Iraq's hold on Ramadi, west of Baghdad, is looking shaky:
Fierce fighting has engulfed Ramadi, which lies only about 70 miles (113 kilometers) west of Baghdad and is the capital of Anbar province, Iraq's Sunni heartland.
Essawi, the deputy head of the Anbar Provincial Council, told CNN from inside the city Wednesday that it's unclear how much longer government troops can hold their front lines against the ISIS offensive.
The politician said he was on a front line himself, armed with a machine gun. Security was "collapsing rapidly in the city," and he begged the Iraqi government for reinforcements and the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS for air support. He stressed that urgent support from the military and security forces is needed to save the city.
In the debate between American strategists who apparently want to head for Mosul first and Iraqi strategists who want to fight for Anbar, I'm firmly in the Anbar First camp.
The Kurds are holding their own up north. The Sunni Arabs who are needed to fight ISIL are not holding their own in Anbar.
Unless this is a faux debate meant to confuse ISIL about our next main front, I just don't get why American strategists would want to target Mosul over Anbar.
Am I missing something obvious?
UPDATE: Iraqis in Anbar say that Ramadi is in danger of falling without help.
Also, one of Saddam's henchmen, Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, was apparently killed in Iraq where he was helping ISIL. I know, that's impossible. Secular Baathist Iraqis working with bloody jihadis! The idea!
UPDATE: Let me just note that this is exactly what I've been talking about when I write that we lack a sense of urgency to defeat ISIL.
We're gearing up for our long-awaited "final offensive" to smash ISIL and seem to expect that ISIL will just sit and patiently wait for the killing blow to fall rather than try to seize the initiative and win victories that might preempt our offensive.
UPDATE: More bad news from the western front:
The Islamic State overran the headquarters of an Iraqi Army brigade stationed in the Thar Thar area northwest of Baghdad two days ago. The suicide assault marks the second time that the jihadist group has taken over an Iraqi military headquarters in the region in two months.
And it is disturbing that our top general is minimizing the importance of holding Ramadi:
At a Pentagon news conference, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggested that maintaining control of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, isn’t central to the U.S. and Iraqi aims of defeating Islamic State forces.
“The city itself is not symbolic in any way,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It’s not been declared part of the caliphate on one hand, or central to the future of Iraq.”
I sure hope that assessment isn't passed around the Ramadi defenders. I guess we can kiss this city goodbye, too.
At what point do we start acting like we are at war rather than refusing to let enemy initiative interfere with producing all of the required PowerPoint presentations needed to begin the Mosul offensive at some distant time when everything is perfect?
We need a little more Patton and a little less Montgomery here, I think.