In the past several days, the Sunni militia group ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has made massive gains in its campaign against the Iraqi government by taking Tikrit and Mosul. While some Iraqi military units have fought valiantly against these fundamentalists, many have just evaporated before the group. At no time in the past several years has Iraq faced a crisis as grave as this and if not dealt with soon, the government is in danger of falling. The Iraq of today which has cost the U.S. and our allies so heavily in blood and treasure since 2003 is coming undone and the President is dithering.

ISIS was formed shortly after the 2003 invasion in Iraq by Sunni extremists bent on creating a new Islamic caliphate. It has been responsible for numerous attacks in the past against Coalition forces and has had a strong presence in Syria. For numerous reasons, ISIS is hostile with many groups, some contradictory like the forces of Syria’s Assad and its opponent the FSA (Free Syrian Army). This is primarily due to their brutal tactics, inability to have sustainable working relationships with other groups and their ultimate goal which is incompatible with other groups. Al Qaeda has even viewed ISIS as too extreme. Regardless, ISIS has formed itself into a well-organized fighting force and its recent success in Iraq prove as much.

While ISIS has been a known threat for some time in Iraq, the most recent events are predated by the capture of Fallujah by ISIS this January. Fallujah is a mere 43 miles west of the capital Baghdad and since January, the Iraqi government has not been able to wrest control of it back. Now ISIS is preparing to advance further south into Shia regions (regarded by ISIS as infidels) and into Baghdad itself. I get the distinct impression that this was a threat that we should have been far more aware of and should’ve taken a much closer look at.

So why should the U.S. care? As I already said, we’ve spilt too much blood and spent too much treasure to have Iraq fall into flames. To allow such a situation to happen is a slap in the face to all the sacrifices made by the U.S., our allies, and the 100,000 plus Iraqis who have died over the past decade. Now I know the President is happy because in his mind he ended the war in Iraq as ending a war is something as simple as pulling out troops. Initially the administration offered limited response to this crisis, mainly typical ineffectual White House calls to end the violence and that we’re watching the situation closely with great interest. Now though the administration is considering the possibility of military action.

What I don’t understand is that in Iraq, a country we invested so heavily in that the preparation for the assault of Mosul and Tikrit by thousands of armed militiamen in an organized operation went apparently unnoticed. Is our intelligence in Iraq that bad that we failed to foresee this? Furthermore, the Iraqi government has requested U.S. airstrikes against ISIS, requests we immediately rebuffed. Only now is Obama saying that airstrikes are on the table but given the actions of this president in other situations I’ve learned to place a very small value on his words.

Iraq is falling. The government of Maliki is losing its support while the Iraqi military is running from fighting this tyrannical group. The Kurds seeing that the government can’t protect its citizens have called up the Peshmerga (Kurdish fighters) to occupy cities that the Iraqi military has withdrawn from while Shia groups are preparing to do defend themselves and do battle against ISIS. The government is teetering while the threat of full blown sectarian violence is real. This isn’t Syria or the Ukraine, this is Iraq, a country that for many Americans is much closer to home.

We have no problem launching drone strikes all over the Middle East to kill some bomb maker in this country or a propaganda chief in another. But when an ally is collapsing, we sit back. Now I’m not saying we need troops on the ground and I wouldn’t support that. This doesn’t mean we don’t have other options. We can provide intelligence that the Iraqi government seeks, the airstrikes which the Iraqi military isn’t capable of performing, and the public support that can show our resolve is real. In this situation, I just can’t fathom the indecisiveness and indifference by my president.

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