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IraqU.S. tries to calm Iraq’s anger over Ash Carter’s “will to fight” comment

Published 26 May 2015

Vice-President Joe Biden yesterday (Monday) called the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to reassure him of continuing U.S. support, a day after bunt comments by U.S. defense secretary Ashton Carter. Carter told CNN on Saturday Iraqi forces had shown “no will to fight” ISIS and had fled in Ramadi despite outnumbering the Islamist militants by a wide margin. Abadi’s spokesman subsequently said that Carter had been given “incorrect information,” adding: “We should not judge the whole army based on one incident.” The debate over the fall of Ramadi highlights the deep disagreements among the United States, Iraq, and Iran over how to fight ISIS most effectively.

Vice-President Joe Biden yesterday (Monday) called the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to reassure him of continuing U.S. support, a day after bunt comments by U.S. defense secretary Ashton Carter. Carter told CNN on Saturday Iraqi forces had shown “no will to fight” ISIS and had fled in Ramadi despite outnumbering the Islamist militants by a wide margin.

Abadi’s spokesman subsequently told the AP that Carter had been given “incorrect information,” adding: “We should not judge the whole army based on one incident.”

The White House issued a statement Monday saying Biden recognized “the enormous sacrifice and bravery” that Iraqi forces had displayed over the past eighteen months in Ramadi and elsewhere, and welcomed an Iraqi decision to mobilize additional troops and prepare for counter-attack operations aiming to retake the city.

The Guardian reports that Iran joined in the debate over who is more willing to fight ISIS, with Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, the external operations arm of the Revolutionary Guards, saying the United States had “no will” to fight ISIS.

“Today, there is nobody in confrontation with [ISIS] except the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as nations who are next to Iran or supported by Iran,” Soleimani told Javan, a daily newspaper, on Monday.

Soleimani also said that U.S. fighter jets had done nothing to halt the ISIS advance on Ramadi, and said the United States was complicit in the group’s expansion.

Yesterday (Monday), Major General Tim Cross, the most senior British military officer to be involved in postwar planning in Iraq, said the Iraqi army lacked the necessary “moral cohesion” to fight against ISIS.

In Washington, Republicans intensified their attacks on the Obama administration’s ISIS policy. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), the chairman of the Senate armed services committee, on Sunday criticized President Obama for saying climate change was a threat to U.S. national security at the same time that advances by ISIS had not been checked.

The debate over the fall of Ramadi highlights the deep disagreements among the United States, Iraq, and Iran over how to fight ISIS most effectively. The combination of U.S. air strikes and Iraqi army’s ground operations has seen some local successes, but has failed to push ISIS back or prevent it from capturing important cities such as Mosul and Ramadi.