Speed Reads

Iraq

ISIS had a secret weapon in Ramadi assault: a sandstorm

The capture of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, by Islamic State militants is a setback for Iraq, and for the Obama administration's strategy of relying on air power, not ground troops, to support Baghdad's fight against the ISIS insurgency. But American fighter jets can't launch airstrikes during a sandstorm — something "the Islamic State fighters evidently anticipated," The New York Times reports.

Starting the offensive against Iraqi security forces during a sandstorm allowed ISIS militants to fight their way far enough into Ramadi that by the time the storm passed, U.S. jets couldn't hit ISIS targets without also killing Iraqi troops and civilians. "The dust storm at the very least neutralized capabilities that could have been decisive," one former senior military official tells The New York Times. Below, BBC News puts the fall of Ramadi in a broader context. —Peter Weber