Tikrit had been one of ISIS’ big victories until the last couple of weeks, when Iraqi forces — mainly consisting of Iranian militia under the command of Quds — finally drove them out. The US finally offered some air cover after the Iranian forces pulled back, but the overall effort pushed the terrorist army out of Saddam Hussein’s home town, putting the Sunni city under the control of mainly Shi’ite forces. Just how long that will last is the big question, but for the moment the ground is secure enough that CNN’s Arwa Damon gives viewers a rare look inside Tikrit:
Iraq’s Prime Minister also arrived to personally declare victory:
The potential booby traps were political as well as physical. Officials are concerned about the behavior of the conquerors, particularly the Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen who helped Iraqi troops. Officials fear the militiamen might take “scorched earth” reprisals for the reported massacre of Shiite air force cadets by ISIS fighters in Tikrit last year.
Much of the population of Tikrit is, like ISIS, Sunni Muslim. And officials fear that reprisals by Shiite militias against the Sunni population could stoke local anger, jeopardizing the government’s ability to hold onto Tikrit and pull the country together. Sectarian resentment helped fuel the rise of ISIS in the first place.
Still, the liberation of Tikrit from the terrorist group, which is also known as ISIL and calls itself the Islamic State, represented a significant victory for the Iraqi government, which had tried — and failed — to retake the city many times before.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived Wednesday to claim the victory, which took place a year after the city was first attacked by ISIS. Al-Abadi, who is also Iraq’s top military commander, had announced the previous evening on Iraqiya TV that the city was under the control of Iraqi forces.
Perhaps not coincidentally, ISIS appears to be floating a proposal for a truce. Using a captured British photojournalist to churn out propaganda, the ISIS magazine Dabiq argues that it’s time for Western and regional nations to undertake a “paradigm shift,” and realize that the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi caliphate is here to stay. After committing genocides and brutally beheading defenseless hostages, Baghdadi now wants to play Let’s Make a Deal, The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer reported yesterday (removing the possibility that this is an April Fools’ prank):
After months of being targeted by U.S.-led airstrikes, losing ground in Iraq and suffering defeat in a weeks-long assault to capture the Syrian border town of Kobani, is the Islamic State flagging and putting out feelers to see if a truce might be possible? Or is it just seeking to sow confusion in the ranks of its opponents and to undermine their unity and resolve by raising the idea of negotiations?
Intriguingly, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, floated the idea on Tuesday of a negotiated truce in the latest issue of the militants’ English-language magazine Dabiq, via an article written by one of the group’s remaining Western hostages, British photojournalist John Cantlie. …
In an article entitled “Paradigm Shift,” in the eighth and latest issue of the magazine, Cantlie notes in the mocking style his captors presumably have ordered him to adopt that Western leaders appear to have accepted now that the Islamic State is like no previous terrorist organization, and that it is a country with all the attributes of a bona fide state—from a police force and schools to a functioning court system and supposed currency.
“At some stage, you’re going to have to face the Islamic State as a country, and even consider a truce,” he argues. Acknowledging that it is “going to take some swallowing of pride,” he asks rhetorically, “What’s the alternative, launch airstrikes in half-a-dozen countries at once?” “He adds, “They’ll have to destroy half the region if that’s the case.”
Actually, Baghdadi might want to check his history books on that question. Not only has the West fought wars on that kind of scale in the past, they have more capability to do it now than ever before. What the West lacks is will — and that’s exactly what ISIS targets in this passage, as Dettmer also points out. Like all propaganda, this “paradigm shift” is crafted to appeal to the isolationists and defeatists, not just in the US but also in surrounding nations like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, and Turkey. Why not deal with us as a real nation, the article suggests, rather than contribute to the destruction that we’ve mainly authored in Iraq and Syria?
In fact, the truce trial balloon is even more disingenuous than you’d imagine:
As if to underline the significance of the talk of a truce, and presumably to ensure it is understood as being endorsed by the Islamic State’s leadership, there is an editor’s note to the Cantlie article, saying while no truce can be permanent with infidels, a temporary one could be possible. “A halt of war between the Muslims and the kuffār can never be permanent, as war against the kuffār is the default obligation upon the Muslims only to be temporarily halted by truce for a greater sharia interest,” the anonymous editor announces.
Ha! No one could possibly fall for that, right? Right? Er …