ISIS and the Conflicts in Iraq

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President Obama has promised to send military advisers and there has been talk of air strikes, but many Republicans want to the president to take more aggressive action to stop the spread of ISIS militants in Iraq.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — ISIS, is a coalition of militant insurgent groups known for their hardline beliefs and anti-Shia agenda. In recent weeks, ISIS troops have seized vast amounts of territory in and around Iraq’s borders with Syria and Iran. Now, many fear that ISIS has its sights set on the capital city of Baghdad.

Ohio State University political scientist Richard Herrmann said he believes the Iraq government has Baghdad well-fortified and that ISIS appears stronger than it is because it has picked off weak targets. He said many of the factions in ISIS have coalesced after losing power in Syria and Egypt, and are retreating to other areas what aren’t well protected.

“(Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad’s hand in the last year has grown stronger, and also in Egypt we’ve seen the Muslim Brotherhood simply be smashed,” Herrmann said. “The only place they have any chance is to retreat to the eastern districts of Syria, and try to expand into the western districts of Iraq.”

OSU Historian Peter Hahn agreed with New York Times correspondent Suadad al-Salhy that ISIS is much weaker than has been reported. Hahn said that ISIS efforts in those regions were aided by local Sunnis who already are angry with Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“ISIS is actually small in number, the recent surge in the north and west in Iraq was sustained by local Sunni tribes who had grievances against Maliki, and formed a short term partnership with ISIS in order to deliver a message to al-Maliki,” said Hahn, author of “Missions Accomplished?: The United States and Iraq since World War I.”

University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape, said the current government in Iraq has excluded Sunni’s from government decision making.

“What we have seen is that the Shia government is very reluctant to do almost anything that the Obama administration has asked,” Pape said. “For years we have been asking the Shia government to be more inclusive, and in fact, what’s happened increasingly is that they have been more exclusive, and what we are now witnessing are the results of that, which is essentially a Sunni revolt.”

What do you think? Should the U.S. intervene, stay out, or continue the diplomatic approach of Secretary of State John Kerry? For more, listen to the full hour of the show.

Guests

  • Suadad al-Salhy, New York Times Iraq Correspondent
  • Richard Herrmann, Political Science Professor and Department Chair, OSU
  • Peter Hahn, History Professor and Department Chair, OSU
  • Robert Pape, Political Science Professor at the University of Chicago, Director of Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism

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