The Kurdish assault on the key Iraqi border city of Sinjar, which started yesterday, appears to have succeeded. Tens of thousands of peshmerga fighters, backed by U.S. air support, entered the center of town and drove hundreds of ISIS fighters out from the city they had occupied more than a year ago, Kurdish leaders announced. The city sits on a key road linking the terror group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa to the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, also under ISIS control.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces announced the start of an offensive against Ramadi, a city of 450,000 located 100 miles west of Baghdad. Iraqi ground forces began “their advance to liberate Ramadi from three directions: the west, the north and the southwest, supported by (the air force) who are currently striking selected targets”, read a government statement broadcast on Iraqi television.
General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Iraq in late October to help finalize plans for this operation. In testimony to Congress a week later, he hinted that U.S. Special Forces might be used on the ground to aid in the assault.
The administration’s rethink on Iraq has been one of the rare promising initiatives in the Middle East recently. Nothing is guaranteed yet; more components of this strategy will have to be unveiled before we can judge whether it’s likely to succeed long term. The Kurds will likely be limited by geographic and ethnic factors, and the Iraqi forces have proven uneven at best. But any day when ISIS is getting pushed back is a good day by us.