Should Americans be Afraid of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)?
ISIL is an Islamic-fundamentalist, Sunni-militant group, and they have declared open war with the Shia dominated government in Baghdad. ISIL originated from a few other well-known Islamist groups. One of ISIL’s important parent groups was Tawhid wal-Jihad, which was run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. After the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan by coalition forces, Zarqawi fled to Iraq where he began fomenting unrest against Saddam Hussein. However, Hussein was unable to apprehend Zarqawi.
After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Zarqawi turned his group, Tawhid wal-Jihad against the American military. They conducted numerous attacks against American forces and Iraqi collaborators, including suicide bombings. They attacked humanitarian groups, such as the Red Cross, without restraint.
In 2006 Zarqawi was killed by Americans forces; he was considered enemy number one to the United States. Shortly after that, the group changed its name to the Islamic Stat in Iraq (ISI). There also was Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and they continued to pose a serious threat to the government in Baghdad. After a short amount of time, the leadership of the organization changed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It appears that the ISI and AQI joined forces to become the ISIL. Since the Arab Spring began in 2011, ISIL has been able to maintain a base of operations in Western Syria due to the central government’s inability to end the ongoing civil war.
During the last few years, ISIL is considered one of the strongest forces fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Because of their control of large areas of Iraq and Syria, they have been able to transport weapons and supplies into Syria without much difficulty.
Iraqi Government's Response
Late in 2013, the government in Baghdad, under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, began an offensive in northern Iraq to destroy ISIL. That offensive was not effective, and Iraqi security forces have not been able to contain ISIL. In retaliation to the Iraqi offensive, ISIL attacked and was able to seize control of Fallujah. During this crisis, ISIL has been conducting numerous attacks against civilians. There was even a suicide bombing at funeral for a police officer that as killed.
From their new base of operations in Fallujah, ISIL has struck fear into the Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi military is actually less-equipped and not as well-trained as the ISIL, especially in regards to urban warfare.
Map of Iraq
What is Happening now?
Currently, ISIL seems to be stronger than ever. They control large swaths of territory in Syria, and just yesterday seized control of Mosul, which is the second largest city in Iraq. The Turkish authorities were unable to evacuate their consulate and staff from Mosul, and now they are being held captive by ISIL. The Turkish government is in a state of panic, and they have called an emergency meeting with NATO to review their options. There is a vague possibility that Turkey will actually invade Iraq in response to this crisis. Notably, their military has entered Iraq before in recent years, but that as in response to attacks from Kurdish groups.
ISIL is continuing its push southward and leaving a trail of destruction behind them. In the areas they control in Syria and Iraq, they have instituted a harsh version of Sharia law, and hardly any journalists or international observers have been allowed to assess the situation.
There also have been reports of members of ISIL killing “non-believers”. Hundreds of Syrian civilians have been killed in the areas controlled by ISIL. Just today they have seized control of Tikrit, and they are getting dangerously close to Baghdad. If they were to reach Baghdad, then the government of Iraq would surely be in jeopardy.
Should Americans be Worried?
Fundamentalists of any religion or creed are problematic. ISIL are especially dangerous, because they have shown little remorse for the violence they have caused. ISIL is outspoken in their hatred towards Israel and the Western world. If given the capability, there does not seem to be any reason why they would restrain from carrying out attacks on American soil.
Another serious issue is that there are many foreign fighters in ISIL from Western countries (between 2,000 and 3,000) including American citizens. Hopefully, the State Department has kept tabs on what Americans have joined ISIL, but these Americans are ideologically driven to fight against the United States. The State Department has been quick to denounce ISIL's recent move. ISIL has been successful in recruiting non-Arabs to join the fight, because they release most of their recruitment materials, both videos and magazines, in English as well as Arabic.
We should not forget that the Shia population of Iraq has suffered a great deal due to Sunni groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda. ISIL has carried out attacks on Shia cvilians before, and we can expect they will again.
If you combine all of these factors, it becomes clear that ISIL is a clear danger to the people of Iraq and even the United States. What is President Obama supposed to do? Considering that the ISIL came to being in response the invasion of Iraq in 2003, is it wise for the United States to become militarily involved in Iraq once more? One way or the other, the situation seems to be slipping from bad to worse, and we should not be surprised if other regional powers, such as Turkey, get involved militarily.
ISIL M arch
Sources and Further Reading
- Turkey invades Iraq after Kurdish rebels kill 26 Turkish soldiers - World Wires - MiamiHerald.com
BAGHDAD — Turkey sent troops and fighter jets into Iraq Wednesday in "hot pursuit" of Kurdish rebels who killed more than 25 Turkish soldiers in multiple attacks in the southern Turkish province of Hakkari. It was the first cross-border vio
- U.S. Condemns ISIL Assault on Mosul
- ISIL: Rising power in Iraq and Syria - Middle East - Al Jazeera English
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has outgrown even al-Qaeda as it seeks to establish a new caliphate.
- Iraq city of Tikrit falls to ISIL fighters - Middle East - Al Jazeera English
Gunmen from the Islamic State of Iraq take city and launch attacks on Kirkuk and Samarra, a day after the fall of Mosul.
- Iraq crisis: what is ISIS? - Telegraph
Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known for its ruthless tactics and suicide bombers, now poses threat across the Middle East
- Iraq insurgents take Saddam's hometown in lightning advance| Reuters
TIKRIT Iraq (Reuters) - Sunni rebels from an al Qaeda splinter group overran the Iraqi city of Tikrit on Wednesday and closed in on the biggest oil refinery in the country, making further gains in their