Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar Governorate and one of Iraq’s largest cities recently was conquered by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), more commonly referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The 2015 fall of Ramadi wasn’t the first time ISIS controlled, or partially controlled, the Anbar city as this sample essay will discuss.
ISIS Takes Over Ramadi
The United States (U.S.) and United Nations (UN) joined forces with member states to help free Iraq’s most strategically located city from ISIS last year. However, the terrorist group again staged an attack against Ramadi and took more than 50 high-ranking hostages, while killing just under a thousand more during suicide bombings and mortar attacks May 2015 .
The Battle for Ramadi, as it was commonly referred to by Middle Eastern media outlets, started November 21, 2014, shortly after the sacred Islamic holiday of Ramadan came to an end. But this fight was the successor to other, previous battles for this important location. ISIS fighters partially claimed the city in 2013, but Iraqi fighters claimed victory and retook most the city by February 2014.
Iraqi officials reported they had complete control of the city in March 2014. However, ISIS militants were not planning in allowing the strategic loss to become final. ISIS leaders planned an attack and carried out their new mission November 2015. But before one can look at the last Battle for Ramadi, which left Iraq in defeat, it is necessary to understand much of Iraq’s history and why this country is politically and militarily important.
Ramadi and Iraq’s long road to independence: History and background
Ramadi is an Islamic city located in Iraq and the capital of the prominent Al-Anbar Governorate. Al-Anbar is Iraq’s largest and most military significant region. Ramadi is one of Iraq’s largest cities and is located in the region’s most strategic location. It is on the Euphrates and west of Syria and Jordan. This has made it a hub for trade and traffic, from which the city gained significant prosperity.
Ramadi’s history is rich and starts with the events of World War I. During the 1920s, all of Iraq was occupied by Great Britain. The predecessor to the United Nations, the League of Nations, mandated Ramadi and all of Iraq to remain under British control after the WWI ended. It took more than 30 years for the country to realize its independence from the UK and officially was recognized by UN Member States as a sovereign nation in 1932. Iraq declared itself as a republic in 1958.
After new boundaries were set by Britain and LN, numerous territorial disputes with Iran kicked off an inconclusive and expensive war, lasting eight years from 1980 to 1988. Iraq took control of Kuwait in 1980. The newly won territory lasted nearly ten years. UN forces led by the U.S. removed Iraq from power and removed government administrators from the kingdom. The Gulf War was only one recent aspect of heated arguments over disputed territory. These arguments led to various terrorist groups, including ISIS and later ISIL, jockeying for power.
This led to the UN’s Security Council and U.S. to mandate Iraq’s relinquishing its nuclear weapons programs. As part of the Kuwait mandates, Iraq was to destroy all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. In addition, the UN wanted to send a verification team to conduct investigations and insure the country followed their orders. This team was intended to enter the country periodically and determine whether government leaders were still pursuing the nuclear weapons components.
During this time, Saddam Hussein was Iraq’s leader. He was considered by most Iraqi citizens as a tyrant and was accused by the UN, U.S., and most other sovereign nations of committing crimes against humanity. The U.S. led a vigilant mission to find Hussein and bring him to justice. Eventually, he was found hiding in a remote area, was captured, and returned to Iraq for trial and sentencing. Hussein was found guilty, sentenced to death, and killed during a televised execution. However, his death, unknown at the time, served to provoke a new terrorist group that would, years later, become one of the world’s most deadly and dangerous organized terrorism groups, ISIS/ISIL.
Beginnings: A fight for Ramadi
ISIS began the attacks by bombarding both the eastern and western borders of the city. Their first major victory included the capture of Al Shujairiya, during which militants fired at government buildings in the middle of the city. Terrorists next used a barrage of mortar fire and car bombs, including some suicide bombers, to weaken the village’s military forces. While ISIS succeeded in taking Al Shujairiya, Iraqi veterans and local tribal fighters launched a counterattack and prevented ISIS from capitalizing and moving to new locations.
On November 23, 2015, CNN and the Associated Press reported heavy fighting near the main government complex in downtown Ramadi. This area housed the regional government and security headquarters for most of Iraq’s central regions. Iraqi fighters received reinforcements from government-held areas in Ramadi. But there were reports of nearly 100 dead and more wounded. ISIS took control of the local Dulaimi tribe leaders’ houses, and militants converted them into military bases.
During these events, ISIS used its tremendous advantage over social media to post images of fighting on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media and online platforms. Leaders proved they had communications and marketing skills and the money to back their plans. One of those occasions was on November 25, 2014. ISIS posted photos of militant fighters and their success in the Ramadi attack on Twitter. These pictures were a shock to many and hurt the morale of Iraqi troops, since the photos also showed captured M113 armored personnel carriers that were used to attack Iraqi soldiers.
Over the next several months, Ramadi represented a lose then win scenario, with both ISIS militants and Iraqi soldiers losing ground and then picking up victories. But it was April 2015 when things really heated up, and the beginning to and end started for Ramadi. On April 8, 2015, Iraqi forces began went on the offensive to reclaim the Al-Karmah Governorate which was held by ISIS forces.
This angered the militant’s leaders, and ISIS terrorists executed 300 people. The same day Iraq sent troops to take the eastern area of Ramadi and claim strategic supply routes into the nearby Habbaniyah Air Base. By preventing the militants from receiving food and medical supplies from supporters, Iraq could weaken ISIS forces and reclaim hostages in other areas. The battles continued back and forth until May, when ISIS won a large victory in Iraq and took Ramadi for their own.
May 14, 2015 marks the beginning to the end for Ramadi and Iraq’s strong hold in its largest region. ISIS launched an attack on Ramadi, and, using armored bulldozers and ten suicide bombers, they bombarded the city’s central gate and captured police headquarters and other key government buildings. After unsuccessful attacks and no help from supporters, Iraqi fighters gave up, and ISIS took Ramadi on May 17, 2015.
Reporters still in the city filmed government leaders, the Iraqi Army and Special Forces, government employs, and civilians fleeing from the city. News reports stated more than 500 civilians and security personnel died in the attack. And more than 50 high-ranking government officials were captured and help as hostages by ISIS leaders. However, U.S. military researchers believe ISIS would never have won the battle had it not been for the weather.
Current and former American military officials told CNN that ISIS took advantage of a sandstorm to win the fight. Militants hid in the storms and were able to sneak in and take the Iraqi soldiers by surprise. The officials said the storm gave ISIS a clear and critical military advantage in the early hours of the group’s assault on the city. In addition, the sandstorm prevented U.S. and allied troops from preventing the assault and providing much needed support. Had this never occurred, the officials say Americans would have supplemented the Iraqi troops and ISIS would never had won their victory.
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