▲ The telegraph of Jihadist group, ISIS. Provided by abc news.
Before the Arab Spring, Iraq appeared to be stabilizing. However, the recent video of the cold-blooded execution of multiple Westerners posted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) makes it clear that Iraq and Syria have severed any hope of a reasonable solution. As the horror becomes darker, the United States (U.S.), United Kingdom (UK) and France are trying to fight against the terrorist group, ISIS. As the threats to the Occidental escalate, they are forming alliances to combat the violence.
Who is ISIS? and What do They Want?
▲ The map of Iraq and Syria, the location of ISIS. Provided by abc news.
The situation is getting worse in Iraq. At the center of the mess, is ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The final “S” is for Syria, or Arabic word “al-Sham” which refers to Greater Syria. Levant is the region of the eastern Mediterranean between Anatolia -Asian part of Turkey- and Egypt. Reliable information about ISIS is scare but there is little doubt about their deep pockets and ability for mayhem.
ISIS was initially formed in 2013 from the group once known as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). Born from the brutal al Qaeda faction, ISIS has inherited its financial support from extremist patrons. Initially, ISIS relied on donations from wealthy individuals. Now the group has oil fields in eastern Syria, and it is reported that they supply oil to the Syrian government. To make things worse, after the takeover of Mosul, the capital city, ISIS stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the city's central bank, creating an unrivalled wealth. The group’s assets are estimated to be around two billion dollars.
In the Syrian Civil War, ISIS fought for the Syrian rebels and Saudi Arabia and Qatar supported them because they are all Sunni Arabs. ISIS is now one of the main jihadist groups and controls the North East part of Syria including Deir al Zur, the petroleum province and the North West part of Iraq. The leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi intends to establish a Sunni Caliphate state, in which the church and the state are united. ISIS is known for their strict interpretation of The Koran and their brutal violence directed at Shia and Christians. This is evidenced by their posting of a video executing over 1,000 Iraqi government and military personnel on the Internet.
The rise of ISIS is gaining momentum. In an attempt to slow them down, Russia has sent jet fighters to Iraq. Also, Iran is preparing military actions against ISIS because they are concerned about losing the Shia government in Iraq since other parts are mostly Sunni. The U.S. is now joining hands with past with the following oil and energy anxiety and world disorder. As the coalition strives to blunt ISIS blood-letting, enemies of the U.S., Iran and Russia, are now starting to cooperate.
U.S. Defines ISIS as the Cancer of the 21 Century
After ISIS's brutal execution of American Journalist James Foley was made public to the world through Youtube videos, the world's attention focused on President Barack Obama. The United States has been suffering from the threat of terror since the 9.11 terror attack and the recent marathon bombings in Boston, and are now strengthening their strategy against all Islamic terrorists groups.
The Obama administration has clearly taken a hard line against ISIS, especially since the recent successive executions of journalists in Iraq. After the Foley's death, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the group would be "crushed." Also, Obama mentioned ISIS as the "cancer" that has no place in the 21st century at a press conference, saying that "No God would just stand for what they did yesterday and what they do every single day."
The friction between ISIS and the U.S. was triggered because of the prominent U.S. role in pushing ISIS off the Mosul Dam, as evidenced in the video of the execution of American journalist James Foley and those that followed. In Foley’s video, a purported ISIS fighter addressed President Obama directly, saying Foley’s death is retaliation for the U.S. airstrikes. Likewise, ISIS threatened the UK to halt its support of strikes before murdering a British hostage. In mid-September, an ISIS spokesperson called on Muslims to kill civilians in any country that joined the U.S.-led coalition against the terror group, including the U.S.
However, with not much information about ISIS, the U.S. is being careful of the hidden and potential powers of the group as well as preparing retaliation. Three more airstrikes have been carried out recently, totaling more than 93 airstrikes sent in Iraq. Nonetheless, the U.S. military admits that ISIS is very sophisticated and well-funded than any other militant group in the Middle East. However, the power of ISIS is more powerful than it might seem. The Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel even called the group "beyond anything we've seen" for its military funding and sophistication. It is beyond just a terrorist group, therefore the U.S. should be prepared for everything that might happen ahead.
The problem in attacking the group is that they cannot be defeated without addressing the part of the organization that resides in Syria. In this sense, the U.S is considering its expansion into Syria. However, the U.S. has announced they will not be restricted to borders in responding to terror threats coming from ISIS. The military force also hinted that any long-term strategy to confront ISIS has to be dealt with on both sides of the border of Iraq and Syria. Therefore, the U.S. could consider counterattacking the group across the border in Syria.
Currently, there is a U.S. campaign in Iraq that remains limited in scope, and the U.S. is currently looking for a long-term strategy to be pursued against Isis because the threat has clearly been established. However, Obama claims that the United States of America will continue to do what they must do to protect and defend their people.
Days after Foley's execution, the group showed a similar footage online of the murder of another American journalist, Steven Sotloff. ISIS told Obama that Sotloff's life was in the hands of the President. Nevertheless, the U.S. continued hitting ISIS with dozens of airstrikes.
EU Seeks Strong Response to ISIS
Along with U.S., the U.K and France are also threatened by ISIS. Showing the murder of consecutive days, the British journalist John Cantlie was brutally killed. Also four French journalists are currently held captive in Syria for months under the jihadist group ISIS.
The coalition is trying to bolster their efforts together in collaboration with other nations that are under threat. Responses of anger, indignation and calls for action have been seen around the world, including from British Prime Minister David Cameron saying, "I am shocked and depraved. I will today chair meetings on the situation in Iraq and Syria."
The UK parliament voted to authorize airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq in September. The votes showed that the country should also take part in an international effort to combat the extremist group. Cameron is certain to confer with the US president, Barack Obama, at the NATO summit, both about the threat to further hostages and the wider strategy to combat ISIS. Since Obama is under intense domestic pressure to be more decisive and is considering whether to extend the air strikes to Syria, the original base of Isis, the U.K and U.S. are forming an alliance to combat ISIS. Now that it's been approved, military action could start within hours. The UK forces have already been taking part in surveillance missions over Iraq, as well as aiding Kurdish forces with equipment.
Through the G8 and G20, the U.K and U.S. leaders have led the calls on governments not to pay ransom to hostages, and that policy is unlikely to change that policy. The focus at the summit meetings are concentrated on identifying the locations and identity of the hostage-takers.
▲ Obama's press conference on the response to ISIS. Provided by msnbc.