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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Did Obama Carpet-Bomb Ramadi?

In his 2016 State of the Union Address on Tuesday, President Obama declared (my emphasis in red):

"With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out [ISIL's] leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons. We’re training, arming and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria.

. . . .

The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage."

First, a word about those "forces" being supported by the Obama administration. Claims have been made that the Sunni Iraqi city of Ramadi was "retaken" from ISIS by the Iraqi army. As stated in a Wall Street Journal article entitled "Victory Marks Turnaround for Iraq Army" by Ben Kesling and Matt Bradley:

"The recapture of Ramadi marks a major turnaround for Iraq’s U.S.-trained military, representing its first success against Islamic State as a mostly independent force.

. . . .

Sabah al-Numan, a spokesman for Iraq’s counterterrorism forces, said precise planning and constant coordination with the U.S.-led international coalition and local Sunni tribes tipped the balance on the battlefield.

Past defeats of Islamic State relied on either Iran-backed Shiite militias or Iraqi Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga. Iraqi army spokesman Yahya Rasool acknowledged that the military had to depend on the powerful Shiite militias for a time, but he said that time has now passed.

. . . .

In Ramadi, U.S. and Iraqi officers excluded Kurdish and Shiite militias to avoid aggravating sectarian and ethnic tensions."

However, as was reported by Jeff Stein in a December 19, 2015 Newsweek article entitled "Ramadi's Dirty Little Secret in the War Against ISIS"

"American commanders have been hailing the advance of the retrained Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on Ramadi, the key city where they were easily routed some 18 months ago by marauding fighters of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

But what they aren’t saying—and are loath to concede, according to well-informed military sources in Washington—is that the security forces of the Iran-backed regime in Baghdad largely consist of Shiite fighters in league with murderous militias that have slaughtered innocent Sunnis after ousting ISIS militants from Tikrit and other battlegrounds in the past year. Ramadi is the capital of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, and the Shiites are ready to pounce."

But more to the point, some 80 percent of Ramadi was destroyed in the fighting, leaving the city largely uninhabitable. We are told by The New Arab (my emphasis in red):

"'This is what Daesh (IS) left behind in Ramadi,' said Ahmad al-Assafi, one of the Sunni tribal leaders who are fighting the extremist group.

'The attacking forces preferred to destroy everything over suffering casualities [sic] and Daesh booby-trapped everything, the houses, buildings, shops, even electricity poles and sewerage manholes.'

It would cost less to build a city from scratch somewhere else than to rebuild Ramadi, Assafi told The New Arab."

Moreover, as reported by AP in an article entitled "Gains in Iraqi city vindicate US-led strategy, at high cost" by Sinan Salaheddin and Susannah George (my emphasis in red):

"Over the past six months, the coalition has launched more than 600 airstrikes, hitting about 2,500 different targets, U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren, the Baghdad-based spokesman for the coalition, told reporters on Tuesday. He said at its peak there were up to 1,000 IS fighters in Ramadi, and that only 150-250 remain.

But while the airstrikes eventually helped flush out the militants, they smashed large parts of the city into rubble."

And as noted by Evelyn Gordon in a must-read Commentary article entitled "Ramadi, Gaza, and Western Hypocrisy":

"During the Hamas-Israel war of 2014, both Obama Administration officials and their European counterparts repeatedly accused Israel of excessive force over the 'massive' destruction of civilian property in Gaza. But if those officials retain even a shred of intellectual integrity, the recent devastation of Ramadi during a joint Western/Iraqi effort to retake the city leaves them only two options: either hand themselves over to the International Criminal Court as suspected war criminals, or publicly apologize to Israel for all the slurs they hurled at it over far less extensive damage."

Bottom line: Notwithstanding Obama's thinly veiled SOTU criticism of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump's calls to bomb ISIS out of existence, Ramadi was effectively "carpet-bombed" by US-led coalition forces with the assistance of Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

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