U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) released the following statement today on the fall of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL):
“Today the black flags of ISIL fly over Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province. Anbar was once a symbol of Iraqis working together with brave young Americans in uniform to defeat Al-Qaeda. Today it appears to be a sad reminder of this Administration’s indecisive air campaign in Iraq and Syria and a broader lack of strategy to achieve its stated objective of degrading and destroying ISIL.
“Nearly 200 Americans gave their lives fighting in Ramadi, yet the Administration continues to denigrate their sacrifice with statements diminishing the city’s importance. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey said Ramadi was just ‘brick and mortar.’ Today, Secretary of State John Kerry called Ramadi a mere ‘target of opportunity,’ never mind the countless Iraqis slaughtered in the aftermath of the city’s fall. The fall of Ramadi, despite Administration statements to the contrary, is a significant defeat.
“Equally disturbing, reports indicate Iranian-backed Shia militias are preparing to launch a counteroffensive in the largely Sunni province. Whatever operational success Shia militias may have in Anbar would be far exceeded by the strategic damage caused by their violent sectarianism and the fear and suspicion it breeds among Iraqi Sunnis. Moreover, the prominent role of these militias continues to feed the perception of a Baghdad government unable or unwilling to protect Sunnis.
“Shia militants and Iranian meddling will only foster the conditions that gave to ISIL in the first place. Defeating ISIL requires empowering Sunnis who want to rise up and fight ISIL themselves, including by integrating them into Iraq’s security forces and providing more robust American military assistance.”