Iraq’s military purged the last remaining town of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] today, retaking Rawa in the Euphrates Valley. When ISIS swarmed Iraq and Syria in 2014, it seized some 30% of sovereign territory, prompting its reclusive cleric Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to declare July 11, 2014 the creation of new caliphate. Backed by dead-enders from Saddam Hussein’s military, ISIS crushed the Iraqi Army, seizing much of its U.S.-made military hardware and weapons. Since losing Mosul, Iraq July 9, 2017 and Raqqa, Syria Oct. 14, ISIS was scattered to remote pockets in villages along the borderland between Iraq and Syria. Today’s final blow in Iraq, pushes ISIS into even more remote areas left to fight a guerrilla war but holding no significant territory in either Iraq or Syria. Al-Baghdadi remains on the loose with a $25 million Pentagon reward on his head.
President Donald Trump, back from a five-nation Asian tour primarily dealing with trade and the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, no longer backs former President Barack Obama’s strategy of arming rebels to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. With Russia and Iran helping al-Assad defeat Saudi-U.S.-Turkey-backed rebel groups, there’s no coherent opposition left in Syria. Al-Assad becomes the last man standing after a seven-year-Saudi proxy war AKA the Saudi-funded Arab Spring, toppling dictators around the Middle East. Unlike Obama that backed the Saudi proxy war against Damascus for six years, Trump kept his focus on ISIS, delivering the final death blow with the help of Kurdish Peshmerga forces, serving as the U.S. boots-on-the-ground in Iraq and Syria. State Department holdovers from the Obama administration still want al-Assad out of Damascus.
Iraqi military and paramilitary units “liberated the whole of Rawa and raise the Iraqi flag on all of its officials holdings,” said General Abdelamir Yarallah of Iraq’s Joint Operation Command [JOC]. Promising to scour the area of remaining ISIS terrorists, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi praised the military for conducting a swift operation. JOC spokesman Gen. Yahya Rassoul said that “military, ISIS has been defeated but we are going to hunt down its remnants to eradicate its presence,” saying there’s more work to be done after oust ISIS from remote areas. Iraq’s military just returned from Kirkuk, where it flexed its muscle with the Kurds who declared Sept. 25 an independent state. Instead of guaranteeing the Kurds its own state in the autonomous area in Northern Iraq, al-Abadi reneged on the Kurds. Iraq asserted control over Kirkuk’s oil fields, once a lucrative source of revenue for ISIS.
With ISIS defeated, Trump can concentrate on North Korea, a country on the edge of a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile. After applying maximum pressure on China and appealing to Russian President Vladimir Putin to get North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to disarm, Trump’s played out the diplomacy game to the Nth degree. Whether Kim decides to disarm is anyone’s guess. Judging by Purtin’s Sept. 5 remarks, Kim would rather “eat grass” than disarm his nuclear arsenal. Kim shows no indication of giving up his nukes and ballistic missiles, avoiding now any high-profile launches or atomic detonations. Nuclear experts have warned Trump that he doesn’t have much time to disarm North Korea before Kim develops and nuke-tipped Intercontinental Ballistic Missile [ICBM]. Without spending too much time on ISIS, Trump will devote his energy to stop Kim from getting his nuclear ICBM.
Iraqi ISIS expert Hisham al-Hashemi said the ISIS no longer possesses any real military or administrative power. Whether ISIS can orchestrate attacks in Europe, the U.S. or anywhere else remains unseen. “But the seasonal river valleys, the oases, the empty expanses of desert which make up around four percent of Iraqi territory, are still in the hands of ISIS,” said Hashemii, admitting that Iraq has a lengthy mop up operation on its hands. Those same remote parts of Iraq and Syria also contain al-Qaeda and Saudi-U.S.-Turkey-funded rebel groups, especially in Syria, seeking to topple al-Assad. Trump needs to send a clear message to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the U.S. won’t support any rebel groups to change regimes in Damascus. Some State Department officials still hope that the Geneva-based U.S. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura can get rid of al-Assad.
Trump’s laser-focused strategy of defeating ISIS has paid off since taking office Jan. 20, 2017. No longer interested in the Arabl Spring or rebel groups looking to oust al-Assad, Trump wants to focus his energy on stopping Kim Jong-un from getting a nuke-tipped ballistic missile. With all the diplomacy applying intense pressure on Pyongyang to disarm, there’s still a growing possibility that the U.S. military will have to disarm North Korea. “The days of the fake caliphate are now numbered,” U.S. coalition envoy Brett McGurk tweeted. While there’s verifiable progress on ISIS, there’s little to
celebrate with North Korea. While Kim’s been quiet since exploding a hydrogen bomb Sept 3 and firing a ballistic missile over Japan Sept. 15, Trump can’t afford to let Pyongyang get a nuke-tipped ICBM. Since ISIS has been neutralized, all hands on deck dealing with North Korea.