The terrible news is that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is still threatening the annihilation of “tens of thousands” (originally 50,000) of a small sect called Yasidi’s trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq.
ISIS also continues to threaten a Kurdish city named Erbil where we have a consulate. And those are only the negative highlights. ISIS threats keep popping up.
The good news is these events have triggered air strikes in both areas by the U. S. which have curbed ISIS efforts in those spots for the moment. I have read of a pathway off the mountain, but also that ISIS is still advancing, so the situation remains dangerously unclear. From the perspective of stopping ISIS, the announcement that the CIA is beginning to send arms directly to the Kurds is more good news as they they are pro-American, unlike many Iraqis, and have a security force, the pesh merga that is willing to fight. Ironically they are outgunned by the ISIS forces who captured many arms and military vehicles that we had supplied to the Iraqi forces who fled their advances.
Of course arming the Kurds is tricky business given their inclination to establish an independent state rather than remain a part of Iraq, while U. S. policy aims for a united Iraq. However, this kind of situational dilemma is the rule not the exception when dealing with the Greater Middle East. There are no potential solutions without possible negative repercussions.
Also, I realize that for many that this involvement raises the specter of the U. S. becoming deeply committed in Iraq as we did before. But this is an emergency situation what with a power vacuum in that country leaving it ripe for ISIS advancements and slaughter throughout. Right now ISIS seems the biggest threat to overall stability in the region making them the enemy of basically all nations nearby. Finding ways to defeat them seems the top priority, so much so that I can imagine cooperation, open or covert, with the likes of Iran and Russia despite our generally adversarial relations with them. Perhaps we can even learn to stomach Assad if our interests momentarily correspond.
The strength of ISIS is also its weakness. It is so fanatical and frightening that even al-Queda disowned them. The rich backers from Sunni Arab states that supported the rise of ISIS – foremost Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait – must have second thoughts now that they appear a threat to their own homelands. Backing them had meant at the time backing their fight with Shia dominated states, like Assad’s Syria, not Sunni dominated countries like their own.
So ISIS has few friends and many enemies. The biggest problem right now is that the efforts to stop ISIS lack unity. A huge stumbling block has been the refusal of Prime Minister Malaki to step down, even though he has no backing among Sunni and Kurds and even the Shia have largely turned against him. The good news is that the parliament has coalesced around selecting Haider al-Abadi, a member of his own party, to replace him.
Malaki’s fate seemed to be sealed several days ago when the top cleric in Iraq, Ali-Sistani, announced he must step down, a sentiment that was then echoed by the leadership in Iran, who had supported him in the past. But just yesterday it seemed he might employ military force to retain his position. However, about two hours ago came reports that Malaki has told the military to stay out of the political process which suggests he will launch a legal challenge to the change but otherwise submit.
What I have just written as a brief summary of events is expanded in an article yesterday in the Washington Post by Loveday Morris and Anne Gearan. The first part of the article deals with the Prime Minister appointment and the second part with the Yasidis and the Kurds in northern Iraq. It obviously doesn’t include Maliki’s statement regarding the military which came this morning.
P. S. – For those who read my previous post where I said I would write next about Israel and Hamas, well, the above news usurped center stage, especially as Israel and Hamas are slated to begin a three day (or however long it lasts) cease fire.