ISIS In Iraq: U.S. Drone & F/A-18 Strikes Start and a Big Iraqi-Iranian Victory at Samarra

ISIS In Iraq: U.S. Drone & F/A-18 Strikes Start and a Big Iraqi-Iranian Victory at Samarra

The story we are getting from corporate MSM does not match up with ISIS defeats in Iraq. ISIS got slaughtered in a major battle at Samarra that was reported widely abroad. But U.S. media dropped the story completely. This may have to do with Iranian presence at Samarra. MSM continue to support George Bush putting Iran on his "Axis of Evil" list during the 2002 State of the Union address. He did that despite that Iran was then offering to put 20,000 troops into Afghanistan to help us fight the Taliban. MSM find it difficult to admit that George W. was a malicious failure.

Iran is now a U.S. ally with 6,000 troops on the ground in Iraq fighting ISIS.

As of today we are both in a shooting war against ISIS in Iraq. Iran is also fighting ISIS in Syria. The levels of commitment from the two nations are markedly different as you would expect. Still, the Iranian efforts have inflicted critical damage on ISIS. The battle at Samarra ended with destruction of one of ISIS's experienced attack groups.

ISIS is Not an Army

ISIS had a string of successes beginning in the first weeks of June. Their tactics are described in Small Wars Journal, quoted at TPM:

(ISIS holds) two force multipliers – suicide bombers and a psychological force multiplier called TSV – Terror Shock Value. TSV is the projected belief (or reality) that the terror force that you are opposing will do anything to defeat you and once defeated will do the same to your family, friends and countrymen. TSV for ISIL is the belief that they will blow themselves up, they will capture and decapitate you and desecrate your body because they are invincible with what the Pakistanis call Jusbah E Jihad “Blood Lust for Jihad”.

Helluva combo going against amateurs. The U.S. and Iran are fighting ISIS with professionals.

Iran has two battalions of high level troops on the ground in Iraq. That makes for 6,000 soldiers in combat roles. Iran also supports Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), similar to their Hizb Allah allies in Lebanon/Syria. These Iraqi-Iranian troops engage ISIS raiders in daily actions.


Tikrit and Samarra are the critical cities up north 100 miles on Route 1 from Baghdad. On Thursday, August 7th, ISIS tried to attack Samarra and the al-Askari Shrine with two combined arms attacks: suicide bombers, raiders with AKs, and 20mm heavy machine guns in force. That is the same force structure ISIS used to take Mosul and achieve initial success at Tikrit back June 11 to 15.

Solid perimeter defense at Samarra disrupted the ISIS plan. The result of this battle resembled the 2012 Battle of Qusayr in Syria. ISIS lost 80 raiders at the city gates and another 250+ back up country to a later counterattack. No prisoners. That was the entire attacking force. This Battle of Samarra (an update to earlier reporting) notes that this had been a very strong unit of the ISIS invasion force.

BBC reported incorrectly that ISIS had taken the city's mosques and approached the Golden Mosque, al-Askari. Suicide bombers had infiltrated and caused casualties inside the city, but the ISIS ground assault forces were stopped at two of the city gate check points. Shia militiamen at the checkpoints stopped the multi-vehicle ISIS attack. Then Qods Force and Iraqi Army commandos counterattacked and wiped out the ISIS attackers. Apparently ISIS expected the first invaders to overrun defenders, leaving a free path for a follow-up invasion force. That invasion force was caught out in open country and destroyed with artillery and light armored vehicles with cannons.

So much for Terror Shock Value.


Up 260 kilometers to the north, United States drone assets set up attacks that blunted an ISIS advance on Erbil and the Kurds. President Obama described his use of drones as "protection of American citizens" which looks more like the start of an all out drone war to local observers.

Iranian-supported ground forces can eliminate ISIS raiders at large sites when they are attacked. August's high temperatures prevent them from going out to chase the smaller ISIS pickup truck units; those operations will have to wait for September. The American aerial systems reach out over the whole of Northern Iraq. At this point the Shia force has had to rely on SU-25 fixed wing aircraft and helicopters to provide air power. That is not what you want to use against ISIS to run aerial surveys. ISIS has large numbers of 20mm and 23mm anti-aircraft guns mounted on their pickup trucks.

The United States drones run surveys. When they find ISIS force concentrations, they can call in F/A-18 fighter-bombers flown from aircraft carriers and bases to the south in other Arab countries. The manned planes carry much heavier ordinance than drones. F/A-18 strikes can eliminate whole groups of truck-borne ISIS attackers.

Overall, using the drones is similar to blasting pirates in the 17th Century. Find the brigands and bring in your big guns.

U.S. drones fly out of known bases in Qatar and northern Saudi Arabia. You have to assume that Kuwait is participating and the Turks with a base in eastern Turkey. (The known base at Incirlik, Turkey is too far to the west to be of practical use for Iraq.)

One of two series of strikes was announced by the Pentagon yesterday. Here's one official statement:

August 08, 2014
Statement by Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby on Airstrikes in Iraq

At approximately 6:45 a.m. EDT, the U.S. military conducted a targeted airstrike against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists.

Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located.

The decision to strike was made by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief.

As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities.

Not bad. They're using a Rear Admiral for a press flack.

Follow-up info on the drones covered two strikes. One hit a convoy of trucks. The other took out mortars firing on Erbil. The hits called in F/A-18 carrier-based fighter-bombers to deliver the ordinance.

Operation TTF Stomper

"Sandbox" is mil-slang for simulation work. Use standard effectiveness and sustainability characteristics for your assets based on field experience. Apply Monte Carlo techniques. Try out options. Analyze what a full drone campaign can do.

The "TTF" is Toyota Task Force. ISIS likes diesel Toyotas. No connection with Trff Bmzklfrpz, dictator of Berzerkistan.

Go for a full-resource model with cooperation among anti-ISIS forces. An optimized drone campaign could be expected to take out a couple dozen ISIS trucks and support vehicles a day. Thankfully the trucks that carry the 20mm and 23mm anti-aircraft cannons are easy to identify.

-- Combine drone surveillance with human-eyeballs-and-glass contact spotting. Support for spotters goes to 20x80 binoculars, low-detection radios, and GPS mappers. Expand spotting work beyond U.S. Special Forces.

-- Hit single targets with drone ordinance.

-- Call in F/A-18s for big clusters. In a change from today's U.S. procedures, connect up with the Iraqi and Iranian SU-25s for ISIS clusters where the use of the U.S. "smart bombs" is not critical. The SU-25s achieve a 30-minute takeoff-to-target time. The SU-25s give visual identification results far superior to doing visuals from the faster F/A-18s. Additionally, based on simulations, flying A-10 Warthogs for these missions would give anti-ISIS forces extraordinary advantages.

-- Coordinate drone surveillance info with local artillery units. Give the locals the GPS spotting data. That process is obvious. What is needed today goes to language skills, arranging contacts, and providing the right radios. As of last Friday this was not in place for the Kurds or for the Samarra-Tikrit force.

Play well with others.

A good two-thirds of the combat force that ISIS brought into Iraq can be removed from the board within a couple months. One of the great human plagues of the 21st Century can be rendered impotent.

Overall the U.S. has an advantage that we have a great Commander in Chief. We can state this without qualification. It's in the numbers.

Consider terrorism: after losses of 675, 444, and 3,206 lives with Reagan/Clinton/Bush43 for Americans and guests at our embassies, Obama has lost a grand total of 10 people. Really, 10. That's the 3 at Boston, 3 at the Algerian gas plant, and 4 at Benghazi. Earlier POTUS efforts at counterterrorism against Islamists look puny compared to what Obama has achieved.

And now quietly the President can move to destroy ISIS. Talk of defending American citizens in the Kurd areas is good for PR. Expect to hear next to nothing through the next three months as the drones are used to wreck ISIS.

The Persians have a great general running the operations at Samarra and Tikrit. This is the strategic spear point. This general beat ISIS in Syria; he's beating them in Iraq. Losing 330 experienced raiders at Samarra last week was a disaster for ISIS as those resources cannot be replaced in the short term.

Ultimately the ISIS losses in Iraq will impact their prospects in Syria. A predominately Shia force looks to be forming up to counterattack out of Samarra in September or early October when daily temperatures fall out of the 100F to 110F range. They have hundreds of heavy guns and know how to use them.

ISIS captured maybe 10% of U.S. supplied materials but they have little training. They have no idea how to maintain complex systems.

The Shia order of battle will be limited by logistics: as many as 50,000 Qods Force from Iran, 200,000 Iraqi Army, and 500,000 Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and volunteer militiamen. It was mostly a militiaman force that crushed ISIS at Samarra.

The Shia counterattack could continue on all the way north to the Syrian border with Turkey. There is nothing ISIS will be able to do militarily to stop them.


Republicans ??? The complainers? Their guy McCain went off and had his picture taken with some live-in-Turkey CIA employees. "Moderate Rebels." Too bad it wasn't a selfie.