Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Importance of Iraqi Victory at Ramadi

Iraq officially declared Ramadi ‘liberated’ from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists yesterday. So, what is the importance of this development?

First and foremost, it is about phycology and morale. The Iraqi forces were utterly discredited in 2014 when the ISIS swept across large areas of Iraq including its second largest city Mosul. In May 2015, the Iraqi forces were once again humiliated by the fall of Ramadi, a city in the Sunni heartland and dangerously close to the capital of Iraq, Baghdad.

The recapture of Ramadi by the Iraqi forces was the result of a long campaign. The government forces cut off supply lines to the city, forcing most of the ISIS forces to leave. By the end, only around 400 fighters remained in the city. Nevertheless, this victory gives added confidence to the Iraqi forces in the battle against the ISIS.

Ramadi is also a city with strategic value. It occupies a highly strategic location on the Euphrates and the road west into Syria and Jordan. This has made it a hub for trade and traffic. Furthermore, it is the capital of the largest province in Iraq, Anbar. More importantly, it is a Sunni city, from where groups such as ISIS garnered significant support.

In this aspect, the liberation of Ramadi is also an indication of the changing political situation in the country. The former government of Nouri al-Maliki proved divisive and sectarian, making it easy for Sunni radical groups to attract support. The presence of Shia militant groups in Sunni areas irked the Sunnis and drew them away from the government. However, the current Iraqi government has been able to attract Sunni militant groups which helped it in the battle for Ramadi.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed to defeat the ISIS in the country, following the success of the battle for Ramadi. While the final defeat of the ISIS could take years to achieve, Ramadi has given a fresh hope and an added credibility to the Iraqi forces in this long battle of attrition.

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