The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said there can be “no sugarcoating” the fall of Ramadi despite administration assurances that the ISIS victory isn’t as serious as it appears.
“It’s a serious setback… It means, I think, we really have to redouble our efforts to get the Baghdad government to incorporate the Sunnis more fully in the military, to help better arm the Sunni tribes and give them more encouragement to rise up and challenge ISIS,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told CNN.
“I don’t think the answer is more Iranian-backed Shia militias. And I don’t think the answer is American boots on the ground, but rather addressing some of the sectarian problems that have yet to peel the Sunni tribes away from ISIS.”
The Iran-backed militias have moved in on the area between Ramadi and Baghdad but ISIS has been pressing its offensive east instead of keeping its forces concentrated in the city.
“But I think we also have to look at how ISIS has exploited this, because it wasn’t just Saddam who kept a lid on this. It’s also the fact that ISIS purposely went out and tried to stir up these sectarian instincts and frictions and divisions by blowing up Shia mosques, by antagonizing and killing the Shia,” Schiff said.
Ramadi’s fall is “harmful to the cause, and it’s something we’re going have to overcome,” he said. “And it’s part of the seesaw nature of this conflict. I think, as Ambassador Rice points out, this is going to be a long slog.”
“When you look at it overall, we have shrunk the amount of territory in Iraq that ISIS controls. That’s positive. But yet, at the same point, we’re way far away from any kind of a retaking of Mosul. And now we have got to retake Ramadi. And the challenges are extraordinary. But I don’t think that means we can back away from a commitment to the Iraqi government and helping to arm these Sunni tribes to combat the scourge.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told MSNBC today “there’s no way to say this is a success.”
“And the fact that we’re in the 10th month of a war that the U.S. started August 8th and there hasn’t been any meaningful debate in the House and, save for one committee vote in the Senate in December, there’s not been any meaningful debate about Congress trying to work with the executive to scope U.S. involvement and define the mission, so we can support the troops there risking their lives,” Kaine added. “What this last weekend showed is that, with urgency now, Congress should be addressing this.”