It Begins: US May Send "Target Spotters" To Iraq To Counter ISIS "Offensive"

On Thursday, we chronicled recent events in Syria including the fall of Palmyra to ISIS which has promptly led the mainstream media to decry the possibility that another ‘treasure of antiquity’ is set to be lost to barbarous black flag-flying militants. We also noted that the group’s latest “offensive” in Iraq, which supposedly culminated with the capture of Ramadi and control of a “strategic highway linking Iraq and Syria, and a haul of weapons abandoned by Iraqi forces,” sounds like a great excuse for Washington to send in a “tactical, contained group of troops.”

Not 24 hours later, a suicide bomber detonated inside a Saudi mosque and as expected, the culprit was none other than ISIS. Here’s The NY Times:

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility Friday for a suicide bombing during midday prayer at a Shiite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Health Ministry said at least 21 people had been killed and more than 120 others injured.

 

It appeared to be the first official claim of an attack inside the kingdom by the Islamic State, which has seized control of much of Syria and Iraq.

 

The group attributed the attack to a new unit, the Najd Province, named for the central region of Saudi Arabia around Riyadh…

 

At the same time, Saudi Arabia’s participation in the American-led military campaign in Iraq and Syria against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State has raised fears of a backlash from its sympathizers at home. Thousands of

 

Saudis have traveled to join the Islamic State, which follows a puritanical school of Islam that scholars say is similar to that of Saudi Arabia.

 

Leaders of the Islamic State have called with increasing vehemence for their supporters to carry out attacks in the kingdom, accusing its leaders of hypocrisy. Saudi Arabia’s leaders and clerics deny any similarity between their understanding of Islam and that of the Islamic State.

There you have it. ISIS has now purportedly opened a franchise in Riyadh which, as we said on Friday, seems like as good an excuse as any to expand Decisive Storm because after all, if you’re Saudi Arabia, the barbarians are nearly at the gates.

As you can see, there are now plenty of excuses to put boots on the ground first in Iraq, and then in Syria. Put simply: if there was ever an opportune time to play the ISIS card on the way to ousting Assad and securing a route for Qatari natural gas to flow to Europe thus breaking Gazprom (and Putin’s) stranglehold, this is surely it. 

Indeed, the media propaganda machine is kicking into high gear. Take the following graphic from The Times for instance, which depicts a giant globe with highlights on “countries with groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS”:

The above makes it look like ISIS has launched a Naziesque blitzkrieg on the way to invading multiple countries. This, of course, is completely absurd. There are a lot of groups who can claim membership in a lot of countries meaning that we could produce a lot of these maps if we wanted to, but it wouldn’t mean that any of said groups were on the verge of a Napoleonic global conquest.

But reality never got in the way of a good story which is why we were not at all surprised to read this from Bloomberg:

Islamic State’s seizure of Ramadi has revived a debate in the Obama administration about whether to send a limited number of U.S. military specialists to Iraqi battlefields to target airstrikes on the extremists...

 

Conducting precision airstrikes that avoid civilian casualties is more difficult without spotters using laser designators and other tools to guide them, particularly in and around cities, said a State Department official who spoke under ground rules requiring anonymity.

 

A U.S. airstrike in November against a different extremist group in Syria killed two children and wounded two adults, the Defense Department reported Thursday…

 

While the issue of spotters has been raised before, no recommendation to deploy the specialists known as joint terminal attack controllers, or JTACs, has reached the president, according to the official.

 

Obama described the fall of Ramadi as a “tactical setback,” and White House officials downplayed the prospect that he might order any major policy shift in its aftermath.

 

“Those who are calling on a change in strategy, I would encourage them to be specific,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington on Thursday. “And I don’t think that they will find either a lot of support on the part of the American people for a large-scale deployment of military resources to essentially re-invade Iraq or invade Syria.”

 

A decision to send air controllers wouldn’t necessarily clash with his comment because their numbers would be small, and several military authorities are saying that’s an option the president should consider…

 

On Capitol Hill Thursday, retired General Jack Keane, a former vice chief of staff of the Army, said deploying JTACs, also called forward air controllers, could quickly shift the balance against Islamic State by making its fighters more vulnerable to U.S. and coalition air attacks…

 

“Seventy-five percent of the sorties we are currently running with our attack aircraft come back without dropping bombs, mostly because they cannot acquire the target or cannot properly identify the target,” he said. “Forward air controllers fix that problem.”

Carefully worded trial balloons don’t get much better than that. You see, the problem is that we are accidentally killing innocent children on our bombing runs and that’s if we’re lucky enough to be able to drop any bombs at all which apparently we only do a quarter of the time, and the whole “problem” could be “fixed” by deploying a couple of “spotters” with laser pointers. 

We'll leave it to readers to determine if, kind of like "plumbing" means "unions" at WalMart, "spotters" actually means "Delta Force" at The White House but whatever the case, once the US military starts the "spotting" we imagine mission creep will kick in in very short order. 

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