If Defeating ISIL/ Daesh is so imp’t, why isn’t Ramadi Campaign all we’re talking about?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Given the large number of vehement pronouncements by US presidential candidates about the dire threat from Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), and attacks on President Obama for not doing more, you would think that the American public would be hanging on every word about any progress against the radical organization. Ted Cruz is even talking about using nuclear weapons in this fight!

And yet the slow, grinding, but increasingly successful struggle of the Iraqi government and its allies against Daesh in the major city of Ramadi has been curiously slighted on US television news.

Ramadi fell to Daesh last spring, soon after the Iraqi government took Tikrit, a large Sunni city north of Baghdad with a population before 2014 of some 500,000, away from the radicals. Ramadi is capital of largely Sunni Arabi al-Anbar province. Most people in Ramadi have by now fled the city, leaving behind perhaps some 15,000 trapped there by 1,000 Daesh fighters. The Iraqi military and its Shiite militia allies surrounded Ramadi and have largely cut Daesh off from resupply of arms and ammunition.

It is unacceptable to Iraqi Shiites, the majority, for Daesh to control Ramadi because of its proximity to the Shiite shrine city of Karbala.

But it is being reported that the lead in Ramadi is being taken by US-trained regular Iraqi troops supported by both Shiite militias and some Sunni clansmen.

The Tikrit campaign had been a military success but a political failure, since it was mainly spearheaded by Shiite militias, who committed reprisals once they took that city. Most of Tikrit’s population appears to have fled, and it is still something of a ghost town. The retaking of Ramadi can’t look like that of Tikrit if it is to be a political as well as military success.

The Iraqi government announced Tuesday that the entirety of al-Ta’mim district in the southwest has been captured, after Daesh was softened up by artillery barrages and aerial bombardment. The Iraqi military says it has entered the city center and has captured the city’s Operations Command center.

The spokesman for the army said that the campaign would likely take another two weeks or so to completely liberate the city. Such projections should be taken with a grain of salt, since this campaign began in the middle of last summer and is only now showing substantial progress. But that the government will win in Ramadi over time seems assured. The US military had said at the beginning of December that this campaign would stretch on for months, and the US seems to have been surprised at the Iraqi military breakthrough.

On Wednesday, Daesh fighters attempted to counter-attack in the city center, but fierce US bombardment and determined Iraqi government resistance pushed them back and consolidated Baghdad’s hold. It is a good sign that Iraqi troops are holding their ground now, in contrast to summer of 2014 when those garrisoned in Mosul just ran away from Daesh.

Now that victory is within sight, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is offering US helicopter gunships to finish Daesh off in Ramadi.

If Daesh loses Ramadi, its hold on al-Anbar province generally will be much weakened. Iraqi forces operating north of Ramadi have begun the work of cutting off supply lines to Daesh positions in Syria. Ultimately, Mosul will be cut off, surrounded and invested.

The end of Daesh militarily can be envisioned. But unless the Iraqi government becomes more inclusive and politics successfully with Iraqi Sunnis (and spends some of its billions in oil income to rebuild their cities), then radicalization will remain a threat.

Meanwhile, critics of President Obama’s plan, set out 18 months ago– which involved training of Iraqi troops and rebuilding the Iraqi army and the offer of close air support to them– may have to eat some crow. That is, they may have to if US cable news bothers to notice that out there in the real world, Daesh is facing another major setback, after its losses of Tikrit, the refinery town of Beiji, and the Kurdish area of Sinjar.


Related video:

PressTV: “Footage of Iraqi army house to house search for terrorists in Ramadi”

17 Responses

  1. Another excellent report on the current state of reality among human beings, thank you so much Juan, your donation is coming. (I have realized that I have to pay for better media to continue to exist in the current environment. Do support your favorite web publishers on the political and cultural left!)

    Asking for “US cable news” to “bother… to notice that out there in the real world” actual news actually exists that viewers might actually be interested in, must, unfortunately, be counted as an act of folly. American mainstream media of all types have proved over and over that any story lines not approved by the politico-corporate masters will be ruthlessly ignored and unmentioned.

  2. It is ignored because it does not fit the narrative that corporate media wants told. War is money so it’s in their interest to keep it going.

  3. … why isn’t Ramadi Campaign all we’re talking about?

    Probably for some reason similar to corporate media making an enormous issue about Trump’s exclusion of Syrian refugees while say next to nothing about the warmongers running for president who are apparently prepared to add another decade or two of war to our 240-year history of almost continuous war.

  4. Hey Prof. Juan –
    My donation is on the way too. Looking forward to reading “The New Arabs.”
    Reporting and analysis such as yours should be the norm, but unfortunately is not – and thus the country wallows in ignorance.

  5. Thanks for bringing us up to date since few others bother. This shows once again that the rhetoric is all about politics and is divorced from reality, as is so often the case with Republicans.

  6. i have also been disappointed by the lack of reporting on the success of the Kurds in the north.

    I understand why it is in the interests of the Republican fools, I mean Presidential candidates to downplay successes in the fight against ISIS. But why don’t the broadcast media have reporters stationed permanently in Erbil?

    Oh right, that would cost money.

    And it is so much easier and cheaper to simply regurgitate nonsense from the Trump and the other fools.

  7. re Tikrit, reports I saw suggested that the reprisals were mostly Sunni on Sunni (tribes that had sided with ISIS were prevented from returning by those who had resisted and suffered ISIS punishment). A key issue for Sunnis is that they are fragmented politically in the face of the more numerous and united Shi’a and Kurds (noting that both the latter have their factions).

  8. It’s not being mentioned because it an utter disaster. The Iraqi Army, that we have trained and equipped for the third time, can’t clear 1000 fighters out of a bomber out ghost town even with U S air support is just another failure in our ever failing oil wars.
    I can’t see how you can call this a sucess

  9. Hi Juan
    I’m asking you this because you seem like a straight shooter and I can’t find the answer anywhere else.
    I don’t understand the difficulty in shutting down ISIS’s funding. Surely all the Western countries, with their sophisticated air-power can target oil fields, pipelines and convoys. So, if we were serious about fighting ISIS in the beginning, it seems like a simple matter to cripple their oil fields. Also, if we were serious about fighting ISIS, it seems we could have easily tracked the financial backers of the group and frozen their funds. I’m assuming that the reason these things were not done is that ISIS is primarily backed by the Saudies, who are fighting a proxy war against the Iranians, like they always are. So, although our elected officials make a lot of saber-rattling noises, we are not really committed to defeating ISIS, but rather are playing some kind of game in which we are hedging our bets. Do the Saudis really have so much influence over US foreign policy that they can fund groups who behead American citizens? It seems to me that there’s no army that can survive if the American military truly goes to war against it. Maybe this is what gives Trump credibility – the public knows that we are only taking half-measures against ISIS, and the reason why can never be spoken. At least Donald Trump speaks. I’ve noticed the even he tiptoes around this subject, usually saying only “you know who I’m talking about” but shying away from openly accusing the Saudis of backing ISIS.
    Anyway, I’d appreciate any light you can shed on this subject, because all the protestations of American impotence don’t make sense to me, with all our satellites and drones and NSA surveillance and financial clout.

    • if you destroy the oil infrastructure you harm e.g. Iraq when it takes that territory back– Baghdad won’t get that revenue. So you’re harming an ally in the future to accelerate victory now.

    • It seems to me that there’s no army that can survive if the American military truly goes to war against it.

      You might want to think that one over, Ben, unless by “truly going to war” you mean resorting to nukes. Our military stopped short of nukes in Vietnam and, to put it euphemistically, didn’t win there. Except for Panama, Grenada and the “turkey shoot” in southern Iraq during Desert Storm our military hasn’t won anywhere since WW2.

      • I am just trying to get accurate information so I can make sense of what’s going on. My government is telling me they are doing all they can to fight ISIS, an organization that routinely beheads Americans, among others. Yet it appears that protecting oil supplies for a (dubious) ally (in the future) was a higher priority than doing all we could to defeat this group in the present. And that doesn’t make sense to me. It makes me think my government is not telling me the truth.

  10. Professor Cole;
    The U S Government has no allies in the region, we are fighting an imperialistic war to control the oil. The same Neocon fantasy that drove Bush/Cheney to invade Iraq to steal the oil is working in Obama when he tries to win favor with our teetering semi-puppet Shiite government in Iraq by bombing the Sunni cities to rubble, killing thousands of innocent civilians and driving the survivors out.
    One of my strongest memories of Vietnam is the smoldering upper torso of a child in the ruins of a village after an American air strike. After seeing that I just can’t cheer American Air Strikes like you do.
    We are choking our Planet to death with oil and killing millions of people fighting over what’s left of it. If we don’t get off oil and develop sustainable energy sources out Civilization will surly collapse.
    With that in mind I really can’t cheer our latest great bombing success.

  11. Thank you for answering my question. Let me see if I have this right: until the Paris attacks, it was American policy to let ISIS fund itself through the sale of oil, because some day the oil wells would be back in Iraqi hands. But, after Paris, we decided that it was more important to choke off iSIS immediately and worry about the oilfields at a later date. Was it a mistake not to go after the oil fields earlier? Did we miscalculate the danger ISIS presented. Or was our hand forced by the attack in Paris to make a show of strength? And I’m still wondering about the Saudi role – am I right to see this as a proxy war?
    Thanks, again, Juan.

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