The Return of Al-Qaeda - David Ignatius
The capture Tuesday of Mosul, the hub of northern Iraq, by al-Qaeda militants is an alarm bell that violent extremists are on the rise again in the Middle East.
Just 19 months ago, President Obama won reelection arguing that his policies had vanquished the most dangerous core elements of al-Qaeda. [T]he organization has morphed, and deadly new battles are ahead.
Insurgents Seize Iraqi City as Troops Flee - Liz Sly & Ahmed Ramadan
Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS - sometimes called ISIL, for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), an al-Qaeda offshoot, seized control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, including the provincial government headquarters, after Iraqi soldiers and police fled their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants.
The speed with which one of Iraq's biggest cities has fallen under militant control is striking and suggests the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces are even more vulnerable than had previously been thought.
It also raises questions about the continued utility of sending U.S. military support to Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, whose security forces seem simply to have crumbled. Maliki is urging the U.S. to deliver more advanced weaponry, but ISIS fighters have already been seen riding in U.S.-supplied Humvees, and much of the weaponry captured in this latest battle is likely to be American, said Charles Lister of the Doha Brookings Center based in Qatar.
ISIS is an expanded and rebranded version of the al-Qaeda in Iraq organization that the U.S. military claimed it had tamed ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011.
It is now channeling its efforts toward the creation of an Islamic state modeled on the 7th century Islamic caliphate. Mosul is the group's biggest prize to date. (Washington Post)
U.S. Said to Rebuff Iraqi Request to Strike Militants
- Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials. But Iraq's appeals for a military response have so far been rebuffed by the White House. Despite the fact that Sunni militants have been making steady advances and may be carving out new havens from which they could carry out attacks against the West, administration spokesmen have insisted that the U.S. is not actively considering using warplanes or armed drones to strike them.
Experts have stressed that the conflict in Iraq is as much political as military. Maliki's failure to include leading Sunnis in his government has heightened sectarian divisions.
(New York Times)
Iraqi Drama Catches US Off Guard - Adam Entous & Julian Barnes
The administration has pursued a containment strategy, aimed at keeping the al-Qaeda threat from spreading beyond Syria and Iraq to neighboring states, particularly Jordan. Following ISIS' successes in Iraq this week, many officials are questioning whether the threat can still be contained.
(Wall Street Journal)
Sunni Offensive in Iraq a Blow to Iran - Ron Ben-Yishai
The takeover of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, by Sunni global jihad fighters is a blow to Iran, which backs the Shiite government in Iraq.
ISIS is the bitter enemy of Shiites wherever they are, meaning it is the enemy of Iran. At the moment, only Arab regimes are on the front line - Assad's regime in Damascus, al-Maliki's regime in Iraq. But later on, Israel might become a main target too.
The Middle East Shakes -Daniel Pipes, PhD
The jihadis' takeover of Mosul on June 9 won them control of Iraq's second-largest city, a major haul weapons, US$429 million in gold, an open path to conquer Tikrit, Samarra, and perhaps the capital city of Baghdad. This is the most important event in the Middle East since the Arab upheavals began in 2010.
Thanks to the ferocious reputation ISIS has established in its capital city of Raqqa, Syria, and elsewhere, an estimated quarter of Mosul's population of almost two million has fled. The current round of ISIS brutality will newly render Islamism obnoxious to millions more Muslims.
Therefore, however much damage the Al-Qaeda-type organizations an do to property and lives, they ultimately cannot emerge victorious (meaning, a caliph applying Islamic law in its entirety and severity) because their undiluted extremism both alienates Muslims and scares non-Muslims.
More clearly than ever, the success of ISIS forces exposes the over-ambitious goals of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (and, likewise, of Afghanistan), which cost the West thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars. The fancy façade of $53 billion in American-sponsored institutions, from failed hospitals to the Iraqi National Symphony, have been exposed as the fiasco they are. ISIS soldiers standing triumphant atop U.S.-supplied military equipment brings home the folly of once-high American hopes for "a stable, democratic, and prosperous Iraq."
Republicans: Republicans unfairly blame the ISIS victories on Barack Obama: no, George W. Bush made the commitment to remake Iraq and he signed the "Status of Forces Agreement" in 2008 that terminated the American military presence in Iraq at the close of 2011. For the Republican Party to move progress in foreign policy, it must acknowledge these errors and learn from them, not avoid them by heaping blame on Obama.
Democrats: The execution of Osama bin Laden three years ago was an important symbolic step of vengeance. But it made almost no difference operationally and it's time for Obama to stop crowing about Al-Qaeda being defeated. In fact, Al-Qaeda and its partners are more dangerous than ever, having moved on from terrorism to conquering territory. The well being of Americans and others depend on this reality being recognized and acted upon.
Western policy: This is basically a Middle Eastern problem and outside powers should aim to protect their own interests, not solve the Middle East's crises. Tehran, not we, should fight ISIS.
[National Review Online]