It was hard not to feel good about news that Iraqi forces backed by U.S. military retook Ramadi, a key Iraqi city, from Islamic State militants despite the cautious words from top Obama administration officials.
“While Ramadi is not yet fully secure and additional parts of the city still must be retaken, Iraq’s national flag now flies above the provincial government center and enemy forces have suffered a major defeat,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement.
The mission to defeat ISIS remains long and unpredictable.
But after a year of seemingly endless bad news about the fight against ISIS – not the least of which was the brutal and deadly mass shooting of civilians at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California by a radicalized Muslim couple – it feels good to hold onto this moment of hope.
The Importance of Retaking Ramadi
The Editorial Board – The New York Times
The Ramadi battle was at least a partial vindication for Iraq’s army, which humiliated itself by abandoning Mosul as the Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim group, advanced….
Since then, President Obama has increased the level of American troops in Iraq to 3,500, some of whom have worked to retrain and reorganize the Iraqi forces. The Americans and Iraqis put in place critical military changes for the Ramadi offensive….
Most significantly, American and Iraqi officers excluded Iran-allied Shiite militias from the battle for Ramadi to avoid aggravating sectarian and ethnic tensions. Kurdish troops, who have performed well in other battles, were also excluded, presumably so the army could succeed without their assistance. Instead, American advisers helped train thousands of local Sunni tribal fighters, who oppose the Islamic State, to secure neighborhoods captured from the militants. If this alliance between the Shiite-dominated Iraqi Army and the Sunni tribes holds, it could undercut the Islamic State’s appeal to the Sunni minority.
Recapture of Ramadi Is a Significant Victory Against the Islamic State
The Editorial Board – The Washington Post
The flip side of this positive news is that the United States and its allies may be nearing the limit of what they can do to destroy the Islamic State without cracking the big problem at the center of the war. That is the absence of a moderate Sunni political alternative or cohesive fighting force in either Iraq or Syria….
President Obama has slowly and belatedly approved incremental steps to strengthen the military campaign, including the dispatching of Special Operations forces to Syria and Iraq and the stepping-up of air operations.
But his strategy for cracking the Sunni political problem now centers on an effort by Secretary of State John F. Kerry to enlist Russia and Iran in support of a Syrian political settlement. That long shot is unlikely to succeed without actions on the ground that Mr. Obama still resists, such as the creation of protected zones in Syria. In Iraq, the United States should give Mr. Abadi a choice between forging new compacts with Sunnis and Kurds, and watching as the United States does so without going through Baghdad.
The Capture of Ramadi From Islamic State
The Editorial Board – Chicago Tribune
If the Iraqis hold Ramadi, look for Sunni tribes and police to handle security. That’s life in deeply divided Iraq, but potentially a good sign. Iraq’s Sunnis must feel invested in their country’s future for it to succeed.
Meanwhile, there’s Syria, the heart of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate, riven by a civil war complicated by Russia’s efforts to prop up the brutal dictator Bashar Assad. Though the U.N. Security Council this month approved a resolution outlining a peace process for Syria, the U.S. and Russia remain at odds over the future of Assad. For now, applaud the victory in Ramadi over Islamic State and hope it holds. There is a long battle to go against a terrorist force that threatens the civilized world.
Retaking Ramadi Important Because ‘It’s All About Psychology’
Charles Krauthammer – The National Review
The more you get reports and stories of ISIS losing Sinjar, losing — there’s a dam in the north of Syria which was recaptured by the rebels with the Kurds, lost by ISIS, it was a source of electricity, it’s a source of power, it cuts off some of their routes. The fact that you have Ramadi and other areas. If the story line changes to ISIS, which had expanded exponentially over 18 months, is now shrinking and retreating that, I think, is a huge psychological blow.