‘Cut money, arms pipeline to terrorists to stop ISIS, al-Nusra growth’

Displaced Sunni people fleeing the violence in the city of Ramadi arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, May 19, 2015. (Reuters / Stringer)
To arm "moderate" opposition that morphs into ISIS-like groups has been a misguided Western policy, Said Arikat, former UN spokesman for Iraq told RT’s In The Now show. All these organizations subscribe to the same extremist ideology, he added.

RT:If IS manages to keep control over Ramadi it will be their biggest advance since taking Mosul last June. How bad is the situation?

Said Arikat: It is very bad. It shows that unlike claims that ISIS maybe retreating or losing ground - or losing as the US Secretary of the State suggested just yesterday morning - I think they are gaining. And they are sort of cementing their control over this vast area. I know the Anbar region, I know Ramadi - it is very big city and it is a big prize. It is really a blow to their coalition that is trying to dislodge ISIS from places that it has controlled. As we have seen with Tikrit - they are still are - and Mosul. So definitely this is a big prize.

RT:Why did the Pentagon initially refuse to confirm that Ramadi had been taken by the extremists and did it only after the loss of the city was no longer deniable?

SA: Who knows... the Pentagon have their own way of assessing situations, they probably have assets on the ground. They didn’t want to acknowledge having them. More than likely that this is a security concern. But all that is notwithstanding the fact of the matter that neither the Iraqi government, nor those allies of the US among the Sunni tribes have been able to ward off this onslaught of ISIS.

Something has gone terribly wrong. We have to remember [that] ISIS, its precursor which is Al-Qaeda, was dislodged by these tribes, by the Awakenings [Awakening groups]. I remember I was there while this Awakening Council was formed by the tribesmen. So this is a really big blow, and shows that the policy is terribly misguided in terms of combating ISIS and in terms of cementing the support among the tribes.

RT:There's a powerful coalition which has spent almost a year trying to bomb out terrorists and yet IS claims more and more territory, and the campaign has been going on for 11 months. Why?

SA: In fact a little more than 11 months. It happened on June 10 last year. They controlled Mosul. The US, both the State Department, and the Pentagon, and everybody talked about liberating Mosul, but we are yet to see this. How long must it go on that ISIS keeps control of Mosul, putting together a plan that can bring all these forces that are opposed to ISIS such as pro-Iranian militia, the government forces, the US forces and so on to really dislodge them from Mosul?

Now Ramadi is the capital of the largest province in Iraq and it feeds on the discontent of the Sunnis. So there are so many loose parts, so to speak, that both the US and the government of Iraq and many others who are involved in fight against ISIS must bring together to really fight it.

Reuters / Stringer

RT:Just over the weekend, Washington reported that a senior IS commander, Abu Sayyaf was killed in a raid. Is it a large blow to the terrorists?

SA: They try to say it’s a large blow, but really he was not all that prominent. They say that he was like the minister of oil... Obviously they were able to do this quite smoothly, there were no causalities. We don’t really know about all the details of the operation but it was conducted by special forces; we don’t know whether there was in coordination or cooperation with intelligence, and so on with the Syrian government that have been fighting these forces for a long time. ... He’s up in the leadership but not the primary leader… it is not likely to impact the organizations in a crippling way because they will just bring in someone else. He probably has a deputy who runs the oil; this guy is responsible for oil contracts and so and on. They would replace him quite easily, I think. …

RT:Yet the US and its allies are continuing to train the so called "moderate" opposition against President Assad in Turkey. How does this fit in today's set of events?

SA: It plays a great deal. We have to remember, that where ISIS really began. It began in Syria, and it began their because there was no control over the flow of arms and jihadists from everywhere, that crossed the Turkish border with total ease, sometimes with a great deal of help probably from Turkish law enforcement and so and on. They were allowed to go in from other places, from Iraq for sure, but definitely from Turkey.

It was a misguided policy to begin with, to arm these groups that somehow morph into ISIS-like or into Al-Qaeda, they are all connected. And whatever rivalry or differences they have, they have it among themselves, but they are all probably subscribed to the same extremist ideology. It was bad policy then, it remains a bad policy today. Nothing short of really cutting all arms that go to the so-called opposition which is al-Nusra and other extremists in Syria by Saudi Arabia, by the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] countries that are pouring money and arms to feed the volunteers; nothing short of really cutting out that pipeline will impact the growth of groups like al-Nusra, ISIS, and other terrorist groups.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.