In last week’s article I mentioned that Iraq has been in turmoil since the Obama Administration removed American military forces out of the country in 2011. The civil war going on in that country today is escalating rapidly and a lot faster than I had imagined, and by the time last week’s article was published the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi had been taken over by an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
While Saddam Hussein was in power the Sunni minority ruled Iraq, but when the U. S. led invasion toppled Hussein the Shiite majority gained control. Anbar province, where Fallujah and Ramadi are located, borders Syria and Jordon, and its population is almost entirely Sunni. It was in Anbar province where Al-Qaeda first established a branch in Iraq.
Al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, the ISIL, has been feeding on Sunni discontent since 2009 when American forces captured Fallujah and Ramadi. It is these Sunni rebels who are fighting Basher Assad’s forces in Syria, and it is important to realize that the Assad government is supported by a Shiite offshoot. Thus what is going on in that region is a continuing struggle for power between Shiite and Sunni, which has been going on for some 1400 years.
It took the ISIL about three days to capture Fallujah and it was controlled by them by Friday, January 3rd. After raising the black flags of Al-Qaeda, the conquers went into the streets and tried to win the support of the population.
By Sunday Iraqi troops and police had surrounded the city, and in a strange twist of fate the Shiite controlled troops were being joined by some Sunni tribesmen who turned against Al-Qaeda prior to the American withdrawal, but who also do not support the Shiite-led government. I guess the tribesmen hate Al-Qaeda worse than the Shiites.
By Monday Iraq’s prime minister was urging the residents of Fallujah and Ramadi to “expel” Al-Qaeda from those two cities. On Monday morning a report came out that 22 soldiers and 12 civilians had been killed in the fighting. This report was soon followed by a report that Iran was offering to help the Iraqi military with equipment and advisers, if Baghdad asked for it.
The U. S. State Department expressed concern over the developments in Iraq, saying it would continue to work with Iraqi authorities “to defeat our common enemy.” Secretary of State John Kerry said that Washington was “very, very concerned” by these developments but would not send American troops back into Iraq.
I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with the Secretary of State. The Obama Administration has made such a mess in the entire Middle East that sending troops back into that region would be a huge mistake. Sunni and Shiite Muslims have been killing each other for centuries and I expect the entire Middle East to be in turmoil for another thirty years.
General Rasheed Fleih, who leads the Iraqi army’s Anbar Military Command, said that “two or three days” are needed to remove the militants out of Fallujah and Ramadi. If he is correct, this fight could be over by Friday, but I think this fight will go on a little longer.
Quote for the Week: “An old lion is better than a young ass, and more to be feared.”---Unknown.