Iraq: 25,000 Shiite Militiamen gather for Battle of Ramadi

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | —

Al-Zaman (The Times of Baghdad) reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi met Tuesday with leaders of the Shiite militias to plan the retaking of Ramadi, a Sunni Arab city about 78 miles due west of Baghdad that fell on Sunday to Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) as the Iraqi armed forces there collapsed.

Ramadi is potentially a base for attacking the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, with its tomb of the Imam Husayn, the martyred grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Daesh could also use it to gain control of nearby Iraqi military bases and their weapons depots.

The Shiite militias have rallied, now that PM al-Abadi has lifted his earlier injunction against them operating in heavily Sunni al-Anbar Province, and are making plans to push Daesh back from Ramadi.

Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Badr Corps and over-all leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces or Shiite militias, said Tuesday that the military task of taking back Ramadi is actually less complicated than campaigning north of Baghdad in Salahuddin Province (where the militias and the Iraqi Army have taken Takrit and Beiji from Daesh).

He said that 25,000 militiamen were already gathering for the fight, which would begin as soon as the volunteers could be assembled and armed. He said they would be joined by Sunni tribal levies and American advisers, and would be given close air support by the US and its anti-Daesh coalition.

The Badr Corps is the paramilitary of the Badr Organization, a pro-Iran Shiite party. It was founded as a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the 1980s and originally was attached to the what is now the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a political party founded at the instance of Ayatollah Khomeini.

So that al-Ameri is talking about cooperating with American military advisers on the ground and receiving American, Jordanian and other close air support is quite remarkable and a sign of the strange bedfellows that Daesh has brought together against itself.

Although some observers have stressed Sunni-Shiite unity insofar as some Sunni clans of Eastern al-Anbar have fought against Daesh, the clansmen are dejected about the fall of Ramadi and the ignominious retreat of the Iraqi army.

BBC Monitoring quotes from al-Mada, saying it reported that the head of the Sunni Al-Bu Fahd, Rafi Abd-al-Karim al-Fahdawi remarked: “Al-Bu Fahd tribes in Al-Khalidiyah areas, eastern Al-Ramadi, deployed around 4,000 fighters to protect their areas from any attack by Da’ish.” He added that they are in a “state of disappointment and despair” and that “the morale of his tribe’s fighters deteriorated after the security forces’ withdrawal from Al-Ramadi and the government’s failure to meets its promises to supply them with weapons…” Another clan leader said, “some tribes abandoned fighting because they did not get any weapons or support” from Baghdad.

At the same time, there are signs of Baghdad coordinating with Iran. PM al-Abadi met with the Iranian defense minister, Brig. Gen. Husain Dehqan, in Baghdad on Tuesday evening and underscored that the security of Iran and Iraq are inseparable as they fight terrorist extremism (i.e. Sunni terrorist extremism), pledging that Iraq would never allow an attack on its eastern neighbor.

Al-Abadi also said, “we do not support the war on Yemen” and urged that the conflict be settled by negotiations among Muslim countries. The statement might underscore his alliance with Iran, but it is sure to anger the Gulf Cooperation Council states led by Saudi Arabia, who see the Houthi rebels in Yemen as agents of Iran.

Iraqi President Fuad Masoum, an ethnic Kurd, visited Tehran and likewise underscored the common security of Iran and Iraq.

Al-Abadi plans to head to Russia, where he hopes for support and weapons from Vladimir Putin. Since Daesh has a Chechen contingent, the Russians want to see it crushed, lest it spill back over onto Chechnya, an ethnic Muslim province in the Caucasus that has repeatedly staged secessionist rebellions against the Russian Federation. They have been crushed brutally, provoking a terrorist backlash.

Russia has already provided some arms to Iraq for its current fight against Daesh.

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Related video:

Euronews: “Shi’ite militiamen readying for Ramadi recapture”

10 Responses

  1. I hope that our temporary convergence of objectives with Iran, i.e. take back Ramadi, does not weaken our resolve to punish Iran for not doing exactly as we say with regard to their nuclear programs. Sure, Daesh is the most immediate target of opportunity for US air power, but we have cultivated Iran’s enemy status for so long that we can’t slide back now just because we find significant mutual interests.

    Besides, assuming the Tikrit model, if Ramadi falls to the Shiite forces, the aftermath will just be another failure of our “bombing for egalitarian democracy” strategy. Getting attention back to Iran, the eternal peril, is important.

  2. That makes sense?…instead of joining the fight right away…and winning..the Shiites wait until the Iraq army runs leaving all that armament behind …and then joins the fight…lol…

  3. Seems to me the only way that Iraq may survive as a nation would be as a loose federation.

    • Isnt that what there is in effect? The Shia dominate the government in Baghdad and the Kurds in the north — for now. The tribes in the center-ish might be replaced with ISIL. The Federation idea is going to fail too. Really, this problem is bigger than this issue

      • The neo-cons (the UK Guardian had a great article on this last winter) had envisioned federation to be a kurdish state in the north, the Shia in the south to align with Kuwait (this is the neo-cons’ ill-informed idea) and the center of Iraq to align with Jordan. Just change the parts out the neo-cons thought each region of Iraq would appendage too, and you stiill have some kind of federation idea

        If things really keep going to hell in a handbasket, and ISIL pushes on and attacks Jordan, then it could be a scenario where Jordan aligns with the center of Iraq if ISIL attacks and say Jordan falls. That’s hypothetical of course, but scary to consider

  4. All this talk about re-taking a city that has been “taken” more than once before begs the continually unasked question “What if you win?”. What have you got then? A wrecked, nonfunctional city with few inhabitants, many of those displaced and traumatized, with hardly anyone of those ready to leave the family at home in a home needing vital repair to head off for a full productive day at work, with no viable management functions at the end of their commute, and sketchy security as far as the eye can see. The American debauchment of Fallujah is a stellar example of military shortsightedness and witless desire for another chance at a successful hammer on anvil op, though stellar is hardly the word for that rape.

    One could argue that the strange bedfellows of the current moment are better than the really really bad guys (and we all know who they are, don’t we). But those good guys, if memory was at all operational, have at one time or another in the past been responsible for ethnic cleansing and widespread summary executions, as Bush’s “surge” enabled as has aptly been described many times on these pages.

    The “what’s next” of re-taking a damaged, depopulated city ignores the huge differences between set-piece/ground-held warfare and guerrilla warfare. How Americans can manage to lionize its Revolutionary War irregulars picking off British assets and ignore the modern situations where it repeatedly puts itself into the redcoats position is a study in cognitive dissonance. Technology keeps supplying new silver bullets that get tried one by one, but looking at Iraq today it’s hard to find evidence that any of them were better used than left unused in the box.

    A non-functional city is more like a lesion of gangrene that if not immediately repaired with outside help simply and remorselessly expands. A “victory” or retaking is more like Stalingrad for the Germans than not, offering more places than before to hide.

  5. The Bush regime undertook the direct “kinetic” reorganization of the Middle East under an assortment of necessarily mendacious pretexts (not even the U.S. will admit to the unambiguous war crime of gratuitous aggressive war). Having cracked the Iraq nut open using a strategy of an “accumulated evil of the whole”: fomented sectarian strife, Abu Ghraib, the devastation of Fallujah and other cities, destruction of all previously functioning public insitutions, etc., they shift under Obama, either contingently or per the original strategy, to a continuation of the strategy of “kinetic reorganization” this time by proxy, by the counter-dialectic of an “unforeseen” foil to the thus “comparatively good” American occupation: the ultra-barbarous ISIS occupation of Iraq. This dramatic shift in the direct cause of the “accumulated evil of the whole of the crimes” of occupation propagandistically lets the U.S. off the hook at least from that point on for the kinetic reorganization of Iraq, which continues apace/enters a new, more intense/accelerated stage, one in which U.S. guilt for the “supreme international crime,” the crime of aggressive war, recedes from public consciousness in the face of the unimaginable enormity of ISIS’s own crimes, which cause the U.S’s to be as nothing in comparison, when in reality the U.S. has superseded the “supreme international crime” by orchestrating a metastatic expansion of this crime, of the “accumulated evil of the whole” on an ever expanding scale via the invisible and unimplicatable proxy that is ISIS and other terrorist groups and their masters in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Perhaps the dialectic will turn again under a potential Republican president, and the U.S. will directly kinetically return to Iraq to “save” what is left of Iraq fromthe hordes of ISIS and finally complete the reorganization of the irreversibly fragmented country, along with that of an irreversibly fragmented Syria.

  6. some say “if we kew then what we know now”, others say” but we knew then what we know now”. i say” if we knew then why don’t we know now?” . stop bombing these people. it is their home. it costs a lot of money and it is totally destructive with no purpose. these people will wait us out just like the vietnamese did in their tunnels. they have lived in this territory for many thousands of years. a decade means nothing to them. nobody an explain why we invaded iraq back then or now. so why are we still bombing ramadi 12 years after we started our unprovoked and inexplicable invasion? stop the madness!

  7. If you look up the meaning of “cluster f&%K” in the dictionary, you’ll see “the American invasion of Iraq” as the very first definition.

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