The continuous rise of ISIS
What we are confronting in ISIS is a cancerous state that is expanding
The capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, Ramadi, has fallen to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), almost a year after the fall of Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province. What we are confronting in ISIS is a cancerous state that is expanding and becoming more dangerous in both Iraq and Syria, and threatening Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Ramadi fell due to the same mistakes that led to the fall of Mosul. The entire world saw Iraqi army forces quickly fleeing, followed by political chaos in the capital Baghdad and each party blaming the other. Truth be told, the blame falls entirely on the Iraqi government, which failed to make decisive decisions and accepted not to anger extremists.
Winners and losers?
Who are the winners and losers from the ISIS victory in Ramadi, the capital of the biggest province in Iraq? ISIS is the biggest winner, as it is growing from a scattered terrorist organization into a state. By controlling major cities, it attains more arms, members, money and influence. It occupies dozens of cities and towns, including the capitals of two provinces. It overlooks the borders of three countries, and has come closer to Baghdad.
What we are confronting in ISIS is a cancerous state that is expandingAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The first losers are the people of Anbar, as their suffering will increase amid the rising number of displaced. The United Nations estimates the number of Iraqis displaced within the country at more than 2 million, most of them Sunni Arabs who are prohibited from seeking refuge in Baghdad, Karbala and Kurdistan due to sectarian and racial reasons.
Residents of cities occupied by ISIS cannot stay for fear of being slaughtered, having their sons unwillingly recruited, or getting killed by shelling, as happened to people in Tikrit.
Another winner of the ISIS expansion is Tehran, as Iraq has become a failed state that requires Iranian support. Tehran has offered to send more military support and thus repeat the Syrian experience, where the regime is now mainly dependent on Iranian power. The rich, strategic country of Iraq is transforming into an Iranian province due to ISIS victories.
These victories are unsurprising given that Iraqi Shiite sectarian forces reject the arming Anbar tribes to defend themselves. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi had to back down on his promises to arm those tribes due to sectarian parties’ protests. He also had to object to Washington’s desire to arm Sunni tribes that want to fight terrorists and defend themselves, warning that such a move is a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
Iran’s defense minister was the first of visitors to Baghdad during this crisis, and Abadi has asked Shiite militias to liberate Ramadi after the Iraqi army’s failure!
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 19, 2015.
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