The Islamic State (ISIS) on Sunday took over the city of Ramadi in one of the last provinces held by government forces, but the Pentagon said Iraqi forces, aided by the U.S. Army, “will take it back later.” But it might need Iran’s help.
A call by the Sunni Muslim government for Shi’ite Muslims to help take back the city is feared by many Sunni Muslims as opening the door for Iran to take over Iraq.
The ISIS executed 503 civilians and soldiers, according to an Iraqi officials in the province of Anbar where Ramadi is located. Iraqi special forces fled the city after more than a dozen fighters were killed by suicide car bombers and before others might become more victims of beheading by the ISIS forces.
The fall of Ramadi followed jubilant announcements the past several weeks that the leader of the Islamic State was seriously wounded and that a deputy commander also was eliminated.
But for every ISIS terrorist who is killed, 10 more replacements come out of the woodwork for the funeral.
The fall of Ramadi is a major setback for the American-aided Iraqi government, but the Pentagon played down the loss and only admitted that it gave the ISIS a “propaganda boost” but defeat
“Ramadi has been contested since last summer and ISIL now has the advantage,” Pentagon “just means the coalition will have to support Iraqi forces to take it back later,” according to Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry could not call the fall of Ramadi a loss. The city “simply target of opportunity,” he commented.
Iranian-backed Shi’ite forces already have answered the call of the Sunni Muslim leader of Anbar. A Shi’ite spokesman said Monday that its fighters will charge in to Ramadi and re-take the city, which is located only 100 miles from Baghdad.
If the Shi’ites succeed, it could be a step towards an Iranian takeover of Iraq and an eventual Iranian Shi’ite Caliphate instead of an ISIS Caliphate in the Arab Middle East .
David Petraeus, who commanded US troops in Iraq during 2007-2008, told the Washington Post in an interview:
If Daesh [ISIS] is driven from Iraq and the consequence is that Iranian-backed militias emerge as the most powerful force in the country – eclipsing the Iraqi security forces, much as Hezbollah does in Lebanon – that would be a very harmful outcome for Iraqi stability and sovereignty, not to mention our own national interests in the region.
Sunni Muslim leaders, especially Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, might go into action against the prospect of an Iranian-backed Iraq, just as they are doing Yemen where Saudi Arabia-led forces have resumed bombing of Iranian-backed Houthi forces after a five-day humanitarian cease-fire.
U.S. officials have acknowledged that Iran-supported Shiite violence in Iraq and Yemen has been influencing the talks between the U.S. and Iran on the latter’s nuclear program, AFP reported.
Secretary of State John Kerry said before his Monday talk with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that he was “confident that Yemen will be mentioned certainly, because Iran is obviously a supportive party to the Houthis.”
Kerry told reporters: “I will certainly urge that everybody do their part to try to reduce the violence and allow the negotiations to begin,” putting the blame for the Yemen situation on “external parties and proxies.”
Iran and the P5+1 group are negotiating against the clock, which ticks its final tock on June 30.
Kerry and Zarif met at the home of Iran’s permanent representative to the UN, after both had addressed a UN conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Kerry told the conference that “the vast majority of the world has come to the conclusion — united around the belief that nuclear weapons should one day be eliminated. Today the race to nuclear arms that once sparked the fear of imminent Armageddon in billions of human beings and hearts, that has been supplanted in a wary but steady march… toward the promise of peace.”
That’s if one doesn’t count the Saudis, whose response to the U.S. treaty talks with Iran has been a vow to get its own nuclear weapons, most likely from Pakistan.
“If we can get there, the entire world will be safer,” Kerry insisted, not addressing the possibility of a Middle East nuclear arms race and war directly resulting from his success.
At a Republican Jewish Coalition dinner that was closed to the press and at which the attendees were reportedly told repeatedly not to transcribe his remarks, George W. Bush did something he was refrained from doing since leaving public office. He shared his views on the way his successor has handled foreign policy.
It happened at a dinner given by Sheldon and Miriam Adelson at a Republic Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas.
But at least one of the 800 people in the room, despite the repeated importunities to refrain, transcribed portions of what the former president said, and then shared them with the media. Both the New York Times and Bloomberg View published accounts based on those transcripts.
You ready to hear the big secret? That former president doesn’t think much about this current president’s decisions.
Take Obama’s foreign policy track record. Please. On Iraq, on Iran, on ISIS, on America’s role on the world stage, Bush was critical.
According to the press reports of the leaked “transcripts,” Bush thought Obama was too trusting of Iran’s intentions and to quick to relax sanctions on Tehran. Admitting that the current president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is certainly smoother than was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bush was doubtful that there has been any real change in ideology or in plans.
Bush did not have positive things to say about the rapidity with which U.S. troops were pulled out of Iraq in 2011, nor about Obama’s hands-off approach to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
As far as the ascent of ISIS, the former president described this barbaric terrorist group as “al Qaeda’s second act.”
The former president also took a shot at making some predictions regarding the upcoming U.S. presidential campaign. About former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Bush said she will have to make a choice as to whether she will run on the Obama administration’s policies or against them.
“If she defends them, she’s admitting failure,” he reportedly said, “but if she doesn’t, she’s blaming the president.”
On the Republican side, Bush said that foreign policy is going to be very important, and that “the test for Republicans running will be who has got the ‘courage’ to resist isolationist tendencies.”
Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been seriously wounded in an air strike in western Iraq, sources told the London Guardian Tuesday.
He was injured enough that he is not in control of daily operations of the terrorist organization. His wounds are not life-threatening, and he is recovering.
The newspaper’s diplomatic source in Iraq reported that a March 18 aerial attack in western Iraq, near the border with Syria, hit Baghdadi and set off plans to replace him in case he died.
This is the third time Baghdadi has been reported wounded or killed. Two previous reports last year proved false. One of them was a near-miss, when one of his close aides was killed by a missile shot from a plane.
The air raid in March struck a three-car convoy and may have killed three people.
Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi official who advises Baghdad on ISIS, told the Guardian: “Yes, he was wounded in al-Baaj near the village of Umm al-Rous on 18 March with a group that was with him.”
He added that Baghdadi intentionally was in an area that he knew the Americans had not mapped in the war in Iraq.
Even if Baghdadi were to be killed, there are other leaders who have taken more authority for strategic decisions, while Baghdadi remains the religious leader of the radical Islamists.
U.S. officials in the Middle East are on high alert after ISIS targeted the American Consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan Friday. Kurdish Peshmerga forces operate the security ring around the Consulate.
At 10:44 am local time a car bomb exploded just outside the gates of the US Consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, near Mosul. The city is considered the capital of the Kurdistan region and is located in the center of Kurdistan, with a population of approximately 1.5 million.
Da’esh, also known as the ISIS terror organization, took responsibility on Twitter for the suicide car bombing. Three civilians died in the attack, along with the bomber, and 18 others were injured.
All U.S. and Iraqi personnel were evacuated from the building and no injuries were reported, according to State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.
Although U.S. legislators and military officials are disputing the strategic significance of the target, no one is arguing about the proximity of the attack to Mosul, an ISIS stronghold. Nor is anyone disputing the fact that ISIS is also engaged in battling for control of the only oil refinery in Iraq that is not yet under its control.