meanwhile, a real terror in the D-latrine.

Here’s laughing at you, slave of HA.

Schadenfreude on July 7, 2014 at 10:42 AM

One bunch of camel jockeys killing another bunch of camel jockeys. Remind me why we care?

Rix on July 7, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Man Caused Disaster

Bmore on July 7, 2014 at 10:49 AM

Totally unrelated –

Why is Hot Air (and several other sites) embargoing what is going on about the contested election in Mississippi?

Dr. Dog on July 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Also conspicuously absent is coverage of Obama’s border invasion.

Salem is a 3rd rate pseudo-Christian RINO talk radio operator…

ConstantineXI on July 7, 2014 at 10:49 AM

On to Jordan

Schadenfreude on July 7, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Muzz on muzz crime.

Galtian on July 7, 2014 at 10:52 AM

obama’s “Arab Spring” sure blooms nicely.

Schadenfreude on July 7, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Not really off topic.

Schadenfreude on July 7, 2014 at 10:56 AM

One bunch of camel jockeys killing another bunch of camel jockeys. Remind me why we care?

Rix on July 7, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Because they won’t stop there.

Schadenfreude on July 7, 2014 at 11:02 AM

We may end up longing for the day when we only had Osama to worry us.

Deano1952 on July 7, 2014 at 11:10 AM

The same can’t be said for ten or more ancient shrines in the same region, which Baghdadi’s forces demolished, and which they videotaped to demonstrate their total control in the so-called Islamic State

So they’ve set the precedent, and should have no complaint when the world annihilates them from history.

All the world needs is the balls to do it. Treat them like polio.

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 11:10 AM

Surprise! No one was surprised by ISIS sweep

…they talked about it…on the golf course.

JugEarsButtHurt on July 7, 2014 at 10:12 AM

This news caused President Obortion to use one of his unlimited Mulligans, and boy, was he pissed.

BobMbx on July 7, 2014 at 11:13 AM

Remind me why we care?

Rix on July 7, 2014 at 10:43 AM

1. Any stuff like this makes (big) investors nervous.
2. The Israel First crowd over here gets bent out of shape and demands the U.S. does something about it.
3. Our current administration is perfectly fine with these fanatics taking over. They see them as “freedom fighters”, and besides, revolutions is always good-unless it’s against them, of course.
4. There is much behind the scenes bribery of very powerful people always involved with these things…most of which we’ll never know about.

Oh, why should you care? Because somehow, some way what you have worked for will be nibbled away at even more in order to facilitate the best interests of a handful of people for any of the above reasons.

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 7, 2014 at 11:16 AM

I encourage my Religion of Peace brothers to annihilate each other in the name of Allah.

Tard on July 7, 2014 at 11:33 AM

One bunch of camel jockeys killing another bunch of camel jockeys. Remind me why we care?

Rix on July 7, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Forgotten already, eh?

Midas on July 7, 2014 at 11:58 AM

Of course it’s not a surprise. Ask any liberal and they’ll tell you they saw it coming when Bush sent troops in.

John the Libertarian on July 7, 2014 at 12:19 PM

We don’t know that that actually is Baghdadi on that balcony. We don’t know that Baghdadi is still alive. We don’t whether or how seriously he was wounded. GOI statements are self-serving. And IS is not talking. Should Iraqi intelligence break into his Syrian hospital room and shoot him, ala Vito Corleone?

Esaus Message on July 7, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Totally unrelated –

Why is Hot Air (and several other sites) embargoing what is going on about the contested election in Mississippi?

Dr. Dog on July 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM

You’ve made the mistake of thinking Hot Air is still a conservative site. It is not. Liberal friends of the two most prominent people here have a great deal of influence in what is covered here. They find they are embarrassed by certain things conservatives do and believe and will auto-delete posts with certain words they find embarrassing among their libfriends, as well as avoid subjects those same friends find uncomfortable.

Hot Air is not the same place it was before it went to Salem, and Allah and Morrissey are not conservatives.

Quartermaster on July 7, 2014 at 3:56 PM

This is the face of the diversity that libs want brought to a neighorhood near you. This is why they decline to call them terrorists and why the media neglects to identify a criminal as a Muslim even tho it’s an honor killing, heads being cut off, or bombings. They know they can’t sell diversity is a good thing if the truth about how certain people conduct their lives is known. Who would want to cozy up to a new neighbor who believes it necessary to mutilate female genitalia.

Kissmygrits on July 7, 2014 at 7:14 PM

Al-Baghdadi 2016!

Moron Labe on July 7, 2014 at 9:47 PM

One bunch of camel jockeys killing another bunch of camel jockeys. Remind me why we care?

Rix on July 7, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Because the one thing they agree on, is that their prophet commanded them to kill all the unbelievers.
That’s us.

And it’s not beyond possibility that they’ll try to show their strength by competing in which one of them can do us the most damage.
Is this something you’d care about?

ReggieA on July 8, 2014 at 2:46 PM