Islamic State launches assault on Ramadi

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Islamic State fighters advance in the Ramadi area.

The Islamic State launched a new offensive in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s western province of Anbar, and took control of an outlying district north of the city after heavy fighting with Iraqi troops.

The Islamic State assaulted numerous parts of the western provincial capital, including Albu Faraj, which is just north of the Euphrates River, according to Al Jazeera. Heavy fighting in the city forced Iraqi commanders in Ramadi to call for reinforcements from Baghdad.

‘Amaq News, the unofficial news agency of the Islamic State, released a statement detailing the situation. According to ‘Amaq, the Islamic State launched a large offensive on Albu Faraj, which “triggered heavy clashes between the Islamic State and Shia militias.” ‘Amaq also claimed that the jihadist group was able to destroy two tanks and killed several Iraqi troops in “martyrdom operations,” or suicide bombings. To end the statement, ‘Amaq claimed that the Islamic State took several Iraq troops captive.

Iraqi press reports have not mentioned the suicide attacks or the capture of Iraqi troops. Photographs of Abu Tahla al Shami [the Syrian] and Abu Hamid al Uzbeki, the suicide bombers used in Albu Faraj, have been released on Twitter.

At first, the spokesman for Anbar’s provincial council claimed that Iraqi troops “repelled the terrorist attack” and “Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State) failed miserably” in its assault on Albu Faraj and Ramadi, “>Al Arabiya reported. Shafaaq News claimed that the Iraqi Security Forces were able to kill “a number of attackers.”

But the Anbar Provincial Council later conceded that Albu Faraj was overrun by the Islamic State. A spokesman said that the Islamic State “fully dominated the Albu Faraj zone after fierce fighting with the joint [Iraqi] forces since the morning,” Almada Press reported. Fifteen Iraqi troops were said to have been killed in the fighting.

Fighting is ongoing in the Sijariyah area to the east of Ramadi. The Anbar Provincial Council has said that many Islamic State fighters have fled the area, while the Anbar Operations Command claimed that its forces killed 23 jihadist fighters during recent operations. Faleh al Issawi, the deputy chairman of the Anbar Provincial Council, has said that the Hezbollah Brigades and Saraya al Salam (Peace Brigades), two Shiite militias, are working with Iraqi forces in the Sijariyah area.

The Hezbollah Brigades, or Kata’ib Hezbollah, receives funding, training, logistics, guidance, and material support from the Qods Force, the external operations wing of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. The United States designated the Hezbollah Brigades as a terrorist organization in July 2009. On the same day, the US added a Qods Force commander who supported the “Special Groups,” such as the Hezbollah Brigades, to the list of specially designated global terrorists. The so-called Special Groups are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US and allied soldiers between 2004 and 2011. (For more information, see LWJ report, US sanctions Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades and Qods Force adviser.)

Saraya al Salam, or Peace Brigades, is led by Muqtada al Sadr, the former leader of the Mahdi Army, Iraq’s largest Shiite militia during the Iraq War. The Mahdi Army was responsible for the deaths of numerous US soldiers. After the Mahdi Army’s dissolution, al Sadr created the Promised Day Brigade which now calls itself the Peace Brigades. Muqtada has traditionally been supported by Iran.

The Islamic State’s new assault in Ramadi comes just days after Prime Minister Haider al Abadi said that Iraq’s “next stand and battle will be here in the land of Anbar to completely liberate it.” If the Islamic State seizes control of the provincial capital, Iraqi troops and allied Shiite militias’ task of liberating Anbar will become far more difficult.

Photographs from Albu Faraj and Ramadi:

Abu Tahla al Shami:

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Abu Hamid al Uzbeki:

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Photographs of the fighting in Ramadi:

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Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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23 Comments

  • CaptMorgan says:

    Marie Harford just tweeted that ISIS retreated to Ramadi. (Sarc.)

  • blert says:

    One is left with the general impression that the Arabs — any faction — don’t quite know how to use mechanized equipment — American or Russian.

    The typical Arab soldier has an IQ around 80 — which is the average for all of Araby. Which leads one to wonder if the modern gear is being lost because the troops don’t know how to fight inside it – – or to deal with minor battle damage.

    In which case, the crews flee their machines and leave them to fire or to capture.

    Additionally, readers are getting a tad tired about reading of ‘heavy fighting’ with Arab armies — and then reading on to discover that 2 KIA, 2 MIA and five lost vehicles constitutes the heavy battle. In which case, every single skirmish is deemed a heavy battle by the PR crews in Baghdad.

    Am I the only observer who is shocked at the staggering equipment loses during these trivial dust-ups?

    I’d say that all Western governments are going to have to re-jigger their grandiose visions of mechanized Arab armies. Such societies are simply not able to effectively use such gear. Mechanical aptitudes are quite low. Leadership is rigid and totally unable to handle the flow of events in mechanized warfare. The officers simply become overloaded with queries from frightened troopers.

    When the opposition wears no uniforms, even target acquisition is problematic.

    As for high tech equipment, it’s totally wasted on them — and normally ends up in the posession of the opposition.

    The only force with competance is that of the Kurds — and they are not supplied by Baghdad, if Baghdad has anything to say about it.

    I’ve read that the Germans are flying in small arms directly into Kurdistan. It’s that bad.

    • mahamison says:

      @blert
      “The only force with competance is that of the Kurds — and they are not supplied by Baghdad, if Baghdad has anything to say about it.”

      2nd the motion on your observation.

    • mike merlo says:

      and yet that which opposes much of which you single out is primarily composed of Arabs. Had not the Kurds been the beneficiaries of ‘Western’ military superiority where would their supposed Battlefield Prowess be today? I’m just guessing but I strongly suspect their ‘backs’ against the proverbial ‘wall.’ The Soviet Unions'(Russians?) Military Superiority eventually succumbed to a bunch of ‘Tribals’ as did the French in Indochina(peasants, farmers) & the USA in Vietnam(farmers, peasants). Granted neither of the ‘Forces’ opposing the Soviet Union, aka Russians, or the French or USA were Arabs those Opposing Forces nonetheless were ‘Measured’ by suspect standards discounting their War Waging capabilities.

    • RanaSahib says:

      You’re simplifying the core argument here by reducing it to matters of material and technology. You’re overlooking the most powerful weapon of all: commitment to ideology. This is what won the Cold War after weapons and material achieved only a stalemate. Detente resulted from attrition: the wearing down of Communist principles by a free-market world.

      In this case, during The Long War, core Islamic ideology has strengthened over the decade and a half of skirmishes with Western military forces. The outcome has been the establishment of a Caliphate in Iraq: call it ISIL, ISIS or IS or by any other name. But to the converted, this is raison d’être to continue physical engagement in a clash of civilizations. And it is the wearing down of Western ideology just as surely as during the Cold War.

  • Arjuna says:

    C’mon, guys. Twenty pics of Iraq battle porn…. why? Your readers all know what stolen, blown up Hummers, M113s and M1117s and slithering jihadis look like. Please be careful LWJ. You are doing the enemy’s job for them and becoming more and more like infotainment. Three pics at most would have sufficed.
    I know you disagree with the Obama Administration, however you used to present more like Foreign Policy and now you smell more and more like a Fox.
    When I refer to “clunky” graphics on the new site, I mean images and text that stack up and display one on top of the other. At the risk of repeating myself I will state once more for the record that I liked the old website much better and hope that you’ll return to it and give us fewer visuals of an obscene activities (combat, assassinations and executions).

    • Bill Roggio says:

      Arjuna,

      You are entitled to your opinion. When you run your own site, you are entitled to publish what you think is appropriate.

      We didn’t publish any executions here or anything like that, so your outrage is odd. The purpose of publishing was to document the scale what happened.

      I don’t know how long you have been reading, but we have published far, far worse in the past, always with a disclaimer on the content (Taliban blowing up an Afghan policeman with a recoilless rifle; Taliban placing tribal leaders with head on spike; Taliban executing Pakistani personnel, etc.). Often the purpose of publishing graphic content is to show the nature of jihadists and the degree to which they will go.

      If we wanted to make the site sensational, that would be really easy to do. We view graphic executions on a near daily basis, and we could publish those. We don’t. We are selective based on the message we are trying to get across.

      This is a website about war and jihadist groups and the states that sponsor them. This isn’t a pretty topic. No one is forcing you to view the images. If this offends your sensibilities, perhaps you’d be better served reading elsewhere.

      If you want to continue to compare us to FOX, you will not be welcome here any longer. We work hard to keep our content professional and informative. If you want to continue to insult us, do it on your own dime, not ours.

      • tony williams says:

        I think that was a pretty good rebuttal. Was that a patriot, trying to impose censorship? The hypocrisy of it. I think you did a great job and you are right. People do need to understand the extent of certain situations. I think they are so desensitized that they cant fathom the scope of destruction and chaos. the ramifications or in agency speak “Blowback” from decades of operations in the middle east is proving to be worse than the former status quo.

    • mike merlo says:

      Characterizing “Iraqi battle pics” as “porn” is at the very least pathetically laughable. That’s the kind of tripe regularly regurgitated by that Basement Bolshevik Linguist cum pseudo social/political ‘commentator’ Norm Chomsky or that degenerate Latte Leftist Senator Durbin.

      Consistently ‘solid’ information regarding the conflagration enveloping the Muslim Ummah, not to mention a host of lessers yet to emerge with the same level of ferocity, is in many cases difficult to ‘come by.’ Journalist’s, reporters, etc., if not propagandist’s for the ‘Islamists’ in question end up murdered or if they’re fortunate/’lucky’ enough ‘shunted’ away in silence.

      If anything not only should TLWJ be providing more pics & video’s they should also be making more maps available. Such content should be featured in a category unto itself in the ‘Primary Site Navigation Bar.’ As ‘things’ presently stand information, analysis, data, etc., concerning the GWOT is ‘spread’ through multiple ‘sites’ with no one site being a one stop repository for the ‘majority’ of events, information, ‘actions,’ etc., taking place.

      “…and now you smell more and more like a Fox.” As opposed to what? Chris Issac doin lesbian drag aka Rachel Maddow on MSNBC? Political Operative cum plagiarist Fareed Zakaria ‘pushing’ propaganda for the savages opposing civilization? A mummified Bob Schieffer driveling the same spittle as that anti-American Cafe Communist Walter Cronkite? & on & on it goes. Comparing TLWJ to “Fox” dilutes whatever comment of consequence or substance you may post

      • Arjuna says:

        Thanks for your reply, Bill. That is just the response I was looking for. Just go easy on pictures of the dead bodies, will you? It seems like you already are showing less gore than before. It’s good for your karma. War is obscene. Ask any vet.

        merlo I don’t now what to say when you comment, so I wont say anything

    • JoeO says:

      I find the photos informative, though your concern is legit. It is not an easy balancing act to show what is happening without falling prey to propaganda. It would be helpful if Iraqi leadership was not in the habit of lying, even more than the Pentagon.

  • Jimmy Cheeseburger says:

    Bill Roggio,

    I appreciate the time you took to address the concerns of your readers. Unfortunately these guys have a false sense that anyone cares about whether they prefer seeing three or twenty pictures. Keep up the solid work and continue to pretend to care when confronted like this. You guys are a monopoly on the style and information that you’re reporting on. Readers like myself enjoy the content and get rather annoyed when constructive debate in the comments section is tainted with high school girl-like complaints.

    Sincerely,

    Sir Jimmy Cheeseburger III
    “It’s about to get weird, bro.”

    • Bill Roggio says:

      Thanks Sir Jimmy. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that you cannot please everyone. Appreciate the support.

      • RanaSahib says:

        Notwithstanding that it’s impossible to please everyone and foolish to even try, the Long War Journal is a terrific resource with quality reporting totally unlike most mainstream news outlets.

        Most importantly of all, from the comment boards, it’s obvious the readers here are uniformly well-informed, by and large, unlike the rural population to which Fox News panders.

      • AustralianPolitician says:

        Keep it up.

        Entitled fools aren’t known to be satisfied.

  • Will Fenwick says:

    I for one think posting the pictures you do helps the reader to understand what exactly the enemy’s capabilities are. Pictures and video help provide evidence to back up the statements in the stories the LWJ publishes and give it the credibility that makes it such a high quality source for news on the conflicts it covers.

  • Abu Kilab says:

    Bill, I appreciated the “twenty pics”, which give one a better understanding of the skirmish/ battle and allow us to assess the veracity of some claims by the belligerents. It’s absurd that anyone visiting a site about war expects not to find images of… war.

    Top notch work as always.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Thanks again to all with words of support. Abu Kilab & Will Fenwick: exactly.

    Mike Merlo, maps have been the bane of my existence. I have been struggling this this issue for years. The problem comes down to expertise and resources. I am trying to make a push this year to overcome this problem. Maps have been a huge challenge. We can only do so much with Google Maps, unfortunately.

    • mike merlo says:

      @B Roggio

      I wish I was capable of contributing something of consequence in respect to Maps but I’m certainly grateful for what TLWJ has made available to date

  • blert says:

    Bill Roggio and company,

    I love the new look. Then, again, I loved the old look, too.

    Folks, Arabs fight from well to well and up and down rivers. This style of fighting is inevitable in a desert.

    One couldn’t help but note that the 2011 war in Libya entirely mirrored the ebb and flow of the German-British campaigns of 1940-1943: pit stop to pit stop.

    So the map image to keep in mind: the Shia are moving up country — straight up the Tigris — virtually without deviation. The ISIS crowd is blocking that advance, as best can be, while trying to advance down the Euphrates. It’s getting tight for ISIS since the Euphrates flows right by Baghdad.

    All other motion is a desert skirmish — the modern equivalent of a goat raid.

    Having taken Tikrit, it’s a pretty good bet that the Shia are expelling the last of the locals — probably for all time. Look for this slow progression to crawl up the Tigris. Long before Mosul is reached, the Sunni heartland will be resettled by agrived Shia.

    Climbing local temperatures should have these campaigns closing up for Summer — and rather soon, too.

  • Morgan says:

    Interesting story, especially since I served there in 2010-2011. What’s wrong with FOX?

    • JoeO says:

      Fox claims to be the “Fair and Balanced” news while they openly pursue a partisan agenda that is about getting more viewers, not getting more viewers more informed.

      Or in a nutshell, Bill O’Reilly’s continued employment is emblematic of everything wrong with Fox: it’s not the facts, it’s the narrative that counts.

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