In it for the long haul

In the short term, it’s good that ISIS didn’t blow the Mosul Dam. In the long run, that may be indicative of a more serious problem:

Kurdish fighters have recaptured Iraq’s largest dam from Jihadists amid ‘fierce resistance’ from Islamic fighters after support from US airstrikes, according to security officials. The strategically important Mosul Dam – which supplies electricity and water to a large part of the country – was captured a week ago.

An attempt to retake it began yesterday morning with US air strikes before Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers moved into the area.

I thought the seizure of the dam all but guaranteed ISIS dominating the region, because I assumed they would threaten to blow it if there were any attempts to retake it.  It’s a little surprising, because their strategy has been, until now, both ruthless and effective.

But it makes sense for ISIS to refrain from flooding the region if it is seriously intending to govern there. Speaking of ISIS aka ISIL, here is additional information from new Castalia author James Dunnigan, who is also one of the contributors to RIDING THE RED HORSE, and his excellent Strategy Page.

When ISIL overran northern Iraq in early June the Islamic terrorists captured a lot of heavy weapons used by the Iraqi Army. Over the last few years the U.S. has sold lots of used heavy weapons to Iraq at attractive prices. This has included 1,026 M-113 armored personnel carriers, 140 M-1A1 tanks, 21 M88A1 armored recovery vehicles and 60 M1070 tank transporters (which can also carry supplies or other vehicles.) Iraq also bought 24 M-109A5 self-propelled 155mm artillery, and 120 M198 155mm towed howitzers along with thousands of hummers and military trucks, plus infantry weapons, engineer gear and other military equipment.

In June ISIL captured about fifty of those M198 155mm towed howitzers and began looking for someone to operate this stuff. That was not difficult. This was because Sunni Arabs got most of the leadership (officer, senior NCO) and technical (like operating artillery) jobs during the decades of Saddam’s rule. ISIL has a large pool of experienced users of artillery. While most Iraqi artillery was Russian, they also had over a hundred Western 155mm models, like the South African GHN-45. This weapon was not only similar to the M198 but superior in some ways (like longer range). The main reason the U.S. disbanded the Iraqi armed forces after 2003 was the fact that nearly all the key personnel were Sunni Arabs, who had just lost power and access to most of the oil income. That loss of power and privilege made most Sunni Arabs very angry and that’s why to this day most Islamic terrorists in Iraq are Iraqi Sunni Arabs. Thus ISIL knew it had a waiting supply of qualified soldiers who knew how to operate an M198 and many were willing to do it without too much prompting.

In other words, the artillery at which the US air strikes have been primarily aimed are US-supplied howitzers with a 25-kilometer range. I’d say that is a powerful argument in favor of isolationism.