Throughout September and October 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) moved to consolidate its control of terrain in al-Anbar province, closing the gap in its Euphrates control between Haditha and Ramadi.
American strategy in Iraq and Syria continues to suffer from a fatal flaw. President Obama explicitly ordered that it focus only on “degrading” and “destroying” the Islamic State to the exclusion of any other American national security interests and regardless of the likelihood of the long-term success of any such effort undertaken in isolation. As a result, the strategy has achieved some limited successes against the Islamic State, but those isolated successes
ISIS is advancing in Anbar and threatening Baghdad from the west, and U.S. airstrikes have not blunted their advance into key cities such as Ramadi. As of October 7, ISIS controls most of the territory between Qaim on the Syrian border and Abu Ghraib, only 40 km from Baghdad. ISIS has conducted a sophisticated campaign in Anbar Province over the past four weeks in order to capture additional cities in the Euphrates River Valley.
Air operations in Iraq and Syria have not stopped the advance of Islamic State. Despite the bombing, the Al Qaeda splinter group has launched a series of offensives in Iraq, gaining new ground in Anbar Province, and it has continued its offensive in Syria.
The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) is not the only violent group opposed to the government of Iraq. Groups ranging from Salafist-jihadist to Sunni nationalist have also been mobilized against Baghdad since at least 2013. They remain a threat to the government even if ISIS is removed, especially if the core concerns of Iraqi Sunnis remain unaddressed by the Iraqi government. The primary grievances of most Iraqi Sunnis include the integration of Shi'a militias into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), attacks by the ISF in Sunni civilian areas, and political exclusion in Baghdad.
On September 18, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) launched a complex attack likely targeting the Adala Prison in Baghdad’s Kadhmiyah neighborhood in northern Baghdad.
PREPARATION: ISIS was setting the conditions for uncontested rule of Raqqa since the summer of 2013, when it detonated VBIEDs against rebel headquarters, kidnapped rebel commanders, and detained civilian activists. In Mosul, ISIS undermined government institutions with large scale racketeering operations and carried out targeted assassinations against key civilian and military leaders. By the time ISIS took full military control of Raqqa in January 2014 and Mosul in June 2014, an organized opposition to ISIS did not exist.