Anbar’s capital city of Ramadi, once a city with a population of over half a million people, was the first test case for Iraq’s latest offensive push. Launched in December, it was a calamitous push indeed, with the city “liberated,” but also almost completely destroyed.
By contrast, officials are praising the results in nearby Fallujah, just recently recovered from ISIS, as a “lesson learned,” with estimates of only about 10%-15% of the city damaged in the fighting, and even a lot of the key infrastructure, like bridges and power lines, remaining intact.
Of course this leads to the unsettling reality that Iraq’s Army needed to destroy a major Iraqi city to figure out that not destroying the city was much more than a secondary goal, particularly with the government struggling to get the Sunni Arab minority on their side.
Not destroying Fallujah, at least mostly, is only part of the equation though, and the real test comes now, with Fallujah’s population eager to get out of ramshackle refugee centers and back into their homes. How quickly they’re allowed back in, and how well they’re treated by their new rulers, particularly the Shi’ite militias present, will be the real test for whether Iraq can “liberate” such cities to any real effect.