Friday, June 13, 2014

Iraq’s Second City Falls

The Devastation in Mosul
Iraq was on the brink of full-blown civil war this week after Islamist militants seized the northern city of Mosul, forcing around 500,000 residents to flee. As fighters from al Qaida offshoot the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) stormed the city’s airport, TV stations, and governor’s office, government soldiers and police fled their posts, leaving behind their weapons and uniforms.

The Sunni insurgents quickly moved south, taking parts of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, just 95 miles north of Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who belongs to the country’s Shiite majority, asked parliament to declare a state of emergency, and called for a “general mobilization” against the militants. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that ISIS—which captured the western Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in January—now posed a “serious, mortal threat” to Iraq.

“So much for al Qaida being on a path to defeat,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. President Obama boasted as much when he withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, effectively washing his hands of the country. In the three years since, Obama’s “policy of strategic neglect” toward the region has allowed al Qaida militants to regroup, and seize a vast swath of territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

This jihadist takeover “matters to the rest of the world as well,” said Charlie Cooper in CNN .com. Foreign extremists, “Europeans and Americans included,” have flocked to ISIS, eager to join its jihad against the Syrian regime. This high-profile new victory in Iraq will only attract more Western extremists, who will eventually return home battle-tested, and more committed to Islamist terrorism than ever before.

Iraq’s future ultimately rests in al-Maliki’s hands, said Daniel Nisman in Having long oppressed the Sunni minority, unwittingly enabling the rise of ISIS in the process, the Shiite prime minister now faces a crucial decision. He can either unite his country against the radicals, who are despised by moderate Sunnis, or continue his sectarian policies and ignite a civil war of “biblical proportions.” Given al-Maliki’s history of purging Sunnis from the government, the police, and the army, the latter unfortunately looks more likely.
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