Marissa Hall | Shale Plays Media
The conflict in northern Iraq has everyone on the edge of their seats. The level of chaos has risen steadily in the past week, causing apprehension about returning to war and anxiety over the potential for oil to be driven to $200/barrel. With much of northern Iraq under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a militant, al-Qaeda-inspired organization, the outlook of the situation is grim.
President Barack Obama spoke this afternoon about the stance of the United States in the conflict. He stressed repeatedly that military intervention on a large scale was not an option, saying, “American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.” However, it is in the best interest of the U.S. to offer other forms of support to the country because of humanitarian, strategic, and counter-terrorist interests. Obama stated that it was in security interests for the country to not see civil war in Iraq, which could lead to destabilization of the region and further impact the global energy market. Obama also stressed that efforts must be made to prevent Iraq from becoming a safe haven for ISIL and other extremist organizations, pointing out that if such organizations are given the opportunity to grow they could pose a major threat to the Western world.
Instead of Western intervention in the Middle East, Obama emphasized that a collaborative effort was the best option, but that all the help would be wasted if the Iraqi government was unable to cooperate. “Above all, Iraqi leaders must rise above their differences and come together,” the president stated, referring to the strong presence of ethnic groups in Iraq.
Obama indicated that hard questions needed to be asked regarding national security interests before America becomes more involved in the conflict. Thus far, a small number of reinforcements have been sent to the embassy to ensure the safety of the individuals there. To supplement the advisors to local Iraqi forces, equipment and 300 more advisors will likely be sent to the country.
The president also asserted that other military assets that have been strategically positioned will be poised to take action should intelligence indicate that ISIL intends to attack more targets in the region. Surveillance and reconnaissance have been significantly heightened for the Middle East as the crisis as escalated. Obama reiterated that this does not foreshadow a greater movement of combat troops into the region once again.
Last week the militant members of ISIL moved into Baiji, home to one of Iraq’s major refineries. Video of the refinery emitting massive amounts of smoke surfaced Wednesday, but late this morning reports surfaced that Iraqi officials had regained control of the refinery from ISIL. The militants retreated from the site after two days of fighting, and it remains unclear how much damage the refinery sustained. According to a report by the New York Times, there is no electricity within the refinery. However, the some 250 Iraqi employees who had been trapped in an underground bunker were evacuated from the site seemingly unscathed.
Over the course of the weekend, ISIL seized Iraqi forces near Tikrit and posted images online of terrified security forces, images which ultimately revealed mass executions. The organization claims to have killed 1,700 individuals.
Although the militant organization appears to be al-Qaeda-inspired and operates with guerilla-type attacks, the al-Qaeda have formally announced that they are not related to or responsible for the actions of ISIL.