On multiple occasions this week AlertsUSA subscribers have been notified via text messages to their mobile devices regarding new expanding U.S. military efforts in the Middle East. Late Friday the Pentagon announced that armed U.S. drones have returned to the skies over Iraq, at least initially, to provide protection for hundreds of U.S. troops on the ground. In addition, a second Marine amphibious assault ship (USS Bataan (LHD-5)) with more than 1000 U.S. soldiers, attack aircraft and helicopters is underway from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.
Russia and Belarus Provide Fighter Aircraft
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Maliki blasted the U.S. this week over delays in the delivery of fighter jets previously ordered for the new Iraqi Air Force, saying that the process of buying US jets had been "long-winded" and that the militants' advance could have been avoided if air cover had been in place.
Out of frustration and perhaps some desperation, the government of Iraq has moved forward with the purchase of used fighter jets from Russia and Belarus to battle Islamist militants. Their arrival is expected within days.
Syria Attacks Targets in Iraq
U.S. officials report that Syria has launched air strikes on ISIS targets in western Iraq earlier in the week in an attempt to slow the al-Qaida-inspired insurgency fighting both the Syrian and Iraqi governments. Conversely, BBC Arabic reports the U.S. also launched air strikes from drones. The Pentagon de
Iran Expands Presence, Masses 10 Divisions on Border
Additionally, Iran's involvement is also increasing. In an interview this week with several media outlets, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, a ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated that Iran is "playing in a big way in Iraq.” Defense officials state that Iran has massed as many as 10 divisions of regular and Quds Force troops on the Iran-Iraq border and are ready to engage rebels if the Iraqi capital is imperiled or Shiite shrines are seriously threatened. They have also established command, control and signals intelligence units at al-Rasheed airbase in southeast Baghdad to coordinate activity, intercept electronic communications of ISIS fighters and to carry out their own drone operations.
As reported in last week's issue of Threat Journal, the Iran-Iraq partnership comes about as they are the two primary Shia dominated Muslim countries in the world.
al Qaeda Joins Forces with ISIS, Targets U.S.
Islamist websites are reporting this week that the Syrian wing of al Qaeda known as the al Nusra Front has taken an oath of loyalty to ISIS, as well as formed an alliance with al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate. U.S. intelligence officials indicate they believe the Syrian-Yemeni partnership is an effort to spread specialized bomb-making knowledge to the many hundreds of rebels fighting in Syria and Iraq holding U.S. and EU passports, possibly with an underlying goal of targeting passenger aircraft.
Readers are reminded that al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate, formally known as al Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula (AQAP), is responsible for multiple attempted attacks on commercial aircraft, including the failed Christmas 2009 attempt to bring down an airliner near Detroit by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, as well as the October 2010 plot to bring down cargo aircraft using bombs built into printer toner cartridges. In the 2010 plot, two bombs were discovered on two separate aircraft.
At this point, we hope readers are keying into the multiple dangerous ironies unfolding for the U.S. in the Middle East. On one hand, U.S. military forces are returning to Iraq to assist in the fight against ISIS rebels, many of whom were previously trained and armed by the U.S. for the fight to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashir Assad. On the other hand, Congress has been asked to provide another $500 million for training and arming even more so called "moderate" rebel fighters rebels in Syria in the fight to overthrow Assad, who is himself ordering air strikes on ISIS rebels in Iraq.
Then there is Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly offering complete support to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki, including immediately sending fighter aircraft for the battle against ISIS rebels, while the U.S. government publicly expresses a complete loss of confidence in the [ U.S. installed] Iraqi Prime Minister, saying that he has "got to go," as well as delaying delivery of fighter aircraft already purchased.
Then there is America's quasi arch enemy Iran who now has military forces operating in Iraq on a parallel track in the fight against ISIS rebels, as well as islamists in Syria, (some of whom have likely received training and arms from the U.S.), joining forces with al Qaeda in Yemen to develop a new ways to attack the American homeland.
Are you confused as to the overall grand strategy here?
WHAT TO EXPECT
WAR. ISIS now effectively controls at least 1/3rd of the land area of Syria and Iraq with Jordan now being threatened. Far too much hangs in the balance for the U.S. to simply remain in "hands-off" mode. None of this takes into account growing tensions between the U.S. and Russia, or the U.S. and China.
Terrorism. While it is popular to claim that al Qaeda is a CIA creation established with the goal of keeping Americans in a constant state of fear, one thing the CIA did NOT create is radical Islam. The fact remains that this twisted belief system is on the rise worldwide, global domination is their goal, and their weapons of choice are violence and terror. With the epicenter of this belief system located in the Persian Gulf region, and given the increasing number of U.S. and European Muslims responding to the call to join in the jihad, combined with increased sharing of fieldcraft and expertise in asymmetric warfare, it is an inescapable conclusion that there will be more attempted terrorist attacks within the U.S., as well as on American citizens and interests abroad.
None of the above takes into account the impact of weak border security policy on the safety of the homeland... Readers should stand in awe of the fact that the U.S. has not yet experienced additional attacks.
AlertsUSA continues to monitor developments in the region and will immediately notify service subscribers of changes in the overall threat environment, or additional U.S. involvement, as events warrant.