May 20, 2015

ANNALS OF SMART DIPLOMACY: The Ugly Dilemma in Ramadi.

Following the fall of Ramadi to ISIS this weekend, Iraq is launching a counterattack spearheaded by Shi’a militias that had previously been uninvolved in the fighting. . . .

By all accounts, the Iraqi Army, or ISF, collapsed in the defense of Ramadi, just as it has time and again against ISIS previously, abandoning arms and armor to the enemy as it fled. The Shi’a militias are a more feared fighting force, and they outnumber the ISF by a significant margin. They had been held back, however, because Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, lies in the heart of Sunni Iraq—and the Shi’a militias have been repeatedly, credibly accused of perpetrating sectarian massacres. And there is also the inconvenient fact that many if not most of them have strong links to Iran.
Now the Obama Administration, not to say the Iraqi government, is on the horns of an ugly dilemma. If Ramadi is not recaptured, Sunni Iraq will have slipped to ISIS, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men may never be able to put Iraq back together again. On the other hand, if the U.S. backs the militias’ advance, it may well be party to ethnic bloodshed that will put the killings after the fall of Tikrit to pale. Thus, even if the militas do retake Ramadi the methods they employ could so deeply antagonize the non-ISIS-supporting elements of the Sunni population as to have the same result: no more Iraq.

While publicly the Administration and the Pentagon have started to sound a bit like Baghdad Bob, Administration officials have anonymously begun voicing their unease with the situation, in one instance describing Ramadi as a “powder keg” noting that there is a potential for things to go “very, very badly.”

Well, we’ve had lousy leadership since 2009.

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