There is without a doubt a crisis brewing in Iraq, but you’d never know it based on the actions of President Obama. Ol’ “No-Drama-Obama” made a worthless speech to the press on his way to a helicopter whisking him away for a nice trip to North Dakota – and oh yeah, more golf. Meanwhile Russian separatists, supported by Vladimir Putin, shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane killing nearly 50. But no big deal, Obama had a Democrat fundraiser to attend.
There is lots of speculation about what is happening in Iraq, but it’s clear the responsibility of these events fall squarely in the lap of two men: Barack Hussein Obama and Nouri al-Maliki.
Obama sided with campaign promises and not strategic policy. Al-Maliki sided with his Shiite sentiments and did not seek to unify Iraq. Obama did not press the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and al-Maliki acted belligerently — that cannot be debated, and Faoud Ajami does a great job in explaining that in his Wall Street Journal article.
But with all that aside, we are we now? Who is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (also referred to as Levant), ISIS/L? And what do we do about ti?
First it starts with understanding who leads ISIS. According to The Daily Beast, the Islamist extremist some are now calling the most dangerous man in the world is the Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who served four years at the biggest U.S. detention camp in Iraq. And he was released in 2009.
During his time at Bucca, he learned the art and importance of avoiding notice. As the Beast reports al-Baghdadi clearly remembered some of the lessons of his time there. He has made no videos, unlike Osama bin Laden and many of the other extremist leaders. The news reports might not have had a photo of him at all were it not for the one taken by the Americans when he was first captured in 2005.
So it seems al-Baghdadi learned to minimize himself and avoid any attention that could have singled him out. Now he is leading a barbaric movement that is threatening to upset the balance in the heart of the Middle East.
Does he have the military capacity and capability to take Baghdad? Probably not, especially since he will be running into the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and al-Quds forces.
Instead of conventional-type operations, which have enabled him and his force to take large swaths of territory, they will potentially resort to the typical Islamic terrorist tools: suicide bombings (man and vehicle), as well as targeted assassinations. I believe it’s not unlikely they would try an assault against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as a symbolic measure.
The real threat of al-Baghdadi and ISIS is the establishment of an Islamist state extending from Northern Syria across northern and western Iraq. It could be a base of operations and training, in order to enable Islamic terrorist attacks regionally, and globally — no different from the Taliban doing the same in Afghanistan and welcoming al-Qaida.
Since Obama and the U.S. suffer from “war fatigue” and publicly state so, ISIS has no fear of U.S. intervention — but they do of Iran. Obama stated that al-Mailki has to solve this himself, and he will by siding with his Shiite brothers in Iraq — Iranian President Hasan Rouhani has already issued his intent and has the al-Quds force Commander, who was in Syria, now in Baghdad.
The Obama administration should have seen this coming when the black al-Qaida flags showed up in al-Anbar province. The options are now few, and just shooting a bunch of Hellfire missiles from drones will not solve the problem. Air strikes would require a ground element, which could adequately bring munitions to bear against the enemy.
Possibly the only remaining option would be to ally with the Kurdish Peshmerga Army and cut ISIS off from the rear and target their base of operations in Syria. Let us not forget that there are western fighters in ISIS ranks. As well, the last thing we would want is for an Islamist group to influence the flow of oil out of the second-largest oil producing country in the Middle East.
The bottom line is, we can deal with ISIS now, or we will deal with them later, when they stronger and more entrenched. With Obama in charge, chances are it will be later — after all al-Qaida is decimated and on the run.