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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Iraqi Security Forces remain committed to retaking Ramadi.

Link: Political troubles distracting Iraqi government from ISIS campaign.

In spite of recent efforts by the Shi'a militias/Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) to oppose and discredit the reform agenda by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, the Iraqi government continues to voice confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) attempt to retake Ramadi.  Drip by drip, local Sunni Tribal Militia recruits complete training in Habaniya and join their compatriots outside Ramadi.  The Iraqi Army and its Special Police Units have been making very slow progress, but ground is being taken.  The ISF is not attacking Ramadi from only one direction; the effort is to invest the town from the east, west, north, and south.  Ideally, this would have led to the isolation of Ramadi more quickly, but it hasn't happened.  ISIS continues to have access to its forces in both Ramadi and Fallujah.  The ISF has identified the roads which allow both cities to be accessed, and an effort is underway to shut them down.  One road which is still open to ISIS actually leads from Fallujah to Ramadi.  Why the allied air campaign hasn't turned this road into dust is a mystery, although if it continues to be heavily traveled by civilians, then bombing would be out of the question.  What if ISIS disguises their reinforcements and supplies as civilian traffic, as they have done repeatedly in both Syria and Iraq?  That is a question that as of yet has no answer.

The PMUs continue to destabilize the situation in Baghdad, as ISIS increases its attacks in the city and also in Baiji and Thar Thar, south of Samarrah.  Its obvious that ISIS is attempting to exploit the showdown between the Iraqi government and Shi'a militias, by securing territory already occupied and launching attacks on fresh targets.  The Iraqi government has the obvious support of the great majority of the population, including the Shi'a.  But this is a population that has seen tremendous violence and has been terrorized for decades from the end of a gun barrel.  The militias are threatening to treat any pro-reform demonstrations as a security threat, and as they have already declared themselves the de facto authority in both Baghdad and Basra, it must be assumed that they won't hesitate to shoot unarmed protesters.  Abadi knows that the popular support of the people, along with the consistent support of Shi'a religious leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, are all he can rely on as the ISF and police are occupied in Anbar.  But Abadi appears understandably hesitant to call the people to the streets, for the showdown that would result which he cannot hope to win.  With the army and police occupied on the front lines, there is some question as to why the militias haven't attempted to remove Abadi from office by force.  Certainly there are enough Maliki supporters and Iranian hacks in the Iraqi government and Parliament for a new cabinet and administration to be formed, one that wouldn't try to enact all of the anti-corruption reforms that threaten Maliki so much.  The reality is, any effort to remove Abadi would have to be approved by Tehran, and right now the Iranians are basking in the glow of their new-found reputation as Russia's partner in countering ISIS in Syria.  The Iranians are just as anxious to move into the vacuum left by the United States, to take up a leadership role alongside the Russians in Syria in Putin's plan to stand up to ISIS.  This effort, along with the new nuclear treaty written by the United States, a few European countries, and Iran, make Iran so squeaky clean that they can barely stand themselves.  An Iranian-sponsored government change in Baghdad, with the battle of Ramadi raging to the west, would not be seen as a productive development.  For this reason more than any other, Abadi is safe....for the moment.

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