Saturday, June 25, 2016

Don't Aspire to Perfect Victories

The Iraqis have defeated ISIL in Fallujah, although resistance will no doubt take weeks to snuff out. This is a victory over jihadis and don't pretend otherwise in the bizarre quest for the Perfect Victory.

The fact that ISIL is still resisting in Fallujah does not erase the fact that the Iraqis liberated the city:

Iraqi forces closed in on the last neighbourhood of Fallujah still held by the Islamic State group Thursday while aid groups struggled to deliver relief to desperate civilians.

A month into a major offensive against one of the jihadists' most emblematic bastions, elite forces were close to establishing full control over Fallujah.

"I can say that more than 80 percent is controlled by our forces," Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, the operation's overall commander, told AFP in Fallujah.

This went a lot more rapidly than many analysts were saying based on ISIL vows to fight to the death.

I didn't think that analysis was correct given the past 6 months of ISIL in Iraq not looking like its fighters wanted to fight to the hurt let alone to the death.

Some will fight to the death in Fallujah. But not enough were willing, very clearly.

Yet somehow, some analysts are saying that victory in Fallujah is somehow bad:

ISIS is on the way out, but the Shia militias are here to stay, and they may be the greatest threat to Iraq’s future as a country and nation.

“More generally, most experts I know worry more about Iraq’s political stability than about ISIS’s ability to hold Fallujah or Mosul indefinitely,” argued Michael O’Hanlon, another senior fellow at Brookings. “We have lots and lots of work to do—and the Iraqis have even more.”

Yes, the pro-Iran death squads masquerading as militias are a problem. They became a problem after we left Iraq in 2011 and stopped trying to oppose Iranian efforts to dominate Iraq. And the militias became more of a problem as Iraqis worried we wouldn't do enough to defeat ISIL when we returned to Iraq in 2014.

And while I agree that the pro-Iran militias are a long-term problem and that ISIL is losing ground in Iraq, ISIL is the problem right now. It is nonsense to say that ISIL really isn't a problem because they are "on the way out" because without efforts to defeat ISIL, they would not be on the way out.

And the militias are not "here to stay" unless we fail to re-defeat them as we did by 2008 between the American offensive in Sadr City and the Iraqi offensive in Basra.

So yes, disbanding those militias and reducing Iran' influence in Iraq is vitally important. This should provide a motive not to ignore ISIL on the assumption that they are magically "on the way out" as if no action is required to ensure that. It should be a motive to also defeat and disband the pro-Iran Shia militias as part of the plan for victory in Iraq War 2.0 by staying in Iraq after ISIL is defeated rather than leaving in 2011 after the defeat of al Qaeda.

Seriously, this line of thinking seems to hold that we should have left Fallujah in ISIL hands to prevent the Shia militias from abusing Sunni Arab residents of Fallujah.

What the ef do you think ISIL was doing in Fallujah?

As Iraqi forces move through Falluja, the city is yielding the grim remnants of more than two years of Islamic State rule. Beheaded and decaying bodies. Clumps of facial hair from fighters who shaved their beards to blend in with fleeing civilians. A prison where detainees were held in cages suitable for a medium-sized dog.

The forces have found books on Wahhabism, the extreme version of Sunni Islam from which the Islamic State draws inspiration, and on Saddam Hussein, whose rule by fear and secrecy the group has replicated.

And for all the worry about whether Fallujah was really a victory, it was viewed by Iraqis as a source of Baghdad bombings. Perhaps it was not. But it was during our Iraq War so I imagine it was now even though I haven't read anything confirming that suspicion. And the Iraqi government could hardly risk that it was a source of bombings that were killing Iraqis.

And that's aside from the issue of whether it was actually better for Fallujah Sunni Arabs to live under continued ISIL terror rather than risk liberation and contact with pro-Iran Shia death squads.

We have to defeat ISIL. And we have to defeat Iran in Iraq, including their militia hand puppets. Stop fretting that we didn't achieve a Perfect Victory in Fallujah that solves all problems and doesn't lead to other problems.

Work the problems, people.

UPDATE: This is working the problem:

U.S.-led coalition aircraft waged a series of deadly strikes against Islamic State around the city of Falluja on Wednesday, U.S. officials told Reuters, with one official citing a preliminary estimate of at least 250 fighters killed and at least 40 vehicles destroyed.

Holy cow! That's gonna leave a mark. Maybe Fallujah isn't a perfect victory as so many worry, but it is pretty darned good.

That simply has to be 250 jihadis fleeing in 40 vehicles. And then pounded by Coalition airpower.

Unless 250 jihadis took a knee around an ISIL leader to get a pep talk at a really bad time.