This may very well be the precursor to a much wider conflict. To put into context, ISIS was simply, at least philosophically speaking, an honest interpretation of Whabbi Islam, which in itself is honest Sunni-ism. Iraq is a majority Shia nation, with the majority-led government backed by Iran (seen the factory made EFPs, rolled up enough insurgents to know) with the Kurds doing their own thing up north. There’s historically bad blood between them and an increasingly militant Turkey. And the Kurds have a significant amount of oil wealth, which is the real heart of the problem. What’s actually happening is a much larger power struggle of factions jockeying for position to become the new power brokers in the aftermath of the Baathist/Pan Arabian Alliance dismantlement.
From a ground pounder’s perspective, as one who cut his teeth fighting insurgents in the Hamrin Mountains and Rashad Valley, the Kurds have a tough fight but not one they aren’t familiar with. The autonomous Kurdish government in Irbil knows that control of Kirkuk is vital to long-term national survival, and control of Kirkuk Airbase (the smoke-choked hellhole formerly known as FOB Warrior) along with the adjacent oil refinery provides a significant bargaining chip in negotiations in the region.
The fortunate piece to all of this is that despite the PKK (a socialist movement, but one seeking national independence) being officially labeled a terrorist organization in an effort to appease the Ottoman, one could lay their head down among them for a snooze and not end up the subject of a gore-porn LiveLeak vid. The various factions of Peshmerga also make for much better fighters than their sun staring nose picking Shia counterparts. It takes a hard group of guys to go to war in a Toyota Hilux with lawnchairs ducktaped together in the bed, especially when yesterday their buddies just got blown to bits on the same route.
At this point, if I ventured to make a somewhat educated guess, is that Revolutionary Gua-…I mean, Iraqi forces, are marching armor prepped at the al Tikriti Air Base (the somewhat comfy place formerly known as FOB Speicher) North up Route Clemson (the road connecting Tikrit and Kirkuk) and probably are at the halt somewhere between Dugmat and Route Cherry or Route Sears. The reports of rounds impacting in and around Kirkuk confirms this. Those rounds are probably being guided by remnants of the Iraqi Police forces inside Kirkuk, which were exclusively Shia.
What lessons could a prepper or freedomista-type gain from this? Well, first, this is what happens when national cohesion devolves into intergroup conflict. There’s no two ways about it. When one wants to seceede, there’s more to it than simply voting and walking away. Second, you need international relations and support. Third, if you’re primarily a Light-Infantry force, which the Peshmerga’s factions are, your best bet against mechanized forces is a withdrawl and reversion to mobile warfare while rendering anything of value a dangerous proposal. I’m confident based upon my own experience with them and their Mao-heavy politics that this is the plan. Fourth, the knowledge of weaknesses of armor is CRITICAL, as well as skilled evaluation of ability and morale of the OPFOR. Which, among Iraqi Shias, is low at best. Frankly I’m surprised the 109s and M1s are actually running…mech requires an army of mechanics and supplies all its own and the Iraqis historically aren’t so good at maintenance- of anything. As they break tracks and run out of hub oil the offensive is going to grind to halt- which having Special Reconnaissance units capable of evaluating this is critical to timing an Infantry offensive. Which, unironically, requires advanced communications abilities. Kinda like those I write about. As the winter comes into the region I expect a lot of that Armor to be placed into static defensive positions with the battered 1151s doing the bulk of the maneuvering simply securing Kirkuk.
So, this is going to be one to watch and learn from, probably even more than the lessons from the fight against ISIS, not simply for the unit coordination and outcomes, but also for the political jockeying of where the chips will fall. It might be relevant someday.