For months now the international community has followed the growing actions of ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant. They started as a small al Qaeda offshoot in Syria that President Barack Obama described as a JV basketball team, and now they have evolved into a full fighting army with captured territory and cities in both Iraq and Syria. Rumors are circulating that ISIL may have secretly benefited from aid sent from countries around the world to the Syrian rebels fighting against the Assad regime. ISIL has also managed to capture military equipment from Iraq and Syria, adding it to their growing arsenal and army. However, Iraq’s military isn’t just losing land and equipment; they are losing soldiers as well. As the ISIL army advances, many Iraqi soldiers have laid down their arms and went home instead of fighting. The Iraqis don’t feel strong enough to fight ISIL, and because of this many minorities and Iraqi citizens have been left under ISIL control.
In the territories that ISIL has captured they have started to force their own ideas onto all others. They have implemented strict Sharia Law and have executed those who refuse to follow their ideas. Many of these people have been Christians. Women, children, men, Christians, Muslims, ISIL hasn’t cared, they have killed all who do not follow their beliefs. Currently ISIL is attempting to take land from the Kurdish and the Yazidis, two small ethnicities in Northern Iraq. However, just like in territories that they have already captured, ISIL is attempting to wipe out these groups. The Kurds seem to be the strongest fighting force to face ISIL so far, and many are worried that if the Kurdish army falls nothing within Iraq will be able to stop ISIL from taking the rest of the country, including Baghdad.
Due to these concerns President Barack Obama recently announced that we will be sending humanitarian aid, and weapons to the Kurdish forces that are attempting to fight off ISIL. The President also announced that the US has begun conducting airstrikes on ISIL forces in Iraq, hoping to stop their advances in the region. Many wonder at this point if airstrikes will make any sort of difference in the region due to the fact that ISIL has so much land. No one has a strong enough force on the ground to take the land back even if the ISIL army is decimated by airstrikes.
Recent turmoil within the Iraqi government suggests that they may not be able to even hold the country together in the face of the ISIL invasion. A battle is brewing in the Iraqi parliament as the newly elected President of Iraq is attempting to oust the two term Prime Minister al-Maliki and form a new government. If the Iraqi leadership can’t even agree on how to run the government, how are they supposed to fight off an army that is reportedly 40,000 strong in the northern half of their country?
Some people would start to claim that the situation in Iraq is only a problem for Iraq and Syria. Unfortunately, the situation is worse than many thought. Just the other day Senator John McCain stated on CNN that the United States is tracking 100 ISIL militants within the United States. ISIL supporters have been spotted in protests in the United States, and an ISIL supporter reportedly took a picture in front of the White House just the other day. But the United States isn’t the only country worrying about ISIL in their country. There are reports of Europeans also going to fight for ISIL or getting training in the region and then returning to their home countries. The goal of ISIL is a global caliphate starting with an Islamic State in the Middle East; this would allow jihadist forces to train in the Islamic State then travel to key parts of the world to continue their operations. If ISIL were to establish an actual Islamic State we know for certain that they would use this to launch attacks across the world. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of the international community to stop this.
I am not one for going to war simply because of countries or groups that don’t agree with us or want to overthrow their own government. However, ISIL has shown that they are the worst of the worst. ISIL is not just the enemy of the United States, or Iraq, or Kurdistan; they are the enemy of humanity and good in the world. Pope Francis himself has become so concerned with the situation that he has called for Muslim states and leaders to call out ISIL and do what they can to stop them. At this point, even the aggressive Russians led by Vladimir Putin should be concerned about ISIL as well. This has become an issue that the entire world should be watching and looking for a solution. Should we all be looking right at a ground invasion above all else? Certainly not. But there are things that could be done to at least bring ISIL to global attention.
Pope Francis is on the right track on the way to handle ISIL. Other countries in the Middle East should be leading the way in calling out ISIL and trying to find a way to handle the situation. Clearly the Iraqi government wants ISIL gone, but they are not in a position to handle the situation right away. We all know that Iran has a strong dislike for ISIL, and Egypt has shown that they are willing to be a leader in the region. These nations should be working together to find a solution in the region that eliminates ISIL. The United States should work with its allies, including the United Nations and NATO to find a solution to the problem as well. There is one concrete solution to the problem, but the international community needs to have a conversation about what is going on before it is too late and ISIL grows too strong and bold.