Iraq and ISIS

What’s Happening?

This week a terrorist organization has been violently taking over cities in Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also called ISIS, is a large group of extremist Sunni Islamist militants. ISIS is the group that has been carrying out these attacks. On Tuesday, June 10, 2014, the militants took Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. They were very brutal, and many people were forced to flee. A United Nations agency reported that about 500,000 people left the city. ISIS gained control Mosul’s airport and army base. They also had access to money from banks and weapons from military bases. Along with being Iraq’s second largest city, there are many other characteristics that make it appealing to the terrorists. For one, Mosul is historically the home to Iraq’s oil industry. It is also Iraq’s biggest link to Syria, and it is located close to Turkey. In fact, Turkey, a NATO ally, could be brought in to this struggle. A lot of Turkish citizens were being detained on Wednesday after being captured by militants in Mosul. Among those being held were three children and the Turkish consul general. In regards to this situation the Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu stated, “No one should try to test the limits of Turkey’s strength.” On Wednesday, ISIS headed south closer toward Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, and Baiji, the location of Iraq’s largest oil refinery. On Sunday, ISIS took the city of Tal Afar,  a city between Mosul and Iraq’s border with Syria. Also on Sunday, Iraq’s army and ISIS clashed 18 miles away from Baquba, a city 37 miles northeast of Baghdad. If ISIS took Baquba, they would have a three-pronged approach to Baghdad from the west, north, and northeast.   

How is Iraq’s government responding?

The government has been able to do little to stop the progress of the militants, which is a major worry for the country. A 10:00 p.m. curfew has been established in and around the capital. Also, an influential Shiite cleric has asked for special forces to protect chief religious sites.

How are the United States and other countries going to be affected and respond?

The most likely way an average American will be affected by this situation is when getting gas. The conflicts have caused oil prices to go way up, and stock prices are going down. Also, the U.S. State Department stated that, “Travel within Iraq remains dangerous given the security situation.” It is likely that the U.S. will consider giving some assistance to Iraq’s military. President Obama told reporters, “Iraq’s going to need more help. It’s going to need more help from us, and it’s going to need more help from the international community.” A White House spokesperson followed up by saying that sending in U.S. troops was not being considered as an option. The U.S. could respond in other ways by providing help in the form of airstrikes, military power for Iraq’s military, or by enforcing political change in Iraq. The U.S. sent between 50 and 100 marines and army personnel to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad for protection. The country of Iran, which borders Iraq, has withdrawn all visas and flights for religious pilgrims to Baghdad. (As Iran’s population is mostly Shiite, and the militants are Sunni.) They have also increased border security and sent 500 troops to Iraq to help the government.

More about ISIS

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a group of militants that grew from Al-Qaeda. (It is also called The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The Levant is the Eastern Mediterranean region and consists of the following countries Cyprus,Israel,Jordan,Lebanon,Syria,Palestine, and part of Turkey.) They wish to create an Islamic state across the region. The leader of the group is Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. They distinguished themselves as a group that fights against government but also maintains control over captured territory. ISIS was once a branch of Al-Qaeda, but later broke away from the group. In early 2013, ISIS decided to absorb another militant group in Syria. However, this group rejected being absorbed by ISIS. Al-Qaeda tried to mediate the dispute between the two groups, but they eventually chose to disown ISIS. ISIS first entered Iraq when they took over the city of Fallujah.   

Sunnis and Shiites

Islam is split into two main groups: Sunni and Shia. The split first occurred right after Prophet Muhammad died. There were two groups that each wanted different leaders. The two groups both have the same core beliefs. Some of these include the belief that Allah is the one and only god, the belief that Muhammad was the last prophet, and the belief that all Muslims should make a pilgrimage to Mecca. However, there are differences in their laws, traditions, and theology. The majority of Muslims are Sunnis, however most of Iraq’s population is Shiite. The two groups are often involved in disagreements.  

Sources

Al-salhy, Suadad, and Tim Arango. “Iraq Militants, Pushing South, Aim at Capital.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 June 2014. Web. 13 June 2014.

Elgot, Jessica. “US ‘Will Not Rule Anything Out’ On Iraq (Except One Thing).” The Huffington Post UK. N.p., 13 June 2014. Web. 13 June 2014.

Robins-Early, Nick. “A Group Too Extreme For Al Qaeda Just Took Over Iraq’s Second Biggest City.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 11 June 2014. Web. 11 June 2014.

Smith-Spark, Laura, Faith Karimi, Salma Abdelaziz, Hamdi Alkhshali, Yousuf Basil, Jim Acosta, Jason Hanna, and Mohammed Tawfeeq. “Obama: Iraq Needs U.S., International Help as ISIS Threatens to Seize More Cities.” CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 12 June 2014.

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