From today’s Wall Street Journal:
“Islamic State militants likely used mustard agent against Kurdish forces in Iraq this week, senior U.S. officials said Thursday, in the first indication the militant group has obtained banned chemicals.
The officials said Islamic State could have obtained the mustard agent in Syria, whose government admitted to having large quantities in 2013 when it agreed to give up its chemical-weapons arsenal.
The use of mustard agent would mark an upgrade in Islamic State’s battlefield capabilities, and a worrisome one given U.S. intelligence fears about hidden caches of chemical weapons in Syria, where Islamic State controls wide swaths of territory.”
I’m not calling for (another) full-on invasion of Iraq, but I do believe this justifies President Obama’s decision to have some military presence in Iraq (NOTE: by “some”, I mean between 5,000-10,000 U.S. troops serving mostly as advisory and training roles to our allies with some combat/airstrike missions). I know that a sizable amount of liberals and progressives like to hate on those who are hawkish on foreign policy issues. I’ve had several people over my life accuse me reflexively reacting to terrorist propaganda as well as indoctrination of the “military industrial complex” (UGH). But even if you’re not hawkish on foreign policy as I am, we all know that ISIS isn’t going away. Also, as Hamish de Bretton-Gordon states in the article, while U.S. Military forces (as well as international forces through NATO) are trained to deal with chemical weapons use, the Iraqi military (and trained forces in Peshmerga) is hardly well-trained to prevent this problem from vexing (even if the argument that we helped create the conditions for ISIS to rise are completely valid).
In case you didn’t know, Turkey has taken a greater military role in its fight against ISIS. This makes sense, of course, because Turkey shares a border with Syria (ISIS currently has strongholds in Northern and Western Syria as well as Northern Iraq). The following is from a recent article from Business Insider:
“Turkey has moved considerable forces south, has closed off the final sections of its border adjacent to Islamic State positions in Syria and has opened Incirlik air base — and possibly other air bases for primary or emergency use — to US-led coalition aircraft. Moreover, Turkey has begun carrying out its own airstrikes against select Islamic State positions in Syria.”
The U.S. and its NATO allies in the U.K., France, Canada and Turkey will likely be the biggest players going forth in this war against ISIS. Furthermore, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain are fighting ISIS in Syria. It will likely mainly focus on airstrikes campaigns, as that is the least costly (and least controversial) way to fight wars. Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker have all advocated for increased troop presence in Iraq and Syria. Jeb Bush has been the most detailed about his plans to fight ISIS, as he recently called for a no-fly zone in northern Syria. Hillary and Bernie have both made little-to-no statements on fighting ISIS, but it is safe to say they will take a less militaristic role than the Republican presidential candidates.
Personally, I don’t know if I would ever endorse the no-fly zone approach to Syria. It just seems like a daunting task that will require tens of thousands of troops with questionable success. For now, taking a small-scale military approach to prevent the spread of ISIS seems like the smartest option. Especially when you consider that we are still fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Africa and Yemen. This is also occurring at the same time President Obama is trying to recruit enough Democrats to support the Nuclear Iran Deal. A no-fly zone in Syria is not the right solution at this time.