As part of my Loyola curriculum, I am completing an independent study I began last spring. The class will culminate with my first investigative piece. It will be written in the same style that appears in publications such as Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone. The finished product will be coming to Esse in October.
On Sept. 10, 2014, President Obama addressed the nation to deliver a four part, comprehensive strategy for destroying ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. He promised a “steady, relentless” campaign to “degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group.” That same month, Steven Sotloff’s beheading video was released. Two months later we learned ISIS was occupying 8 million people with an army of at least 40,000.
Now, nearly one year later, ISIS is still going strong and we are entangled in a confusing battle on a variety of fronts; and we have injected ourselves into the middle of regional conflicts, which date back centuries.
How did this warring faction suddenly come about?
The foreign actors with a stake in the fight include: Syria, Iraq, Turkey, the Kurdish Peshmerga, ISIS, the Free Syrian Army, al-Nusra , Iran, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine.
ISIS’ ultimate goal is to erase the borders devised by the Sykes-Picot Agreement at the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and return that area to a singular religious kingdom: the Islamic State governed by Sharia. Thus far they have made significant gains in Iraq and Syria. The group has mastered the art of propaganda via social media and continues to recruit 2,000-2,500 foreign fighters each month. It has also garnered allegiance from terrorist groups spanning from Afghanistan to northern Africa.
For its part, the United States has conducted bombing raids on ISIS and provided military support to the FSA and Peshmerga. However, the airstrikes have not slowed the group, and in fact, they have worked to bolster recruitments.
Other terrorist groups fighting in the area have confiscated a significant number of the weaponry given to the FSA; and infighting between the Turks and Kurds has inhibited America’s effort to degrade ISIS. The civil war in Syria is distracting our effort and the efforts of our allies (who are also our enemies at times).
There is mounting evidence that Saudi Arabia is funding ISIS, and we are being drawn into Yemen’s Civil War. On top of all of this, the administration has admitted it has “no complete strategy” for defeating ISIS, and Congress has not even voted to authorize this war — a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution.
We are in over our heads.
So, where do we go from here? And what are we fighting for?
The goal of my investigative piece is to answer the questions posed. Through research and analysis I will explain who these fighters are and how they came to be. I will attempt to untangle the interlocking web of allegiances spread across this swath of holy land, and define our layered approach to keeping the peace. Furthermore, I will try to answer questions about this war that you may not know you have.