The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s (IRGC) al-Quds force declared Monday that American forces have “no will” to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), leaving only the Islamic Republic to take on the task, Iranian media reported.
General Qassem Soleimani leveled the accusation against the US in the wake of the fall of Ramadi, one day after US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made similar comments regarding Iraqi forces. It is unclear whether Soleimani was responding to Carter’s comments directly.
“Obama has not done a damn thing so far to confront [ISIS],” said Soleimani, according to Iranian paper Javan, considered close to the Iranian Guard. “Doesn’t that show that there is no will in America to confront it? How is it that America claims to be protecting the Iraqi government, when a few kilometers away in Ramadi killings and war crimes are taking place and they are doing nothing?”
According to Soleimani, only Iran is standing up to ISIS. “Today, there is nobody in confrontation with (the Islamic State group) except the Islamic Republic of Iran” and its allies, he said.
Ramadi is the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, not far from the capital of Baghdad, captured just over a week ago by ISIS forces. According to BBC, heavy-handed scare tactics were used to frighten off the overworked Iraqi forces stationed there.
Since then, Iraq has rallied in an effort to take back the province. Iraqi officials announced Tuesday a new operation was being launched, expected to retake the city in just days. Iraqi parliamentarian Ahmed al-Assadi told the Associated Press the operation would “not last for a long time” and that Iraqi forces were using new weapons “that will surprise the enemy.”
Although any attempt to diminish ISIS’s foothold in Iraq is welcome, concerns have been raised in Washington regarding claims by an Iraqi Shi’ite militia, Hashid Shaabi, that it is spearheading the operation. That, along with the highly sectarian name assigned to the effort, may ruffle the feathers of the mostly Sunni local population, sending them into the open arms of the Islamic State. ISIS has billed itself as the only force working to protect Sunnis from Shi’ites.
“The Labaik Ya Hussein operation is led by the Hashid Shaabi in cooperation and coordination with the armed forces there,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Assadi said at a televised news conference. The name of the operation is taken from a slogan honouring the grandson of the prophet Muhammad who fell in the battle which divided Sunnis and Shi’ites in the 7th century.
“We believe that liberating Ramadi will not take long,” he added.
Ramadi is not the only place to have fallen recently into ISIS hands. Palmyra, in Syria, was captured by ISIS only days later. Hundreds have been slaughtered there, including women and children, and concerns have been raised that the various ancient archaeological treasures of the city will be destroyed by ISIS, as has happened in the past in Mosul and Nimrud in Iraq. Syria has since launched air strikes against ISIS fighters in Palmyra.