Caution! ISIS in Iraq and How the U.S. Should Respond

Written by Paul Hair on June 15, 2014

Islamic terrorists conquering ground in Iraq is serious and could lead to civil war but the United States should not become involved in the fighting at this time. Instead the U.S. should simply gather intelligence on the situation even as it works on more serious national security issues at home.

Media reports claim that ISIL is now fielding company and battalion-sized elements, and that it has defeated much larger Iraqi government forces. That’s significant news. Yet closer examination reveals that ISIL defeated the Iraqi government in places such as Mosul because governmental forces deserted their posts even as elements of the Iraqi populace colluded with ISIL. (The majority of people living in Mosul are Sunni Muslims, the same as ISIL.) The Sunni populace is angry with Shia Prime Minister Al-Maliki, the Iraqi armed forces and the majority Shia population. In other words, ethno-religious tensions are a major problem in Iraq.

Ethno-religious demographics also explain why ISIL will face stiffer resistance as it approaches Samarra, Baghdad and cities to the south and east of them. Media accounts claimed that ISIL was halted at Samarra as of late last week. And this isn’t surprising. This ethno-religious map of Iraq shows the areas ISIL has conquered are Sunni-Arab majority. Samarra, however, is a mix of Sunni and Shia Arabs. And so is Baghdad. Further south and to the east Iraq becomes Shia majority.

This doesn’t necessarily mean ISIL can’t conquer or inflict serious damage on Samarra, Baghdad and cities south and to the east of them. (In fact, ISIL might have done so by the time this column is published.) But ISIL won’t be able to avoid serious fighting from Iraqi (and Iranian) Shias in these and other cities. And ISIL won’t be able to avoid a continued resistance from Iraqi and Iranian Shias if it does manage to overtake them.

The ethno-religious realities also explain why ISIL doesn’t control Kirkuk—a northern Iraqi city much closer to Mosul than Samarra or Baghdad. News reports reveal the Kurds took over Kirkuk following the Iraqi armed forces deserting their posts there. Some report the Kurdish takeover as a bad thing but that’s not necessarily true. The Kurds control the northeastern provinces of Dahuk, Arbil, Kirkuk and As-Sulaymaniyyah, and they also have done a much better job of fighting terrorism than their Arab counterparts.

So what should the U.S. do in Iraq at this time? Nothing. There is no reason for the U.S. to get involved, give any more equipment to the Iraqis (they are abandoning U.S. equipment to ISIL) or provide airstrikes and additional intelligence.

Some argue that doing nothing will allow Iraq to devolve into a full-blown civil war and force Iraq and Iran closer. But this has already happened, and even when the U.S. was in Iraq the Iraqis maintained ties with Iran with some actively sheltering or assisting Iranians as they attacked U.S. troops. Furthermore, media accounts report that the Al-Maliki government is considering asking the much-hated Kurds for help in regaining control of Mosul and other parts of Iraq. That’s good news. The Kurds are capable fighters and Kurds working with Arabs should help with ethno-religious unity in Iraq.

On top of all this, ISIL in Iraq is just an extension of the Saudi-Iranian proxy war that has been going on for some time throughout the entire Middle East (including the war in Syria and spillover fighting in places such as Lebanon and Jordan). Let the jihadists fight and kill themselves while the U.S. collects intelligence on their tactics, strategies, weapons, personnel strength and supply lines. The U.S. can also monitor the situation to mitigate jihadists from taking their jihad to other parts of the world.

Letting the Saudi-Iranian War escalate will also encourage jihadists from all parts of the world to flock to it. Not only will this concentrate them in one area but it will reduce them in other parts of the world (i.e. the Western Hemisphere). Additionally, Iran and likely Saudi Arabia played a role in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. They never paid much of a price for that. And they both continue funding terrorists all over the world. Let their current war against one another serve as partial retribution for their terrorism.

Staying out of the Saudi-Iranian War for right now will also allow the U.S. to concentrate on its own national security threats—such as the Mexican, Latin and South American invasion of the U.S. which is being coordinated by one or more governments. (Kids don’t just decide to rise up from South and Central America, cross multiple nations on their own and wind up in the U.S.) The U.S. can also concentrate on becoming energy independent so it doesn’t have to worry about any oil shortages that result from the Saudi-Iranian War.

ISIL jihading in Iraq is a serious national security concern for the U.S. in the long term but it isn’t an immediate one. The U.S. should watch the situation and gather intelligence on it but not become involved for now. Meanwhile, the U.S. should address pressing national security issues on its borders and inside its borders so as to protect its citizens.

Image: Courtesy Million_From_Mosul_Central_Bank%2C_Seize_Saddam%27s_Hometown/35860/0/0/0/Y/M.html


Paul Hair
Paul Hair is an author and national security/intelligence expert. He writes fiction and nonfiction under his own name and as a ghostwriter. He provides his national security and intelligence insight as a freelance consultant. Connect with him at Contact him at if you are interested in his professional services.