The knuckle-dragging yahoos who make up the barbaric Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS, also known as ISIL or IS] have captured the city of Ramadi in Iraq. Ramadi is the capital of the heavily Sunni province of Anbar. It is also just 80 miles from Baghdad. The Iraqi army offered virtually no resistance and fled as the black flags of ISIS entered the city. In response to the fall of the city and the failure of its official army, the government in Baghdad has ordered the various Shi’ite militias that will follow its commands to retake the city. This is about as bad as things can get for Iraq.
The success of ISIS in Iraq has been a huge disappointment for those who thought that the Iraqi government and army amounted to anything. US training and equipment, all the hand holding since the fall of Saddam Hussein counted for nothing. While US special forces entered ISIS-held Syria and killed the man in charge of its oil and gas revenues, US air support for the Iraqi army in Ramadi made no difference at all. The Iraqi army simply will not fight.
That leaves the Baghdad government with two options, find another source of military power or flee the country. For years, the other source of military power has been the Shi’ite militias, supported in large part by Iran. Reuters reports, “A column of 3,000 Shi’ite militia fighters arrived at a military base near Ramadi on Monday as Baghdad moved to retake the western Iraqi city that has fallen to Islamic State militants in the biggest defeat for the government since mid-2014.”
The wire service added, “The Shi’ite militia, known as Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilisation, was ordered to mobilize after the city, the capital of Anbar province, was overrun on Sunday. The militiamen give the government far more capability to launch a counterattack, but their arrival could add to sectarian animosity in one of the most violent parts of Iraq.”
The problem lies in the fact that the Sunni of Anbar neither like nor trust the Shi’ites. The Shi’ite fighters were “not very welcome,” Tarik al-Abdullah, secretary-general of a council of provincial leaders in Anbar, told Al Jazeera Monday. Sheikh Ali Hamad, another Sunni tribal leader from Anbar who was living in exile in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, said that the Iraqi government was aiming to defeat Sunnis in Anbar. “They wanted to destroy this citadel and break its walls so that the Hashid [Shiite militia] could enter in order to spread Shi’ism.”
By the same token, not many of them really like the idea of life under ISIS. While they prefer living under a Sunni government to a Shi’ite one, ISIS is more than excessive in its interpretation of the Sunni version of Islam. To a great many of them, being liberated from ISIS by the Shi’ites is akin to being liberated from the Nazis by the Communists.
Thousands have fled Ramadi for Baghdad, where they are treated with suspicion at best. A report in theNational Post stated, “Families complain that some of the displaced have been turned back from Baghdad, where a strict sponsorship system is in place, requiring families to have a guarantor in the city to vouch for them before they enter. ‘hey treat them like they are not Iraqi,’ Abu Seif said. Security forces contend that the measures are necessary to stop ISIL militants from sneaking in with the displaced.” Ramzi Jassim Abu Seif runs a refugee camp near Baghdad.
In the end, Iraq continues to fracture and fragment. There is little that outsiders can do to prevent further misery and to diffuse the conflict. The Kurds still hold ISIS at bay in their territories, and the Shi’ites should be able to force ISIS back. The Sunni remain ambivalent. As Caesar said of Gaul, it’s divided into three parts.