Actually, topography has everything to do with what’s gone well or badly for I.S.I.S. in this latest push. If you know the ethnic makeup of the turf they’ve taken, their “shocking gains” don’t seem so shocking, or impressive. After all, we’re talking about a mobile force–mounted on the beloved Toyota Hilux pickup truck, favorite vehicle of every male in the Middle East—advancing over totally flat, dry ground in pursuit of a totally demoralized opponent. In that situation, any force could take a lot of country very quickly. It’s just a matter of putting your foot on the accelerator, moving unopposed on the long stretches of flat desert, then dismounting at the next crossroads town for a small, quick firefight against a few defenders who didn’t get the memo to flee. Once they’re dead, you floor it again until the next little desert town.So this isn’t the second coming of Erwin Rommel by any means. Everything has conspired to push the Sunni advance, from the lousy opponent they’re up against to the terrain, which is a light mechanized commander’s dream.
Gary has a long-time soft spot for the Kurds, the strongest fighting force in Iraq and a soon-to-be state (one of three) formed from the crucible of Old Iraq:
Something wonderful came out of the horrors of 20th century Iraq, among the Kurds of the Northern hills. They became the only non-sectarian population in Iraq, and perhaps the only such group between Lebanon and India.[...] Of all the hill tribes, the Sunni Kurds are doing best in this chaos. It’s allowed them to take Kirkuk, which they always needed and wanted, and it also just so happens to put the one and only “supergiant” oilfield in the North (5 billion gallons) totally inside Kurdish territory.I’m happy as Hell for the Kurds. I love them anyway, and miss Suli a lot—but more than that, it’s simple justice that they get a break for once. The Kurds have paid their dues. Saddam’s murderers in uniform killed nearly 200,000 Kurds, and the man from Tikrit was supposedly very disappointed he hadn’t been able to wipe them out completely.At the moment, I.S.I.S isn’t even trying to pick a fight with the Pesh Merga—a fight they would lose very quickly if it ever did happen. But then Sunni jihadis have always liked softer targets, the softer the better.
Upshot: Gary's little article should serve to calm some of those Nervous Nellies in Congress, the White House and the U.S. foreign policy establishment about "ISIS overrunning Iraq." Yeah, they might overrun fellow Sunni areas of Iraq, but that's about it. The Kurds and Iran (Shiites) will step in and stop them cold elsewhere... but wait, that's what a lot of U.S. fear is really about: letting Iran get even more influence in Iraq, and solving this ISIS problem without our help, making them look strong and us, well, the opposite of strong.
Beyond that, I still think the real enemy is the Saudis, who prop up all these jihadists all over the world with money, crazy clerics, weapons and asylum. Yet the House of Saud plays nice with Texas oil billionaires and Israel, so we Americans for some reason can't love 'em enough!....
UPDATE (22.07.2014): Here's a continuation at Pando of Gary's coverage of the lame ISIS "invasion" of Iraq: "I.S.I.S. and the Western media: Groping each other in public like a Kardashian Thanksgiving."
By Gary Brecher
June 23, 2014 | Pando Daily