Fireworks for ISIS

The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition struck the terrorist group 37 times on July 4. So reports the Daily Caller, citing a statement by Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR).

The majority of the strikes took place in Syria, in support of the Syrian Democratic Force’s (SDF) push on ISIS’s capital of Raqqa. They hit ISIS oil infrastructure, as well as 17 fighting positions in or near Raqqa.

Backed by U.S. air strikes the SDF, consisting mostly of Kurdish fighters but also some Arabs, was able to gain a foothold in the Old City of Raqqa. Although a great deal of fighting remains to be done, this looks like the beginning of the end for ISIS in its “capital.”

Meanwhile in Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition conducted four strikes yesterday. OIR says that three of them “engaged two ISIS tactical units; destroyed 33 fighting positions, two rocket-propelled grenade systems, and a front-end loader; damaged five fighting positions and a command and control node; and suppressed a mortar team.”

ISIS’s stay in Mosul is just about over. It is currently confined to two small enclaves which are separated by Iraqi Security Forces. Both are under assault. An OIR spokesman say that Iraqi Security Forces will “imminently” announce the city’s liberation, quite possibly by the end of this week.

According to the Washington Post, “bustle has returned to much of the city’s east, with shops reopened across the relatively undamaged eastern quarters.” However, ISIS sleeper cells remain a threat.

As callous as it is for me to say this, particularly in light of the humanitarian disaster ISIS has inflicted on Mosul, I hope the terrorists remain in the city to fire their last shots, rather than regrouping elsewhere in the region or migrating (or returning) to the West.

Our victory over ISIS is a big deal. The Obama administration deserves credit for formulating and implementing the plan to defeat ISIS, and the Trump administration deserves credit for following through.

But how did this band of thugs, apparently never much more than 30,000 of them, ever come to control so much territory and so many cities and towns? The answer, I think, lies in the chaotic vacuum that developed in Eastern Syria, the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, and President Obama’s inability to size ISIS up correctly (he famously called it the “jayvee”).

It must also be noted that the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria won’t put an end to the damage caused by the improbable rise of this outfit. ISIS will have a “radioactive half life” as its members and adherents conduct terrorism in other parts of the Middle East, in Western Europe, and in the United States.

Finally, of course, the demise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq will only be a prelude to geopolitical struggles for power and control in the regions from which the terrorists are being expelled. But these struggles are of the normal kind for the region. They would have occurred with or without ISIS.

ISIS was a tragic aberration — a chapter of history that didn’t need to be written and likely wouldn’t have been if President Obama had not been so negligent.