Iraq declares victory over ISIS

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared final victory over ISIS on Saturday, congratulating the military for driving the terrorists out of the border regions with Syria. 

But Abadi forgot to mention the huge difference in the war made by the US military, including the Air Force and Special Forces. Put simply, the Iraqis would have been unable to dislodge Islamic State from their strongholds without US assistance.


“Honorable Iraqis: your land has been completely liberated. The dream of liberation is now a reality,” Abadi said in a televised address. He was speaking with five Iraqi flags and dozens of servicemen from different branches behind him.

“We have accomplished a very difficult mission. Our heroes have reached the final strongholds of Daesh and purified it. The Iraqi flag flies high today over all Iraqi lands.”

Daesh is an Arabic acronym for Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Several squadrons of Iraqi helicopters flew over Baghdad carrying Iraqi flags at noon, in an apparent rehearsal for a victory parade that Iraq is planning to hold in coming days.

The government said the declaration meant Iraqi forces had secured the western desert and the entire Iraq-Syria border, and marked the end of the war against Islamic State.

Abadi declared Dec. 10 a national holiday to be celebrated every year. State television aired celebratory songs praising government forces and militias, and showed scenes of celebration on the streets of Baghdad and other provinces.

While Abadi made no mention of American help, US headquarters issued a congratulatory statement:

The U.S.-led coalition that has been supporting the Iraqi forces against Islamic State welcomed the news, as did Brett McGurk, the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy to the coalition.

“We congratulate the Prime Minister and all the Iraqi people on this significant achievement, which many thought impossible,” he said in a series of tweets.

“We honor the sacrifices of the Iraqi people, its security forces, and the Kurdish Peshmerga, and admire the unity in their ranks that had made this day possible.”

The U.S. State Department also issued a statement of congratulation.

The challenges facing Abadi and his government are daunting. With the war over, the factional infighting will return with one big difference; Shiite militias, armed by Iran, are in a position to dominate the post war political landscape unless they are disarmed.

That will prove to be a difficult problem - just as it was for Lebanon who couldn't disarm Hezb'allah in the 1990's following their civil war. Hezb'allah ended up forming a powerful political party backed by its Iran-trained milita. Something similar could easily happen in Iraq.

ISIS may be defeated on the battlefield, but Abadi holds no illusions that Iraq has seen the last of Islamic State terrorism. There will be a long, twilight struggle to prevent ISIS from breaking up the country with no guarantee they won't succeed.

Other worrisome problems facing the Iraqis include the Kurdish independence question, equitable division of oil revenue, and resettlement of millions of refugees whose homes were destroyed in the fighting.

But for the moment, there is rejoicing in Baghdad and across Iraq. 


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