Retaking Ramadi from ISIS 'strategically and symbolically' important

The Iraqi army reports progress in recapturing some areas in the western city of Ramadi from ISIS, a victory that one Canadian expert says is both strategically and symbolically important.

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Gen. Ismail al-Mahlawi, head of the Iraqi army’s Anbar military operations, said Sunday that his troops were about one kilometre from Ramadi’s main government complex.

He said they have been slowed down by suicide bombs, snipers and booby traps, but they should reach the complex within days.

David Perry, a Senior Analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, told CTV News Channel that controlling Ramadi is “strategically and symbolically important.”

The fact that Iraqis managed to “retake territory that had been taken out of their hands” makes the retaking of Ramadi “symbolically important,” according to Perry.

ISIS fighters were vastly outnumbered by Iraqi soldiers when they pushed into the city in May, leading U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter to declare Iraq’s forces lacked “the will to fight.”

The apparent victory is also “strategically significant,” according to Perry, because Ramadi was one of the largest cities ISIS controlled, and is located along one of the two main ISIS trade routes.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city, could be the next target for Iraqi forces, with coalition support.

Perry said that retaking Mosul would help choke ISIS of funds, because the city’s roughly 1.7 million people are a large source of tax revenue for ISIS, and the city is also “surrounded by some fairly significant oil fields.”

Oil is believed to be the largest source of revenue for ISIS. Iraqi intelligence and U.S. officials told The Associated Press last month that stolen oil earns the terrorist group an estimated $50 million (U.S.D.) each month.

Canadian jets provide support

Canadian CF-18 Hornets bombed ISIS fighting positions near Ramadi six times in November and at least twice in December, most recently on Dec. 23.

There have been 15 Canadian airstrikes across Iraq so far in December, making it the busiest month for Canada’s CF-18s since July, and one of the busiest since Canada’s jets joined the international coalition in November 2014.

Nevertheless, the Trudeau government has vowed to pull the jets in 2016 while ramping up the number of Canadian military trainers on the ground.

A Nanos Research poll conducted in late November found that 59 per cent of Canadians supported or somewhat supported the deployment of Canadian fighter jets in the war against ISIS. That was down from 65 per cent in October 2014, when the same question was asked.

With a report from CTV National News Correspondent Omar Sachedina and files from The Associated Press



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