Can Iraqi forces take back Saddam’s Birthplace from ISIL?

By Juan Cole

Joint Iraqi and Kurdish forces began moving into Tikrit on Tuesday night into Wednesday after victories over the so-called Islamic State of Syria and the Levant in villages around Amerli, including Sulaiman Bek. Several previous attempts to take Tikrit this summer have failed.

On Monday, allied Iraqi forces cleared the Shiite Turkmen town of Amerli of ISIL guerrillas. The some 15,000 Turkmen in that town had faced being massacred by the hyper-Sunni ISIL.

They also took the nearby town of Sulaiman Bek, which ISIL had held from early June and which it had used as a base from which to menace Amerli, along with some neighboring villages.

The ISIL fighters were forced to flea in the face of superior firepower, including US and Iraqi airstrikes on their positions in support of the coalition on the ground.

Sunni populations in the towns around Amerli to the west are said to be worried about reprisals, since they gave refuge to ISIL fighters and some joined in pro-ISIL demonstrations in Jerusalem.

Whereas for Shiite militias to help take Amerli was politically expedient, Tikrit will be a different story. A ragtag band of Kurdish Peshmerga, allied with Shiite militias will be a pretty terrifying sight to most Sunni residents of Tikrit.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that the British Royal Air Force may join the US Air Force in carrying out strikes on ISIL positions. This development would depend in part on the Iraqi government asking for British aid in its fight against ISIL. One problem for Cameron is that ISIL is popular among some British Sunni Muslims (the UK has nearly 3 million Muslims (out of a population of 63 million), very large numbers of them originating in villages in Kashmir, but others having come in a big wave of immigration from all over the Muslim world in the past decade and a half. Only a small minority are Shiites. So the image of Britain bombing Sunni population centers on behalf of Shiite and Kurdish governments and Shiite militias in tacit alliance with Iran is not going to go over well among many British Muslims

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Related video:

Euronews: “Iraq troops claim victory as two-month Amerli siege broken”

10 Responses

  1. ISIL fighters were forced to flea? Sounds disgusting. I hope they also fled. This is good news. Hope against reprisals.

  2. UK should put anyone slightly sympathizing with IS in prison and throw the key in the sea

    • David Cameron thinks the UK government should have the authority to confiscate the passports of British citizens who might travel to the Middle East and fight with ISIS. Should the UK government’s authority trump the civil rights of British citizens?

      • I wouldn’t advocate locking away somebody on simply for ‘slight sympathy’, as advocated above by Amir.

        However, what is your suggestion then to dealing with the Sunni radical problem or those that might join ISIS which is a known terrorist group indulged in war crimes? Chances are highly likely that some of those jihadists will bring back skills to harm the UK public/govt violently, as evidenced in France, which becomes a serious security issue, and already made threats of putting up their flag over the city, which is quite honestly not entirely impossible.

        There are more Anjem Chowdry type individuals in the UK than the Pakistani/Sunni Muslim community is willing to admit, and they’ve already indulged in anti-Shia sectarian violence earlier, apart from other religo-political Sunni Islamist extremist crimes by different individuals, some linked to the Salafists.

        • The London bombers where homegrown and unknown to the authorities. ISIS returnees could pose a much bigger problem and Cameron knows it. The UK govt. has to be sitting on pins and needles. ISIS is crazy but they are far from stupid. Like you say, it’s a “serious security issue.”

          Here in the U.S., we don’t have the same problem.

  3. Cameron can’t simply let the local Sunni Islamists or Salafists have it their way. Unless they plan to totally exit the foreign theatre on any issue, though there is no guarantee there wouldn’t still be a Sunni radical movement.

    Even the Libyan operations had significant opposition from this quarter (though some Sunni Muslims did support it).

    • Cameron and his government are a bunch of corporatist slugs. They tag along with US “policies” and Peeping-Tom-ism on all of us. There does not seem to be any evidence that they are in the least capable of “managing” the “terrorist threat” at home or abroad. UK police have, as elsewhere, been the most effective at detecting and averting most operations. All us ordinary people just have to accept that there’s no Magic Dome that can be erected (by crushing the last of our individual rights) to prevent all inventive sociopaths from pulling off more ugly events. And what good for the world, or Merry Olde Britain even, has the Thatcher/Blair/Cameron “programme” accomplished?

  4. ISIS is interestingly, and in contrast to many traditional insurgent and terrorist groups, symbolic of a recrudescence of capitalism and not a revolutionary break from of it. It neither practically nor ideologically rejects capitalism, indeed, through its combination of marauding brigandage, opportunistic and indiscriminate mercantilism (e.g. clandestine trafficking), and rational usurpation and utilization of preexisting resources and infrastructures it conspicuously embodies an extreme form of it. Such a form was predictively described by American foreign policy strategist Philip Bobbitt as a terroristic reflection of the emerging capitalist market state itself (which exists for the “maximization of opportunities” for economic expansion in contrast to nation states’ promise of improvements in mass material well-being): “Terrorism in the era of the market state will reflect the nature of the market state. It will be decentralised, disseminated via the internet, and threaten the use of WMD and germ warfare…It could come from a number of other sources…and when it does come the potential for disaster will be extreme.” Indeed, the aforesaid makes the claim that “the primary driver of terrorism is not Islam but the emergence of market states (like the U.S…)”. Perhaps the intentionality behind such “primary” drives is more direct and concerted than the author would care to admit.

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