On Point: Interring the Islamic State in Iraq

by Austin Bay
August 22, 2017

President Barack Obama's 2011 decision to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq was not based on the political and security conditions within the country. Obama's 2012 re-election campaign determined the withdrawal timetable. Obama intended to sell himself as a war-ender no matter the real world conditions.

No debate -- Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Iraqi government blundered, repeatedly. But in Iraq American troops served as mentors, honest brokers and a reassuring security presence. When the GIs left the Maliki government's sins multiplied. One of its worst mistakes was sectarian favoritism in the security forces -- giving unqualified Shia Arabs commands at the expense of more qualified Sunni Arabs, Kurds and other minorities.

Obama claimed he followed Bush's withdrawal timetable. The Bush plan, however, was contingent on achieving stable conditions. In 2011, as Arab Spring revolutions erupted, squabbling Iraqi political parties couldn't agree on a common plan for retaining a residual U.S. force in their country. Iraq's political blocs behaved like political cowards -- they wanted the U.S. to be the adult and insist its forces remain in order to protect Iraq's hard won economic advances and ensure a successful transition from dictatorship to democracy. Obama, however, had no interest in remaining, despite Arab Spring disruptions and the bitter civil war in neighboring Syria.

With the U.S. military gone, Iranian bullying increased. Tehran rattled Baghdad using political proxies.

Bullying is one thing, invasion another. In late Spring 2014, it became clear that the U.S. withdrawal had created a classic power vacuum as the jihadist Islamic State launched attacked Iraq from bases in Syria.

ISIS took city after city and approached Baghdad, its forces committing hideous mass murders and rapes as they advanced. ISIS made the Iraqi city of Mosul the capital of its "global Caliphate."

To stem the tide, America provided Iraq with aid, training, airpower and -- finally -- troops on the ground.

Iraq's grinding offensive to defeat ISIS began in 2015. Mosul was officially liberated in July 2017.

The Iraq war spawned by Obama's supercilious weakness isn't quite over. Iraqi and coalition forces must liberate Tal Afar, about 50 miles west of Mosul in northern Iraq. ISIS forces still control several towns in Iraq's huge Anbar province. These holdouts could continue guerrilla-type resistance for several months.

Claiming and controlling a territorial Caliphate was the literal ground condition that gave ISIS a political edge over al-Qaida. Destroying the Caliphate, however, doesn't mean the world is rid of ISIS.

ISIS still has forces in northern Syria. ISIS-directed or ISIS-inspired terror attacks will continue to kill the people of Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Jordan. ISIS killers will also continue to commit mass murder in Europe, North America and southeast Asia. The Spanish-Moroccan Muslims who launched last week's terror attack in Barcelona may have had ISIS links.

In a recent speech, Guillermo Fremd of the Israel-based International Institute for Counter-Terrorism argued ISIS-type jihadists frame their attacks on non-Muslims as retaliatory. Barcelona could be an example. Muslims once ruled Spain. The Barcelona terrorists may have seen their attack as retaliation for the Spanish Reconquista, or even an attempt to reverse it.

According to Fremd, extremist jihadist groups believe "in progress through regression." Their "revivalist message" claims that the "Islam of the first three generations" of Muhammad's followers can be resurrected. This is a narrative directed at Sunni Muslims.

Erasing the Caliphate deals ISIS a huge battlefield defeat and negates its bombastic propaganda. Fremd said the West counter its other narratives. The West must show tit is not waging "an offensive war against Islam and the Muslims...only attempting to put an end to the Jihadi threat, which threatens the lives of both non-Muslims and Muslims alike." ISIS-type "organizations are responsible of killing thousands of Muslims and are, therefore" not defenders of Islam.

ISIS murdered indiscriminately. That's fact. The coalition destroying ISIS in Iraq is multi-sectarian, multi-ethnic and multi-national. That is also fact. These are facts the world needs to hear, day in, day out, for the next century.

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To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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