Yes, ISIS Is Losing in Iraq. No, It’s Not in Its Death Throes

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from The New York Times,

Another day brought another horrible set of headlines out of Baghdad: On Tuesday, four bombings, one after another, killed dozens of people and left streaks of blood and strewn body parts across public markets.

As familiar as the last week of violence in Baghdad — more than 200 killed since last Wednesday — might seem to those who have watched Iraq over the years, this is not business as usual here. The American history in Iraq tells us that successful bombings in Baghdad are not to be taken lightly.

The official talking points say the new wave of bombings is a sign that the Islamic State is losing. The terrorists are lashing out in Baghdad because they are abandoning territory to pro-Iraqi ground forces and American-led airstrikes. They’re “on the defensive,” as Brett McGurk, President Obama’s special envoy here, said recently.

There is truth to that line. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is losing territory in Iraq and Syria. And the recent wave of bombings is out of the very first page in the group’s playbook, back when the Islamic State was Al Qaeda in Iraq. But this is not the group’s final death throes — not yet.

Since their beginnings, the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State have been driven by the desire to wage a sectarian holy war, and have been amply willing to barter their lives in return for terrorizing and inciting the Shiite population. And the Iraqi capital has always been its most fertile ground for sowing fear.

At bomb scenes in Baghdad over the past week, survivors lashed out at politicians and said militias should protect them if the government cannot.

Fadhil Lateef, is a 45-year-old man who sells fruits and vegetables in Sadr City, a teeming Shiite district in northeastern Baghdad that was hit by a suicide bombing last week and another one on Tuesday. He said he saw four burning bodies sitting in a car, a sight that terrified his small children.

“I wonder when this bloodshed stops,” he said. “If the government is not able to protect us, then let the Peace Brigades protect the areas of east Baghdad.”

The Peace Brigades is the latest name for the militia controlled by the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr that under its old name — the Mahdi Army — fought the Americans and was blamed for atrocities during the sectarian civil war.

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