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How to Interpret the Victory in Ramadi

Shia paramilitaries ride in military vehicles in Nibai, May 26, 2015. Reuters

After the Islamic State (also called ISIS) took Ramadi last week, a number of prominent analysts concluded that the group is once more on the rise. Some have compared the conquest of the city, capital of the strategic Anbar province, with ISIS’ nearly uncontested sweep through Mosul almost a year ago. Others have predicted that the group could now even take Baghdad.

The Guardian reporter Martin Chulov wrote, “From Beirut to Baghdad and as far away as Riyadh, regional actors are coming to terms with an organization that can win most of its battles and successfully storm Syria and Iraq’s best-defended bastions.” Stuart Gottlieb, an adjunct professor of American foreign policy at Columbia University, asserted that “despite an eight-month American-led air campaign, ISIS remains very much on the march.” 

A resident of Tabqa waves an ISIS flag in celebration after Islamic State militants took over Tabqa air base, in

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