In the first weeks of June, ISIS drove through token opposition at Mosul and went on to capture dozens of towns that lacked perimeter defense systems. The Iraqi Army in Nineveh Province had been ordered to disperse rather than confront thousands of local Sunnis.
Then since the middle of July, ISIS has lost four major battles in Iraq:
-- At Tikrit to a 3,000 man counterattack;
-- the Al-Sahra Air Base to first-rate use of small arms and artillery;
-- at Samarra to a very strong defense; and
-- to another 2,000 man counterattack by Kurdish forces near Rabia and Sinjar.
The Jihadis have lost raiders by the hundreds in these actions, roughly a thousand killed in these battles with loss of their equipment and supplies. Anti-ISIS forces have lost fewer than 50 killed, including two dozen lost to suicide-bombers at Tikrit.
So what is happening here ??? And why are these actions reported in the Middle East and Asia but not by corporate MSM in the United States? What do we know in particulars about the ISIS raiders?
To begin with ISIS fighters are motivated by Jihadi denunciations of rival sects of Muslims and by calls to wipe out "Devil worshipers" who practice other religions. Mass murder with high enthusiasm is their signature tool for social engineering. The big ideas are promises of Martyrdom, eternal life in Paradise, and annual returns to Mecca in Spirit form to participate in the Hadj.
Hashish is also in play. And pills.
ISIS raiders go into their attacks hyped up with a bloody madness that comes only with crowds of young people. They share psychological delusions in groups, similar to offensive operations seen during crusades and the witch-hunts of other eras. The Christian Crusader slaughter of Jerusalem in 1099 matches up to what ISIS is doing.
It should also be no secret: ISIS fills its ranks with the Arab world's psychopaths. For these Jihadis of so many nationalities, the Islamist principles of Excommunication and Exile generate passionate jusbah e Jihad -- “blood lust for Jihad.” They die as willingly as they kill their victims.
So where does all this madness succeed? And where and why does it fail?
Can we get together a framework for a Lessons Learned study?
Scope and Limits
The ISIS raiders do indeed produce effective ground assaults. They are very good at attacks on fixed targets.
Surprise, lethality, focus, speed, high-quality equipment, follow-up plans -- they've got it all. However from a military perspective these are heavily armed raiders, not a normal army. Suicide bombers and esprit de corps are their prime force multipliers.
On the attack they have all the tools they had when they operated as Al Qaeda in Iraq:
-- Suicide bombers
-- AK-47s and grenades
-- RPG-7 and similar rocket launchers
Plus they have hundreds of new toys from their 2011-2012-2013 operations in Syria, courtesy of Wahhabi Salafi donors:
-- 20mm and 23mm anti-aircraft cannons
-- 81mm and 120mm mortars
-- Vehicle-borne rocket launchers
-- Virtually unlimited ammo
Captured American weapons are appearing slowly. They do like humvees.
The anti-aircraft guns are what ISIS uses to overcome their rivals in Syria. Range goes 1,500 meters and the rounds explode when they hit something solid. Their 23mm guns (usually ZU-23s) can wreck any structure in Iraq or Syria. That takes under a minute, using multiple 23mm's pumping out bursts at 400 r.p.m.
After a Jihadi Assault attack is kicked off with infiltrated and/or disguised suicide bombers, a chain of vehicles goes in with larger bombs on board. Then a first wave of 50 to 150 raiders is moved in as quickly as possible on trucks and using small vans. This first wave goes at it with AKs and grenades and RPG missiles. They kill everything in the targeted neighborhood.
This pattern has been tried repeatedly at multiple sites in Syria, at Tikrit and Samarra, and other cities in Iraq and at times in Afghanistan.
The first place the Jihadi Assault pattern failed to a systematic defense was Qusayr in Syria in 2012. The head of Iran's Qods Force, Major General Suleimani, set up a 10 kilometer perimeter defense at Qusayr using available Hizb Allah and Syrian Army and QF commandos. The 10 km. sizing is determined by the effective range of rifled 120mm mortars -- defenders need to respond to heavy mortar fire from prepared positions.
Qusayr Model defense succeeds, first, by limiting the value of suicide bombers. Check points are moved out, away from fortified defenses. Defenders never congregate and certainly never make a crowd to celebrate a success -- that minimizes opportunity for suicide bombers.
Military earthworks are constructed where possible to protect strong points. That is a very old technology. Defenders can expect they are going to get hit with 23mm rounds from the beds of incoming pickup trucks. Design accordingly. Earthworks keep any type of weapon from working effectively at straight-line angles.
Other tasks are completed ahead of time. Artillerymen on the defensive side need to work out direction and range calculations for their guns well before the battle. They need to do tests. One key task is to do multiple calculations, so the gunners can use the reports they receive from prepared spotter positions immediately. Spotters produce direction and range estimates from their own positions, not from the guns' positions. Advance preparation and practice cut response times to single-digit seconds.
These Jihadi Assaults come in fast so defenders need instant positioning work. This requirement applies to howitzers and field pieces as well as to mortars. Against well-prepped artillery, the ISIS pickup trucks are nothing but soft targets.
In Syria the Qusayr Model was executed successfully without drones or other aerial survey assets. Same for the Tikrit-Samarra system. One can imagine running a Qusayr Model city defense with the extra eyes up top 24/7.
One mystery in Iraq remains the question of why the al-Maliki government and its military did not apply the Qusayr Model at Mosul. If they do have a functioning General Staff, their experts had two years to catch up with this defensive technology. Certainly ISIS has been a credible threat from its days as al-Qaeda in Iraq. And considering that the ISIS leader calls himself "al-Baghdadi" despite that he was born up by Samarra, it had to be a when-not-an-if problem for ISIS coming back home.
You have to start with Threat Analysis.
When General Suleimani got to Samarra, it took him three weeks to get troops to the proper assignments and implement a full Qusayr Model system for Tikrit and Samarra. Three battles have followed: at Tikrit where ISI lost between 300 and 500 raiders on the west side to a full-force counterattack; at the Al-Sahra Air Base where an ISIS attack force was annihilated; and at Samarra where an 80-man first wave was annihilated and another 250 follow-up troops were killed under artillery barrages.
ISIS still gets to fire a handful of mortar rounds into Samarra. That happens with pickup trucks running in and running back out. Minimal damage so far. They held several hundred structures on the west side of Tikrit for weeks before the counterattack. They continue to lob in mortar rounds at the air base, more frequently than at Samarra.
They got nothing real to show for their losses.
Note: If you are in Iraq or Syria and want to set up a defense against ISIS at a city's walls, fergeddaboudit. You are going to lose. The ISIS first wave will take a 50% death rate, scream for martyrdom, and kill you to the man.Had to get that in.
In-depth perimeter-based defenses and professionally led counterattacks seem to do well without exception against ISIS. The Kurds have had similar success with counterattacks in the Rabia-Sinjar area:
At least 50 [ISIS] gang members were killed on 3 August and an armoured vehicle and 5 military vehicles destroyed. In the following days the gangs tried to enter Rabia and were repulsed by the YPG, who killed at least 36 gang members. In Sinjar there were fierce clashes on 5 and 6 August in particular. The Sinjar Resistance Units, YPG and HPG forces launched attacks in villages around Sinjar on 5 August, killing 4 gang members. On 6 August 6 more were killed and 3 captured, while 2 Hummer vehicles were destroyed.Based on all this recent experience, on every set piece battle, the ISIS raiders make mediocre to poor soldiers.
In clashes between 2 and 6 August at least 170 [ISIS] gang members were killed on the Rabia - Sinjar front, according to YPG forces, and large quantities of military equipment and ammunition was seized. 9 YPG fighters also died in these clashes.
Strong defense and frequent counterattacks. The al-Maliki government and their generals did none of it. Obviously it works. Today the commander for the area surrounding Tikrit and Sammara and the air base (up a couple miles from Tikrit on Route 1) is Major General Suleimani. The Persian. The Iranian. The same general who won the Battle of Qusayr in Syria.
Global warming has not been kind to the Iraqis. Weather conditions in Iraq continue to feature peak temperatures for Baghdad at 113F to 117F. These temperatures have held for a month, up from historical peaks averaging 5 to 9 degrees cooler.
Yes, the "normal" 108F is noticeably cooler than this week's 113F and 117F.
Thing is, military logistics for a major counterattack will not be feasible until September or early October when the heat breaks. As you can see from battlefield results described above, counterattacks can generate heavy casualties on the ISIS raiders. Annihilation is as common as not. When temperatures fall to peaks at 90F in October, the combined military and civilian truck system in Iraq will be able to support a large army:
-- 200,000 solid Iraqi Army troops
-- As many as 50,000 Qods Force commandos
-- An estimated 500,000 trained militia including Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq
Consider what the Kurds did with ISIS up at Rabia and Sinjar. Also that ISIS forces have not won a full scale battle since the middle of June. This main counterattack can be expected to annihilate the ISIS force in Iraq.
[A question came up in comments: why use 500,000 militiamen? One task they perform now is protecting civilians from the suicide bombers. You can expect to see blanket coverage and several thousands of new checkpoints. They also respond to the odd mortar attack that comes out of Sunni tribal areas. Militia roles go to what Hizb Allah does in Lebanon on a day-to-day basis.]
In summary: ISIS can be effective on the attack against unprepared urban defenders, as well as against tribal militias. Their suicide bombers and the 20mm and 23mm anti-aircraft guns overwhelm almost any fixed-position soft target. They generate palpable terror, what is called Terror Shock.
For defense and for holding territory, ISIS has not shown that they have much going. They are a "gang" as the Kurds describe them. Looking forward to September or October and the months that follow, a real army with Iraqi and Iranian leadership will have advantages including overwhelming manpower. These advantages are not available to pro-government forces in Syria.
Also, this Iraqi-Iranian army will have every motive to carry out a mass extermination on the ISIS raiders.
Do keep track of corporate MSM coverage of the ISIS invasion. So far MSM have omitted what is happening for every action involving Iranians. When an Iranian SU-25 pilot, Col. Kamal Shirkhani, was killed at Samarra, a story was constructed at Reuters that had him fighting on the ground rather than flying his plane. Killed by a mortar round. Kurdish victories are also not reported.
Our military budget is ballooned up like a Super-Sized Michelin Man. All twenty countries of it at one time. So apparently our public needs a steady stream of new boogeymen -- at best an inscrutable, Bachmann-crazy, invincible horde out of Asia riding to slaughter on our own Blame Obama humvees.
Good luck with that, MSM. One can only imagine what they will tell the public, if ISIS does collapse this fall and the big Iraqi-Iranian army pushes on through Syria and wipes out ISIS and its Wahhabi Salafi bloody madness.
What are the likes of CPAC and PNAC and the Tea Party agitprops going to do, if they ain't got no more al-Qaeda ??? All together my brothers: pray for them.
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