Wednesday 20 August 2014

Air War in the Iraqi Desert

It's been a few years since the RAF first took command of British Forces in Mesopotamia.  That was back in 1921, and there followed a few 'policing' actions by Iraq Command, such as this one from the annals on Xmas Day 1923:
Sheikh Mahmud proclaims himself King of Kurdistan; the RAF bombs his house in Sulaymaniyah.
That'll have learned him.  All a bit imprecise though, in those days: but times have changed.  Precision from the skies above 98% of northern Iraq is pretty straightforward nowadays, and I write as someone who spent many hours gazing down on that part of the world in 1990-91.  Saddam, who had the entire country at his disposal until the closing days of February '91, had the greatest difficulty in hiding his Scuds from aerial view: underneath motorway bridges was a favourite, but most of the needles were found in that very large haystack in only a few days.  

There aren't many motorway bridges that I'm aware of in ISIL's territories, and although small vehicles can scrim up fairly easily in towns, there's nowhere to hide when they come out to fight.  So the scene is nicely set for a very effective deployment of air power.  If ISIL proposes to give battle it will be a very one-sided affair if the USA so decides.  They didn't even manage to sabotage the dam.

Perhaps they are hell-bent on the 72 virgins thing and will give it a crack anyway.  Otherwise, it's no more sweeping territorial gains for them (again, if Uncle Sam says not); just falling back to nasty deeds in the towns it already holds, pending gradual re-investment by various other forces in the land.  And maybe some hit-and-run against oil installations.

Equally likely, though, is surely a strategic melting away, with the leadership consolidating somewhere out of sight with its apparently large sums of money, waiting for an opportunty to spend it on something else unpleasant.  If so, the rank-and-file could soon be returning to their native lands en masse.  A scary prospect: and do we imagine the Border Agency is up to the job ..?


Footnote:  that oil price is inching ever closer to $100 ...


Bill Quango MP said...

UK-French {+US assistance} airpower was not just effective, but decisive, in Libya.

Many like to proclaim that conflict a failure. But it wasn't.

The Colonel's trained troops, with AA guns and AA missiles, radar in fixed bunkers, connected to a very extensive early warning system, put into place following those F-111's bombing the bed of Gaddafi in the 1980s.
Libya's equipment was old, but manned by trained troops.
It was more than a match for untrained insurgency troops and freedom fighting mercenaries.

But the Libyan armour was destroyed by the allied airforce.
Tanks, planes, trucks, artillery, fixed positions.- Get your youtube out and you can see the effects of an airstrike.
I remember a SKY journo talking about attacks and as the camera pans back it reveals 20 odd tanks completely destroyed in a single strike.

dearieme said...

"freedom fighting mercenaries": that raised a smile.

Sebastian Weetabix said...

You forgot to mention the goolie chit. How disappointing.

SumoKing said...

UK-French {+US assistance} airpower was not just effective, but decisive, in Libya.

Blasting fcuk out of everything from the sea with cruise missiles was quite effective and the US and France did a good job mopping up everything left. The UK was reduced to trundling in Fighters that couldn't linger and which aren't made to bomb things (RAF doesn't plan to have them close to ready for that until 2018), hence why the Navy had to be called in with Army Apaches to actually get things done.

There were a lot of good shots released by the RAF at the time trying to make it look like the 4 or so missiles (Stormshadows cost double the price of a tomahawk and have to be carried by a bomber) they finally launched did some good.

And of course those need air to air refueling. Our future PFI air-to-air refuelling package is set to cost us no less than £10.5bn, plus billions more from Treasury reserves for actual combat operations. And at the end we won't even own the planes.

Typical fcuking shambles. What did we need (and what did we basically end up using) ? a carrier, sitting off the coast with some fighter bombers scudding around kicking arse plus 2 or 3 frigates/destroyers lobbing some cruise missiles.

Fills me with no confidence for doing anything in iraq.

Anonymous said...

"Many like to proclaim that conflict a failure. But it wasn't."

BQ - what would you call a failure then? Libyans were better off under Gaddafi - nasty sod though he may have been. All we've done is **** the country up a la Iraq.

The funny thing is we left him alone when he was killing policewomen and shipping Semtex to Ireland - then he hands over all his nuclear stuff (supplied by Pakistan) and we remove him with extreme prejudice. Talk about no good deed going unpunished.


visceral said...

Ghaddaffi in retrospect wasnt extremely repressive or brutal - only mildly. He did at least hold together functioning civil society and spread the wealth in a strange patchy and (relatively) benign way, (whilst of course amassing large amounts himself - but what's achap in power to do - not as though Blair has done any less.)

His mistake was to (i) believe Blair when he cosied up to him and (ii) call for a pan african gold backed currency in opposition to the dollar.

His demise was brutal.

Anonymous said...

Bill Quango MP: "Many like to proclaim that conflict a failure. But it wasn't."

Oh yea, a great success!

1. Replacing a relatively tame secular regime by a multitude of squabbling Islamic warlords.

2. Opening the floodgates through Libya of African mass migration across the Mediterranean.

Ace work there,

Anonymous said...

"Opening the floodgates through Libya of African mass migration across the Mediterranean."

I'd forgotten that. Gaddafi had a deal with Berlusconi to stop boats leaving Libya. Kept to it too.

Bill Quango MP said...

I really don't want to did it up, but the comments have been fair..

The consensus seems to be keep the crazy dictators in power. If their own people want to over throw them, then that's fine but we shouldn't get involved at all. If they want to massacre each other {Syria} its not our concern.

What people are forgetting is we didn't arrange the squabbling warlords to revolt. They did it without our involvement.

Not intervening - would the dictators have felt pretty secure knowing the west would NEVER intervene?
Is Putin worried by what our military might do? Not a bit.

So would the colonel not have felt a little bolder knowing those f-111s were not coming back to bomb his tent?

Who knows?

But our military operation was a success. Remember the people on the airwaves saying its 'another iraq' UK will be there for 10 years ...Well, that was a load of crap. UK/French/ airforce destroyed the Libyan army/airforce capability.Totally. They went from brink of victory to total defeat in 4 weeks.
We were in and out and the total reported UK casualties for this 'new Vietnam' were zero.

Why people want to pretend this was a failure i have no idea. I suspect its just anti-Cameron rhetoric.

But on mission goals, which for once were clear, assets used, results achieved and casualties sustained its about the most successful enterprise UK have embarked upon in 30 years.

That's a success.