Couple of things caught my eye over the weekend. One is the low key presence of the regular Iraqi Armed Forces in the recent fighting against armed contingents of the Islamic State in northern and western Iraq. Instead the push-back against the Islamic militants is being spearheaded by a number of paramilitary groupings, the various party-affiliated factions making up the Kurdish peshmerga and the equally partisan Shia militias of Baghdad and southern Iraq. Both sets of groups are being backed by Iran and the United States, the former providing close air-support in co-ordination with the latter (however much both may deny that tacit co-operation). So after literally billions of dollars of funding, equipment and training the US-backed Iraqi military remains, outside of certain specialist units, more theoretical than real. Shades of the South Vietnamese Army here (and the repeated failure of institutional memory within the United States Armed Forces). From Al Jazeera:
“Government forces mainly composed of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and armed volunteers have broken through the Islamic State group siege on the town of Amerli located between Baghdad, and the northern city of Kirkuk.
The breakthrough was aided by expanded US air strikes, which destroyed Islamc State armed vehicles near Amerli as well as near Mosul Dam further north.
Our correspondent also said that there have been unconfirmed reports that Iranian jets were also involved in bombing the Islamic State group.
Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from the capital Baghdad, said that the government forces were also backed by “Shia militia”.”
Meanwhile the nations of eastern Europe are keeping a wary eye on events in Ukraine as Russian proxy-groupings have turned the tide against Kiev’s mixed military forces, regular and otherwise, thanks to the direct intervention of troops and armour from Russia. I know the Poles are getting quite nervous though it is states with “ethnic” Russian populations who have perhaps greater reasons to worry. From War is Boring:
“For months, Moscow has supported separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine with weapons, supplies, cross-border artillery barrages, propaganda and political cover. The result has been a powerful and, in places, deeply popular insurgency that threatens Ukraine’s very existence in its current form.
Now Russian president Vladimir Putin is finally taking a more direct approach to exercising his country’s influence over its smaller, poorer western neighbor. Russian tanks and troops have attacked across the border near the Azov Sea, opening up another front against Kiev’s beleaguered army.
Russia’s strategy is just indirect enough to sidestep traditional military and diplomatic processes that, in the past, might have allowed an opposing military alliances to meaningfully intervene—without triggering a global war that nobody wants.
Back in April, Latvia’s National Defense Academy published a report outlining what it calls “Russia’s new-generation warfare in Ukraine.”
Latvia borders Russia. Like Ukraine, it’s home to a strong community of Russian-speakers. Tiny Latvia looks like a perfect target for maskirovka [deniable aggressive actions, not always of a military nature].
The Latvian report breaks down Moscow’s asymmetric strategy into several distinct phases. The first five aim to cripple the target country through propaganda, misdirection, bribery and psychological warfare. All this happens before a single invading soldier steps foot in the country.
A traditional military might not even be necessary, if the covert assaults inflict enough damage to allow Moscow to dominate by political or economic means.
As Breedlove and other NATO officials have said, NATO is ready to fight back should Russian troops invade a member state. But “the probability of a frontal direct military attack from Russia on Latvia is very small,” the Latvian report asserts. “Instead, a Russian attack on Latvia would probably follow the first five phases.”
…the report points out that the opening phases of Russia’s asymmetric style could already be underway in Latvia.
“Some examples include the broadcasting of Russian propaganda channels, issuing Russian citizenship to Latvia’s non-citizens, pseudo human-rights movements, pro-Russian political parties, just to cite the most blatant,” the report states.
It’s no wonder that Latvia and other Baltic area NATO countries asked the alliance to deploy more troops within their borders—and NATO agreed.”