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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What Happens If ISIS attacks the U.S. Embassy In Iraq?

 American Embassy in Iraq

We all knew a new government in Iraq would face war once American troops withdrew. Civil war or jihad or terrorist uprising -- the country is a place where so much unrest resides. Now that ISIS, a deadly terrorist group, is on the march to establish a caliphate (Islamic State ruled by a single caliph, "successor" to Muhammad) in Iraq and Syria, the nightmare is reality. The United States cannot reconstruct past policy nor can it fix new problems in a country that begged for our withdrawal.  

So what will be the U.S. response if ISIS militants attack the American Embassy? If people need to get out of the embassy, will there be a way to get out without being involved in the fighting? After fighting the Iraq War for nine years, leaving the embassy to allow ISIS to overrun the grounds and take complete control is almost unthinkable. Yet, is it a dilemma without any solution other than to vacate or to commit massive ground troops to the struggle?

The United States is already sending up to 275 more soldiers and marines to Iraq -- their focus is to protect U.S. personnel in the embassy. More than 100 are already there to secure the $700 million fortress, the size of 80 football fields, which is said to be built to withstand enemy attacks.

The embassy is the largest U.S. embassy in the world and the most expensive to construct. It contains housing, conference rooms, cafeterias, recreational facilities, offices, and even gardens for the employees living and working inside.

Much of the embassy staff will stay in place, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement released Sunday. The statement did not say the number of personnel affected. The embassy, along the Tigris River in Baghdad's Green Zone, has about 5,0000 personnel and is the largest U.S. diplomatic post in the world.

Some embassy staff members were being temporarily moved elsewhere to more stable places at consulates in Basra, in the Shiite-dominated south of Iraq, and Irbil, in the Kurdish semi-autonomous region in northeastern Iraq, and to Jordan, Psaki said.

A U.S. warship is nearby equipped with five MV-22 Ospreys to be used in any evacuation. In addition, the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush and four other warships is in the Persian Gulf capable of launching 40 fighter jets to strike ISIS militants. And, two additional U.S. warships are nearby that can launch cruise missiles.

One might think the Iraqis would fight to the death to defend the U.S. Embassy, but the focus of the Iraqis is to defend their country, and jihadists have taken control of areas just 37 miles from Baghdad. The Iraqis have already "cut and run" when faced with strong military resistance from ISIS terrorists. In fact, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki recently fired four top military officers who "deserted and did not fulfill their professional and national duty" according to a statement read on state TV.

President Obama faces this general dilemma in Iraq: The Iraqis are asking for U.S. military assistance to halt ISIS's dangerous offensive, but Obama has long promised the American people that he would withdraw the U.S. military from involvement in Iraq.

And, it is becoming evident that ISIS is the baddest, most capable, terrorist group in the world today. Since 2004, the group has inflicted four times more casualties than al-Qaida itself. In February, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri expelled ISIS from al-Qaida -- a move unprecedented in al-Qaida’s 25-year history — in part because of ISIS's wanton use of indiscriminate violence.

Problems are plentiful concerning any decision to deal with ISIS. According to The Wall Street Journal, one huge concern is that U.S. commanders lack sufficient intelligence to determine clear battlefield targets. Much of the intelligence network the U.S. built up during eight years of fighting in Iraq has been dismantled, including a network of CIA and Pentagon sources and an NSA system that made available the details of every Iraqi insurgent email, text message and phone-location signals in real time, said John "Chris" Inglis, who recently retired as the NSA's top civilian.

(Carol E. Lee, Julian E. Barnes and Dion Nissenbaum. "U.S. Rules Out Iraq 
Airstrikes for Now." The Wall Street Journal. June 17, 2014)

To make things worse, ISIS has safe haven in Syria, where the United States cannot conduct drone strikes because of robust Syrian air defenses. And even if the U.S. uses drones in Iraq, the Iraqi government is unlikely to be able to capitalize on any gains from these airstrikes. In fact, some officials believe drone strikes might not only be inconsequential, but also counterproductive. American aggression could trigger ISIS leadership to turn its focus to the West.

Would ISIS Attack the United States Embassy?

I believe such a group might do anything to gain any advantage. Certainly, ISIS is weighing the advantages and disadvantages of such an attack however foolhardy aggression may be.

This is what one report in U.S. News has to say about ISIS and their intentions concerning powers like the United States:

"ISIS’ history is instructive here. After U.S. Special Operations Forces killed its maniacal founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006, the group has shown little interest in attacking the West. Its main aim is to establish an Islamic state in the Levant. This requires a focus on local and regional issues, such as capturing Sunni-dominated parts of Iraq and Syria. A secondary priority is its simmering war against al-Qaida. Both goals require continued focus on local and regional issues. Attacking the West would only distract ISIS from these goals."

(Patrick Johnston and Benjamin Bahney. "Obama's Iraq Dilemma." U.S. News. June 17, 2014)

Personally, I abhor the idea of putting any U.S. service personnel in harms way to face ISIS terrorists.
Instead of punting political footballs and blaming Presidents for past mistakes, we should cautiously make firm decisions to stop our foreign interests in Iraq. More importantly, America must strengthen our shores against terrorists and vow to strike only when necessary in foreign lands.

I cannot bring myself to face the loss of life we have incurred during the war and the occupation of Iraq. I am so sorry for those who must live daily with the sacrifice of close family members and intimate friends in Iraq. They must never be forgotten for their service and their bravery.

At the same time, I don't want other loved ones to face losses in a country where (1) we are not wanted until the government is endangered, and (2) we are confined to seeking shelter in our own embassy to avoid execution by terrorists.

I pray for a conclusion without American bloodshed.
War Song 
by John Davidson
In anguish we uplift
A new unhallowed song:
The race is to the swift;
The battle to the strong.

Of old it was ordained
That we, in packs like curs,
Some thirty million trained
And licensed murderers,

In crime should live and act,
If cunning folk say sooth
Who flay the naked fact
And carve the heart of truth.

The rulers cry aloud,
"We cannot cancel war,
The end and bloody shroud
Of wrongs the worst abhor,
And order's swaddling band:
Know that relentless strife
Remains by sea and land
The holiest law of life.
From fear in every guise,
From sloth, from lust of pelf,
By war's great sacrifice
The world redeems itself.
War is the source, the theme
Of art; the goal, the bent
And brilliant academe
Of noble sentiment;
The augury, the dawn
Of golden times of grace;
The true catholicon,
And blood-bath of the race."

We thirty million trained
And licensed murderers,
Like zanies rigged, and chained
By drill and scourge and curse
In shackles of despair
We know not how to break --
What do we victims care
For art, what interest take
In things unseen, unheard?
Some diplomat no doubt
Will launch a heedless word,
And lurking war leap out!

We spell-bound armies then,
Huge brutes in dumb distress,
Machines compact of men
Who once had consciences,
Must trample harvests down --
Vineyard, and corn and oil;
Dismantle town by town,
Hamlet and homestead spoil
On each appointed path,
Till lust of havoc light
A blood-red blaze of wrath
In every frenzied sight.

In many a mountain pass,
Or meadow green and fresh,
Mass shall encounter mass
Of shuddering human flesh;
Opposing ordnance roar
Across the swaths of slain,
And blood in torrents pour
In vain -- always in vain,
For war breeds war again!

The shameful dream is past,
The subtle maze untrod:
We recognise at last
That war is not of God. 
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