People continue insisting that the U.S. must do something in Iraq to stop the advances the Islamic State has made there, yet many serious questions remain unanswered that U.S. leaders should answer before become further involved in Iraq once more.
Three of the most pressing questions are as follows.
Why Are Iraqi Security Forces Running from a Fight While Terrorists Aren’t
People have noted the travesty of many Iraqi units abandoning their posts to the Islamic State (IS) without a fight, yet few have bothered to address why this occurred. Those who have addressed it note that corruption seems to be the major problem with the Iraqi security forces. But that really isn’t a satisfactory answer when considering the IS isn’t suffering from the same issue.
The fact that Iraqi security forces are unable to fight as an effective force even after years of U.S. backing should force all leaders to reassess past U.S. strategy and ask why anyone would think the outcome will be any different if the U.S. tries to assist and train Iraqi security forces again.
And the fact that the IS is willing and able to fight inevitably causes another question to arise: Who is training and funding the IS?
Who Is Training and Funding the IS?
U.S. forces spent nearly a decade funding, training, and assisting Iraqi security forces and yet they still aren’t capable. At the same time the U.S. fought against the IS but the IS somehow both survived and developed into a competent fighting force.
So is it really believable that the IS doesn’t have any state sponsorship? That seems unlikely.
Reports have linked both Sunni and Shia states to the IS. Iran likely has and probably still is providing support for the terrorists even if that seems counterintuitive at first. And some evidence suggests that Syria has used the IS against Syrian rebels even as Syria and the IS are in their own mortal struggle. Saudi Arabia strongly denies support for the IS and genuinely is frightened that the IS will target it next. Nevertheless, Saudi citizens likely have ties to the IS and the Saudi government may have supported it in the past in hopes it would keep its terror outside its borders.
There also is the issue of the IS seizing Western weapons and equipment from fleeing Iraqi forces. Is the IS able to operate these weapons and equipment? If it is, who trained it to do so?
Operating an M1 Abrams main battle tank or M113 armored personnel carrier (two weapon systems said to have been obtained by the IS) requires training. And then there is the matter of resupplying and maintaining the systems. That’s not easy to do even for national armed forces.
There hasn’t been any indication that the IS has employed major American weapon systems yet but if the terrorists do it will add to the evidence that nation states are indeed backing and assisting the IS.
And as the evidence mounts that nation states are assisting the IS, the question not only becomes who they are but what is being done to hold them accountable? Perhaps the involvement of surrounding nations with the IS helps to explain why they seem to be so absent in resolving the war the IS is waging. And that’s the next big question that needs to be answered.
Why Aren’t Middle Eastern and Surrounding Nations Doing Much to Stop the War?
Iran is clearly playing a part in the chaos that is going on in Iraq and the region. So there is no reason to question why it isn’t trying to stop the fighting. Syria essentially falls into this same category. But what about Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey? Or even Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait? If the world believes the world needs to act, then why doesn’t the primary responsibility fall to the nations that adjoin Iraq or are in the region?
Perhaps if people ask this question and force the surrounding nations to answer them, not only will it reveal the abject failure of their foreign policies, but it will shed light on how much each of these nations are involved in the chaos and the IS.
The U.S. has already increased its involvement in Iraq with heightened intelligence operations, an acknowledged military presence of just fewer than 1,000, and now humanitarian aid. And while it remains to be seen if the U.S. will become even more involved, it certainly is not too early for U.S. leaders to ask the above questions and finding actual answers to them.
It’s fine to talk about “doing something” in Iraq but there is no use in “doing something” if that something ends up being a repeat of a strategy already found not to have worked . . . or something entirely new that fails on an even greater scale.