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Saturday, April 22, 2017

One Truly Major Trump Change in Iraq

Ever since the inauguration, we've been told that despite his rhetoric, Donald Trump has really not changed anything in Iraq from the course followed by president Obama.  The mainstream media and the Democrats are trying like hell to make sure that any success in Mosul against ISIS and any move against the terror group elsewhere cannot be attributed to President Trump.  Unlike some of the Fake News pushed by the media, there is some validity in this storyline.  American forces are still supporting Iraqi and other forces near Mosul.  American planes are also being used to bash ISIS forces that are still holding out in that city.  There have, however, been some major changes in American policy in Iraq.  First, the rules of engagement have been relaxed with control of more missions being given back to the military commanders and taken away from White House control.  Obama tried to micromanage US forces in Iraq, and the result was that nothing could happen in a timely fashion.  Advantages materialized and then faded before US forces could move.  This modification of control has favorably changed the dynamic in the region for the USA and its allies.

A second, even more important change to policy has also been made by President Trump.  Our allies the Kurds are being given real assistance for the first time.  President Obama made a big show of announcing help for the Kurdish Peshmerga (as those forces are known).  Then the Obama Pentagon delivered all of this "assistance" to the Iraqi government in Baghdad.  Not surprisingly, Baghdad kept the military supplies and used them to reinforce the Shiite militias beholden to Iran rather than giving the weapons to the Sunni Kurds.  This position was taken by Obama in order to avoid upsetting the Iranians.  Trump has now changed this.  Jane's Defence Weekly reported yesterday the following:

The US Defense Security Co-operation Agency (DSCA) announced on 17 April that the State Department approved the sale of an equipment package to equip two Iraqi Kurdish light infantry brigades and two artillery battalions.

This is a major amount of weaponry going to our best friends inside Iraq.  For many years, the Kurds have held off and beaten back ISIS while having mostly old weapons left from World War II.  That will shortly be changing.  These weapons will give the Kurds the ability to hit ISIS harder and also to keep themselves free from Iranian domination once the ISIS threat is neutralized.  There are over thirty million Kurds who live in Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.  They are the only large ethnic group in the region without its own country.  After ISIS is defeated, it may well be that a new nation, Kurdistan, will be the best way to tamp down sectarian violence in the area. 

Without a doubt, the Turks and the Iranians must be very unhappy with this decision to arm the Kurds.  That is, however, of no moment.  Iran is unhappy with anything the USA does that might strengthen America or weaken Iran.  For Iran, that means essentially everything makes them unhappy.  Turkey has treated the Kurds as second class citizens even though they make up more than a fifth of the population of the country.  The Turks will have to either start treating the Kurds better or else accept the departure of those people from Turkey.  America cannot be held hostage, however, to the Turks desire to continue to be the masters of the Kurds.

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