As of this writing, the Middle East is on fire. It seems the Middle East is always on fire, so this is nothing new. As of today, Iraq is falling to ISIS or ISIL, which ever you prefer. They are on the outskirts of Bagdad and threatening to take the city in a short amount of time. The Kurds are defending the city without any weapons from the Iraqi government or help from the United States.
The American policy is to supply the Kurds with weapons. We send the weapons to the Iraqi government, headed by Prime Minister Haydar al-Abbadi, a Shiite. The weapons supplied were to be distributed by the government of Iraq to the Kurds, the only group willing to fight on the ground. Haydar al-Abbadi is afraid of the Kurds. He rightly believes the Kurds want independence from Iraq to form their own country in the north. So he doesn’t supply the weapons and keeps them in stockpiles around Bagdad. Without the weapons, the Kurds are greatly out gunned and can not succeed in defeating ISIS.
We were training the Iraqi army before we withdrew from the country. One of the things we did was put commanders in charge of different divisions of the military that were the same ethnic group as the troops. This was done as part of the nation building taking place. With the American withdrawal, then Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki purged the military officer corps of all the minority commanders and replaced them with Shiites. When ISIS attacked, the Iraqi troops abandoned the fight because they had no loyalty to the government. They walked away from the fight and left their weapons for the invading Sunni ISIS. Many of the Sunni military joined ISIS.
The U.S. bombing campaign has not been successful in curtailing ISIS from advancing and taking more territory in Iraq. If Bagdad falls, all the military equipment we shipped for the Kurds would fall to ISIS.
Syria, the original home of ISIS, also has territory taken by the Sunni group. Here again, the Kurdish population has done most of the fighting against ISIS. Syria is engaged in a civil war that has been raging for years. You may remember Assad using chemical weapons on his own people last year when Obama had his red line that Syria crossed. Syrian President Bashar Assad does not support the Kurds against ISIS. He is against providing military support for the Kurds for the same reason Iraq doesn’t support them. Assad has even used air strikes of his own against the Kurds when he thought he could get away with it. Syria has an air force and air defenses that are capable of causing problems for America if we act in Syria without support from Assad.
There are two external forces that effect this conflict, Turkey and Iran. Iran is financing Syria in the civil war. They have an army capable of defeating ISIS with U.S. support. To do this they would probably demand the U.S. accept Iran finishing their nuclear weapon development. Obama would not agree to this. Turkey has refused to join the Obama coalition to fight ISIS. Turkey does not support ISIS but it would like to see Assad driven from power. Refugees have been flooding into Turkey. Turkey would like to see a buffer zone to stop this inflow.
It would appear ground troops, from America will be necessary to defeat ISIS. The longer we wait, the more dug in ISIS becomes. One thing is for sure: Obama will do nothing until after the U.S. elections in November. Politics will drive any decision he makes. In the meantime, plan on watching more video beheadings while Obama flounders.