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May 19, 2015

Iraq asks for more U.S. help after loss of major city


Fighters from the Islamic State (ISIL) captured the city of Ramadi over the weekend, prompting the Iraqi government to ask for increased U.S. military airstrikes and help from fighters supported by Iraq’s neighbor, Iran.

The takeover of the strategically-located city marks the biggest defeat of Iraqi forces in nearly a year and a setback for U.S. and coalition efforts to unseat ISIL’s hold of several cities in the region.

U.S. officials acknowledged the setback but voiced confidence in the ability of Iraqi ground forces to reverse the takeover. The U.S. also increased airstrikes in the region surrounding Ramadi.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that the continued campaign to contain ISIL has limited the militants’ financial capacity and mobility.

“It is possible to have the kind of attack we have seen in Ramadi,” Kerry said. “But I’m absolutely confident, in the days ahead, that will be reversed.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on Shiite paramilitary militias, which are backed by Iran, to push back against ISIL. Yousif Al-Kilabi, a spokesman for the militias, said he hoped to provide a “backbone” for Iraq’s security forces. Iraq and Iran share a long border and complicated history, including a brutal war between 1980 and 1988.

Anbar province, where Ramadi is located, saw increased pressure from ISIL in the 16 months leading up to its fall. But the Iraqi government was slow to send security reinforcements, prompting frustration in Ramadi, according to retired Colonel Derek Harvey, a former special adviser to the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Warm up questions
  1. What is the Islamic State (ISIL)?
  2. Where is Iraq? What is the relationship between the U.S. and Iraq?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Previously, Iraqi government troops had been fighting the Islamic State. Why is it significant that the government called in paramilitary troops to help? Why do you think they did this?
  2. How do you think the U.S. feels about Iraq and Iran working together to defeat the Islamic State?
  3. How could these recent events affect the larger fight against the Islamic State?
  4. According to a former special military advisor, Iraq must “push ISIL out of all the territory that it holds without enabling it to move into another territory.” Do you think this is possible? How do you think Iraqi forces can accomplish this?
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