Streetwise Professor

November 7, 2019

Like I Said: It’s the Chase that Matters

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 3:45 pm

In my post on the reasons to target terrorist leaders like al-Baghdadi, I said it wasn’t the killing, it was the chase. A leadership focused on avoiding catching a JDAM or taking a 556 to the noggin isn’t able to take the initiative. I specifically mentioned paranoia, fear of traitors, stress, and the disruptions of communications from constant moves and the need to reduce the possibility of detection.

An AP story from yesterday says, yeah, all that happened:

In his last months on the run, Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was agitated, fearful of traitors, sometimes disguised as a shepherd, sometimes hiding underground, always dependent on a shrinking circle of confidants.

Associates paint a picture of a man obsessed with his security and well-being and trying to find safety in towns and deserts in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border as the extremists’ domains crumbled. In the end, the brutal leader once hailed as “caliph” left former IS areas completely, slipping into hostile territory in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province run by the radical group’s al-Qaida-linked rivals. There, he blew himself up during an Oct. 26 raid by U.S. special forces on his heavily fortified safe house.

. . . .

During that time, al-Baghdadi was a “nervous wreck,” pacing up and down and complaining of treason and infiltrations among his “walis,” or governors of the group’s self-declared provinces, his brother-in-law, Mohamad Ali Sajit, said in an interview with Al-Arabiya TV aired last week.
“This is all treason,” Sajit recalled al-Baghdadi shouting.

. . . .

At times, al-Baghdadi was disguised as a shepherd, he said. When al-Baghdadi’s security chief, Abu Sabah, got wind of a possible raid on the desert Syrian-Iraqi border area where they were hiding they took down their tents and hid al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajer inside a pit covered with dirt, Sajit said. They let sheep roam around on top of the pit to further disguise it. Once the threat of the raid was over, they returned and put the tents back up, he said.
Al-Baghdadi moved with a circle of five to seven people, including al-Muhajer, al-Zubaie and Abu Sabah; and the group’s former governor for Iraq, known as Tayseer or Abu al-Hakim. Al-Muhajer was killed on the same day as al-Baghdadi, in a separate U.S.-led military operation, following a Syrian Kurdish tip, in Jarablus, also in northwestern Syria; al-Zubaie was killed in a raid in March. On Monday, Turkish officials said they arrested al-Baghdadi’s older sister in northwestern Syria’s Azaz region. All are areas outside of government control.

Now Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi is in the cross hairs. Enjoy, dude!

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  1. I can’t keep up with all this; which terrorists belonged to which arm of Fedgov? Was the dead man formerly backed by the CIA, or by the State Department, or by the Pentagon? Or did he belong to Saudi or Israel, perhaps?

    Comment by dearieme — November 8, 2019 @ 10:00 am

  2. Tell that story again!

    Comment by Richard Whitney — November 9, 2019 @ 4:01 pm

  3. Prof, any thoughts on the decision to keep personnel in the country to deny Syria (and by extension Iran and Russia) access to Syrian oil supplies, and possibly also agricultural output? Or to ensure that personnel are on-site in case the US decides to go back into the fight?

    Any thoughts on who is behind this? State? The Pentagon (though I can’t imagine it)? It doesn’t sound like it’s Trump’s idea. And what might be the reasoning/justification for it, given that it’s I think unprecedented, at least since colonial times, for any country simply to march into another country and claim their resources for itself.

    My guess is that it’s to punish Assad, or at least to make life even more difficult for him and the Syrian people.

    It just seems odd. And weak. As if the Deep State types who thought up the whole Syrian adventure are doing it out of spite because in the end they lost. But why then is Trump going along with their idea, given that he and they are barely on speaking terms?

    As you can see – I’m confused!

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — November 9, 2019 @ 10:25 pm

  4. He wouldn’t have got much ‘religious scholarship’ done during these last few months, poor man, though to be fair I doubt you can get more ‘austere’ then dressing up as a shepherd and cowering buried in a hole.

    Comment by Rob — November 10, 2019 @ 5:01 am

  5. @Ex-G. “I think unprecedented, at least since colonial times, for any country simply to march into another country and claim their resources for itself.”

    My take on that was that the US is protecting the oil fields (by its sheer boots-on-the-ground presence), but that the actual oil goes to the Kurds. I don’t see the US profiting from the oil directly.

    I would dare venture to guess that Trump found this to be agreeable.

    Comment by I.M. Pembroke — November 10, 2019 @ 8:25 am

  6. It’s clear that Trump unilaterally decided to retain some troops to protect Syrian oil facilities, against the advice of the military etc etc. Weird that you guys – of all people – couldn’t see this, and give credit where it is due.

    As for the US not profiting from this, riiight…

    Comment by David Mercer — November 11, 2019 @ 4:58 am

  7. @Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break. I don’t know exactly–I’m confused as well. Probably all of the elements of the professional bureaucracy/deep state, including CIA, State, and Pentagon. Regarding the latter, don’t discount it: remember that Trump’s alleged decision to depart Syria triggered Mattis’ resignation.

    I think the objective is clear: whoever it is, they have a burning desire to play a role in the ongoing conflict in Syria, presumably with the objective of ejecting Assad (though who would replace him is unknown, and is highly likely to be worse and more inimical to US interest). The oil fields, shambolic as they are, are a bargaining chip, and are relatively easy to defend. Recall that when the Russian mercenaries made a move on them a few years back, Mattis ordered their extirpation, which US airpower completed in relatively short order.

    Why they want a seat at the Syrian poker game is beyond me. As I’ve said over and over, I don’t see the American interest here. If Putin covets it, let him have it, for it is a wreck of a country that even in the best of times was arguably the least important in the Middle East.

    Why has Trump conceded? His decision making in Syria has, to resurrect an old phrase from the early-Clinton years, a certain zig-zag quality to it. Perhaps this is due to his mercurial nature. Perhaps it is part of his war with the bureaucracy, and he finds it easier to concede on some things. Perhaps the deep state has found in the oil fields the kind of shiny object that Trump finds appealing.

    As for the legalities, or more accurately the lack thereof, they are astounding. It is particularly amazing that those in the bureaucracy who claim that Trump is a threat to Constitutional government are implementing actions that have zero Constitutional backing whatsoever. Congress never declared war, which could perhaps justify the seizure. There is no way that even the incredibly elastic Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed decades ago can stretch enough to cover this action in Syria.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 11, 2019 @ 9:44 pm

  8. @Rob. Squatting in a covered hole with sheep shitting on it is pretty damn austere. As for the religious/theological angle, Job would have considered himself lucky by comparison.

    Comment by cpirrong — November 11, 2019 @ 9:46 pm

  9. @David Mercer

    Syria is the smallest producer of oil in the Muslim Middle East chart. Syria has no resources the US could possibly want.

    US imports of Iraqi oil decreased after the 2003 Gulf War chart. No oil dividend there, either.

    It seems to me your cynicism is an artifact of pure partisanship. It certainly doesn’t seem to be fact-based.

    Comment by Pedric — November 13, 2019 @ 7:59 pm

  10. Thanks Prof.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — November 19, 2019 @ 3:56 am

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