[March 13, 2015] We are hearing good news about the battles in Iraq that the Islamic State (ISIS) is being pushed back. I am proposing that the Iraqi army advances in Iraq is not all good news because it is being assisted by Iran and without U.S., Arab, or allied support. The unintended consequences of this means that the Shia-Sunni Islamic divide will widen and this will be counterproductive.
The fact that the U.S. does not have an overarching strategy to defeat ISIS is now before us. Number one item on the “to do list” of a good strategy is to address the Shia-Sunni divide and to never pick one side over the other (see What is a Strategy to Defeat ISIS?). When we find this absent, everything we do will ignore one of the biggest problems in the Middle East that generates terrorism, radicalism, and extreme violence.
For example, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and other news organizations have presented what appears to be a positive turn of events with ISIS armies being defeated in some local areas like the town of Tikrit.1,2 While any news that ISIS has suffered is good in itself, there are many significant concerns that are ignored.
We need to remember the Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Here are some of the effects of Iranian Shia militias helping the Iraq government:
- It will increase the influence of Shia Iran in the region that is populated mostly with Sunnis.
- The Sunni nations that have signed on with the U.S. to fight ISIS are seeing their Iranian enemy displace us militarily and diplomatically.
- Individual Sunnis and Sunni nations will begin to gravitate toward ISIS as a way to avoid the radicalism and violence of ISIS and Iran.
- Chances of a massacre in Tikrit or elsewhere by Shia militias is highly likely. While this may be seen as revenge against ISIS for the massacre of Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, it nevertheless is an abomination that should be avoided.
Yes, the news that ISIS has suffered some local defeats, it is certainly neither defeated or in retreat anywhere in the world. Until the United States, with its allies, develops an acceptable grand strategy to destroy ISIS, the Islamic State will remain a multi-pronged threat to us all.
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