The complicated battle for Ramadi

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 23, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GEN. JACK KEANE (RET), FOX NEWS MILITARY ANALYST: Even though there is a Shia dominated government running Iraq, they will never have unity whatsoever without the Sunnis being a part of it. And to gain their loyalty and to gain their commitment is very important for the government to demonstrate to the Sunnis that they are going to take back their provisional capital. And hopefully as a result of that more Sunni tribes will participate in the campaign going forward.


SHANNON BREAM, GUEST ANCHOR: There is an all-out effort to re-win Ramadi back from ISIS, been held from is since May. Let's talk about it with our panel. Charles, how much of a win would it be for the Iraqi forces to take control here, and how much of a loose for ISIS in the bigger PR battle?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's a loss for ISIS like the loss of Sinjar, like the loss of Tikrit. It would show a reversal of momentum, and in that sense it's good. But the question is, who is it a gain for? And that's what General Keene is talking about. The fact is that we, the Americans, have tried to prevent the Iraqi government from allowing the Shiite militias, who are extremely brutal, rough, and anti-Sunni, to go into Ramadi which is the capital of Anbar, which is Sunni.

We have tried to keep them out. We have been supporting elements in the Iraqi army who are Sunni or tribesmen, and they have to inherit the city. They have to be given control. If that happens and we can begin the possibility, this is a longshot, to rekindle the alliance that David Petraeus had managed during the surge which destroyed Al Qaeda in Iraq and which helped us stabilize Iraq, which is to bring the Sunnis into reconciliation and into the central government.

So this is a test not only will ISIS lose, but it's a test whether the Iraqi government, which is under the thumb of the Iranians, abandoned by Obama in 2011, will allow the Sunnis to retake Ramadi and keep it. And that, I think, is the most important issue on the table, and we don't know the answer yet.

BREAM: A.B., you were asking groups that have some things in common but a lot of things that they do fight about to come together to make this win. And as Charles said, you know, there are so many different complications with this.

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: That's why it's so complicated. When they say they are going to clear it in 72 hours, we can be hopeful, when it was just in May when General Dempsey said we are not driven out of Ramadi. They drove away. For them to try to come back, and they have made progress, it is serious, substantial progress for the Iraqi forces to have done this, but that they did it without the Shiite militias, that they tried to do it on their own without the influence of Iran, that kind of effort, it's, a, there is no guarantee it's successful and that it can be replicated and duplicated and it could happen again and again. When you look at Iraq, it's even more complicated in Syria. So as we watch them use ground forces in what is a battle on the ground, it just shows how hard it's going to be for us to find less complicated partners in both places to have a sustained effort against territory that ISIS has taken.

BREAM: And to the point about Shiite militias, they say that their role is being overlooked. Spokesman for some of them today was quoted as saying "Today Washington comes along to steal the victory." Steve?

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: And I'm not sure I disagree with them, to be honest. And there have been some questions raised by military intelligence analysts about the extent of the involvement of the Shiite militias. Is it the case that the government is calling this regular Iraqi forces when in fact Shiite forces have had more involvement than they want because they know that there is a PR value for saying no, no, this is the regular Iraqi forces.

On the one hand you are encouraged because there is at least an acknowledgment that the Sunnis need to feel better about this. On the other hand, if they are not being honest about it and it is, in fact, Shiites it might fool people in Washington or it might convince people at 1600 Pennsylvania who want to believe that. But if it's not true, the Iraqis are going to know it's not true. And I'm afraid there are indications that it's not true.

KRAUTHAMMER: And if it's not true, we are going to know, because in the end if you put Shiite militias in Ramadi, which is the heart of Anbar, which is Sunni, it's not going to work. They will ultimately be expelled. The civil war will resume in Ramadi and we will know it. So it's going to be an eventuality that it's going to be obvious that we're going to see it.

BREAM: And A.B., even if they're able to pull this off still a long way to go to rout ISIS.

STODDARD: You have to look what is going none Syria not just in Iraq. That's another problem and possibly worse.

BREAM: As you said even more complex there.

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