Dr. Rafizadeh is a regular commentator for national and international outlets including CNN, BBC TV and radio, ABC, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, RT, CCTV and Aljazeera English. He is frequently quoted in major news outlets including CNN, BBC, Aljazeera and he regularly writes for both academic and non-academic papers such as New York Times International, Foreign Policy, Aljazeera, Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Atlantic, Newsweek, Yale Journal of International Affairs, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, George Washington International Review, to name a few. Follow Dr. Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.
When President Barack Obama made a decision to withdraw all US forces from Iraq at the end of 2011, he ignored calls from many senators in Congress as well as military generals to leave some token US military force in case of urgent situations in order to assist the newly established Iraqi government.
The crucial decision made by President Obama was aimed at boosting his likelihood of being reelected for president. The decision ignored the dangerous consequences, national interests, American safety, the global economy, and security risks that United States would encounter down the road.
Pursuing his objectives of self-interest, President Obama intentionally refused to take notice of, or acknowledge, the strategic importance of Iraq from two perspectives: economic (oil) and ideological.
It was evident that with a weak Iraqi state, Iraq could soon be a haven for Islamist Jihadists, Sunni militants, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and the emergence of Al-Qaeda 2.0.
In the last week, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has reached a turning point in its extremist movement. It has made remarkably rapid military advances in several cities in Iraq.
They are also operating in several other countries. This movement, which emerged in late 2003, was initially affiliated with Al-Qaeda, but they separated themselves from Al-Qaeda because ISIS ideology is much more extreme than that of Al-Qaeda.
In addition, after the split with Al-Qaeda, ISIS was capable of coordinating, uniting, and organizing in Syria during the last few years thanks to the misinformed policies of the Obama administration. When ISIS operatives were capable of strengthening their movement, they used the porous border between Syria and Iraq to launch their attacks in Iraq.
ISIS has never achieved such military success in its history. When President Obama has had the chance to stop this radicalized movement in Syria from its root, he chose to be silent and act as a bystander while the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hezbollah (and other Jihadist groups) took the lead. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and their affiliated Jihadists Islamists, are a serious threat to national security and stability in the region.
Currently, the movement is not limited only to Syria and Iraq. It is operating across borders, reportedly obtaining passports, being trained in several places, being radicalized, and strengthening the movement.
GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, pointed out that insurgency in Iraq by an Islamic militant group is “as dangerous as it gets,” adding, “It’s a jihadist Disneyland… We need to do something to stop the momentum.”
But what actions will President Obama take to preserve US national interests and ensure American safety, protect the US economy, save American citizens from kidnappings and from other terrorist attacks by the organized group of Al-Qaeda? Most likely, the Obama administration will again remain silent as things unfold and as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fulfills its mission of dominating Iraq and Syria, creating a state in Iraq and Syria (as the Taliban did in Afghanistan), and then spread to other countries in the region.
There have been videos and photos posted showing the ISIS jihadist fighters massacring and beheading those people or soldiers whom they have captured. As the Washington Post reports: “The photos showed men in civilian clothes lying face down, shoulder to shoulder and with their hands bound, in a ditch surrounded by yellow fields, as masked fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fired into the ditch in Salahuddin province.”
On the other hand, economically speaking, the remarkable military advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are more precarious than the rise of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan due to ideology and economics. The United States economy, the Chinese economy, the EU economy, and the oil market are the four crucial factors that effect the global economy.
Iraq has one of the largest proven oil reserves in the world and it has even passed the Islamic Republic of Iran as the second largest producer of crude oil in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Industrialized countries’ dependence on oil is on the rise. Any instability in Iraq can have a tremendous impact on the global economy as well as oil prices, affecting the lives of ordinary people in the US.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has already been capable of bringing a significant surge in oil prices. Brent crude hit 114.69 dollars a barrel this week; the largest weekly gain this year. And, of course, countries such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and monarchies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, will be the ones that benefit from this rise. On the other hand, ordinary people in the US will have to pay the price.
The remarkable and rapid rise of Jihadi Islamists, particularly the movement of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or Al-Qaeda 2.0) is much more dangerous than Al-Qaeda, ideologically and economically. Their recent triumph and captures of several parts of Iraq and Syria may have tremendous repercussions on American national security, the global economy, and the lives of every American. Unfortunately, President Obama still insists on ignoring the danger and seriousness of these extremist movements.