Iraq and Iran have been at odds for decades. Some of the most famous international incidents of the last century involve their conflict. Now, however, these old foes may unite to fight a common enemy in Iraq. The terrorist organization ISIS represents a threat to just about every group in the region, government or otherwise. The ruthless band of fighters, who have been called too extreme by the likes of Al-Qaeda, has steamrolled its way from Syria all the way through Tikrit, Mosul and right up to Baghdad’s doorstep. ISIS are not simply trying to control a region of Iraq or even its capital. They are attempting to create a new Islamist state that includes Iraq as well as Syria.
ISIS has taken advantage of the chaos in both nations and used the perpetual wartime to build a strong army. Even as large portions of the Iraqi military surrender quickly to ISIS the supposed “freedom fighters” claim to have executed well over 1,000 soldiers. The would be nation builders have become such a threat that a variety of leaders are calling for differences to be put aside to face this enemy. Soon after President Barack Obama called for Iraq’s government to stand up to ISIS, Iraqi Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani stated that all of Iraq’s varied political parties must unite to construct a new parliament by July 2. Now even Iraq’s old foe, Iran, may be united in fighting this common enemy, as the volatile nation has already sent a group of military advisers to Baghdad and pledged its support. Meanwhile, English speaking ISIS fighters reach out to international sympathizers via YouTube hoping to bring more soldiers into the war zone. The advance of ISIS creates an incredible and odd situation where warring factions in Iraq must unite or be destroyed, along with the Iraqi government accepting help from an old enemy. All to combat terrorists whose actions are hard to differentiate from their own. Iran sent its support without any word from Iraq and Iraqi officials refuse to comment in detail about their strange new bedfellow.
Meanwhile President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry must deliberate on what kind of actions to take. The President has stated that any action that the United States takes must be met with sincere commitment by the Iraqi government. With old foes like Iraq and Iran united to fight their common enemy, the United States obviously does not want to get embroiled in an even more complicated conflict. The only dog in this fight that the United States officially supports is the current Iraqi government, a government which has failed to live up to what US military and political leaders required of it. With American public support for any type of military action waning the President faces many difficult decisions. If ISIS is in any way victorious it will be the equivalent of a new nation controlling a large territory filled with valuable resources. Terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda have done far more damage with far fewer resources. World leaders across the board seem to agree that ISIS must be stopped, but few can agree to openly unite against the looming threat. For now the advance of ISIS has been slowed at Baghdad, but the decisions of the many Iraqi factions, Iran, and President Obama will determine where the battle goes now.
By Matt Isaacs