Baghdad is the secret to ISIS victory

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has controlled the city of Ramadi since May. It seized the city center after Iraqi troops fled. The assault included suicide bombings - 18 suicide car bombs reportedly went off at once.

The Iraqi command blamed the army for the city’s fall, and brought in Shiite militias called the Popular Mobilization Forces to retake Ramadi, but they also failed. The Americans refused to cooperate as they were well aware that they would become the target of citizens of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province.

Terrorism, extremism and chaos will continue as long as Baghdad is torn apart and politicians are confused.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Fighting returned to Anbar - which shares borders with Jordan and Saudi Arabia - after U.S. forces began participating in anti-ISIS operations. They are only fighting via the air force, and are directing Iraqi forces and Sunni tribes via consultants and intelligence. “The coalition forces wish to expel ISIS from Ramadi as soon as possible, but this may take a few weeks,” said a U.S. commander.


Even if they liberate Ramadi, the challenge is in the city of Mosul, the headquarters of ISIS’s command. “Battles there won’t be easy because ISIS will fiercely fight to defend it,” said the U.S. commander.

Why have all the above failed to defeat ISIS in Iraq, a country with a central government, army, oil exports, and a degree of stability? Not because ISIS is invincible, but because political leaders in Baghdad are incapable of overcoming their own problems.

The capital suffers from political chaos, the prime minister’s incapability, the interference of clerics, and an increase in Iranian influence over decision-making. This is in addition to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s continuous incitement against his successor Haidar al-Abadi. If it had not been for international forces’ desire to fight ISIS due to fears of its expansion, it would have been close to Baghdad itself.

Once Baghdad corrects its practises, it can eliminate ISIS. However, we do not yet see such indications. Terrorism, extremism and chaos will continue as long as Baghdad is torn apart and politicians are confused.

This article first appeared in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 12, 2015.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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