Is Baghdad about to fall to ISIS?
Two days ago, the British newspaper, the Independent, carried a story that ISIS was "one mile" from Baghdad.
Editor Lifson and I went back and forth on whether we should post on the startling news. In the end. we couldn't find another reliable source so we decided to hold off.
Today, other sources are reporting that there are, indeed, "intense clashes" on the outskirts of Baghdad with a combination of ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters.
And the Iraqi army appears to be wavering.
To highlight the serious nature of the threat to Iraq's capital, British and American planes have pounded ISIS positions in the last 24 hours, apparently trying to keep them at bay.
"The Islamic State are now less than 2km (1.2 miles) away from entering Baghdad. They said it could never happen and now it almost has,” Canon Andrew White of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, a British-based charity that supports Iraq’s only Anglican church in Baghdad, said on his Facebook page early Monday morning. “Obama says he overestimated what the Iraqi Army could do. Well, you only need to be here a very short while to know they can do very, very little.”
The Christian aid group was referring to the U.S. president’s interview Sunday night on “60 Minutes,” the CBS news magazine show, where Obama conceded that his administration underestimated the ascendancy of ISIS. More than 1,000 Iraqi troops were reportedly killed Sunday in clashes with ISIS about 10 miles outside of Baghdad.
The advance by ISIS toward Baghdad shows that the group isn't weakening despite U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq. ISIS executed 300 Iraqi soldiers last week during their march toward the Iraqi capital and attempted to break into a prison in northern Baghdad.
"This attack is very significant. It is the first infantry-like, complex, and penetrating attack in Baghdad city by ISIS since the fall of Mosul in June of this year," the Washington-based nonprofit Institute for the Study of War wrote on its website, referring to Iraq's second-largest city, which is in the Islamic State's hands. "ISIS likely carried out the attack to release some of the pressure it is facing as a result of the recent U.S. air campaign targeting its positions. The attack also signifies that, despite the heightened defenses of Baghdad in the aftermath of the fall of Mosul, ISIS is still able to carry out attacks in an area where it is unlikely to have active sleeper cells."
U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria have come under criticism over their effectiveness. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defended the military action last week in a CNN interview. Kerry claimed “Baghdad could have fallen” if it weren't for the airstrikes, which have predominantly been launched in the northern part of Iraq.
Fox News Megyn Kelly conducted an interview with the Vicar.
Kelly asked whether people would be looking to flee as ISIS nears, but he explained that there isn’t much opportunity to do so.
“One of my biggest dangers according to security people is I have no concept of fear, I do not fear ever. So no, I’m not scared. I fear for my people,” he said.
White also asked one of the soldiers protecting him what he would do if ISIS came toward him. He said he would take off his uniform, so White asked him why he is a soldier, and he said it's because he needs the money.
"How can you put your complete trust in an army who responds like that?" he asked.
According to some reports, the Iraqi army successfully repulsed an attack by ISIS on the western fringes of the city. But the fear is that it won't take a terrorist army to set the population fleeing and soldiers running. This is probably why we haven't heard anything from the Iraqi government on the danger to Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the president met with his national security team last night to discuss the growing threat of ISIS on the Turkish border. The strategic Kurdish border town of Kobani has been targeted by ISIS, and despite several air strikes, continues to advance. Turkey has massed troops on its border to meet the threat - largely because the taking of Kobani would mean tens of thousands more refugees, in addition to the 150,000 who have crossed the border in the last week.
If Baghdad falls, the president;s fraudulent "war" on ISIS will be exposed for what it is; a feeble attempt to appear to be doing something about ISIS.