Anbar Province Lost
Will the Syrian city of Palmyra be the next to fall to ISIS?
This week, the ISIS terrorist militia, which already controls most of Al-Anbar province in western Iraq, solidified its hold on the region by capturing Al-Anbar’s largest city, Ramadi. Iraqi soldiers, mostly composed of untrained and unmotivated Shiite troops did what they do best. They abandoned their motley collection of US supplied equipment and Russian hand-me-downs and fled east. Upon capturing Ramadi, ISIS too did what it does best and began indiscriminately slaughtering anyone who wasn’t Sunni as well as those Sunni tribal militia members thought to be allied with the Iraqi government.
Iraq’s pseudo government has called on allied foreign Shiite militia fighters, trained and armed by the Islamic Republic of Iran (the Shiite version of ISIS) to assist in an offensive aimed at recapturing the city. The introduction of this element into the combat zone underscores the deep sectarian nature of the fighting, pitting Iranian-backed, mostly Shiite militias against a well-funded and well-organized Sunni insurgency.
The United States described the loss of the strategically important city as a “setback.” That buffoonish characterization is demonstrative of just how far removed from reality the Obama administration has become. The seizure of Ramadi was disastrous for the Obama administration and epitomizes a failed foreign policy marked by vacillation, indifference and fecklessness.
When Obama took office in 2008, Iraq was by Arab standards, relatively stable. There were the usual bombings and shootings but things were returning to normal. The government, with U.S. military backing, was beginning to exercise some measure of control and the army was gaining confidence and performing better. The city of Ramadi, once a hotbed of insurgent activity, was pacified, largely as a result of military action taken during the 2007 surge, and Anbar was stable.
But the Obama administration allowed hard-won gains to slip away by setting definitive timeframes for troop withdrawals and ignoring sectarian transgressions by Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Compounding the error, the administration failed to identify and assist moderate anti-Assad rebels in Syria early on in that nation’s civil war, allowing more extreme elements, supplied and financed by Qatar and Turkey, to flourish.
Moreover, the CIA and State Department received and ignored intelligence reports warning that ISIS posed a credible strategic threat long before ISIS morphed into the juggernaut menace that it is today. That assessment, issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency, was made 17 months before President Obama dismissively referred to ISIS as the “JV team.”
While Anbar burns and Iraq falls further under the influence of extremist Sunni and Shiite factions, ISIS is on the offensive in Syria, threatening to take the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. The city’s historic archeological ruins have been designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
ISIS has already seized control of two critically important gas fields to the city’s north-east and the terrorist group now controls one-third of the city. Assad’s troops, who excel at inflicting civilian casualties and not much else, have retreated to the city’s center. If ISIS succeeds in capturing the city -- and that possibility appears very real -- there is a genuine concern that it will lay to waste the city’s historic archeological sites as it did to Iraq’s Nineveh, Hatra and Nimrud.
The loss of Palmyra would represent another blow for the Assad regime which has experienced a string of setbacks in the northern and southern parts of the country this past month. Iran’s Shiite proxy Hezbollah, which has been instrumental in propping up Assad’s ailing and increasingly demoralized army has itself suffered heavy casualties in the last few weeks, sustaining at least 250 killed in battles against anti-Assad forces in the Qalamoun Mountain range.
The Obama administration has been conducting a farcical campaign in both Syria and Iraq. Its airstrikes have not prevented ISIS from carrying out large scale attacks like those recently witnessed in Ramadi and Palmyra. It continues to allow Assad to indiscriminately shell civilian areas and employ chlorine gas without repercussion. Obama attempted to justify his passivity by almost comically stating that chlorine has not "historically" been considered a chemical weapon. Try telling that to those blinded, burned or killed as a result of Assad’s chlorine gas poisoning.
Interestingly, while the Muslim Middle East is in a state of utter chaos and Shiite-Sunni rivalry has never been greater, the administration has chosen to direct its negative energies on the region’s only stable democracy, Israel. Top administration officials have repeatedly referred to Israel’s “occupation” of Judea & Samaria as the source of the region’s troubles, as if those troubles would somehow magically disappear once the Arabs get their 22nd dysfunctional state on parts of Israel’s ancestral land.
Meanwhile, while Obama twiddles his thumbs and is paralyzed by indecision, ISIS continues its slaughter of Christians, Yazidis and fellow Muslims, Assad continues to gas his own people while Iran continues to dominate the region exporting terror to Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.
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