Thinking Aloud: Ramadi, a Turning Point?

May 21, 2015 by Darius 

Earlier this week, the Iraqi city of Ramadi fell to ISIS.  Now that more information, including survivor statements and satellite data, has come in, it is being reported that the breakthrough in the assault came when ISIS used a bulldozer to break through a section of defensive wall, then sent no fewer than 30 suicide car bombs through the breach.  The US has estimated that 10 (!) of ISIS’s car bombs were at least equivalent in explosive power to the truck bomb that blew the front off the Edward Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 people.

First, how can one possibly expect the Iraqi army to defend against such tactics?  Reports claimed that the car bombs were flattening entire city blocks.  This flies in the face of any conventional military preparation and may be the closest the world has seen to tactical nuclear bombs (albeit without the radioactive fallout).  Second, one wonders where ISIS is getting this much explosive.  ISIS’s proto-state doesn’t include any ports.  That means that anything ISIS has was either (a) already there or (b) smuggled in from neighboring countries.  ISIS’s rate of expansion has slowed significantly since airstrikes and other military activity against it began several months ago.  As ISIS’s borders have stagnated, so too has its ability to fuel its war machine through looting.  Thus, smuggling is taking on a greater and greater role in arming and funding ISIS.  Oil and looted artifacts are smuggled out; weapons and explosive precursors (like ammonium nitrate fertilizer) are smuggled in.  As a landlocked area, ISIS’s zone of control should be fairly easy to cut off.  In short, what the hell are the countries bordering ISIS, especially Turkey, doing?

Previously, I wrote about Turkey’s failure to stop smugglers from allowing ISIS to import tens of, and presumable hundreds of, thousands of pounds of ammonium nitrate.  (See

We’ve now seen where that ammonium nitrate, or something very similar, has ended up: flattening the Iraqi army in Ramadi.  I’ll repeat what I said previously: it’s time for Turkey to stop playing their idiotic game of tolerating ISIS to hurt the Assad regime.  The rest of the neighborhood is paying far too high of a price.

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