Maybe you’ve heard about this little conflict in the Middle East. A group of extremist Sunni militants called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have taken control of several Iraqi cities as well as the country’s biggest oil refinery, and, surely, they’ll be attempting to take Baghdad in the near future. The Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, has requested U.S. assistance in pushing ISIS back, but, thankfully, President Obama has exercised caution in formulating a strategy.
If the John McCains and Lindsey Grahams of the world were in charge, “Operation Iraqi Freedom Again” would probably have been enacted by now. Say what you want about President Obama, but we’re lucky he’s in the hot seat instead of some impulsive neocon with a fetishized view of the military.
Fox News anchors might be quick to criticize Obama’s slow action, but exercising caution is the smart option. The last time our country rashly took military action in Iraq, we got sucked into a nearly nine-year war with barely anything to show for it. What is to be gained from meddling in Iraqi affairs once again? Is anybody still so naïve to believe that Iraq is just anxiously awaiting our help to transform into a happy, democratic wonderland?
In President Obama’s statement on June 19, he detailed the latest U.S. strategy for the conflict but emphasized the fact that it will ultimately require an Iraqi solution. The sectarian conflict plaguing Iraq is too volatile and culturally enmeshed to be fixed by air strikes or the diplomatic hand of the United States.
The Sunni-based ISIS wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in the region. Prime Minister Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, wants to stay in power but might be marginalizing the country’s Sunni citizens in doing so. The country is bordered by Shiite majority Iran and Sunni majority Saudi Arabia. It’s a recipe for devastating civil war.
In addition to fortifying the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the United States is prepared to expand intelligence operations and send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq. Obama reiterated that American forces would not be participating in combat roles.
We know from very recent experience that the United States playing “world police” would inevitably lead to more disruption. ISIS might even be hoping for U.S. involvement – even the illusion of the United States supporting Shia over Sunni could be the spark that ignites the powder keg.
Luckily, Obama has made clear that the nation’s sectarian divisions are the roots of the problem. Iraq’s problems don’t end with ISIS. As long as there is inequality among the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, there is motivation for unrest. But outside of urging the Iraqi government, especially Prime Minister Maliki, to practice more inclusive politics, this solution should be completely out of the United States’ hands.