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Experts react to possible Iraq airstrike

BY TING XUAN TAN | JUNE 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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When Yasir Mohsin completed a master’s program at the University of Iowa this spring and returned to his home in Iraq, he entered a difficult situation.

“It’s a little complicated, and the situation is getting worse with time,” Mohsin, who lives in the Baghdad area, said in a Facebook message. “The key point [which is also a curse, rather than a blessing] is that Iraq is a wealthy and oil-enriched country, and most of its neighbors know well that Iraq’s economy and oil sector make it a world power.”

In recent months, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Syria, or ISIS, in an alliance with Baathists, has taken over parts of northern Iraq and gained control of three towns in western Iraq, as well as important border crossings to Syria and Jordan just this week.

President Barack Obama has announced that the United States will send up to 300 troops to Iraq to support and train Iraqi troops, but they will not engage in combat.

On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry visited Iraq and said the United States is prepared to take military action.

Iraq has asked the U.S. to deploy air strikes to stop the ISIS militia from gaining more territory, and Obama has agreed to send support if the Iraqi government agrees to form a new government by July 1.

Some think that Obama will send the air strikes from nearby air bases.

“As [Obama] pulled the troops out, the Iraqi troops were not ready to stand up on their own,” said Christopher Eubanks, a UI graduate assistant in the Political Science Department. “We thought they were, but that was because these fundamentalist groups were just waiting and taking their time. So I would not be surprised if you start seeing air strikes to try to combat some of the gains ISIS have made.”

Yet others think that air strikes will not occur.

“In any case, I doubt the U.S. will send over thousands of troops to re-engage in large scale military action in Iraq,” said Emran El-Badawi, an assistant professor of Arabic language and literature and director of the Arabic Program at the University of Houston. “There is neither appetite domestically or abroad for another costly and reckless incursion.”

In response to the possible air strikes against the ISIS militants, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern that the air strikes would not have a lasting effect and could even cause the non-extremist Sunni majority to begin showing support for the ISIS since it seems that Sunnis are being suppressed, according to the Associated Press.

The insurgency by ISIS, which is mostly from Sunni militants, is different from the citizens’ uprising in other Middle Eastern countries in the recent years. The biggest difference is the goal of the group.
Iraq has a Shiite-led government, which is one factor contributing to the recent rebellion from Sunni militants.

“Generally speaking, the citizens that protested, and in some cases overthrew, their ruling elite were doing so as a result of an accumulation of grievances,” said Scott McKeag, a UI political-science TA. “The [ISIS] militants seek to establish an Islamic caliphate in a similar manner to how Al Qaeda once believed it could — by take advantage of local wars to train and breed support, while simultaneously inserting its ideology into deteriorating situations in states struggling to overcome difficulties rooted in either economic problems and/or factionalism.”


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