Off the wire
1st LD Writethru: Oil prices rise amid positive demand forecast  • UN-facilitated consultative political dialogue resumes in Burundi  • IS militants seize control of last Syrian border point with Iraq  • Hou Hsiao-Hsien's film screened at Cannes to compete for Palme d'Or  • Cultural diversity is greatest opportunity before humanity: UN  • UN humanitarian affairs office concerned over attacks around in north Mali  • Urgent: Chinese premier arrives in Colombia for official visit  • Foreign exchange rate of Euro to other currencies  • Lebanon expects "Belt and Road" initiative to enhance Arab-China ties  • Germany's benchmark DAX index little changed  
You are here:   Home

News Analysis: IS gains in Iraq major setback for U.S. fight against radicals

Xinhua, May 22, 2015 Adjust font size:

The U.S. strategy of fighting Islamic State (IS) is facing a major setback after the terror group took control of the Iraqi city of Ramadi.

IS fighters overran Ramadi in recent days, forcing Iraqi troops to flee and casting doubt on the Iraqi government's competence in the fight against the Islamist terrorists.

While the Obama administration called the situation a "setback" and White House spokesman Eric Schultz said earlier this week that the U.S. would "help the Iraqis take back Ramadi" with coalition support, some experts are voicing concerns.

The Pentagon insists that the U.S. strategy is working, but experts said the advantage has now shifted in favor of the terrorists. Indeed, the fall of Ramadi, and the IS penetration of the defenses of the Baiji oil refinery, have shifted the tactical initiative from Baghdad to IS, Wayne White, former deputy director of the U.S. State Department's Middle East Intelligence Office, told Xinhua.

Rick Brennan, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, said the word "setback" underplays the significance of the tactical victory that IS had in Ramadi," referring to the White House's use of the word to describe the situation.

The pictures of the Iraqi army evacuating the area have also a huge symbolic and propaganda value to IS, Brennan told Xinhua.

"It's much more than just a setback and the administration is downplaying the importance of it," said Brennan, who spent five years in Iraq as a senior civilian advisor to the U.S. military.

White said Baghdad has relied on abusive Shia militias that terrify Sunni Arabs and give IS's media machine invaluable material for persuading Sunni Arabs not to defect to the government side.

"Without genuine Sunni Arab outreach and the arming of Sunni tribes willing to confront IS, the struggle in Iraq against IS will remain a bloody destructive slog with occasional reverses," White said.

The Obama administration acquiesced last March to the use of Shia militias despite their negative image, as long as they were under the supervision of Iraqi security forces, he added.

The IS victory comes after an attack on U.S. soil, in which two gunmen opened fire on a free speech event in the U.S. state of Texas, and has raised questions over whether and to what extent the terror group was involved.

Some experts worry that the more IS appears to succeed in the Middle East, the more followers it will attract inside the U.S., especially as the Islamist militants have been calling on American sympathizers to carry out terror strikes on the U.S.

In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said IS is exerting its influence in the United States via the Internet, far from its home base in Syria and Iraq.

"We're very definitely in a new phase in the global terrorist threat, where the so-called lone wolf could strike at any moment," he said, adding that IS's effective use of social media and the Internet has the ability to reach the U.S. soil and possibly inspire others. Endite