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While West Dithers, ISIS Creates Facts on the Ground

“ISIS now controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations. It possesses the means to threaten its neighbors on multiple fronts, demonstrating a military effectiveness much greater than many observers expected.”

So wrote my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Janine Davidson on July 24. And that was before this weekend’s reports that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had routed Kurdish fighters from the town of Sinjar near the Iraq-Syria border–one of the few border posts it did not already control–and that it may have taken control of the Mosul dam, which if blown up could flood much of northern Iraq with a 65-foot wave.

Other reports indicate that ISIS has taken control of a Syrian oil field near Homs. As the Washington Post notes in a very comprehensive round-up of depressing news: “Experts estimate the group is pocketing as much as $3 million per day in oil revenue by selling off resources on black markets in the greater Levant.” Oh and ISIS also just staged an attack in yet another country–Lebanon.

In short, the news is about as bad as it could be. The question that remains is: What is the U.S. doing about it? So far President Obama has dispatched 825 military personnel to Iraq to make a survey of the situation and to conduct some liaison work with the Iraqis in two headquarters. That’s about it, aside from some fiery rhetoric from Washington denouncing ISIS excesses. One wonders if the president is once again assuming that denouncing something is the same thing as doing something about it.

There are no air strikes, no Special Operations raids, no attempts to rally Sunni tribesmen to resist their new overlords. Granted, one should not rush willy-nilly into action before gaining an accurate assessment of the situation and deploying the resources necessary to be successful. That is why, for example, the Bush administration did not start bombing Afghanistan until weeks after the 9/11 attacks. But one fears that this time around the U.S. is not preparing a devastating response–or any meaningful response at all–to the alarming expansion of Islamist terrorist control in Iraq and Syria.

One fears that Washington is busy analyzing while ISIS is altering facts on the ground. And that eventually we will hear about Iraq the same thing we have been hearing about Syria: that the situation is so grim that there is nothing we can do about it. That, of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy–the less we do, the worse the situation gets, and the less likely we are to intervene in any form.

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3 Responses to “While West Dithers, ISIS Creates Facts on the Ground”


    But, but, but didnt Obama tell us it was all ok now!
    Obama: “..the war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan is winding down, al Qaeda has been decimated, Osama bin Laden is dead.”
    Ironically, it is only the last statement which is true, and as Peter Bergin pointed out in his book on the hunt for bin Laden “Manhunt” it was this success which lay at the root of the current problems.
    The Young Turks in al Qaeda were impatient with the war on America. They believed it was not cost effective, better to focus on the “low hanging fruit” ie the corrupt regimes of the Muslim world rather than the world’s last remaining superpower.
    Obama granted their wish by removing the man obstacle to their plans by assassinating Osama bin Laden!!!
    The guy’s a jink, even when he does something it turns into a disaster!


    “A military solution is not the answer”, except for those who don’t accept it.

    As Trotsky once remarked, “You may not want war, but war wants you”.


    The Islamic Caliphate has now advanced into Lebanon. No Western response is likely.
    The problem is that the West, after WWII, has accepted the notion that only negotiations and economic sanctions are to be used for leverage in foreign policy. They have consistently reduced their forces, which unilateral disarmament has not gone unnoticed these days. The political anarchy is spreading like a disease.
    Why is that democracies always wait until a crisis is upon it before acting? At some point, it may be too late.

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