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Revealed: Russia’s Great Game in the Middle East

It was a bizarre turn of events at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York on the 70th Anniversary of the world body.  President Obama gave a speech lambasting Putin’s Russia over its seizure of Crimea and  invasion of eastern Ukraine violating the country’s sovereignty. However, he paid court to Russia and China for supporting the  Iran nuclear pact unanimous approved  by the UN Security Council poised to release tens of billions in sequestered funds as of December 15, 2015. He  questioned Russia’s sudden military presence in western Syria building a military complex to bolster the Assad regime.  A regime that rained barrel bombs causing the deaths of 250,000. A regime ethnically cleansing the country’s Sunni population sending millions to displaced persons camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and hundreds of thousands in flight to the EU.  The President got warm applause over his rapprochement with Cuba.

Putin, when he had his turn at the rostrum accused the U.S., without naming it, of causing the rise of the Islamic State through its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan,  ultimately creating a Sunni supremacist Caliphate.  Following Putin Iranian President Rouhani  had his turn at the rostrum in the Assembly hall. He made the astounding proposal that an international alliance including Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq  combat terrorism in the Middle East.  A proposal that Rouhani  said should be confirmed in another Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action akin to the Iran nuclear pact.  He noted the nuclear pact  was  concluded  “without the impediment of the Zionist enterprise”, meaning Israel.  Witness  the cheek of President Rouhani   of Iran  suggesting  a new Shia alliance in the Middle East, plus Russia welcoming  the US to join in fighting Sunni Supremacist  Islamic State.

What was on display at the UN was the supplanting  of the U.S. in the new great game of the Middle East by  Russia.  It was enough to make one’s head spin with these sudden turns  of events. It made the U.S., look like a “JV team “struggling  to keep up.

The usually astute Shoshana Bryen, senior director of the Washington, DC-based  Jewish Policy Center  was asked  by this writer during the September 27, 2015 Lisa Benson Show why  these developments occurred so suddenly.  She said that  Putin’s Russia like all great powers do when they are confronted by a vacuum, especially one that threatens its national  interests.  Thousands of Jihadists have left Chechnya, Dagestan, and Tartarstan in Russia attracted by the Salafist  Islamic doctrine of the Islamic State as a declared Caliphate.  Thus  Putin’s objective is to “bottle” up these Sunni Jihadists in Syria and Iraq.  Putin admitted as much in a CBS 60 Minutes interview with Charlie Rose  Sunday evening when he said:

More than 2,000 fighters from Russia and ex-Soviet republics are in the territory of Syria. There is a threat of their return to us. So instead of waiting for their return, we are better off helping Assad fight them on Syrian territory.

Watch the CBS 60 Minutes Charlie Rose interview with Russian President Putin:

When Lisa Benson asked Bryen about  where Iran’s proxy Hezbollah stood in these developments, she  replied  Hezbollah “had not been an efficient fighting force in Syria.  Further, she commented that Russian presence in Syria is meant to actually limit Hezbollah’s  involvement, perhaps  to a defensive role “in the Alawite enclave.”  Moreover, she noted  that Putin is not interested  in a war with Israel ,suggesting that the meeting with Netanyahu  in Moscow was  to coordinate means to avoid conflict. However, Bryen  noted  Putin has another interest in the region, “control over the flow of gas to Europe” being developing offshore in Israeli, Egyptian,  and Lebanese fields.  Bryen thinks there is ‘no evidence’ of Russian presence on the Syrian frontier on Israel’s Golan Heights.  Notwithstanding a spate of rocket and mortar attacks on the Golan responded to by the IDF this past weekend that Israeli Minister of Defense Ya’alon thinks were ordered by Iran.  We shall soon see whether Putin’s gamble pays off.  Or results in another graveyard  like Afghanistan  rout of the Soviet 40th Army in 1989.

We could see this  thunder clap about to occur in the run up to the UN General Assembly session.  We had the Russian announcement of  military aid and mission to be established in the Alawite bastion of Latakia province.  Included were  the building of expanded landing fields to accommodate Ilushin cargo aircraft  and squadrons of  Mig and Sukhoi fighters, transiting from Russia to Syria  via Iran and Iraqi airspace. Then there was the announcement of Black Sea fleet maneuvers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  In late July, following the UN endorsement of the Iran deal, Revolutionary Guards Quds Force Commander  Qasem Soliemani in Moscow  met with Putin and  Russian Defense Minister Shogui. Those discussions were  ostensibly to expedite deliveries of Russian advanced air defense systems, but  in reality to plan for Russian direct involvement with Iranian forces . In May , we witnessed an alleged US ally, Iraqi Premier Haidar al-Abadi traveling to Moscow  to obtain additional fighter  deliveries to aid in the battle against the Islamic State. Meanwhile, President Obama had committed 3, 500 American military trainers to assist  the  Iraqi National Security forces  to recover Anbar province and  Mosul. Abadi, our alleged ally in the coalition against ISIS,   brought in Russian military advisors to link  up with   Soliemani  directing  Iraqi Shia militia forces.

The unkindest  cut of all was the announcement  on the eve of the UN General Assembly of a joint intelligence and security operations center in Baghdad sharing  information among Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq.

There was  also evidence that the U.S. led coalition strategy in Syria and Iraq “defeating and degrading” ISIS had collapsed.  That was reflected  in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by CENTCOM commander, Gen. Lloyd Austin who told Senators that  the $500 million program to train Syrian opposition fighters had failed ignominiously. We had spent $40 million training and equipping 60 candidates, who signed waivers that they were to fight ISIS, not Assad. 40 of those surrendered their weapons and joined Al Qaeda affiliate jabhat al Nusra.    If that wasn’t  enough, we had the roiling scandal of a revolt by CENTCOM  intelligence analysts who requested a Pentagon Inspector General  investigation into why assessments were being prettied up by superiors  to present a misinformed picture to the President and National Security Staff that we were succeeding in the air campaign without US boots on the ground.  That was further depicted in testimony by ex-CIA director, retired Army General Petreaus , who  testified  before the same Senate Armed Services Committee  recommending establishing   no fly zones, sanctuary havens in country and deploying  Special Forces teams.  Add to that the failure of the Obama White House to honor its commitment to supply  Syrian Kurdish YPG  and Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces with updated weapons, ammunition and equipment.  The Kurds are  being attacked by Turkish air force fighters.  To cap things off, retired Marine Gen. John Allen, coordinator of the  Coalition effort,  resigned after a year of service.  As former Defense Intelligence Agency  head, retired Army General Michael Flynn observed, this is what you get when you “politicize intelligence”. The President suggested in his UN address  that the Islamic State   “violent extremism , distorts ”the true meaning of the Islamic faith.”

Russian may have “frozen” the Syrian conflict in a stalemate.  The U.S. finds itself suddenly on the sidelines, largely, by its own “red lines”. Now with Russia’s direct involvement in Syria and Iraq, we will soon find out if ISIS is vanquished or remains a growing global threat. Such are the rules of The Great Game that in the 19th Century pitted imperial Czarist Russia against the British Empire.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

CIA Director worries about Iran/North Korea Nuclear Cooperation

There they  were at  a  University of Texas conference, the masters of intelligence disinformation, CIA Director John Brennan and DNI, James Clapper, poring over Kennedy Johnson era mythologies about body counts  as metrics of  success during  the Nam  era of the 1960’s and 1970’s seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. What a consummate waste of taxpayers’ dollars deflecting serious examination of national security failed strategies of an Administration intent on weakening America’s geo-political respect among doubting allies. All while hollowing out our military capabilities.

Brennan’s track record at the White House, before he was appointed as CIA head to  replace Gen. Petreaus,  was as counterterrorism czar overseeing a number of  Obama covert initiatives. There was the drone assassination program, sugar coating the radical Islam threat and running  covert ops under Presidential Findings collecting MANPADS  and shipping them  to Syrian rebels.  More may be revealed in upcoming hearings by the Special Benghazi Committee.

In this Washington Times (WT) report, Brennan raises the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Iran could have outsourced developments of nuclear weapons ad ICBMs to North Korea. Brennan was responded to media reports to that effect. He was cited by the WT saying:

Therefore, we have to make sure that we’re doing whatever we can to uncover anything,” Mr. Brennan said. “I’m not saying that something is afoot at all — what I’m saying is that we need to be attuned to all of the potential pathways to acquiring different types of [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities.

The WT further noted:

Mr. Brennan’s remarks on the Iran nuclear deal come just days after Mr. Clapper revealed that U.S. intelligence officials “are fielding some independent capabilities that will enable us … to have good insight into [Iran‘s] nuclear industrial enterprise” as the accord goes into effect over the coming months.

Mr. Clapper told the conference that he’s “pretty confident” U.S. intelligence officials will be able to verify “from our own sources” the accuracy of future IAEA assessments of whether or not Iran is complying with the terms of the accord.

Mr. Brennan on Tuesday also said that he stands behind the nuclear deal, and that he has “a lot of confidence” that the accord is structured in such a way that will make it extremely difficult for Iran to cheat.

What have my colleague Ilana Freedman, Stephen and Shoshana Bryen, Israeli  Missile defense expert Uzi Rubin, DIA and Office of Naval Intelligence reports been saying for nearly five years about cooperative nuclear weapons and  ICBM developments between these partners in the Axis of Evil?  That they may already  have developed a small number of nuclear weapons, tested warheads to be fitted on Shahab 3 missiles, and launched  missiles with  disposable boosters for satellite bombs and ICBMs.

House and Senate Iran deal hearings didn’t lay a glove on any of the Administration witnesses querying them about these possibilities , whether behind doors, or in front of the klieg lights of TV-cameras. Brennan either knew about those covert development possibilities, or  purposefully evaded responsibility for  informing  Congressional Select Permanent Intelligence Committees  about the status of those joint Iranian –North Korean development efforts.

We knew from what was leaked by the Pentagon regarding the September 2007 IAF Operation Orchard that destroyed the Syrian nuclear bomb factory on the Euphrates at al-Kibar there were intelligence file photos of North Korean and Iranian scientists at the site.  That was under Bush 43.

Would you place any trust in the representations of Messrs.  Brennan and Clapper?  Clapper is now embroiled in another intelligence disaster, the  allegations that as DNI he met frequently with CENTCOM intelligence chief, Gen. Grove to review  assessments of  the coalition aerial campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  Given reports of a veritable revolt by 50 CENTCOM analysts about overly optimistic assessments about progress in defeating or at least achieving a stalemate in the war against ISIS, Clapper may be the subject of a Pentagon Inspector General investigations leading to possible  House and Senate Select Permanent Intelligence Hearings.

A Daily Beast report  in late August 2015 quoted former DIA chief, retired US Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn saying, “The phrase I use is the politicization of the intelligence community. That’s here. And it’s dangerous.”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

50 Intelligence Analysts: ‘CENTCOM Islamic State reports cooked’

“The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.” Indeed. It shows that it doesn’t assess intelligence at all. It shows that it isn’t really interested in fighting or defeating the Islamic State. It is only interested in creating the appearance of fighting and defeating the Islamic State, so that it doesn’t suffer politically for not doing so.

“Exclusive: 50 Spies Say ISIS Intelligence Was Cooked,” by Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef, Daily Beast, September 9, 2015:

It’s being called a ‘revolt’ by intelligence pros who are paid to give their honest assessment of the ISIS war—but are instead seeing their reports turned into happy talk.

More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.

The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.

“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” one defense official said.

Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed a written complaint sent to the Defense Department inspector general in July alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by CENTCOM higher-ups to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.

That complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, some of whom have complained about politicizing of intelligence reports for months. That’s according to 11 individuals who are knowledgeable about the details of the report and who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

The accusations suggest that a large number of people tracking the inner workings of the terror groups think that their reports are being manipulated to fit a public narrative. The allegations echoed charges that political appointees and senior officials cherry-picked intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons program in 2002 and 2003.

The two signatories to the complaint were described as the ones formally lodging it, and the additional analysts are willing and able to back up the substance of the allegations with concrete examples.

One person who knows the contents of the complaint said it used the word “Stalinist” to describe the tone set by officials overseeing the military’s analysis.

Some of those CENTCOM analysts described the sizeable cadre of protesting analysts as a “revolt” by intelligence professionals who are paid to give their honest assessment, based on facts, and not to be influenced by national-level policy. The analysts have accused senior-level leaders, including the director of intelligence and his deputy in CENTCOM, of changing their analyses to be more in line with the Obama administration’s public contention that the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda is making progress. The analysts take a more pessimistic view about how military efforts to destroy the groups are going.

The large number of analysts who complained to the Pentagon inspector general hasn’t been previously reported. Some of them are assigned to work at CENTCOM, the U.S. military’s command for the Middle East and Central Asia, but are officially employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The complaints allege that in some cases key elements of intelligence reports were removed, resulting in a document that didn’t accurately capture the analysts’ conclusions, sources familiar with the protest said. But the complaint also goes beyond alleged altering of reports and accuses some senior leaders at CENTCOM of creating an unprofessional work environment. One person who knows the contents of the written complaint sent to the inspector general said it used the word “Stalinist” to describe the tone set by officials overseeing CENTCOM’s analysis.

Many described a climate in which analysts felt they could not give a candid assessment of the situation in Iraq and Syria. Some felt it was a product of commanders protecting their career advancement by putting the best spin on the war.

Some reports crafted by the analysts that were too negative in their assessment of the war were sent back the chain of the command or not shared up the chain, several analysts said. Still others, feeling the climate around them, self-censored so their reports affirmed already-held beliefs….

Two of the officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said that analysts began airing their complaints in October in an effort to address the issue internally and only went to the inspector general when that effort failed. Some of those who complained were urged to retire, one official familiar with the report told The Daily Beast. Some agreed to leave.

In recent months, members of the Obama administration have sought to paint the fight against ISIS in rosy hues—despite the terror army’s seizure of major cities like Mosul and Fallujah.

“ISIS is losing,” John Allen, the retired Marine general charged with coordinating the ISIS campaign, said in July.

“I am confident that over time, we will beat, we will, indeed, degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in March, using the government’s preferred acronym for the group.

“No, I don’t think we’re losing,” President Obama said in May….

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Pentagon Not Targeting Islamic State Training Camps

“If we know the location of these camps, and the president wants to destroy ISIS, why are the camps still functioning?” Excellent question. And no answer was forthcoming. Why not? Is it because there could be no possible explanation for this that makes sense in terms of American national security and that of the free world?

“Pentagon Not Targeting Islamic State Training Camps,” by Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon, August 28, 2015:

The Pentagon has not conducted airstrikes against an estimated 60 Islamic State (IS) training camps that are supplying thousands of fighters each month to the terror group, according to defense and intelligence officials.

The camps are spread throughout Islamic State-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria and are off limits in the U.S.-led international bombing campaign because of concerns about collateral damage, said officials familiar with planning and execution of the yearlong bombing campaign.

Additionally, the IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL) camps have been so successful that Islamic State leaders are considering expanding the camps to Libya and Yemen. Both states have become largely ungoverned areas in recent years.

The failure to target the training camps with U.S. and allied airstrikes is raising questions among some defense and intelligence officials about the commitment of President Obama and his senior aides to the current anti-IS strategy of degrading and ultimately destroying the terror group.

“If we know the location of these camps, and the president wants to destroy ISIS, why are the camps still functioning?” one official critical of the policy asked.

The camps are regarded by U.S. intelligence analysts as a key element in the terror group’s successes in holding and taking new territory. The main benefit of the training camps is that they are providing a continuous supply of new fighters.

An additional worry of intelligence analysts is that some of the foreign fighters being trained in the camps will eventually return to their home countries in Europe and North America to carry out terror attacks.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the failure to bomb the terror camps and referred questions to the Pentagon.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Roger M. Cabiness declined to say why no training camps have been bombed. “I am not going to be able to go into detail about our targeting process,” he said.

Cabiness said the U.S.-led coalition has “hit ISIL [an alternative abbreviation for the Islamic State] with more than 6,000 airstrikes.”

“The coalition has also taken out thousands of fighting positions, tanks, vehicles, bomb factories, and training camps,” he said. “We have also stuck their leadership, including most recently on Aug. 18 when a U.S. military airstrike removed Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, the second in command of the terrorist group, from the battlefield.”

Efforts also are being taken to disrupt IS finances and “make it more difficult for the group to attract new foreign fighters,” Cabiness said in an email.

A Central Command spokesman also declined to provide details of what he said were “operational engagements” against IS training camps.

“Once a target is identified as performing a hostile act, or is part of an obvious hostile force, a training camp for example, we prosecute that target in accordance with the coalition rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict,” the spokesman said.

According to the defense and intelligence officials, one reason the training camps have been off limits is that political leaders in the White House and Pentagon fear hitting them will cause collateral damage. Some of the camps are located near civilian facilities and there are concerns that casualties will inspire more jihadists to join the group.

However, military officials have argued that unless the training camps are knocked out, IS will continue to gain ground and recruit and train more fighters for its operations.

Disclosure that the IS training camps are effectively off limits to the bombing campaign comes as intelligence officials in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of the conflict, have alleged that senior U.S. officials skewed intelligence reports indicating the U.S. strategy against IS is not working or has been less effective than officials have claimed in public.

The Islamic State controls large parts of Syria and Iraq and has attracted tens of thousands of jihadists in both countries and from abroad. The exact number of fighters is not known but intelligence estimates have indicated the numbers have increased over the past year.

The military campaign, known as Operation Inherent Resolve, appears to be floundering despite a yearlong campaign of airstrikes and military training programs aimed to bolstering Iraqi military forces.

A review of Central Command reports on airstrikes since last year reveals that no attacks were carried out against training camps.

Targets instead included Islamic State vehicles, buildings, tactical units, arms caches, fighting positions, snipers, excavators, mortar and machine gun positions, bunkers, and bomb factories.

The risk-averse nature of the airstrike campaign was highlighted last month by Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley, chief of staff for what the military calls Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

“The coalition continues to use air power responsibly,” Weidley said July 1. “Highly precise deliveries, detailed weaponeering, in-depth target development, collateral damage mitigation, and maximized effects on Daesh, are characteristics of coalition airstrike operation in Iraq and Syria.”

Daesh is another name for the Islamic State.

“The coalition targeting process minimizes collateral damage and maximizes precise effects on Daesh,” Weidley said earlier. “Air crews are making smart decisions and applying tactical patience every day.”

Other coalition spokesman have indicated that targeting has been limited to reaction strikes against operational groups of IS fighters. “When Daesh terrorists expose themselves and their equipment, we will strike them,” Col. Wayne Marotto said May 27.

The military website Long War Journal published a map showing 52 IS training camps and noted that some may no longer be operating because of the U.S.-led bombing campaign.

IS-training-camps

Islamic State training camps in Iraq and Syria. Source: Long War Journal.

According the map, among the locations in Iraq and Syria where IS is operating training camps are Mosul, Raqqah, Nenewa, Kobane, Aleppo, Fallujah, and Baiji.

The group MEMRI obtained a video of an IS training camp in Nenewa Province, Iraq, dated Oct. 1, 2014.

The video shows a desert outpost with tan tents and around 100 fighters who take part in hand-to-hand combat exercises, weapons training, and religious indoctrination….

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U.S. troops face eating, drinking restrictions during Ramadan

Do U.S. troops fast during Yom Kippur? Lent? No? Why not? “U.S. Troops Face Eating, Drinking Restrictions During Ramadan,” by Jeryl Bier, Weekly Standard, June 26, 2015 (thanks to Pamela Geller):

A top commander in southwest Asia reminded U.S military personnel stationed in Muslim countries in the Middle East of the restrictions placed on them during Ramadan. According to a report by the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs, Brig. Gen. John Quintas, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing commander in Southwest Asia, said that the U.S. is “committed to the concepts of tolerance, freedom and diversity.” But he added that soldiers should “become more informed and appreciative of the traditions and history of the people in this region of the world… [R]emember we are guests here and that the host nation is our shoulder-to-shoulder, brothers and sisters in arms, risking their lives for our common cause to defeat terrorism.”

During the 30-day religious celebration of Ramadan, even non-Muslims are expected to obey local laws regarding eating, drinking, and using tobacco in public. Violators can be fined up to $685 or receive two months in jail. A spokesperson for United States Central Command [CENTCOM] said that “we are not aware of any specific instances of anyone being arrested” for such violations.

\For [sic] military personnel outside of U.S.-controlled areas, the only exceptions for the rules are for those “performing strenuous labor.” Such personnel are “authorized to drink and consume as much food as they need to maintain proper hydration and energy.” It is unclear what constitutes “strenuous labor” or whether additional exceptions might be made during a heatwave affecting some areas of the region that has taken hundreds of lives.

When asked if the restrictions were new or simply a continuation of past policy, a CENTCOM spokesperson replied:

There has been no change in policy… [W]hile the US does not have a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the UAE, it is common practice to ensure all Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, and Marines deployed to Muslim countries are culturally aware that during the month of Ramadan, practicing Muslims do not consume anything from sunrise to sunset as a pillar of their faith. Commanders throughout the AOR create policies to ensure their subordinates respect the laws and culture of our hosts at all times….

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Obama’s Rules of Engagement Stymie Air War against the Islamic State

Without boots on the ground providing intelligence feed, the U.S. led coalition air war is failing to “deter, let alone degrade” the ISIS.  How else can you explain 7,000 sorties over Syria and Iraq with less than 25% having ‘bomb releases”? That was the key disturbing finding in a Washington Times (WT) article, U.S. bombers hold fire on Islamic State targets amid ground intel blackout.”

 The U.S. conducted 7,319 sorties over Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in the first four months of 2015. Of those, only 1,859 flights — 25.4 percent — had at least one “weapons release,” according to data provided by United States Air Force Central Command. That means that only about one in every four flights dropped a bomb on an Islamic State target.

There have been reports of frustration by U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine pilots engaged in the ISIS air campaign who have acquired targets and yet been commanded to stand down from attacking them. That has led to criticism of the Administration ISIS air war from Members of Congress, most notably, Sen. John McCain who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee cited in the WT report:

The Arizona Republican said at a hearing this year that missions that don’t drop bombs needlessly put American pilots in danger and that U.S. boots on the ground would produce better intelligence that could lead to more effective bombing missions.

 The level of air sorties in the U.S.-led coalition air war is far below those of Gulf Wars I and II and even the Balkan Air campaigns during the Clinton era.  The question is what is causing this?  Many believe it is the restrictive rules of engagement to spare civilian lives, when ISIS fighters move among columns of civilians, effectively using them as human shields.  Further, some analysts ironically believe that these strict rules of engagement actually contribute to civilian casualties by to ISIS. Perhaps this also reflects the misguided Obama Administration obsession in both avoiding collateral damage and avoiding putting special teams on the ground to provide better target intelligence.

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Israel Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel. Source: Times of Israel.

Perhaps, the Central Command planners and air war commanders might best heed Israeli Air Force Commander Major General Eshel who was cited in a Defense News article saying:

“We have an offensive capability that is unprecedented and extremely significant which we’ve been developing over years and are now able to implement.

“In small wars, it’s a very significant challenge for us to reduce collateral damage on the other side when the enemy is using all he has to elevate the damage we’re forced to inflict on him,” Eshel said.

“First of all, it’s a moral challenge. … It sounds like a slogan, but we are constantly thinking, planning and operating with this challenge in mind.”

The demonstration of that approach was what  occurred in Operation Defensive Edge against the Hamas rocket and terror tunnel war threatening Israel when the IAF F-16’s flew missions in attacks against urban targets with precision guided 1 ton bombs within 250 meters of IDF troops.  The key is precision strikes based on precise intelligence.

Note these debates about the Pentagon handling of the ISIS air war campaign in the WT article:

Former US Navy Helicopter Pilot, Cmdr. Harmer:

Without ground forces, argues Cmdr. Christopher Harmer, a retired Navy helicopter pilot, U.S. airmen are essentially flying half-blind and, as a result, are returning to base with their bombs still in the bay.

“As long as the body politic or president or whoever is making decisions absolutely refuses to put American air controllers on ground, essentially pilots are flying with one eye closed,” Cmdr. Harmer said. “It’s almost impossible for pilots to designate between [Islamic State] fighters and coalition fighters.”

Cmdr. Harmer, who now serves as a senior naval analyst with the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study for War, said airstrikes can hit big, static targets such as bridges, runways and tanks without on-the-ground guidance. But to be effective in hitting moving targets such as enemy troops in a firefight, U.S. pilots need American joint terminal attack controllers to give specific directions from the ground to guide their missiles precisely.

Fewer targets of opportunity says CENTCOM:

Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), told reporters Friday that while pilots can often place bombs on targets “within minutes,” it’s very important to be very precise and exercise tactical discipline to protect civilian populations.

“We’re dealing with a hybrid adversary who often hides among the population,” he said. “It’s more important for us to accurately target the enemy with a high degree of precision in order to minimize civilian casualties than it is to strike with such speed or force that would risk disenfranchising the very population we’re there to protect.”

Richard Brennan of RAND Corporation has a more pragmatic assessment:

But to make things work without a ground force and employing only air power, the rules of engagement must change, argues Richard Brennan, a senior political scientist at RAND Corp.

Mr. Brennan said the Islamic State, in adapting and responding to U.S. airstrikes, has started to intermingle its fighters with civilians to frustrate U.S. attacks from the air.

In an effort to protect civilian lives, the strict rules of engagement are doing the opposite by giving the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, the opportunity to kill civilians, he said.

“Even though the United States isn’t doing the killing, by its inability to use force in all but the cases where they’re sure of not having collateral damage, we’re ceding the advantage to ISIS in many situations,” Mr. Brennan said.

Looks to us that CENTCOM needs to whistle up a session with IAF General Eshel to understand how the Israelis do precision hits against Hamas in heavily urbanized Gaza City and Hezbollah Syrian missile and weapons transfers.  Both Cmdr. Harmer of the Institute for the Study of War and Brennan of the RAND Corporation are correct about the stringent rules for engagement in the air war against. They are generating more collateral civilian casualties.  Something that didn’t dawn on the Metternichean Munchkins in the Obama National Security Council who call the shots over Pentagon objections.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.