Prominent US Republicans say the recent success of Al-Qaeda offshoot ISIS in Iraq and Syria poses a danger not only to the stability of the Middle East, but also to US national security.
Congressman Michael McCaul, chair of the Homeland Security
Committee, said that sources familiar with the situation have
described the success of ISIS as the “greatest national
security threat since 9/11.”
“Al-Qaeda owns more territory, more resources, and what's happening in Iraq now is really chaotic,” he told ABC news.
During the current offensive, militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL) have captured Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul, as well as the city of Tikrit – the capital of Salahuddin province. The group claims to have killed 1,700 soldiers. The insurgents' aim is to capture the capital Baghdad, though government forces were able to stall the insurgency over the weekend.
But some US politicians believe that ISIS can cause violence throughout the globe, once it gets a foothold in Iraq.
Mike Rogers, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told Fox News that there are “thousands” of American and European volunteers and mercenaries fighting for ISIS, which “has the capability to tap people with Western passports to send them back to Europe and the United States for terrorist activity.”
“This is as dangerous as it gets,” said the Republican politician, who urged Barack Obama to use his influence with Sunni Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to rein in ISIS – which is likely partly funded by powerful sympathizers within those countries.
Barack Obama has already said that the US will not be “dragged back” into costly military operations, and that Iraqis must agree on their own political solution.
As the conflict has intensified, the US leader has caught flak
for failing to stem the violence, and for his inability or
unwillingness to negotiate a US military presence following the
withdrawal of troops three years ago.
Senator Lindsey Graham is suggesting an alternative strategy, of “sitting down and talking with” Iran – a Shia ally of the beleaguered Maliki administration.
“Why did we deal with Stalin?” Graham asked on CNN. “Because he’s not as bad as Hitler. The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure that Baghdad doesn’t fall. We need to co-ordinate with the Iranians and the Turks need to get into the game.”
“If Baghdad falls, if the central government falls, a disaster awaits us of monumental proportions,” said Graham.
Citing senior US officials, The Wall Street Journal reported that the US is preparing for an open dialogue with Iran to discuss Iraq’s security concerns and ways of responding to the ISIS offensive.
Once an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, the hyper-fundamentalist group active in Iraq and Syria fell out with the global terrorist network. It gained notoriety for its ruthless tactics, which include publicly crucifying and beheading those who violate their strict religious interpretations. Its rise and consolidation owe a great deal to the simultaneous power vacuum that arose after the Syrian civil war broke out and the US withdrew its troops from Iraq.
Fighting against the Shia governments of Nouri Maliki in Baghdad and Bashar Assad in Damascus has also allowed the Sunni organization to recruit thousands of people under its aim of eventually turning the entire region into an ultraconservative Muslim caliphate.