Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The European Union is Finished + The Battle for Mosul Set to Begin

Mark this winter as the end of the European Union. In "Clashes Erupt in Greece as Macedonia Bars Afghan Asylum Seekers," Liz Alderman lists the large number of states that now have border restrictions. Macedonian, following a decision over the weekend by Austria, Serbia and Croatia to restrict migrant entries, ruled that Afghans are economic immigrants and not refugees fleeing a war zone like their Iraqi and Syrian brothers and sisters. This comes at the same time that U.S. air power had to assist in restoring electricity to Kabul following Taliban attacks on transmission lines in Baghlan Province. Civilian casualties are up, peace talks led by Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United states are going nowhere and the Taliban continues to gobble up territory. It is a wonder that there aren't more Afghans fleeing to Europe.

The effect of Macedonia's decision is to push the refugees back into Greece. One could see this coming once Merkel's fantasy of having Turkey warehouse the flotsam from the West's wars repeatedly failed to launch. Now, barring a D-Day-type naval flotilla in the Aegean to block the refugees, Greece will be under great pressure to remain a viable, functioning state. As Alderman reports,
The backup of migrants was increasing the strain on Greece, which has become a focal point in the crisis. European Union officials have demanded that Athens take steps to tighten screening and slow the flow of refugees, many of whom are hoping to reach Germany, or risk suspension from the Schengen zone. 
Greece, which is reeling from a prolonged economic crisis, has protested that it lacks the funds to carry out the task adequately and was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey, despite a pledge from Ankara to curb migrant flows in exchange for 3 billion euros, or about $3.3 billion, in aid from the European Union. 
Only in the past two weeks has Greece opened several so-called hot spot facilities on the islands where migrants are most likely to arrive. But Athens has faced a sharp outcry from locals on some of those islands, such as Kos and Leros, who say they fear that the new centers, which are used to register and hold migrants until their applications are sorted out, will turn into permanent holding camps. 
Greece is the most popular entry point into Europe for hundreds of thousands of migrants from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. More than 56,000 migrants arrived in Greece by sea in January alone, 10 times the number in the same period last year. In the first three weeks of this year, at least 113 people died trying to make the sea crossing to Europe, the International Organization for Migration said, compared with 94 a year earlier. 
Underlining the risks of the influx for Greece, the president of the European Parliament warned this week that the country risked becoming a “parking lot” for migrants unless the European Union moved to put in effect a plan to resettle thousands of migrants stuck there and in Italy.
There has been no let-up despite the winter. With the partial truce declared for Syria a likely dud, a U.S. invasion of Libya in the works and, according to this morning's "Situation Report" by Paul McLeary and Adam Rawnsley, the battle to reconquer Mosul set to begin, the number of refugees later this spring and summer will be overwhelmingly:
The road to Mosul. The Iraqi army will likely need to deploy between eight and 12 army brigades to liberate Mosul from the grip of the Islamic State, according to a U.S. general in charge of training Iraqi forces.
“We are making plans for Mosul,” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Richard Clarke, commander of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq, told reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference from Baghdad Tuesday. “We’re doing that each and every day.” The exact number of troops is still in flux, as Iraqi brigades can range in size from about 2,000 to 3,000 soldiers.
U.S. troops deployed near ISIS territory. A handful of American troops are already in place near Mosul, and have been setting up a forward operating base from which Iraqi troops will launch any future assault on the city. The Nineveh Operations Center in the small village of Makhmour will eventually house about 4,500 Iraqi soldiers who will be in the lead of the fight for Mosul. The base also houses a new command center for the Iraqi army’s 15th Division, which ran through an American-led training program last year.
And Iraqi officials look ready to go. Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi said earlier this month that Iraqi forces expect to start the Mosul operation “no later than the first half of this year,” while Prime Minister Haider al Abadi has predicted that 2016 would see a “final victory” against the group.
Schengen, already dead de facto, will be officially suspended. Without passport-free travel you can't claim there is a European Union. A Brexit is coming. Trump is on the rise. Can Le Pen be far behind?

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