As of today’s date the media (a Latin plural, not a singular noun) are wringing their hands over ISIS’s capture of Ramadi. This morning CNN was proclaiming that Iraqi army soldiers had “lost their will to fight” and were fleeing Ramadi as fast as they could run. At least that was the way CNN’s Pentagon correspondent, Babara Starr, was telling it.
That view may change later in the day if it turns out that the Iraqi forces were simply retreating in the face of superior force, a sensible strategy that all armies employ when outnumbered and/or outgunned. The aim is to regroup and reinforce for a counterattack. The superior ISIS numbers were transferred, of course, from their base in Syria where there are few signs of any organized attempt to dislodge the islamists. Only the Kurds, never a pushover even when overmatched, have stopped ISIS in its tracks, forcing the would-be caliphate to seek easier objectives.
This is not to say that the Kurds are better fighters than the Iraqi army – only that their Peshmerga force is better trained, more experienced and led by more capable commanders than the present day Iraqi army.
As we now know, former prime minister Nuri al Maliki made Iraq’s army a political pork barrel for senior Shiite cronies. These political hacks were not merely ignorant of military matters; they were incompetent administrators who quickly made enemies in Sunni areas such as Anbar province. Many still maintain that the savagery of the islamic extremists, for all their mass executions and destruction of historic sites, is preferable to the corrupt misrule of Baghdad’s Shiite regime.
But let’s look more carefully at the military situation in northern Iraq. In the beginning Baghdad’s incompetence handed the region to ISIS on a silver platter. Kurdistan alone had the ability to counterpunch ISIS and halt its northward advance. Then, better late than never, American and Coalition special forces and training cadres showed up and began training Iraqi recruits to be real soldiers. Very soon, together with a campaign of air strikes by the anti-ISIS coalition, the islamist tide was halted, if not reversed. There was no longer a serious threat to Baghdad or any other important place south of Tikrit.
Nor do we (or our media) pay enough attention to what those Iran-sponsored non-government Shiite militias are doing. Under the personal guidance of Major General Qasem Soleimani and his Guardians Of The Islamic Revolution, the Shiite militias lost no time flushing ISIS out of the town of Husayba, demonstrating their ability to slug it out with ISIS and win. General Soleimani, by the way, has often been reported sipping tea on the front lines while his “ìrregulars” take on ISIS with a ferocity and skill we don’t yet see in the regular army of Iraq. Ample proof of what reports other than those of the US State Department have been telling us for some time now.
These reports also demonstrate, indirectly, the truth of General Soleimani’s assertion that agents of his AL Quds (“Jerusalem”) Force are effectively in control of Iran’s central government, pulling the strings of power as well as supplying manower and weaponry.
All in all, a striking wakeup call to a White House that has ever been slow, if not neglectful, in dealing with events in the Middle East. There is no question that the Bush administration’s lightening fast invasion of Iraq, followed by an avalanche of political policy errors, may prove to have been less disastrous than the Obama administration’s hasty decision to retreat from Iraq on the strength of little more than an election promise.