ISIS In Iraq: Rutba Is Fourth Town Captured In Anbar Province

Shawn Bailey

While the crumbling Iraqi government concentrates its military inside the capital city of Baghdad, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militants have taken possession of almost all access points along the Syrian and Jordanian border. This allows the ISIS to move resources freely between Iraq and Syria while giving them control over major highways.

The Anbar Province is about one-third the size of Iraq and borders with Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The western province has lost its fourth city to ISIS militants. Rutba is the latest city to be overrun by the Sunni militants, lying about 90 miles east of Jordan's border. This gives the ISIS strategic control of a main highway known as the Amman-Baghdad road, running from the capital city of Jordan to Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq.

Others cities taken include Qaim, Rawah, and Anah, leaving a trail from the Syrian border, through Fallujah, that will end in Baghdad if the ISIS continues its onslaught. The recent wave of attacks seem unstoppable. One of the reasons is due to help from local Sunni tribes that are sympathetic to the ISIS and see them as a welcome alternative to Al-Maliki's current Shiite majority government. Saddam's Baath Party has also joined the ISIS. As the militants gather sympathizers and continue to increase their numbers, the Iraqi military offers little resistance. In several instances, soldiers have simply abandoned their posts and retreated to escape the brutalilty of the insurgents.

The New York Times reports that on Sunday, General Qassim Atta of the Iraqi military had a different view of the army's defeat in the Anbar Province.

"As a tactical procedure to reopen the military forces in AL-Jazeera and al Badiyah security operation field, the security forces in Rawaa, Ana and Qaim withdraw from these areas to reinforce other troops in other areas."

For those who stand their ground, a win has yet to come. Around 70 Iraqi volunteers were ambushed and killed as they attempted to defend the border town of Qaim by using freezer trucks to sneak in. Just north of Baghdad, the town of Baiji is controlled by the ISIS. Firefights still continue for Iraq's largest oil refinery just outside of Baiji. Also in danger is a dam located in the city of Haditha. Iraq has deployed 2,000 troops to guard the dam and prevent the ISIS from interrupting the power grid or causing flooding.

While troops retreat in other key areas of Iraq, Shiite militias numbering 20,000 have come together for a display of military power in Baghdad. The Christian Science Monitor reports the march was organized by Muqtada al-Sadr, an anti-U.S. cleric bent on defending the capital against the Sunni militants. Followers of al-Sadr were fighting against U.S. troops less than 10 years ago, and have been blamed for mass killings of Sunnis during sectarian fighting from 2006-2007. While some blame Maliki's harsh treatment of Sunnis for the invasion, others lay blame elsewhere. CNN quoted a colonel in the Shiite militia as saying:

"ISIS is a terrorist organization created by the United States. They are the enemy of humanity."

Maliki's government has called for U.S. support in the form of airstrikes. President Obama responded by saying he would not send in troops, and has instead chosen to send close to 300 military advisers to Iraq. The President has called for the Iraqi government to reorganize under a more inclusive regime that includes the Sunnis and Kurds. USA Today quotes Obama as saying:

"what we can't do is think that we're just going to play whack-a-mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up. We're going to have to have a more focused, more targeted strategy."

While Iraq is asking for U.S. assistance, Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke out against U.S. intervention.

"The U.S. is not pleased with the current situation in Iraq, letˈs say holding elections with good participation of the public and deciding the public choices because the U.S. wants to dominate Iraq and have its agents rule over the country."

With other countries also watching out for their personal interests, Saudi Arabia has spoken out against Iran's possible involvement. If asked, Iran has vowed to offer assistance in protecting religious shrines.

While Iraqi city after Iraqi city descends into chaos and other countries fight over who gets to intervene in the fray, the Iraqi citizens themselves have been forgotten. The United Nations reports that over one million Iraqis have been driven from their homes since the fighting began. Of the 1.6 million originally living in Mosul, close to half of those fled the city after it fell to ISIS on June 10, 2014. Another disturbing trend amongst the ISIS militants who have taken over cities is what the media has referred to as "taking wives." A horrible euphemism if ever there was one for the systematic kidnapping and rape of unmarried women unfortunate enough to live in an ISIS occupied city.

Image via The Baltimore Sun

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