I wrote an article on Thought Catalog saying that we’re probably not entering in another war with Iraq. Today that article seems a bit premature. ISIS is at large, an American journalist has been murdered, and the eyes of the world are on the US. Before you decide what you think the US should do, let’s figure out what’s going on.
Under the supposed threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and eventually overthrew the Iraqi dictatorship led by Saddam Hussein. The United States urged Iraq and the Iraqi people to hold an election to form their new government, as they were trying to spread democracy across the world. In 2005 The Iraqi people democratically voted in a new government for the first time since 1953 and United States troops stayed in Iraq to oversee the situation.
For better or worse, in 2011, when the last US forces left the country, they essentially left a hole in the Iraqi power structure. Hundreds upon hundreds of American troops were in Iraq throughout the years and the U.S. government provided millions upon millions of dollars in payment to Iraq’s Sunni population. When these payments stopped it only exacerbated an already tense relationship between Iraq’s Sunnis and its majority Shi’ite population.
The Rise And Expansion Of ISIS
The current situation in Iraq is somewhat a by-product of the Syrian Civil War, a long and complex situation. One of the many consequences of the still ongoing war was the formation of ISIS. The Syrian Civil War is an unrelenting battle between President Bashar al-Assad (and his military forces) against the unorganized armed protesting forces. One of the largest and strongest rebellious forces in Syria fighting against the government is ISIS, a group which takes its inspiration from a former extremist group called Al-Qa’ida in Iraq, and they have now entered Iraq and have a large military presence there.
The history behind this terrorist group is very complex. For starters, this is a Sunni Muslim militant group, intending to form a Sunni Caliphate State. The majority of Iraqi citizens are Shia (Shi’ite) Muslims and there are even some Christians who live in Iraq (8% of the population). ISIS operates under a strict “either you’re with us or you’re against us” mentality in matters pertaining to religion and war, and they’ve accumulated a large amount of weaponry, including weaponry originally supplied to the Iraqi military, since invading Iraq earlier this Summer. Since then, ISIS has taken over large ares of Iraq and currently dominates large portions of Syria.
ISIS recently suffered a major setback when Kurdish forces in the North took back the Mosul Dam, a key tactical area. (The Kurds are an ethnic group that mostly lives in Northern Iraq.) When ISIS first took the Mosul dam they were simply up against Kurdish forces. The Kurds took back the Mosul Dam with help from the US Airstrikes that Iraq requested repeatedly. However, in seeming retaliation for America’s support for the current Iraqi government, ISIS beheaded an American citizen.
That’s right, ISIS recently beheaded James Foley, an American citizen, on video. They then released the video to the public, leading to an extreme backlash from American citizens and the general media.
What Is Iraq Doing About It?
One of the largest problems in Iraq is the inadequate representation in government. The government of Iraq is (was) overwhelmingly Shia, and the Sunni people who live in Iraq have been woefully underrepresented.
Under extreme pressure from both Iraqis and the international community, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced that he would not be seeking a third term, and this opened way for an Iraqi politician named Haider Al-Abadi to become the new Prime Minister of Iraq. Maliki was widely considered to be a corrupt and oppressive towards parliamentary hopefuls who were not of his Dawa Party or Shi’ite religious sect. It is the collective hope that Al-Abadi will be more inclusive to all sects and religions, setting the ground work for a more peaceful Iraq.
So, Are We Going To War Again Or Not?
If you did not know this, the United States does not take kindly to threat – perceived or real. The last time the US even perceived a threat from Iraq they reacted strongly, now someone has murdered a US citizen. While President Barack Obama is adamant about not returning to a ground war in Iraq, one can rest assured that this act will not be ignored. Air Strikes in Iraq have already increased, and they show no signs of stopping.