U.S. General Dempsey Raises the Prospect of Ground Forces in Iraq

U.S. General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, mentioned Tuesday that he could recommend to the president to deploy ground forces in Iraq if airstrikes prove to be insufficient in the fight against Islamic State militants. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Dempsey ...

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, mentioned Tuesday that he could recommend to the president to deploy ground forces in Iraq if airstrikes prove to be insufficient in the fight against Islamic State militants. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Dempsey said an international coalition is presently the "appropriate way forward" and he acknowledged that President Barack Obama's policy is to avoid U.S. ground forces in direct combat. The White House responded to the comments saying that the president's policy has not changed, but that Obama's military advisors had to consider "the wide range of contingencies." Following Dempsey's statements, Islamic State militants released a 52-second video entitled "Flames of War," packaged to appear as a movie trailer, seemingly threatening U.S. troops if they are deployed.

Syria

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported government airstrikes killed at least 48 people in the Homs province town of Talbiseh on Monday and Tuesday. Syrian state media said the army had targeted a meeting of "terrorists" and activists said the bombings seemed to target a rebel commander. Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian National Coalition said at least 34 children have died in eight opposition held towns in Idlib province after reportedly receiving contaminated measles vaccinations.

U.S. General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, mentioned Tuesday that he could recommend to the president to deploy ground forces in Iraq if airstrikes prove to be insufficient in the fight against Islamic State militants. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Dempsey said an international coalition is presently the "appropriate way forward" and he acknowledged that President Barack Obama’s policy is to avoid U.S. ground forces in direct combat. The White House responded to the comments saying that the president’s policy has not changed, but that Obama’s military advisors had to consider "the wide range of contingencies." Following Dempsey’s statements, Islamic State militants released a 52-second video entitled "Flames of War," packaged to appear as a movie trailer, seemingly threatening U.S. troops if they are deployed.

Syria

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported government airstrikes killed at least 48 people in the Homs province town of Talbiseh on Monday and Tuesday. Syrian state media said the army had targeted a meeting of "terrorists" and activists said the bombings seemed to target a rebel commander. Meanwhile, the opposition Syrian National Coalition said at least 34 children have died in eight opposition held towns in Idlib province after reportedly receiving contaminated measles vaccinations.

Headlines

  • The United Nations has brokered a temporary deal between Israeli and Palestinian officials for the importation of building materials to begin reconstruction efforts in Gaza.
  • A NY man has been indicted for allegedly plotting to carry out a terror attack and attempting to provide material support to Islamic State militants.
  • Iraq’s parliament rejected Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s appointees to fill the cabinet posts of the defense and interior ministers.
  • Clashes broke out in the Libyan city of Benghazi Tuesday between forces allied with former General Heftar and Islamist fighters killing at least nine people.
  • Israel reported a mortar bomb was fired from Gaza Tuesday, for the first time since the August 26 cease-fire, though a Hamas spokesman said Palestinian groups are committed to the truce.

Arguments and Analysis

ISIS and Us: No Way To Go To War‘ (Stephen A. Cook, Council on Foreign Relations)

"Washington is in an ISIS frenzy.  Everywhere you turn, everything you read, every place you go, you can’t escape ISIS.  Since James Foley was beheaded on August 19, everyone in and around the Beltway wants to go to war in Iraq. Try as he might to be careful and avoid the mistakes of a decade ago, it seems that the president is being bullied-by the press and his political opponents-into what can only be described as a half-baked policy to go deal with the ISIS threat. Bullied? Yes, bullied.  For a White House that prides itself on not paying attention to its critics, the president seems to be reacting to the universal derision of his ill-considered ‘We don’t have a strategy yet’ statement.  Peter Baker’s revealing piece in Sunday’s New York Times suggests that the criticism stung.  This is why a variety of sources, no doubt close to the president, were willing to relay to Baker how much deliberating over ISIS was actually going on inside the Oval Office before the president’s big speech last Wednesday.  It was hard not to notice the ‘campaigny, spinny’ feel to these statements. That speech, which was clearly intended to alter the perception of helpless incompetence, merely reiterated the ad hoc approach to Iraq that his administration has pursued since early June. There may be good reasons to go to war against ISIS, but no one has actually articulated them. Are we protecting Erbil and American personnel? Undertaking a humanitarian mission? Fighting evil? Helping the Free Syrian Army? Assisting Washington’s regional allies against the ISIS threat? No one knows, but we are nevertheless turning the aircraft carriers into the wind. This is no way to go to war."

Dreaming of Home: Syrian Refugees in Jordan’s Cities – Will They Be Repatriated?‘ (Matthew R. Stevens, Syria Comment)

"I am cross-legged in the sitting room of a Syrian family, hot tea half-forgotten in my hand. I give the man a long, searching stare. He nods in confirmation. Asad will win. Asad already has won.

This point of view has become familiar through the first three months of research on post-conflict Syrian social structures in Irbid. The second largest city in Jordan, Irbid rests about 20km from the Dar’a border crossing. Irbid Governate held a population of approximately one million before the conflict began in Syria; now, it is home to an additional 160,000 Syrians.

Opportunistic sampling of Syrians living in Irbid has revealed greater diversity in political leanings than initially expected. Few report being staunch supporters of either Asad or the FSA. Irrespective of previous political hopes for Syria, many seem to be playing a pragmatic game of reconciliation-re-obscuring political affiliations in a preparation for rehabilitation with the regime."

Iran’s Iraq Calculations‘ (Alex Vatanka, Project Syndicate)

"With the spread of ethnic and sectarian violence in Iraq – brought to new levels of terror by the rise of the Islamic State (IS) – Iran’s image as an island of stability in a conflict-ridden Middle East may be short-lived. Its government – already struggling to manage a decrepit economy and tricky nuclear negotiations with the international community – now faces serious questions over its Iraq policy and a ‘winner-takes-all’ mindset that could eventually threaten Iran’s own national security."

— Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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