IS tightening the noose on Iraq

By John J. Metzler

The fall of the critically important city of Ramadi to Islamic State terrorists, the widening humanitarian crisis throughout the country involving millions of displaced persons and the continuing pressures on a still-fragile central government in Baghdad bode ill for Iraq’s future stability and security. These setbacks for the beleaguered Baghdad government equally shadow Washington where the Obama administration appears in denial over the depth of this crisis.

The sectarian Islamic fault lines between Iraq’s Shiite majority and the Sunni minority form a large part of the underlying issue; but so is the determined and focused assault by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria striving to create a radical Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS) gains from the Iraqi government’s own sectarian favoritism and infighting.

Unquestionably, the Obama administration’s politically expedient pullout from Iraq in 2011 has caused a power vacuum being filled both by IS (a Sunni faction) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (supporting the Shiite majority). Moreover Team Obama seriously underrated IS, calling the group, a ��junior varsity�� terrorist organization. Over the past year, Islamic State has blitzed through northern Iraq and large parts of Syria, widened its reach and seized cities such as Mosul and now Ramadi.

The Iraqi army, for the most part, caved in and collapsed. To their enduring credit, the tough Kurdish persmerga fighters have been the only fire-break to the onslaught. In some areas, IS has been beaten back but the overall picture remains grim. American Special Forces and Air Force strikes have been unable to stem the tide.

‘Far from being defeated’ Jan Kubis, the U.N.’s tough point man in Iraq, put the matter bluntly before the Security Council: ��(IS) is far from being defeated and government gains remain at times fragile. An ability to liberate a city, territory, doesn’t necessarily mean an ability to hold it.�� In Ramadi, some 120,000 civilians fled the city to seek safety from the onslaught. Dr. Kubis added, ��Vast areas of Iraq and millions of Iraqis remain under (IS) control and influence which continues to perpetrate horrendous crimes and human rights violations against the Iraqi people.�� Kubis added, ��(IS) recently added to their crimes the barbaric destruction of Iraq’s cultural and historic heritage in another attempt to destroy its national identity.��