Ever since the U.S. entered Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime in 2003, the country of Iraq has seen little (if any) form of true stability. Often bundled together by Americans as simply another oil-rich country in the Middle East, the Cradle of Humanity we today call Iraq is one of the most geopolitically important countries on earth. As a result, the West and terrorist organizations alike vie for stability or control in this region.
With the entrance of the U.S. military in 2003, it appeared as though the U.S. had taken steps to ensure stability in the country, and a fragile representative democracy was established.
Following the withdrawal of these troops in December 2011, order within the newly minted democracy began to deteriorate. Longstanding terrorist organizations that had been driven out of Iraq and into Syria by U.S. forces now found sanctuary in the country’s uninhabited areas, and thus were able to regroup and militarize.
Of these, the worst group in the mix is made up of Islamic militants.
In essence, the group, which calls itself the Islamic state, is a Sunni extremist group that aims to establish a Muslim Caliphate in the Middle East, and in the process exterminate those it considers infidels, most notably Westerners, Jews and Christians. The militia who support the group and its ideology have been known to torture, kill and even behead civilians and journalists they capture within their territory.
One of the most pressing questions of the Obama administration at the moment is how to address this problem. On one hand, the act of withdrawing U.S. and allied troops from Iraq caused a power vacuum that was inevitably filled by the group. On the other hand, Obama feels a sort of obligation to keep to his word that there would be “no boots on the ground” in Iraq following the 2011 withdrawal.
First, the U.N. should take steps to respond to the human rights abuses that are currently being committed by the Islamic militants. Next, NATO member states should invoke Article IV of the NATO charter, which would call the NATO allies to action in the region voluntarily. Finally, the U.S. should continue to give limited support to their Kurdish allies in the region as they attempt to ward off Islamic militants in their territory.
As of right now, the U.S. military has been involved what is being called a “humanitarian mission” in the area: providing aid to our allies in the field so that they can have the means to fight Islamic militants.
The most notable of these allies, the Iraqi Kurds, have actively worked alongside U.S. air support personnel in order to clear much of northeastern Iraq from the grip of the Islamic militants.
The U.S. has also pledged to be actively involved in combating the Islamic militants in Syria, a country where the current government is too embroiled in civil war to be able to effectively combat the insurgency. However, this support is limited to air strikes.
Yet, even with these recent victories, it appears as though the group, which calls itself the Islamic State, is more than just an American problem. Many have called on the United Nations Security Council to send peacekeepers to the region to protect civilians from persecution.
The U.N., however, is known for being bureaucratic and slow to respond to fast-paced issues. In fact, it took nearly four months for the U.N. General Assembly to formally accuse Islamic militants of “war crimes”, and the international organization claims there is not enough evidence to designate the group as a “terrorist organization.”
A more viable solution to the problem may be to involve American allies in the fight against the Islamic militants. NATO has a fairly good track record of responding to problems concerning their allies and members.
Under Article IV of the NATO charter, a concerned member state may propose a joint action by NATO, and the member states can decide whether or not to respond. Though this does not necessarily guarantee any sort of action by NATO, it at least acknowledges the problem and keeps the U.S. from having to enter into conflict in the Middle East without allied backing.
The most immediate action to the problem, however, would be if Article V of the NATO charter were invoked by a member state. Under Article V, a member of the alliance who has been directly attacked by a foreign belligerent can call upon immediate and unilateral military action by NATO. For this to happen, however, Islamic militants would either have to coordinate a deadly attack on a member state’s soil or attack an ally’s embassy with the equivalent force of that seen in Tehran during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, both of which are very unlikely.
Overall, it appears as though the solution to the Islamic militant problem in Iraq and the greater Middle East will take time, effort and discipline on part of the world in order to get rid of the jihadist organization permanently.