Matador Roundup

I’ve been shirking my blogging duties and haven’t been saying much about the military operations near the Syrian border of Iraq.

Here are some who haven’t dropped the ball:

Winds of Change: Operation Matador in Northern Iraq
A commenter wonders why the insurgents seem to be standing and fighting instead of running:

They were expected not to fight, but to either run for the border or at least out of the paths of the advancing marines (which is why the blocking force was placed at the border, to catch them in the open). They didn’t do this, the question is why? They theoretically could have known about the blocking force, but this seems unlikely and furthermore remaining in place simply invites encirclement. The other more likely explanation is that they are trying to cover someones escape. Zarqawi’s, one would suppose.

Could be. Tons of links.

Donald Sensing: Big operation under way in western Iraq

One effect of Operation Matador may be to fracture the uneasy alliance between Islamists and Baathists. Why? Most of al Qaeda’s fighters in Iraq are foreign to the country while almost all the FREs are native Iraqis. The FREs have the option, distasteful as it is to them, of asking for quarter and deciding to integrate into a free Iraq; I think that when they realize that victory on their terms is impossible they will take that course. But al Qaeda can’t and won’t. At some point, I hope, the FREs may offer to finger al Qaeda personnel and locations in exchange for clemency of some kind.

The director of operations for the joint staff in the Pentagon just said on a news broadcast that the insurgents being fought in Operation Matador are well armed, better trained than any fought before, and well equipped with uniforms and flak vests. This makes them more difficult to defeat, but it may also make them more confident they can prevail. This will be their undoing, for there is no force anywhere in the world that can hope to prevail against the US Army and US Marine Corps in conventional ground combat.

Steven Den Beste (apparently) makes an appearance in the comments section, wondering if the military forces fighting the Marines might be Syrians. Doesn’t seem likely to me.

We can always hope, though I’m not holding my breath on this report.

The Fourth Rail: Foreign Elements
Has a good map.

The Marines are methodically pushing westward, conducting detailed searches in the towns along the Euphrates. The Marines are driving the insurgents and terrorists towards the blocking force of the Marines in the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Regiment in Qaim and the platoon(s) providing over watch along the ridge overlooking Rabit. Col. Bob Chase reports the local population is proving helpful; “We are getting a lot of information from the locals in the area and a very positive reception. They are giving up locations of where these people are hiding out, and each one drives another operation.”

At some point, the tipping point will have been reached. I suspect that we’ve already passed it and just don’t realize it yet.

Belmont Club: Battle on the Syrian Border

Washington Post: War in Iraq looks like last stand for al Qaeda
While this battle may indeed be a last stand for AQ in Iraq, there’s no doubt that the organization will continue to carry on its struggle for a long, long time. This may turn out to be a big blow, but it’s not the end.

There are tons of links at most of those sites. Follow them.

I’ve long criticized our failure to try and seal the Syrian border. I still think we should have tried to do more earlier, but maybe we’ve been working to force them back against the border, then move in and wipe them out. Any who flee into Syria will probably be pursued, either openly or by covert operations.

This isn’t setting up a full-scale invasion of Syria on the pretext of pursuit or support by the Syrian government. We just don’t seem to have the forces in place to even consider that right now.

Short of a full-blown attack on Syria, though, I think just about everything’s on the board at this point.


  1. Now now, you do not want to open that can of worms. While it is true, that it is illegal for soldiers to conduct military operations while not in uniform. (and the definition of what a uniform is very much open to debate.) The fact that they are wearing ‘uniforms’ is not enough. ‘A detained person as defined in Articles 4 and 5 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of August 12, 1949. In particular, one who, while engaged in combat under orders of his or her government, is captured by the armed forces of the enemy. As such, he or she is entitled to the combatant’s privilege of immunity from the municipal law of the capturing state for warlike acts which do not amount to breaches of the law of armed conflict.’ The key wording in there is government.

  2. JAMES: Wait, though, is that really fair? First, let me make sure there’s no misunderstanding. I do NOT believe that the terrorists should be covered by the Geneva Convention just because they all decided to wear the same clothes. Now, on to the more theoretical… You state that the key word in the convention is ‘government’. I don’t think that’s a realistic standard to hold. One can easily imagine a fighting force that abides by the rules of warfare, but has no government standing behind it. If, for example, al Quaeda held themselves to the same standards of warfare that we hold, I would ABSOLUTELY demand that we treat them properly under the convention. (Or does one say ‘conventions’?) It is the tactics they use that disqualify them for coverage, not the fact that they are a ‘rogue’ element. Of course, if they abided by the rules of warfare, we wouldn’t really have much of a problem with them in the first place.

  3. KTLA A couple of issues. The Al-Qaeda guys running around blowing everything up. You can make a good arguement that they are not covered under the mercenary exception. ‘The other exception are mercenaries, who are specifically excluded from protections. Mercenaries are defined as soldiers who are not nationals of any of the parties to the conflict and are paid more than the local soldiers.’ The Al-Qaeda operation in Iraq, consists largly of foreign natationals who are given a bit of training, money, and are set off to do their thing. That Al-Qaedu, offers bounties for those who kill american’s and or Iraqi police & military. Finally, there have been reports, that a good number of Iraqi’s who are taking pot shots at our troops, are doing so for the money. So I would argue that the Al-Qaeda combatants are excluded on the basis of being a mercenary military force. Another issue. Assuming that Al-Qaeda is not a mercenary group. They are not elignible for the protections under the terms of Protocal I of the convention which reads in relevant part. ‘2. When one of the Parties to the conflict is not bound by this Protocol, the Parties to the Protocol shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by this Protocol in relation to each of the Parties which are not bound by it, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof.’ As a signitory, the US is bound to the convention. Al-Qaeda is not a signitory, but if they chose to be bound by the convention, then their ‘soldiers’ would get the protection. The last time I checked Al-Qaeda has not made any noises about accepting the convention. My last point has to do with what the convention’s primary use is. It is a set of rules to govern warfare. For those parties that abide by its rules, their military forces would not be subject to criminal sactions for actions that would normally be considered capitol offences. If you define the insurgents as POW’s, you are going to hamstring the Iraqi government trying to establish a rule of law. How would you define, legitimate war actions from criminal actions. A group that kidnapps someone and demands a ransom. The ransom is paid, and the group goes out and buys a couple of tonns of C4. Is the kidnapping an act of war, or a felony?

  4. James: I think you missed the point of my post. I was specificaly referring ONLY to your point that wearing uniforms wasn’t enough, and then went on to talk about government sponsorship. I didn’t want to hold them to a gov’t standard, but from the excerpts you brought out, it looks like that’s already taken care of. The second line of my post makes it very clear that I do *NOT* think that AQ is or should be covered by the GC because of their uniforms. I mean, you call them ‘insurgents’, I call them ‘terrorists’. IMO, the attacks on random civilian targets is the defining distinction between the two. Can we agree that if al Qaeda actually abided (abode?) by the GC, we should treat them accordingly? I feel very strongly that we should.

  5. My first impulse is to say yes. Chiefly on the grounds that I do not believe torture and the like is very effective, and moreover its counter to our traditions, values and laws. That said, from a legal point, al Qaeda represents a concept that sliped through the cracks. No one really put much thought into the concept of having a stateless descentralized organization declaring war on countries. As such, giving them status as POW’s, causes all sorts of issues. It elevates al Qaeda, but renders sections of the convention uneforceable. Eg. where does the red cross go?? Who is the enforcing neutral party, how do you repatriate POW’s at the end of the conflict….and the list goes on. Simply put, yes, I believe that those who surrender or were captured, are entitled to be treated fairly and humanely. No I do not believe that Bush’s use of ‘enemy combatants’ is correct. The concept of indefinite imprisonment, without access to a lawyer, while you have to prove that you are not a ‘enemy combatant’ without having access to evidence against you, is just wrong. Personally, I would have a law passed, that states basically any person who is declared an enemy combatent, the governement has one year to file charges or release the person in question. ( along with monitary compensation for the false imprisonment. ) And then we release them to the custody of their national government. (and maybe implant a passive radio tracker for fun)

  6. The war is over. Citizens from other countries who travel to Iraq to do us (the Occupying Power in the language of the Convention) harm can be considered spys or saboteurs. They have the right to a hearing to establish the facts (Section I, article 5). If they are found to be spys or saboteurs (terrorists), they can be executed without delay. That is exactly what we should be doing – and to hell with public opinion. Guerrilla wars are wars of extermination. To win, you keep killing the enemy until they are all dead or no longer willing to fight – it has always been that way. Incarcerating terrorist for years is a waste – they cannot be reformed – execute them and move on.

  7. Bram, you’re missing the point, at least if you’re respinding to the conversation between James and myself. We’re not talking about incarcerating terrorists, because the hypothetical being discussed is if al Qaeda abided by the GC, in which case they would be fighting a ‘clean’ war. They would then NOT be terrorists, but simply the opposing military force. In this case, I would vehemently disagree with a policy of executing them and moving on.

  8. Bram In one respect you are quite right. Ghengis Khan had a wonderful policy of discouraging those who oppossed his rule. Simple direct, and extremely effective. However, I for one would be one of the first to impeach whatever leader who tried the policy you are advocating. If I remember correctly Stalin mananged to end the Chechnya issue, but I guess Putin has been to lax. So lets bring back Stalin. I bet that if we brought back Stalin, he could solve the Iraq issue in under 6 months, but would you want to live with that type of governement?

  9. I’m not sure bringing back Stalin would work – last I heard he was dead. Therefore, he can no longer cause the death of innocents – just like Uday and Quasay and all the terrorists we have sent off on their magic carpet to meet Allah. Filing charges against them? Hmm, what to charge them with? – They are little out of our normal jurisdiction. I know! Charge them with violating the Laws of War as laid out in the Geneva Convention. The penalty for which is death. The ‘enemy combatant’ stuff is a way to avoid doing just that. Tell me please – how long do you imprison a professional international terrorist to reform him? After you let him go, what do you say to the families of their next victims or the relatives of the soldiers and police who die while bringing him down again? At least the smug, effete liberals at home who’ve never risked their lives can feel good about themselves – that’s what is really important. Get real. In wars past, spies and saboteurs have always been executed out of hand. If you are too weak hearted deal with reality of the work necessary to win this war, leave it to those who can.

  10. As for it being a ‘clean’ war because of the use of uniforms: They represent no foreign nation, as foreigners, they do not represent an internal revolutionary movement of Iraqis either. Therefore, I do not think they have any protected status under the Convention. Labeling them as mercenaries may be more accurate than saboteurs in this case – either way the end result is the same – no protection under the Geneva Convention. Depends on the uniforms too. Are the really all the same? Or do the just happen to be wearing a random mixture of military style clothing they picked up at a surplus store for camouflage purposes?