Advance Of ISIS In Iraq Slows – For The Moment

For the moment the forward movement of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) into Baghdad has been halted, but the fact that a US aircraft carrier and two more US warships are headed to the waters off Iraq is a reminder the threat is anything but muted.

Another sign of the threat and the brutality of ISIS literally was on full display after video of mass executions of Iraqi soldiers was posted on the Internet.

One voice – that of Paul Pillar in The National Interest – is calling for everyone to “take a deep breath” when speaking to the impact of ISIS’ advance in Iraq.

“We should be cautious about evaluating the significance of the latest events and labeling them as turning points or game-changers. There is a natural tendency to overstate the significance of the most recent happenings and to overlook longer-term developments of which they are a part. The longer-term developments of which the rise of ISIS is a part had their biggest game-changing moment about eleven years ago,” he argues.

[The Washington Post’s Adam Taylor has a brief history of events that led to the collapse of Iraq.]

Iran’s Foreign Policy Strategy Yields Dangerous Results
Michael Young writes in Lebanon’s NOW, that Iran’s foreign policy – which has been to foment disagreement when it is unable to co-opt Sunni populations – has backfired particularly in Iraq. They, like Saudi Arabia, are not served by the increasing power of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

“The Iranians must think long and hard about the Iraqi lesson. ISIS is simply a symptom of the fire spreading through the drywood of Sunni regional discontent. That’s why Tehran may have no choice but to consider a different approach to the region’s Sunnis, or face sectarian blowback everywhere,” he writes.

Young believes this failure could open the doors to cooperation with Saudi Arabia, “especially as both have an interest in defeating ISIS,” but he says it will “require an overhaul of Iranian thinking on the Arab world, as well as a modest understanding that power plays in the region cannot long succeed when directed against the Sunni majority.”

Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute contends that the approach of ISIS in the areas it has seized offers insight into how it might consolidate control in Mosul.

“The best way to get a sense of ISIS’s blueprint for state-building is to look at how it has ruled al-Raqqa governorate and other territory in neighboring Syria. The group’s first move is often to set up billboards around town that emphasize the importance of jihad, sharia, women’s purity, and other pietistic themes. It reaches out to local notables and tribal leaders as well to blunt the kind of backlash that greeted AQI and its harsh interpretation of sharia during the sahwa movement last decade,” he writes in The Atlantic.

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