Iran to Capitalize on Fall of Ramadi
Islamic State terrorists have succeeded in routing the Iraqi Army from the Sunni-dominant city of Ramadi. The loss signifies the worst defeat for Iraqi forces in almost a year and shows how incapable the Iraqi Army is in dealing with the terrorist threat. In response to the attack, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for the Iran-backed Shia militias to be mobilized. The Iraqi army’s ineptitude means that Iran’s role in the region is about to become even more important.
Since the rise of the Islamic State, we have witnessed the metamorphosis of Iran from a behind-the-scenes player to the dominant force in Iraq. Iran has supplied airstrikes, aid and, most importantly, militia. Seasoned war veterans such as Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, one of Suleimani’s top advisers and a United States designated terrorist—guide the Shiite militias in their skirmishes with the Islamic State.
The prime minister has been reluctant to utilize the Shiite militias for fear of upsetting the Sunni populace. The Sunnis have a right to be concerned. While the Islamic State is a major threat, so is the supposed solution. Shiite militias are by no means moderate. Stories of murder and revenge killings are common in “liberated” Sunni villages. Many Shiites have grievances against such towns, which they accuse of aiding the Islamic State in killing Shiites.
The city of Tikrit is one example. When the city was taken by Islamic State militants, over 1,000 Shiites were slaughtered. The city was predominantly Sunni. Iranian-led forces recaptured the city, returning it to Shiite control. It didn’t take long for reports to surface detailing attacks on Sunnis in the city. This is the typical Iranian strategy in Iraq—route and replace.
But the Iraqis and international bodies have little alternative. With no one willing to intervene, Iran is left as the sole solution to the Islamic State problem. In return for purging the Islamic State from the nation, Iran is paid in power and influence over its Iraqi neighbor.
So we come to Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province. Sitting just 68 miles from Baghdad, it is the 10th-largest city in the nation. Its central position makes it a gateway to the sparsely populated al-Anbar province. Thus, whoever controls Ramadi controls the vast expanse of the province.
Such a city is a lucrative prize for anyone looking to gain quick dominance over a large swathe of the nation. Hence the Iranian-backed Shiite militias were at the outskirts of the city the day after it fell. And Prime Minister Abadi has already given the Shiites approval for this operation.
The U.S. has also taken an interest in the city. It has been pounding the Islamic State with airstrikes in an attempt to weaken the terrorists before the Shiite assault. But airstrikes gain very little for America. USA Today quoted Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren stating “We will retake Ramadi.” The reality is that the U.S. won’t be retaking anything. Iran will retake Ramadi. It will do so with the aid of U.S. airstrikes and Iraqi Army support. The U.S. may supply the air firepower, but to control a city takes boots on the ground. That is why it will be Iran’s gain, not Iraq or America’s.
Whether the city falls tomorrow or next week, the truth is that Iran will come out on top. This scenario has played out in numerous battles already. Meanwhile, Iraq is powerless to stop it. The 30 miles to Baghdad that stretches out to Ramadi remain heavily fortified by Shiites. Baghdad cannot afford to lose Iran’s help. Neither can America. The war-weary superpower doesn’t want to reengage. But to defeat the Islamic State takes troops—troops that the U.S. is unwilling to commit. So the more troops and militias Iran supplies, the less the U.S. has to involve itself.
But letting Iran have its way is a dangerous route to take. Iran’s desire to control Iraq existed long before the U.S.-led invasion. In its War Diary of April 23, 2003, Stratfor wrote, “The Shiite population is creating a serious administrative problem for the United States. This was partly expected, partly a surprise. The surprise is not to the extent of anti-Americanism but the extent of the organization. The Shiites are much better organized than U.S. intelligence believed. It is clear that their long-term goal is to govern Iraq.”
This goal has long-been expressed by the Trumpet. Instability and sectarian violence have boiled in Iraq with Iranian heat. The previous Shiite government of Nouri al-Maliki was known for isolating the Sunnis with pro-Shiite, pro-Iran policies. This U.S.-free, destabilized environment has allowed the Islamic State to flourish.
In 2003, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote an article titled “Is Iraq About to Fall to Iran?” The piece examines Iran’s role in the region in terms of its nuclear and other weapons programs, its sponsorship of terrorists, and its organized efforts in Iraq, as noted by Stratfor. Mr. Flurry stated, “So what will happen to Iraq when America and Britain can no longer support it? There is going to be a radical change in world events.” We are seeing that today. The U.S. is unwilling to support Iraq and is leaving the task to Iran.
Iran is set to take Iraq one city at a time. Keep watching, because in cities like Ramadi, when one radical group is driven out, it is being replaced with something just as extreme and even more dangerous.