Published on June 27th, 2014 |
by Morgan Wolfe
Image © Iraq 2003
A blast from the past: the time has come for the UK and US to take action in Iraq
Just as the dust seemed to settle, terrorism groups in Iraq return stronger than ever.
Once again, there is a crisis in Iraq. This time the fast, violent advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) terrorism group have sent both US and UK leaders into a frenzy.
The ISIS terrorists and their Sunni Arab allies turned up the heat on the US and UK after raising a black flag over the Baiji refinery (biggest oil refinery in Iraq) on Wednesday. This bold statement symbolized that they are a force to be reckoned with. The invasion of the Baiji refinery exploits the failures of the Iraqi government and military.
Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, had been accused of denying Sunni Arabs rights, and pursuing security policies that exclusively targeted them. The Iraqi government–that the US assisted in establishing years ago–has lost its authority and power.
Helplessly, they’ve reached out to the US in desire for air strike aids against the ISIS. This request from the Iraqi government immediately sparked roaring debates in Washington amongst political leaders.
As debates continue in the US, the ISIS’s confidence has increasingly been fuelled by the success of overrunning cities in Iraq. Their momentum shows no signs of slowing.
Eighteen towns/cities are under ISIS control, of which, Iraq’s second largest city Mosul and the oil famous city of Baiji. Now, the ISIS is advancing towards the capital, Baghdad. But not before they gain complete control over the Baiji refinery, which supplies majority of Iraq’s domestic fuel.
Oil production has been shut down for several days at Baiji, and had already sent people into a panic. The loss of the refinery would be life-shattering to the country. Iraqi officials guaranteed that they were in “full control” of the oil refinery.
Contrary to those statements, video content and images of black smoke clouds coming from the refinery have been released. The ISIS has roughly 10,000 men fighting for them and have support from Sunni tribesmen and former soldiers of the previous Iraqi army. The same army that was controversially dissolved by the US military.
The Iraqi security forces across the country are said to have gradually weakened by sectarian tensions, abuses and corruption during the ISIS rise. These are the same security forces that were given $1.3 billion in aid from the US in 2012, according to BBC News.
Washington has major doubts of Maliki’s future capabilities. Maliki is seen unqualified to re-establish the national unity and reform needed for Iraq over the longer term, and this is why US President Barack Obama is reluctant to step in with military support.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron vigilantly expressed his concerns on this crisis in Iraq, on Wednesday at Westminster. If an “extreme Islamist regime” is created in central Iraq, it would be a grave threat to the UK since the ISIS have been plotting terror attacks here, he said.
There is no accessible proof that the ISIS are plotting terror attacks on the UK, but a threat is likely. Frank Gardner, BBC Security Correspondent, said that the worldview of the ISIS is “vehemently anti-Western.”
An estimated 2,000 recruits of the ISIS have come from Europe, including 400 to 500 from UK, according to Gardner. One swift order from their amir (commander) to send a couple jihadists back to Britain to carry out an attack is likely, considering that the threat of the UK jihadists has not gone away, security sources said.
In addition, the deadly bond between the Iraqi and Syrian rebels has created a whole new platform to this crisis. Iraqi rebels had been providing Syria with weapons, ammunition, shelter and manpower. Aiding them in their battles, before joining the rebellion itself in 2013. This relationship has established strongholds on both sides of the border, allowing them to easily move recruits and resources between them.
US President Barack Obama said that ISIS is a danger to Iraq and its people. Coinciding with David Cameron’s statements, the president said that given the nature of these terrorist, they eventually pose a threat to American’s interest as well.
Obama’s foreign policy was berated by Republican members of the US Senate on Thursday. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) was one of many that took the floor Thursday discussing the latest Iraqi crisis, but was one of the only ones who suggested a plan of action.
“Of course Maliki has to be transitioned out,” McCain said.”But the only way that’s going to happen is for us to assure Iraqis that we will be there to assist. And let me make it clear: no one that I know wants to send combat troops on the ground, but airstrikes are an important factor.”
Removing Maliki as Prime Minister is seen as meddling from the Obama administration, but would be a wise move to help reduce the tension between the Iraqi religious groups. Establishing a strong, balanced government is what Iraq is in need of.
It is time for the UK and the US to collaboratively put an end to this crisis, before it escalates any further.
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