Monday, May 18, 2015
Ramadi Falls To ISIS In A Major Victory - And Why It's Important
On Sunday, Islamic State forces captured Ramadi, routing the Iraqi army, many of whom literally fled from the scene, those that could. Over 500 Iraqi soldiers died in the assault, and the debacle came so quickly that substantial pockets of Iraqi troops were trapped there after taking heavy casualties. They aren't expected to hold out very long and I've already received reports that some of them have already been captured and executed by ISIS.
Hundreds of civilians fled along with the Iraqi troops.
ISIS is using some fairly innovative tactics against fixed defensive points like Ramadi. First they seek to control the ingress and egress via outlying areas, to prevent or delay reinforcement and resupply. The next step in Ramadi was to break the defensive line using car and truck bombs, after which ISIS fighters stormed into the breach.
Many Americans may recall hearing the name Ramadi before, and some might recall that quite a few American lives were spent in securing it. Here's why Ramadi matters.
Look at the map above. Ramadi controls all of the traffic on the Euphrates River. It is only 68 miles (110 Kilometers) from Baghdad and opens the road to that city from the west, just as Fallujah, which ISIS also holds does from the east paving the way for a two-pronged assault. Also, ISIS captured the town of Jubbah in this new offensive, next door to Iraq’s biggest air base at Al-Ansar. That's where US soldiers, AKA advisers are trying to train Iraqi troops to fight ISIS, which so far hasn't been particularly successful.
ISIS has also surrounded the oil-producing town of Baiji near Ramadi, where a small Iraqi army force of a few hundred soldiers is trying to hold out. It's probably only a matter of tie until they're forced to surrender or are wiped out.
Our Secretary of State John Kerry announced from a news conference in Seoul, South Korea that as far as he was concerned Ramadi was " a target of opportunity" for ISIS rather than a carefully planed strategic offensive.
"I am convinced that as the forces are redeployed and as the days flow in the weeks ahead that's going to change, as overall (they) have been driven back ... I am absolutely confident in the days ahead that will be reversed."
Let's examine that.
Exactly what forces is Secretary Kerry talking about? True, the Iraqi government announced that "major military reinforcements" were being deployed to halt the advance of ISIS. The problem is that between Ramadi, the recent 'victory' in Tikrit (about which more later) and an attempted counterattack on Fallujah that went horribly wrong, the Iraqi army has very little strength to 'deploy' between ISIS and Baghdad right now. They're a badly defeated army that is incapable of an offensive against Islamic State right now. The only thing keeping ISIS away from Baghdad is a series of 19 U.S, airstrikes near Ramadi over the past 48 hours.
Iraq's almost completely Shi'ite army has very little motivation to risk lives taking back Sunni dominated Anbar. The army purged almost all of its Sunni officers and men once the Americans left and the Iran oriented Shi'ite dictatorship we installed there took over.The careful relationship the Americans nurtured (okay, bought) with the Sunni tribes in Anwar via the Awakening Movement is long gone. If they're not actively fighting with ISIS, they're mostly supporting it, and they aren't going to believe any horse manure about being full partners in a Shi'ite dominated state a second time.
There are the Americans, who President Obama has seen to it have been kept out of combat. He has little choice in the matter, even if he had the inclination. George Soros and the Democrat National Committee have recreated the Democrats as a far Left anti-war party, and Barack Obama was their candidate. He was the one whom constantly talked about 'Bush's War' and how wrong it all was, and how he was going to end it. And when it finally did end he bragged about that as his 'achievement as well.'*
At this point, it would be politically devastating for him to involve U.S. boots on the ground, especially with elections coming up soon and every Democrat candidate having made explicit statements opposing the Iraq war.
So that leaves one other force available - Iran and Iran's proxy Shi'ite militias in Iraq like Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.
They're more than willing to mix it up with ISIS, but there are problems.
The few times they've gotten involved, like Tikrit, they have treated the Sunni civilians viciously. Rapes, plundering and murder of Sunni civilians were the Shi'ite victory parade in Tikrit, to the point where the Iraqi government and the Obama Administration had to order them to leave. The Iraqi army is incapable of recovering control and holding Tikrit without them, and as we've seen, ISIS had other objectives to go after. So right now, the town is in total anarchy, with various armed gangs, some of them ISIS sympathizers, battling each other over territory.
However, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi may have little choice. As I write this, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan is in Baghdad, and it may be that the Shiite militias form a defensive line with the Iraqi Army to keep ISIS at bay with the help of U.S. airstrikes until the Iraqi army recovers. I expect this to heat up into a long, drawn out sectarian war.
*(President Obama, in spite of his constant chest thumping had nothing to do with ending the war in Iraq, or for that matter, seeing to it that any U.S. forces remained in Iraq. The Bush Administration had already set out all the details of our withdrawal in the disposition of forces agreement with the Iraqi government under Maliki before George W. Bush left office, and they insisted that we leave. All Barack Obama had to do was make sure the script was followed...and take credit for it all, of course.
Both Maliki and the Shi'ite bloc led by Moqtadeh al-Sadr who put him in power were always in bed with Iran. As I predicted a long time ago, in the end it was 'thanks for your time and money, infidels. Now get out.'
Not one Iraqi government official bothered to attend the ceremony where our flag was lowered for the last time as our military left Iraq. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions about whether the price we paid to rescue them from Saddam was worth it. Certainly the $25 billion we spent to build them an army obviously wasn't)