Is Baghdad next? ISIL takes Hit Base in Iraq, loots it for Weapons

By Juan Cole

According to Aljazeera sources, ISIL has completed the taking of Hit district in the al-Anbar Province of Iraq. At a time when, supposedly, a range of coalition partners is taking on ISIL and attempting to push it back from the territory it has taken in Syria and Iraq, in fact the organization goes on expanding. It has added to its holdings in Iraq’s western al-Anbar province in recent weeks, including Hit district.

Along with the district, ISIL has been able to invade al-Anbar’s 3rd largest military base, home of the 7th Army, and to loot it for medium and heavy weaponry, including tanks and armored vehicles.

ISIL hit the base with suicide car-bombers at the outer walls and chased the Iraqi army away. The organization uses human suicide bombers for tactical infantry operations, sort of the way most armies would toss in hand grenades or fire mortar shells or supporting artillery.

ISIL is now estimated by some Iraqi army officers to be in control of 80% of al-Anbar Province.

Apparently ISIL strategy is to next completely take Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar, and to use it as a base for taking Baghdad.

Related video

CBS Evening News: ISIS continues march through Anbar province

33 Responses

  1. “With the extremists on the march, Obama faces a fundamental question of how to carry out his pledge to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. It’s a terrible dilemma for the president but an INESCAPABLE one.” John Kerry

    From the video…”There are now twelve teams of U.S. military advisors on the ground with Iraqi defense forces of Baghdad.”

    Obama drew a red line in Syria and backed away from it. But Obama didn’t claim the United States would go to war against Assad when he drew it. That isn’t the case with ISIS. The President of the United States made a pledge to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. Obama can’t back away from his pledge without destroying the credibility of his office and the country.

    • Jack, you may be right about destroying credibility, but that credibility is worthless if we continue to pursue the violence that clearly gave rise to ISIS in the first place. Obama was right when he said that this crisis needed a political solution. Too bad domestic politics led him astray. One key strategy would be to stop arming anyone in the area and to facilitate an agreement with other states to do a comprehensive arms embargo. Note that ISIS has found another treasure trove of weapons. Undoubtedly those weapons have the labels of many different countries and our name will be well represented.

      • Ok, destroying the credibility was not a good choice of words and you’re probably right about what gave rise to ISIS. The neocon plan to regime change Saddam Hussein was not only stupid, but risk starting a much larger conflict as we now see happening. ISIS is obviously using extreme violence to expand and escalate the conflict. Like John Kerry said, Obama’s dilemma is inescapable. If/when ISIS continues on this course of action they will have to be confronted, stopped and their military capability degraded.

        There won’t be a choice.

        Twelve teams of U.S. military advisors are already in Baghdad.

        Then, the Civil War in Syria must be ended and Assad can not stay in power. ASSAD IS A MASS MURDERER WHO DROPS BARREL BOMBS ON CIVILIANS. The key is not defeating ISIS. It’s ending the civil war in Syria. Larger state actors, the U.S.. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and even Russia, must come to a political agreement on the best way to end the war in Syria and make Assad depart. . But in order for that to happen, containing and degrading ISIS MUST be the first step.

    • I think the world has had ample proof of our credibility from our accomplishments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia …

      I just hope that our ongoing secret talks with ISIL can bring about some moderation of their viciousness, in exchange for diplomatic recognition. (Nutty as it sounds, what can be nuttier than the Middle East. Think about “degrade then destroy” as rationale.)

    • Since when have the lying liars who rule us had anything to worry about in the way of consequences to credibility, far less to their persons and wealth, from “backing away from pledges?” Except maybe the pledges given to crapheads like Grover Norquist and our new bloody aristocracy typified by the Kochs? And maybe ISISILIQ is not a true Juggernaut, just the latest in Successful Hordes amplified by all the weapons and technology its management has managed to put in play, but it sure seems so very obviously inarguably indisputably evidence-based clear that “the world’s most expensive, expansive, and bureaucratized and corrupt military” has nothing in its massive, ponderous, clumsy, idiotic Table of Organization and Equipment or millions of Doctrine Documents to “address the situation,” let alone “prevail,” whatever that means given the Follow The Money institutional-reality-activity of Our Military Lordlings…

  2. This just goes to show that the invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003 was and is one of the greatest military blunders in human history. What a total shambles.

  3. KR

    how is a group of 30,000 not over extended holding on to so much territory. Should be routed. Something does not add up.

    • The % of the local population that is not sick of decades of war must now be very small. That is worsened by having such wretched governments to fight for.

      But ISIS is not just getting recruits from the angriest of that %, disgruntled young men are pouring in from other places, encouraged by preachers who in turn are encouraged by kings and princes precisely to get these boys to go make trouble somewhere else. A few thousand shock troops a month to feed into the meat grinder probably goes a long way against demoralized opposition.

    • This is exactly the question I have been wondering and hopefully Professor Cole can expand on this.

      You would think that will all that blood and money we spent over there that we might know a few things about how things work. But it’s as we are floundering around in the dark. How come we can’t intercept their communications and logistics? Since these goons are fighting right out in the open, why don’t we just get them bogged down in different places as their leaders use these fanatics as cannon fodder. It just seems like Military Tactics 101.

      Can anyone answer these questions?

      • The “we” you are talking about is a military that’s more about procurement and promotion, huge and clumsy and bureaucratized, backed by State and Spooks that consistently and famously “get it wrong,” because of their own actual interests, at odds with ordinary people’s.

        Look back: “we” start stuff in service to corporate “interests,” send the ill-equipped and ill-prepared to do the same invading-army corruption a making stuff bover and over, even the generals tacitly acknowledge the forces they ” lead” from ergonomic chairs as “battle managers” in their idiotic Global Interoperable Network-Centric Babblespace can’t fight and win asymmetric wars. No matter how much wealth they get. Don’t fight imperial land wars in Asia, pay some attention to Sun Tzu’s wisdoms? Nah, gotta line up that post- retirement (or firing, for corruption or fooling around, never just incompetence) gig. And the goal is just to keep the profitable using up and selling of weapons, the promotion of conflict, the vast opportunities for corruption and advancement, going and going and going…

  4. As the conflict expands, to what degree are we properly characterizing the conflict as being driven by ISIS/ISIL, as opposed to the very same forces that led to Iraq’s civil war while under U.S. occupation? Is there a point where we should stop pointing to ISIS/ISIL as ‘the’ enemy and start describing a larger group or coalition as the target of the military efforts?

    I do not want to discount the role of ISIS/ISIL’s strategies and intimidation tactics, but if the underlying desire for civil war were not present within a very significant percentage of Iraq’s Sunni population it’s difficult to imagine their enjoying this type of success, both in terms of enlisting fighters and in terms of expansion.

    I’m also curious as to whether you have an opinion on the future of ISIS if it is not defeated — would it end up holding its power and influence over the territories it controls, or would there be division — or even yet another civil war — within those territories over who gets to control the territories or the extent to which they embrace fundamentalism?

    Assuming the anti-ISIS/ISIL coalition succeeds in rolling back ISIS, what could then be done to lock in that success? It would seem that going back to the status quo ante would simply serve to reproduce the context in which ISIS/ISIL was able to rapidly gain support and foment civil war. At this point, how realistic is it to posit a future with a united Iraq?

    • Just rolling back ISIS without ending the civil war in Syria would be going back to the status quo so that another ISIS like group could gain a foothold.

  5. ISIS/ISIL/IS is in trouble now. The Pentagon has come up with a new code name – Operation Inherent Resolve – for the war on ISIS/ISIL/IS. That should take care of those nasties. Peace in our time.

  6. Credibility. Oh geez. Are we back to the Johnson/Nixon war-making era? Credibility cannot be bought by bombs. Pulling out of Vietnam gave the USA more “credibility” than 50,000 US dead, Agent Orange deforestation and more bomb tonnage dropped than in the whole of WWII.

    Perhaps leaving the “Great Sorting Out” (See Joshua Landis) to the local actors is only fateful option available.

    By the way and not to the point, did not you know that the Iranian Administration has more US college grads than any other foreign administration?

    • Landis might be right, but he only sees a long term “grinding” civil war in Syria’s future without a solution. Landis thinks Syria will break apart.

    • I see Jack has a new theme, straight out of history: “et praeterea censeo carthago delenda est,” Carthage the New now being the person of Bashar Assad. link to If the test is whether rulers use indiscriminate bombing, how does a barrel bomb stack up against the random mortar and artillery fire directed by our friends the “moderates” into many of the same areas? Or how about Hellfires into wedding parties? Easy sound bite in support of more “regime change” that has no chance in he77 of producing any kind of stable outcome, if that’s the real goal. But War Is Peace, right? and decapitation plus ever more weapons to “moderates” plus fig-leafed “coalition” bombing campaigns that, mirable dictu, also kill lots of civilians, equals ego gratification for neocons and lots of wealth transfer, but not a dam’ thing of value for ordinary people… Say again how “toppling Assad” will produce a “solution,” rather than just be the starting point for a false syllogism?

      • I listened to a Joshua Landis 30 minute video describing his “Great Sorting Out” which is what he calls ethnic cleansing in Syria. That’s what Landis thinks will happen and it will be very, very bloody. Basically a four way civil war—Alawite Shiites vs. Free Syrian Army vs. ISIS vs. Kurds until all the different regions have been ethnically cleansed of the other groups. Very brutal and nasty. ISIS is about to take the first step in Kobani.

        Check out the video. Landis gives examples of previous sorting outs in the Middle East. Israel and Palestine are one of his examples. He’s Dr. DOOM.

        Toppling Assad after rolling back ISIS may not produce stability in the Middle East, but it’s probably better than perpetual war and ethnic cleansing.

        JTMcPhee, doesn’t it concern you that ISIS is just rolling along gathering momentum, arms and recruits in Anbar? What do you think will stop them?

        Sunni Saudi Arabia and Turkey are like the Romans compared to the Carthaginian like Shia, especially Assad. They won’t give up until Assad is out of power–NO WAY.

        Comparing Assad to Carthage is VERY clever play on words.

  7. I don’t see this as having anything to do with Obama’s credibility. He stayed in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than people thought he had promised. Now, he’s out and there wasn’t any substance to what was left. The political infrastructure of Iraq was destroyed within the first months after GW, Rumsfeld, Blair, etc… declared war. With that collapse, there really is no such thing as Iraq in the heart and minds of the people who live there. In other words, this goes way beyond Obama and he is highly constrained in his options by Congress (the House).

    Who every heard of the guys with the tanks at a major arms depot deserting a base over a couple of car bombs out on the outskirts of a base?

    I don’t think they are cooperating with IS,,, I just don’t think they have any sense of national identity or other collective cause worth fighting for.

    It seems to me that right-wing war hawks won by creating the conditions that inevitably led us to perpetual war. The problem is that the Iraqi army is a sham–people join for a job and flee the risk as it appears. No one identifies with “Iraq” anymore. Like what was done to Native American tribes, they have been reduced to dependency, including national security.

    IS-whatever cannot be ignored–it will only get worse as time goes on and they consolidate.

    You can say we should not have done this or that weaponized the region, declared war on Saddam, and so on–but these are moot points no longer of consequence (not that some of the same people didn’t say something about this years ago). We now, like it or not, are faced with little choice but more war. It seems to me, we are getting close to another 30 years of all out war and more outbreaks of serious disease. Those that profit from it will gain while the world’s markets and most of us will pay the price.

    • We now, like it or not, are faced with little choice but more war.

      We, that is the US and its accomplices, have been responsible for subversion and aggression in the Middle East for decades especially since the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the 1953 overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran, and it has been one disaster after the other ever since. It is time to admit to the gross bungling of our leaders and get them out of there.

      Leave it to the Middle Easterners to resolve this mess. They can’t do anything worse than what we have done and just might come up with some resolution; although, I wouldn’t bet on it.

      • Also you did not mention the popularly-elected Sunni majority government in Syria that was overthrown in 1949 by a Syrian army general conspiring with the Central Intelligence Agency because the Syrian legislature would not allow an oil pipeline to be run through their country by U.S. oil interests.

        That coup led to Baathist rule for decades following a series of further military coups that deprived the Sunni majority of power and led to the jailing of PM Atassi in 1970 and the ascension of Hafez Assad as Syrian president in 1971.

  8. Surely, Dr. Cole, you don’t give much credibility to the idea that IS has a chance in hell of taking Baghdad away from the Shia militias that ethnically cleansed it in the first place? Street by street, the Sunni were pushed out of Baghdad over the period 2006-2008 by the Mahdi Army, Badr Brigades, etc. However worthless the successors of these Shia militia have proven themselves in the field when attempting to take Sunni towns, they are extremely capable and vicious opponents when defending their home turf or waging dirty war in the streets of the capital.

    Do you really suppose that IS is going to conquer Sadr city? Excuse me while I fall over laughing.

    What IS may be able to do with respect to Baghdad is resume the Sunni strategy of ~2004-2006, when they had some success in surrounding and cutting off the city, destroying power lines, blocking highways, destroying bridges, etc. in an attempt to weaken it as a Shia power base.

  9. Any links anyone cares to share that substantively document the claim that ISISILIQ has been able to arm itself with lots of volunteer human hand grenades?

    We of course give sincere medals and honors and fine funerals to OUR troops that will throw themselves on a live grenade in combat…

    • ISIS suicide car bombers were used to blast the outer walls at this military base and overrun it. ISIS is trying to clear routes in Anbar province so they will be able to advance troops and supplies without meeting resistance. Then, they can set up for the next target.

      It’s good strategy.

      • In other words, no links? Just echo chamber assertions? Tough manly talk is cheap — for the blogger, “it’s good strategy,” makes one seem very substantive and all. Et ISISISILIQ Delenda Est, Sed Assad Magno Delenda Est, right?

    • There was a triple suicide bombing reported by ISIS bombers against bases used by Kurdish security forces:
      link to

      And here’s an article about Kurds doing a suicide attack against ISIS: link to

      As to whether there are “lots” of suicide bombers out there, well, all I know is that, per the news, they keep on coming…so it doesn’t look like we’re about to run out of volunteer martyrs…

  10. How would you like to be a Kurd trapped in Kobani with ISIS threatening to overrun the town and slaughter everyone including women and children?

    Just don’t kid yourself, that’s what they do.


    Complaining about Iraq and/or Obama ain’t gonna save the people in Kobani from getting their heads cut off when the town falls. ISIS is throwing in more resources trying to overrun the town. Yesterday, military reports claimed increased bombing attacks killed several hundred ISIS attackers. Without increased American bombing ISIS would have taken the town and SLAUGHTERED EVERYONE IN IT!!!


    • RUN AROUND YELLING “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!”? Good thing the really smart adults are in charge of this whole global counter-terrorism counter-Horde operation, they will no doubt be seeking advice and counsel from sites like this…

  11. Please just stop kidding yourselves with such news. Baghdad isnt any fuckin small city, it’s the capital and it’s a large one with 8 million inhabitants. Baghdad is not so vulnerable to attacks from a group such as ISIS, they cant just attack it with no consequences. It’s fortified, there are too many army defenses there. Additionally, other militias are all over the city. Not if the Coalition made another attack that Baghdad can fall and even that might happen if it wasnt defended well enough.

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