The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, more formally known as ISIS, continued its assault on Iraq’s government and the Shi’ite population this week, inching ever closer to Baghdad. The extremist group of Jihadist Sunni fighters seek to establish a caliphate — a unified Islamic government led by an established caliph who would be a successor to Muhammad’s political authority — across most of Syria and Iraq. The borders between Iraq and Syria have already been captured and are under ISIS control along with large parts of the two countries.
“For the insurgents, capturing the frontier is a dramatic step towards the goal of erasing the modern border altogether and building a caliphate across swathes of Syria and Iraq” said a recent Reuters report after the border and other territories were captured by ISIS.
After the group of around 800 Sunni rebel fighters launched from Syria, capturing Mosul and other parts of Northern Iraq earlier in June, insurgents from surrounding areas and captured territories joined forces with ISIS, increasing its size to a now reported over 6000. This poses a threat to the national security of Iraq as well as the regional security of all Middle Eastern nations as the group primarily targets pro-government factions.
“What happened is a disaster by any standard. The presence of these terrorist groups in this vast province … threatens not just the security and unity of Iraq, but the whole Middle East” said Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi when questioned about the significance of the current situation.
While the UN and has officially expressed its condemnation of the group’s actions and accused the Islamic State of human rights violations, ISIS does not consider itself to be a terrorist organization or group at all; instead it considers itself to be a legitimate state at war with surrounding nations. It also takes advantage of the large scale lack of military resistance in Northern Iraq.
“Recent assessments by Western officials and military experts indicate that about a quarter of Iraq’s military forces are ‘combat ineffective,’ its airforce is miniscule, morale among troops is low and its leadership suffers from widespread corruption.”
– New York Times
When 800 ISIS fighters moved in on Mosul, which was occupied by over 30,000 armed Iraqi militants, the Iraq military fled. They fled so fast that they left behind a ton of military equipment, including US funded weapons and humvees. The US has spent over 20 billion dollars training and equipping the military of Iraq in preparation for our departure, but it appears that has been ineffective. And with The Islamic State rapidly expanding its ranks and heading towards Baghdad, Iraq prepares for a possible all out civil war.
The Shi’ite dominated government and military made little effort to hold territory in Northern Iraq when the Sunni extremists came because Shi’ites simply aren’t willing to die for that land. Baghdad and Southern Iraq is heavily populated by Shi’ites though, and if ISIS continues on their current path and reaches Baghdad, the Shi’ites will fight to defend their people and land.