News / Middle East

US Considers Options as Islamists Advance in Iraq

Obama Pledges More Help for Iraqi
X
June 13, 2014 10:50 AM
President Barack Obama has promised more aid to Iraq's government. But as VOA's Kent Klein reports, an al-Qaida-inspired group continues its rapid advances in Iraq, and Democrats and Republicans differed Thursday on what to do about it.
Related video report by Kent Klein
The United States is considering a wide range of options to respond to the Islamist extremists who are advancing across Iraq and now control much of the northern part of the country.
 
With the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, vowing to march to Baghdad, Iraq's armed forces have largely melted way in the face of the advance.
 
The development is seen as an embarrassment for Washington, which has spent an estimated $25 billion on training and equipping the Iraqi military since 2003, when the U.S.-led war there began.
 
President Barack Obama on Thursday stressed that he is not ruling out any potential response to the crisis.
 
"I don't rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria for that matter," Obama said from the White House.
 
But few if any ideal options exist for the U.S. president, who brought the last U.S. troops home from Iraq just two-and-a-half years ago and is reluctant to involve America in another war abroad.
 
Drone strikes possible
 
One option is to use drones to target the ISIL fighters, as the U.S. has done with suspected militants in other insurgency-riddled countries, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.
 
U.S. officials said Thursday that drone strikes are among the options being considered, and point out the U.S. is already flying drones above Iraq for intelligence purposes.
 
But while drones can be effective in killing individuals, they likely could not stop a force such as ISIL and could endanger civilians, according to Stephen Zunes, a scholar of Middle Eastern politics at the University of San Francisco.
 
"This is not just a matter of getting a few bad guys and their various hideaways. We're talking about a rebellion that has thousands of armed men that control a very large swath of territory, including some major urban areas," Zunes told VOA.
 
Ground troops needed?
 
Many observers say ultimately the battle against ISIL must be won with a ground offensive to retake lost territory. But White House officials have ruled out putting U.S. troops back into Iraq.
 
In the absence of a U.S. ground offensive, another option is to provide more training, weapons and intelligence to the beleaguered forces of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
 
However, this carries the risk that advanced U.S. weapons would fall into the hands of ISIL extremists, as they did in Mosul and Tikrit this week. And there are questions about whether Iraqi soldiers are even willing to counter the ISIL assault, added Zunes.
 
"You can arm and train the local government armed forces all you want, but the question is: are they willing to fight and die for the government? And unfortunately, the Maliki government has alienated so many people in the country that they don't really seem to have the popular support where enough soldiers are willing to risk their lives," he said.
 
Iraq's Sunni Muslims have long complained that Maliki's Shi'ite-dominated government has worsened sectarian tensions by not sharing power and by cracking down on Sunni-led protests demanding reforms.
 
Iraq army the 'first line of defense'
 
Nonetheless, the Iraqi army remains the best option for combating the Sunni ISIL, said Andreas Krieg, an expert on transnational groups in the Middle East and a lecturer at King's College London.
 
"The Iraqi military has, despite all the billions we invested in security sector reform, not really performed in the way we want it to perform. But the Iraqis will obviously be the first line of defense against [ISIL], so they will need to be propped up in one way or another," Krieg told VOA.
 
Krieg said private security companies could play a role in helping train the Iraqi military. He said Western intelligence services should also focus on identifying and supporting ostensibly moderate Sunni fighters both in Iraq and in Syria, where ISIL also controls territory.
 
As the U.S. mulls its options, ISIL leaders are threatening to advance on the capital, Baghdad. Though few analysts think the rebels can take the heavily fortified city, Krieg said it is crucial the group be stopped before it can succeed in its goal of establishing an Islamic state.

"It is quite fragile at the moment. They don't have the fighting force to actually administer the vast territory that they have gained. So I think because they are weak right now, if we act quickly, I think something can be done. But once they consolidate their power over months to come, I think we will face a much bigger problem that we will not be able to contain," he said.
 
While ISIL is for now focused on securing and holding territory, Krieg and other analysts warn that the emergence of a radical jihadist state in the heart of the Arab world could eventually threaten U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe.
 
It also means millions of Iraqis and Syrians would be forced to adhere to a strict version of Islamic law, which ISIL said on Thursday includes mandatory mosque attendance, modesty codes for women, and the amputation of hands for thieves.

Related video by VOA's Meredith Buel:
Islamic Militants Advance in Iraq - Civil War Possiblei
X
Meredith Buel
June 13, 2014 8:30 PM
Islamist militants in Iraq are threatening to march on Baghdad after capturing large parts of the country. Units of the Iraqi military are disintegrating and analysts say it appears the nation is heading toward a civil war. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Snake Plissken
June 13, 2014 6:11 AM
I'm surprised this civil war took so long, Saddam Hussein's brutality was the only thing holding these arbitrary borders that were set up by the British almost 100 years ago. This is the same situation we saw in Yugoslavia after Tito died.

Why pretend this is anything else? Without a Dictator the borders will go back to where they were for thousands of years before some idiot decided to draw a couple lines on a map a hundred years ago.

by: raghav uchil from: navi mumbai
June 13, 2014 5:22 AM
American Civil war, 2nd world war,south america, north korea, vietnam, Iraq, afghanistan, Iran, syria, Ukrain, now back to Iraq... American soldier has got his hands full over the decades...

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs