Middle East

Jun 18, 2014

Crikey Clarifier: what is ISIS (or ISIL) and what will it do to the Middle East?

The United States faces quite the dilemma in Iraq: either intervene and become embroiled in another Iraq war, or throw support behind Syria's brutal regime.

Professor Damien Kingsbury

Crikey international affairs commentator

The Sunni extremist group ISIS, or ISIL, has been taking over Iraqi cities and has claimed responsibility for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi soldiers. As events unfold in Iraq, the United States finds itself in the curious position of moving towards effective support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Having first intervened in Iraq and then folded on a threat to take action in Syria, the US now will be forced to intervene or face the alternative of the break-up of the nearly century-long construction of the region as a series of sovereign states.

Much depends on the strategic capacity and the next tactical moves of the organisation known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or, more correctly, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). ISIS is used by most media because it conflates and hence simplifies two neighboring wars, and perhaps because it has echoes of the ancient Egyptian fertility goddess.

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3 thoughts on “Crikey Clarifier: what is ISIS (or ISIL) and what will it do to the Middle East?

  1. ianjohnno

    I wonder if the US and Iran will be able to co-ordinate (not shoot each other down accidentally or otherwise) air strikes and thus draw a border for a Shiite state in eastern Iraq.

  2. Rais

    It isn’t Sunni. The Wahhabi sect is in fact quite hostile to Sunni belief and practice.

  3. Dan B

    Air strikes provide an entire series of issues that could fuel the fire rather than dampen it. The US needs to be careful it doesn’t further ostracise the Awakening Council, a Sunni militia that greatly assisted the ouster of AQI, by accidentally targeting the wrong “militia”. Real time, on-ground intelligence must be broadened prior to any type of assistance can take place effectively.
    It is difficult to see the US doing much more than bolstering its Embassy security apparatus. They need regional players, particularly Iran to intervene so that they are unable provide a security blanket for the Russians, the current US target of choice.
    This effort by the ISIS could very much have a scale-tipping effect in the Syrian conflict. As Shiite militia’s rally toward Iraq to fight the ISIS they leave vast amounts of areas vulnerable to al Qaeda linked terror groups, who could turn the tide of events against the al Assad regime. That is a very real problem. Because if Assad is replaced by any one of the islamic militant groups currently fighting him they will have their caliphate, and the rest of the region will descend into all-out war.

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