25 Nov 2014
By David Cortright, Associate Director of Programs and Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
Published by Peace Policy
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a clear and present danger to international security that must be stopped. The question is how. President Obama said there are no military solutions to this crisis, but he has sent American soldiers back to Iraq and launched air strikes there and in Syria. Recently, he ordered a doubling of U.S. troop levels in Iraq to 3,100. What’s missing so far from the U.S. response is a coherent plan for using diplomacy and political measures to weaken ISIS and halt the spread of violence in the region.
The strategy for countering ISIS requires an understanding of the roots of the crisis. ISIS is an outgrowth of the Syrian civil war and political conflict within Iraq. In Syria the group emerged primarily among Sunni Arab communities fighting the Assad regime. In Iraq the failure to incorporate Sunnis in government during de-Ba`thification allowed ISIS to emerge in the midst of battling Shia militias and the Shia-dominated government.
Overcoming ISIS will require policies that seek to end these originating conflicts. In Syria this means a renewed diplomatic push to end the civil war and achieve a negotiated political settlement. In Iraq it means forging more inclusive governance in Baghdad and addressing the grievances of Sunni Arab communities.
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