Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Did ISIS really take Mosul? (Plus a tip of the hat to Obama for no dithering on Iraq)

Number seven in Best Defense's countdown of 2014's most popular posts.


This item, Best Defense’s seventh most popular of 2014, was originally published on June 23.

It wasn’t just ISIS that took Mosul, asserts Sheikh Ahmed al-Dabash. “Is it possible that a few hundred ISIS jihadists can take the whole of Mosul? No. All the Sunni tribes have come out against Maliki.”

As long as we are checking the historical record, I also think it appropriate to note that the Obama foreign policy team seemed pretty coherent in the last week or two. They were clear to me about what they would do and wouldn’t do. They signaled early on that they simply weren’t going to be the air force for Shiite power in Iraq. And they didn’t take weeks to hammer out a position. You may not like their position, but they arrived at it quickly. I’ve been critical of how this administration handles foreign policy, so it is important to note when they do better.

That said, I still wonder why Joe “Iraq Czar” Biden has gone silent on Iraq. Whatever happened to his victory lap? I wonder if his silence on Iraq reflects the recognition that American interests in Iraq have been defeated by Maliki.

My scary thought of the morning: What if everything that has happened in Iraq since 2003 is just preamble to the main event, still brewing?


Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at Twitter: @tomricks1