SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- The Islamic Sate of Iraq and Syria is a barbaric gang of terrorists that threatens not only the two nations in its name but others in the area. The U.S. must do all it can to help the people of those nations turn back the ISIS tide.
We must stress, however, that in no instance should the U.S. put troops on the ground. If we learned nothing else from various misadventures, beginning with Vietnam, it should be that we cannot fight another nation’s wars for it.
Thanks to the Internet, the savagery of ISIS has been brought into our living rooms. Entire villages are wiped out, the men shot and women and children abducted, as these thugs attack anyone who does not practice their form of Islam. ISIS is so brutal that even Al-Qaeda has rejected it.
ISIS members like to think of themselves as good Muslims, but that’s as ludicrous as the views of the Nazis who thought of themselves as good Christians.
A particular target of ISIS in recent weeks has been the Yazidis of northern Iraq, who practice an ancient religion akin to Zoroastrianism. Fortunately, most Yazidis were able to escape the mountains where they had been trapped and take refuge among the Kurds.
U.S. airstrikes have helped protect the Kurds from ISIS forays, for now. But what should be our long-term strategy? Whom should we aid and how? These are questions that must be considered carefully before we make any major commitments.
The situation is especially dicey in Syria, where the two strongest forces are the Assad government and ISIS. Attempts to arm the moderate opposition backfired when extremists overran the moderates’ positions and took the weapons. ISIS fighters are known to be using U.S. weapons.
In Iraq, the larger question is the future of that nation. The Kurds, an Aryan people who practice Sunni Islam, are virtually independent of the central government and many would like to formalize independence.
The difficulty facing any government in Baghdad is blending harmoniously the interests of the Kurds, the Sunni Arabs who dominate the middle of the country, and the Shia Arabs who control the south and are a majority overall. Would a loose confederation, or even three independent nations, be more stable, and therefore better able to resist extremism?
The immediate problem is to prevent ISIS from overrunning either of the two nations in its name. This may mean air strikes or intelligence sharing or advisors. It must not, however, mean an Americanization of the conflict.
In Syria, one possibility is to offer aid to the Assad government on the condition that it stop attacking the moderate opposition and enter negotiations toward a unity government. A complicating factor here, as in Iraq, is religion. Most Syrians practice Sunni Islam while Assad is an Alawite, an offshoot of Shia Islam.
In Iraq, the best hope is that the new premier, Haider al-Abadi, can build bridges with the Sunni community that his predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki, did so much to alienate. Both men are Shiites, but Abadi is far less confrontational. Maliki’s policies have been one of ISIS’s main recruiting tools among disaffected Sunnis.
National borders in the Middle East were drawn by Britain and France after World War I with little regard for ethnic or religious realities. Thus many nations have minorities who feel disenfranchised and ready to heed the siren song of extremism.
Our task is to encourage moderation and toleration, but the people involved must take the lead.