The end of the Beginning: The Fall of ISIL in Fallujah

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

After Montgomery and his troops defeated the Germans and Italians at El Alamain in northern Egypt in 1942, Winston Churchill was relieved finally to have some good news after a string of defeats. He said, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi announced on Friday that Iraqi troops had captured the governmental complex in the center of Fallujah. The Lebanese newspaper al-Nahar (The Day) reports that the Iraqi army also took the eastern and southern districts of the city.

Only some residential neighborhoods in northern Fallujah remain in the hands of Daesh (ISIS, ISIL). There, however, sources told al-Nahar that Daesh still rules with an iron fist, in the districts of Jolan, al-Muhandis, al-Wahda, al-Jumhuria and al-Andalus in the north. A source inside the city said Friday that it was nevertheless possible that the neighborhoods would fall to the Iraqi government within hours.

The image of invincibility and the projection of power that Daesh has striven for during the past two years has been shattered, the Iraqi source in Fallujah said, at the hands of the various Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi war information bureau said that a counter-terrorism unit liberated the district of Nizal entirely after imposing severe losses on the Daesh fighters. Meanwhile, the 17th Infantry Division, a Baghdad formation, continued to advance and it succeeded in liberating al-Ursan district entirely, and in securing the left bank of the Euphrates.

It also announced that units of the national gendarmes liberated the governor’s mansion for the county of Fallujah in the center of the city and raised the Iraqi flag over it. Dozens of Daesh guerrillas were killed in the confrontations. The government forces advanced to Baghdad Street, expelling the enemy. Battles continue as the army seeks to fulfill all its objectives. Fighting continues as the counter-terrorism division seeks to take Fallujah Hospital.

Iran’s Arabic-language al-Alam [The World] reported on al-Abadi’s television address, in which he announced that Fallujah had returned to the bosom of the nation, and that shortly Daesh would be completely expelled from the city. He said, “Our forces fulfilled their pledge, and liberated Fallujah, and next we will head to Mosul.”

He called on all the institutions of the state to exert every effort to take care of the civilians and to deliver humanitarian aid, as well as to be careful of people’s property and homes. He said, “today is a day of forgiveness.” (He meant that although many Fallujans may have collaborated with Daesh because they saw it as savior of Sunnis, they should not now be punished, in the interests of bringing all Iraqis together under the banner of the central government.

He said that Daesh had “no place in Iraq.”

Having taken Tikrit, Ramadi, Hit and Fallujah, the Iraqi government has over the past 2 years decisively rolled bak Daesh. It is now virtually besieged in Mosul, which is landlocked and increasingly surrounded.

As a governmental entity, I wouldn’t give Daesh more than a year. As a terrorist organization, it can be both long-lived and deadly.


Related video:

CBS This Morning: “Iraq troops push into center of ISIS-held Fallujah”


Posted in Featured,Iraq | 15 Responses | Print |

15 Responses

  1. I have to wonder whether the cost of recovering territory from Daesh/ISIL, and the greater cost of ensuing Sunni insurgency there, will have taught Iraq the lesson that excluding minorities from participation results in costly insurgency.

    If Daesh/ISIL is forced back into insurgency mode, and Iraq continues to deprive Sunnis of self-determination, as seems very likely, won’t Iraq be back to 2007 indefinitely?

    • it is not sunni insurgency that will keep the struggle going, It is the financing support from the oil sunni gulf states that are keeping the flame going. Once you stop the financing, the insurgency is over.

      • You are much too optimistic. An insurgency does not need all the financing that setting up and running a government with territory does. An insurgency can be done on the cheap. There are many historical examples of this. The key is the effectiveness and legitimacy of the Iraqi government. If they continue to discriminate against Sunnis, the chances of insurgency remain high.

      • Not if you don’t stop the underlying cause of Sunni discontent, which appears to be denial of participation. Denying them one source of support for insurgency does not address the problem.

        It was the same in Vietnam. The US pretended that external powers were the problem. The problem was US denial of an end to colonialism (and its own dictatorships which appeared the same to the Vietnamese), very deeply desired by Vietnamese nationalists. So the US supported a doomed regime and cause the death of millions, simply because it assumed that the problem was military and caused by its own competitors, ignoring the underlying causes.

        Those are seductive assumptions not based upon fact.

  2. who is going to govern? who is going to police? who is going to rebuild?

    it is not over.

    sunni militants are in it for the long haul. 2003 to now. ebb and flow, repeat.

  3. El Alamein was not “the end of the beginning of WW2”. That was the check of the Wehrmacht at Moscow in 1941. And the check at Stalingrad preceded El Alamein too.
    The loss of territory is lethal for the new Caliph because his authority is largely based on the territory he controls. Moreover the Caliph is expected to enlarge that territory every spring. That has not been greatly successful either this year.
    A Caliphate is and will remain attractive as it reminds young people of the region of the glory days of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (not a real Caliph though; wrong family) who scared the bejabbers out of Christendom until he was checked at Vienna.
    Our kids are rarely if ever taught who that Sultan was. I am absolutely sure that the great majority of the kids in Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc know who he was and there is the problem for the future no matter how many Fallujahs will fall.

  4. Hopefully, someone someday will write an honest history of Fallujah. Surely, it is one of the most tragic stories that could every be told. In the meantime, where is the Picasso to present to the world a representation of its present tragedy?

  5. Hundreds of thousands (if not in the millions) of Muslims have been killed, injured, millions turned into refugees as the US etc (Assad, Isis, Al Qeada) have all turned the middle east into a raging human disaster. Shameful…Horrendously shameful

    • We justly speak of the horrendous Muslim casualties but not a word about the 50,000 Americans, middle-class and lower middle-class young men and women who knew little to nothing of the post-WWII history of the Middle-East and who by and large had to trust their military and political leaders to do the right thing. Let us not forget those victims either.

  6. I would say that the ‘check of the Wehrmacht’ at he gates of Moscow and then at Stalingrad, was the beginning of the end for Hitler. A protracted end no doubt. The end for ISIL is less certain.

  7. Wonder what the progress is on the supposed political reforms that al-Abadi had promised.

    With the latest events in Bahrain, where the Shia opposition party has been suspended by the Sunni minority govt and activists have been arrested, I fear some of the Iraqi militias might not heed al-Abadi.

  8. ISIS/ISIL made a large strategic mistake by setting up a caliphate with a set territory and government. What they did was to establish themselves as a target. They were going to be defeated eventually unless the Iraqi government had collapsed. As long as that didn’t happen, their defeat was inevitable; it was only a matter of time. The biggest mistake a rebellion or insurgency can make is to go too soon to regular military actions instead of guerrilla war. The leaders of ISIS were unrealistic and didn’t study the lessons of history.

  9. I have been following the re-taking of Iraq back from ISIS, by the Iraqi govt forces and I have never read of prisoners being taken. Are there no POWs in this war?

  10. Insurgent forces like IS will never be defeated until the hatred that most Arabs and Muslims have for the United States and Israel is resolved. This can only come about if the U.S. stops funding Israel, thief by settlements in the land of the Palestinians.

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