Baghdad’s new leader faces a fight from his predecessor and a raging tornado from the tornado of ISIS raging across his land. Will Iraq be able to weather the storm or will it become the next Syria?
Two-term Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lost his job yesterday (Monday) to Haider al-Abadi, but he has yet to concede defeat.
Al-Maliki had cherished hopes of serving a third term in office. But the consensus of world leaders was that Iraq was badly weakened by an existential threat from the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It was, however, equally weakened by its own folly, having thrown out American troops in 2011, thus assuring a lack of support from the United States, which pulled its forces from the region as demanded, leaving al-Maliki and the largely unprepared Iraqi army to wrestle with the terror threat alone.
Iraq’s new president, Fouad Massoum yesterday formally appointed al-Abadi, a former finance minister and moderate Shi’ite politician in a nationally televised address and gave him 30 days to form a new government.
The move was supported by US President Barack Obama, who congratulated al-Abadi in brief remarks delivered from his holiday retreat in Martha’s Vineyard. Obama said that both he and Vice President Joe Biden had already spoken with al-Abadi.
Al-Maliki could, however, make trouble for al-Abadi since he still controls a number of military units who are personally loyal to him. A political or even military civil war in Iraq a la Syria, given the current terrorist war already raging there, would ignite the tinderbox that would blow the country to Kingdom Come.
The Al Qaeda-linked ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) terror organization has swept through much of northern Iraq, conquering the region’s largest city, Mosul. In addition to trapping tens of Iraqis at the top of a mountain and threatening to exterminate them, ISIS is now threatening Baghdad itself.
The United States sent some 400 ‘military consultants’ to the country several weeks ago to help the overwhelmed Iraqi army reorganize its forces to meet the threat. Last week the US also air-dropped food, water and other essential humanitarian supplies to those trapped on the mountaintop.
But the Obama administration has been adamant about where the military line will be drawn: ‘No boots on the ground,” said White House spokesman John Earnest. Instead, the US began carrying out targeted air strikes against the terror group last week. Obama justified the move in a statement in which he said the American people could not stand by and watch a terror group attempt “genocide.”
It is not clear how ISIS – an extremist Sunni Muslim group – differs in its intent from attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas and other Palestinian Arab terrorists — other than the relative success of Israel to defend itself. The only difference seems to be the identity of the victims, and the fact that oil is involved.
ISIS has seized Iraq’s valuable oil fields, raking in some $3 million per day. The terror group is also rampaging through central parts of the country and continuing to spread through the region into Syria and now even into Lebanon, where the group is proving to be a threat now to the Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah terror organization as well.
Several months ago ISIS seized control of two border crossing with Syria, and one with Jordan, where its guerrillas began to trickle in to the Hashemite Kingdom. Even Iran is expressing concerns over the impending threat to its borders. And ISIS operatives have already been spotted in Gaza.