Calm Down. ISIS Isn’t Winning
WASHINGTON — THE fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Sunday, and of the Syrian city of Palmyra on Wednesday, is a big gain for the Islamic State, but not an utter disaster, as many observers fear.
Rather than inducing panic in Western capitals, it should lead to a realistic assessment of the Islamic State’s strengths and weaknesses. One setback in a long war must not trigger hasty strategic shifts that lead to foreign countries’ becoming mired in Iraq once more.
Palmyra has economic and cultural significance, as it sits among gas fields and is home to renowned ruins. But Ramadi, in western Iraq, is of far greater military and strategic consequence.
The attack on Ramadi was a sign of desperation, not strength. It took 16 months of continual clashes with tenacious Iraqi security forces and loyal Sunni tribes before the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, could take Ramadi. Before it fell, the Islamic State already controlled half of the city. Its battlefield rivals were exhausted, and it wanted to give its adherents a psychological boost. Ramadi was a ripe target.