By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
Over the past few days, the most successful and well-funded jihadist group since the rise of al-Qaeda set its sights on invading Baghdad with an eye to establishing a new Sunni Muslim theocratic empire.
The corps, apparently as many as 10,000- strong with what observers say is a battle mien hardened by years of fighting in both Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL) has Blitzkrieged the demoralized and so-far outmaneuvered Iraqi military.
By most accounts, the Sunni extremist group now controls several major Iraqi cities, including Mosul and parts of Fallujah – the latter only about 35 miles west of Baghdad.
Although the city seems to military observers to be safe from take-over, the new situation on the ground, a de facto partition of Iraq, seems to have settled over the country.
WeHo News asked West Hollywood’s congressman, Rep. Adam Schiff, who has a seat on the House select Committee on Intelligence, to help us understand the situation.
WeHo News: Syrian/Iraq Sunni incursions into government-held Shiite lands and the move to take Baghdad poses serious threats to American prestige and power.
How much of that prestige and power, along with additional blood and treasure, should we be willing to spend to keep the Sunnis at bay? Should American put itself back into the middle of a civil war, albeit as peacekeepers? Or should we accept the results of the Bush smash it and rebuild it along our lines of cultural understanding?
Rep. Schiff: “There’s no question that the situation in Iraq is dire, with the terrorist group ISIL taking over large swaths of territory and executing prisoners.
But I think that the President should be wary of calls to intervene militarily through an air campaign that will not affect the strategic balance on the battlefield, and is as likely to alienate the local population as it is to accomplish any tactical objective.
This is a problem of Prime Minister Maliki’s own making. He has created a government of the Shia, for the Shia and by the Shia – and until that changes, he will increasingly push the Sunni population into the arms of extremist groups like ISIL.
“We should continue to provide intelligence and limited military support to the Iraqi government conditioned on the formation of an inclusive governing coalition.
But I would treat any promises of reconciliation by the Maliki regime as an inducement for aerial bombardment with the greatest degree of skepticism.
WeHo News: In a new treatment of history, How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity, Rodney Stark posits that modernity gives way to democracy, not the other way around.
Furthermore, he says that only one religious way of thought – Judeo-Christian – gave rise to technology and democracy because it alone among faiths did not rely on fate alone, but allowed man self-will by positing a rational god.
In other words, Chinese culture, Middle Eastern, etc., according to Dr. Stark, lack the fundament on which democracy and modernity can be built.
That said, why are we considering going back into Iraq – to control the oil refineries and wells or to spread democracy?
WeHo News: Now-Vice-president Biden in 2006 cautioned about Iraq, saying that America set the government up to fail by getting rid of the army and the Baathist bureaucracy.
He said then that America ought to foster a tripartite federal system with power-sharing among all the ethnic groups, Kurds, Shia and Sunni.
Rep. Schiff: “ISIL poses a threat to the United States, but their immediate objective in Iraq is to lay siege to Baghdad, and in Syria, to topple Basher Assad. As the group gets closer to Baghdad, the resistance will increase from more determined Iraqi fighters and Shia militias, rendering U.S. military intervention even less vital.”
WeHo News: Now that we have no direct power, only influence, can we allow the state to fail so that three separate states, with one perhaps a danger to America, form along traditional ethnic lines?
Looking at the map, I see a Shiite Iraq surrounded on the west by Sunni countries and Iran, Shiite, on the east. Can Iraq prevent nibbling off of its northwestern districts by the ethnic groups existing there?
“At the moment, centripetal forces seem to be tearing Iraq apart, but I have always been reluctant to recommend a partition of the country. Although Iraq has become increasingly sectarian, it also has a strong nationalist sentiment which would rebel against the idea of a division of the state.
“If Iraq gets there, it should not be perceived that it was at U.S urging or by U.S. design. I also believe that competition for oil resources which are largely found outside the Sunni areas, would lead to Sunni dissatisfaction with a breakup.
“Instead we should push for a national unity government, and let Iraqis determine the degree to which authority should be decentralized.
Congress member Schiff serves on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Rep. Adam Schiff, currently serving the 29th Congressional District and presumably representing West Hollywood/Hollywood after his re-election to his newly-drawn 28th District in November.
The committee oversees the nation’s intelligence activities, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and the National Security Agency (NSA). As a member of the committee, Rep. Schiff serves as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence.