Week in Review — Early October Edition

The other day, John Kerry, more deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize than Henry Kissinger ever was, “called for a war crimes investigation of the bombing campaign by Russia and the Assad government in the Syrian civil war,” Michael Gordon and Somini Sengupta reported in the Times. Kerry charged that Moscow enforced “a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians” and their actions “beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes.”

Gordon and Sengupta note that “it is not clear how” the Secretary of State “thinks a war crimes investigation might be carried out in the face of Russian opposition.” This sounds like a significant understatement.

They continue that the breakdown in “American-Russian talks on the reduction of violence in Syria has led the White House to take a fresh look at options, including the possibility of military force, to head off the fall of Aleppo and deter” Bashar al-Assad from keeping up the murderous raids that led to the wanton slaughter of thousands of innocent lives, supplied by popular strongman Vladimir Putin.

In the last week, Putin’s forces “deployed a formidable air defense system in Syria: the S-400,” whose range is said to near “the Turkish air base at Incirlik, which American warplanes have used to carry out many of their airstrikes against the Islamic State.”

Sometime this month, a planned joint military operation against the ISIS stronghold in the Iraqi city of Mosul “will happen in stages,” according to a Times report written by Gordon, Helene Cooper, and Eric Schmitt, who stated yesterday that “the eventual assault into Mosul will be carried out by Iraq’s counterterrorism service, whose commandos have been trained by American Special Forces and are the country’s most reliable and proficient fighting force.” The reporters go on to add that “Apache attack helicopters equipped with Hellfire missiles have been striking targets in northern Iraq.”

Gordon, Cooper, and Schmitt cite the finding of US intelligence analysts that “3,000 to 4,500 fighters remain” in Iraq’s second-largest city, adding that the Pentagon “and its allies in the American-led coalition are bracing for a tough fight against an enemy that has burrowed a network of tunnels throughout Mosul, dug trenches and filled them with oil, and planted improvised explosives so densely they resemble minefields.”

US military officials, they write, “acknowledge that retaking Mosul will not defeat” ISIS “because Raqqa, Syria, the group’s de facto capital, is the heart of its self-declared caliphate.” Kurdish militants, who have also been among the most effective opponents of ISIS, “have already said they will not send their forces into Mosul once it has been secured.”

However, they report that “a main concern for critics is that there is no plan in Iraq for how to govern” the city “and the surrounding Nineveh Province,” which “has prompted fear that retaking the city could aggravate the tensions between the predominantly Sunni population of Mosul and the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad that fueled the rise of the Islamic State in the first place.” There may be more war crimes ahead.