The Iraqi Army Is Corrupt

By Sal Bommarito

Since the ISIS war began, many people have been asking why Iraqi soldiers are incapable of defending their own country, “despite [receiving] roughly $25 billion worth of American training and equipment over the past 10 years and from far more from the Iraqi treasury.” Has this money been squandered? Iraqi forces dropped their weapons the first time they encountered ISIS and many soldiers deserted. It’s hard to believe our military officials when they say the Iraqi Army was in battle ready condition after the U.S. withdrew troops.

A New York Times front-page article presents the reasons for the pathetic state of the Iraqi military. For starters, the Times told of three generals that are indicative of the current state of military readiness. One general is known as “chicken guy” because he sells his troops’ poultry provisions. Another general is “arak guy” because he drinks anise-flavored liquor while leading his men. And then there is “General Defta,” who sells army commissions for personal profit.

“Now the pattern of corruption and patronage in the Iraqi [military] threatens to undermine a new American-led effort to drive out the extremists.” U.S. military leaders know the Iraqi Army is an ineffective force, not likely to ever be able to provide necessary ground force support. Are our generals frightened to tell the president that his dependency on Iraq soldiers is a mistake? Are the generals concerned about being drummed out of the military if they speak the truth? In the meantime, bombing sorties are happening every day to little avail, and ISIS fighters are busy usurping more territory and beheading all those who resist.

The president wants the Iraqi Army to fend for itself and be the conduit for all weapons provided by the U.S for a “counteroffensive.” This includes $1.3 billion for armaments and $24.1 million for tribal members assistance. One might ask, what happened to the aforementioned $25 billion? The Times article implies that much of it is lining the pockets of corrupt generals and politicians as they sell U.S. equipment and supplies on the black market. Occasionally, U.S. weapons end up in the hands of ISIS fighters.

The article goes into detail about the amount of corruption in Iraq. All sorts of reasons for it are delineated. The incompetence the former Iraqi leader is mentioned along with the impact of continuing sectarian fighting. Nevertheless, few charges have been filed against the criminals. Only recently has the new Iraqi leader replaced 36 high-ranking soldiers with his cronies.

Are U.S. advisors supposed to deal with Iraqi military corruption or focus on the enemy? Can 3,000 American soldiers overlay a new ethos onto the Iraqi military complex? And if that’s ever accomplished will the soldiers be ready to go toe to toe with the ISIS animals?

At first, I was hesitant to push for U.S. ground forces. I still am apprehensive that putting our soldiers in harm’s way will enable the U.S. to bring peace to the region even if ISIS is destroyed. But, if the U.S. continues to bomb, fritter away money sent to Iraq and hope an efficient Iraqi ground force somehow evolves, ISIS will remain a huge threat to the region.

Congress must drill deep into this situation and demand an accurate accounting from U.S. generals. I believe the American people are being buffaloed about the progress of the war.

Obama Will Likely Send Ground Troops To Iraq

By Sal Bommarito

President Obama has proven to be one of the most unpredictable leaders in modern times. This characterization is based upon his propensity to adjust earlier policies for a wide assortment of reasons even if new perspectives contradict earlier assurances. Obama seems to have trouble staying any course.

Last week, after indicating on several occasions that granting amnesty to illegal aliens was not a constitutional option available to the president, Obama, in effect, gave amnesty to several million people living illegally in the U.S.

Yesterday, the president decided to step up military operations in Afghanistan as reported by the New York Times. What? I thought the American occupation of Afghanistan was over. But, the president flip-flopped on yet another promise. Why did he implement this reversal? After all, U.S. is back in Iraq after guarantees that the hostilities in that country were over. Why not reengage in Afghanistan as well?

Obama is not shy about surging in any hot spot when it suits him. In Afghanistan, increased aggression by the Taliban, an improved relationship with the new Afghan leader and a full court press by U.S. generals has led to another change in policy. The new policy “ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting [in Afghanistan] for at least another year.

Obama’s decision “allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government . . .” In May, the president indicated that U.S. troops would have no combat role in Afghanistan in 2015. Supposedly, his change of heart to increase U.S. engagement was influenced by the ISIS situation and the inability of Iraqi forces to repel ISIS fighters.

The new direction in Afghanistan foretells more changes in U.S. military operations in the region. How will Obama resist the urge to deploy ground forces in Iraq? The same generals are telling the president directly and indirectly that the mission to destroy ISIS is in great jeopardy without support on the ground. If Iraqi officials became more amenable, will the president ignore their request for him to surge in the country? Doubtful.

What is disturbing is that the president continues to change his policies in reaction to an assortment of pressures. They may come from the enemy, host countries, U.S. allies, the political environment back home and Obama’s legacy, which has taken a beating in recent weeks. The problem with this apparent indecision is that no one can depend upon what the president says. He just cannot be trusted to set an objective and follow through to its consummation.

In Iraq and Syria, things are going to deteriorate as ISIS troops advance, or at a minimum retain and fortify existing positions. It is highly likely that the generals will win over Obama, and the U.S. will then assume a greater role by sending in ground troops to fight ISIS.

ISIS IS Causing Massive Humanitarian Problems

By Sal Bommarito

Since 2012, three million refugees have fled Syria. Their destinations have been:

(in thousands)
Lebanon 1,185
Turkey* 843
Jordan 615
Iraq 215
Egypt 139

Total 2,997

*Refugees from Kobani, Syria and Mosul, Iraq have greatly increased Turkey’s total to 1.7 million in recent days.

Most of those fleeing Syria have left because of increasing oppression by the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad and the ISIS invasion.

In Turkey, 13% of the refugees are in government camps and the balance have moved into nearby cities and towns. The costs to the Turkish government have risen to over $4 billion; the international community has contributed $240 million to the cause.

The generosity of the Turkish government is a result of a moral imperative to help the needy “even if it is difficult, costly, unpopular and risky.” However, the conditions that these people must to endure are horrendous and will worsen as winter arrives.

The Turkish situation is most perplexing because the country’s objectives are quite diverse compared to other Arab nations in the region. Certainly, Turkey wants to defeat ISIS, but equally important are its desire to defeat Assad and limit the immigration of Syrian Kurds into Turkey.

Turkey has asked the U.S. to create a no-fly zone along its border with Syria that would protect Kurds and other groups fighting against Assad and ISIS thereby limiting their migration into the country. However, a no-fly zone could result in confrontations between U.S. and Syrian aircraft that would no doubt attack any groups hostile towards Assad.

A report in the New York Times today indicates that “Thousands of Syrians, mostly women and children, have been stranded for weeks on Jordan’s border, according to international and aid agencies who say Jordan appears to be increasingly turning away Syrians fleeing war at home.” Internally, Jordan citizens are objecting to the costs and risk of infiltrators of the massive migration.

When the ISIS crisis ends, the greatest tragedy might be a humanitarian disaster relating to all the displaced people. The refugee issue is only a part of this drama; millions of Iraqis and Syrians have been forced out of their homes and relocated to other parts of the country. Overcrowding and difficult conditions have developed.

The refugee support provided by the countries listed above is huge. The cost of it for all the new inhabitants will severely impact their financial viability. This will, for sure, decrease the level of service that the needy will require.

ISIS Miscalculations

By Sal Bommarito

Unlike other major confrontations in recent history, none of the key players in the ISIS war with the exception of ISIS itself is all-in. And, the situation is complex with many conflicting agendas, so it will be next to impossible to bring long-lasting peace to the region after hostilities end.

Underlying the ISIS conflict are many age-old feuds and much unfinished business, along with trillions of dollars of oil and gas reserves. Each of the major players in this Kabuki dance has an individual agenda.

The most important actors in this drama are the U.S., Iraq, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Israel. The extras are millions of refugees that are taxing the resources of several states that have generously accepted those who have fled ISIS oppression. In the coming months, through the winter, a humanitarian crisis is very much a possibility.

As anticipated, the U.S. evolved as the principal catalyst opposing ISIS, not the other nations mentioned above that have so much more to lose. ISIS’ only allies are the most radical Sunnis and malcontents from around the world that have enlisted with the jihadists. The jihad has no outside support so it funds itself with the spoils of war, commandeered oil and the sale of antiquities.

The U.S. observed the devastation created by ISIS in Iraq and decided to come to the rescue. This occurred even though it spent millions of gallons of American blood and trillions of dollars over the past years trying to rebuild Iraq. Frankly, the efforts of our brave soldiers were frittered away in a matter of months when the president made good on his promise and ended the Iraq occupation, prematurely. Iraq could not effectively govern or secure itself, and so the U.S. has returned for a third act.

Iraq has no effective leadership as it attempts to convert from a Sunni-dominated nation to Shite. As expected, the Shiite government disenfranchised Sunnis. It dismissed them from the military and refused to share power. The result was chaos, a place ripe for Sunni insurgents to establish a caliphate.

The joke is that the U.S. and the Shiite government expect to recruit Iraqi Sunnis to fight against ISIS Sunnis without a new arrangement that includes Sunnis in the government.

President Obama engaged America in another war and promised upfront to not use U.S. ground forces. Rather, he has a pipe dream that Iraqis can defend themselves. But, the president led us through years of frustration in Iraq, so he should know his reliance on an undependable Iraqi Army is a huge miscalculation.

Many U.S. military people, active and retired, have opined about the chances of winning the war without U.S. ground troops. Some have bravely stated the truth; it’s not likely, while others want to be loyal to their commander-in-chief. The latter skirt the issue and say the U.S. might have to reconsider its policy, even though they know effective ground forces are critical.

The most upsetting aspect of this episode is that the U.S. reengaged in Iraq without a realistic plan to complete its mission. How could our military people depend upon an army that deserted when they first faced off against ISIS? Why would our military leaders think they could create an effective fighting force in a few months when they couldn’t do it over a decade?

Politically, it will be difficult to deploy U.S. ground soldiers. But, it is the only way to end this war in the foreseeable future. From time to time, bombing sorties are successful. But, nothing in the newspapers suggest that bombing is turning the tide of the war.

Wars are not won from 30,000 feet. Arabs are not prepared to engage ISIS because they know the U.S. will do it for them. The U.S. should disappoint them, pack up its stuff and let the Arabs fight their own damn war.

Peaceful Muslims Should Speak Out Against ISIS

By Sal Bommarito

At long last, non-military actions are being proposed to stem the ISIS juggernaut. Ironically, it is the United Nations that has entered the fray offering some strong suggestions that could go a long way towards decreasing ISIS’s strength. Frankly, it’s about time the U.N. and other influential organizations stood up against the human rights violations being perpetrated by jihadists.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that a U.N. panel recommended the Security Council order “all countries [to] seize oil trucks coming in and out of territory controlled by [ISIS] and to impose a global moratorium on the sale of antiquities from [Iraq and Syria].”

An international organization has finally recognized and severely criticized the havoc being created by ISIS and proposed definitive actions to cut off its funding. The panel indicated that ISIS generates between $846 thousand and $1.6 million each day from black market sales of mostly oil and antiquities. The money is used to motivate fighters and buy weapons.

The panel also urged countries near Iraq and Syria to stop the influx of new fighters and place sanctions on those who recruit for ISIS.

On Wednesday, a Times story reported that a U.N. official “called on the Muslim world to denounce crimes of the extremist group that seeks to establish an Islamic state . . . calling its actions both a violation of international law and Islamic tenets.”

The official, who is a member of the Jordanian royal family and a Muslim, is the high commissioner for human rights at the U.N. He said it was “disturbing” that “few to nonexistent” public demonstrations in the Muslim world have condemned the actions of ISIS even while Arab nations have spoken against the rebels.

Bravely, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein cited Muslim clerics that ISIS has violated Shariah countless times through forced conversions to Islam, reintroduction of slavery and murder of civilians. He said Islam also “prohibited the killing of diplomats and emissaries.”

It is heartening to hear the beginnings of outrage emanating from the Muslim world. The silence of the group has caused many non-Muslims to believe that nonviolent elements in the Arab world are silently supportive of ISIS. If this is untrue, these people should speak out in protest and on social media. It would unite them with those who want peace, discourage the continuation of the ISIS jihad and decrease the recruitment of more fighters.

Beheadings And A Nuclear Deal With Iran

By Sal Bommarito

The two lead international stories today are the execution of American Peter Kassig and the increasingly tenuous negotiations with Iran relating to its nuclear program.

The beheading of Kassig was another unnecessary and extraordinarily cruel act on the part of ISIS. It involves only one man, yet the significance of the misdeed is great. First off, Kassig was on a mission of mercy, a humanitarian effort to help those who are being negatively impacted by the turmoil in the Middle East. Why would any group target and behead a person whose intentions are so honorable?

Second, the act is an insult to the U.S. and every one of its citizens. Taking the life of an innocent American should not occur without serious retribution. The whole episode ought to be a call to arms; a deadly response is totally justifiable. To make matters worse, ISIS barbarians openly defy the president and are not frightened by the military might of America. Why, because of the meek response of our leaders to the tragedies that are affiliated with the ISIS confrontation.

By broadcasting his battle plans and refusing to consider tactics that would enable the U.S. to actually destroy the enemy, the president has made his country look like a paper tiger, too frightened to take appropriate action. The logical response to the beheadings and other acts of criminality should be deadly force and targeted strikes on ISIS leadership with U.S. soldiers that are expert in these types of matters.

The negotiations with Iran were bound to experience serious bumps. Iran’s clerics who rule the country have great incentive to eliminate economic sanctions imposed on them by the U.S. However, they know Obama is acting with other intentions. And so, the Iranian decision makers sense an opportunity to obtain much more from a nuclear deal with America.

What are the other intentions of Obama? The president is struggling with the ground force situation. A deal with Iran could include an agreement for it to engage ISIS. By Iran doing so, it might ameliorate the need for the U.S. to send troops to confront ISIS. If the U.S. cannot ally with Iran and cannot muster sufficient and capable ground support from Iraq and Syria, American soldiers will likely be needed to finish off ISIS.

The Iranians know the president is approaching the end of his tenure, and looking back, his achievements are not impressive. A nuclear deal with Iran, even a less than optimal one, could be seen as a great accomplishment that bolsters the president’s legacy.

A new deal could decrease the threat of Israel to Iran. Many think the Israelis will attack Iran if it determines that a nuclear weapon is imminent. But, on the heels of a deal with Iran, it would seem less likely.

On the other side of the coin, the president has the power of economic sanctions and lower oil prices in his favor. Iran is going to experience greater economic strife if it cannot sell its oil, especially if oil prices remain low.

Getting a deal done that can be approved by Congress will be increasingly difficult. As time passes and relations deteriorate between the president and Congress over domestic issues, chances of a new Iran deal will become more remote.

The ISIS war is creating derivative concerns every day. The struggle is at a critical point and any missteps could have long-lasting strategic implications. The president dearly needs some positive developments in the near future.

It’s Time To Reconsider Deployment Of American Ground Forces

By Sal Bommarito

ISIS beheaded Peter Kassig today, an American. Kassig was a former Army Ranger who returned to Syria after his tenure in the military to do humanitarian work.

The New York Times published a story about Yazidi girls in Iraq who have been kidnapped. ISIS seized upwards of 7,000 young women who were forced to convert to Islam, sold off like animals and used by ISIS fighters for sexual purposes. ISIS kidnapped the women after raids on their towns in Iraq. Some have been sent to Syria as compensation to rebel fighters.

Where is the outrage for these horrendous acts? When is the world, and in particular the U.S., going to take more appropriate and deadly action against these despicable terrorists? How long can America look the other way?

There is little doubt that the issue at hand is the deployment of ground forces, which we have been told will come from Iraqi and Syria. It is absurd to think that 80,000 soldiers from these countries will be trained and ready for action in the near future. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made this forecast.

The execution of Kassig is yet another slap in the face intended to insult and denigrate America. The savages perpetrating these deeds defy the U.S. and challenge it to increase its military presence. What is so unnerving is that the people being executed are in the region trying to assist those who have been hurt by the war.

ISIS “has openly acknowledged its slavery industry.” In an article in Dabiq, the group’s online English-language magazine, ISIS indicated it has begun to use a “custom justified under Shariah.” This custom suggests “one-fifth of the slaves [should be] transferred to the Islamic State’s authority to be divided as Kitums.” Kitums are a tax on the spoils of war.

Human Rights Watch said, “The systematic abduction, abuse and killing of Yazidis might amount to crimes against humanity.” There is no doubt that the actions warrant severe retribution.

Western nations should not become embroiled in social activities of sovereign nations unless individual acts are deemed to be capital crimes and/or crimes against humanity. Considering that ISIS is not a legal entity and is committing egregious crimes, the coalition would be justified if it utilized greater military force. This action would not only be justified, it is the right thing to do. How long is the U.S. going to continue a benign bombing campaign that cannot alone bring victory? It would be immoral to ignore the barbarians by allowing them to continue to behead their enemies, kidnap women and slaughter innocent civilians. It is unconscionable to wait some uncertain amount of time until ground forces from Iraq and Syria are ready to set out after ISIS fighters, especially if there is any doubt that the soldiers will be ready and able to complete their missions.

The bombing campaign is insufficient; the situation is screaming for greater force. It is time for the president to revisit his ground forces policy. Thousand, and perhaps millions of people, are depending upon America to save them.

I sincerely regret making a case that will endanger our young and brave soldiers. However, it is likely that the U.S. will have to send ground troops to end this war, or at worse to stop ISIS from overrunning other Arab nations.

No Progress In The War Against ISIS

By Sal Bommarito

The ISIS conflict is filled with more contradictions each day. U.S. generals are still “considering” what contingencies might cause them to recommend ground force deployment. Iraqis and Syrians located in different parts of their countries are supportive and against the U.S. and ISIS.

The president is the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military. He has indicated on several occasions that there will be no deployment of U.S. ground forces into either Iraq or Syria, while simultaneously doubling the number of “military advisors” just a few days ago. Nevertheless, senior commanders including Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many other high-ranking soldiers have speculated about the moment to use American foot soldiers. Dempsey postulated to the House Armed Services Committee about events that would force him to recommend the deployment of troops to the president.

Certainly, enough military personnel, military experts and military talking heads have warned that the U.S. will not be able to defeat and degrade ISIS without ground soldiers. The only way to root out ISIS fighters from populated areas is with this additional capability. Also, qualified soldiers are needed on the scene to provide U.S. bombers with quality targets. Currently, pilots identify targets from the air. The former will result in many more successful bombing sorties and less collateral damage.

In spite of all this mumbling behind his back, the president is still willing to bet the war on indigenous ground forces that are supposed to do very difficult work sometime in the future. Many people in the know have indicated that the Iraqi Army is not and will not be up to the task of facing off against ISIS. And, the proposed training of moderate rebels to repel ISIS in Syria has not even begun. In the meantime, ISIS is digging in to their positions, often in populated areas. New recruits are pouring in and ISIS is providing services to civilians in cities they have overwhelmed as a precursor to establishing an Islamic State. The New York Times reported on the aforementioned civilian services along with some very different perspectives among Iraqis about U.S. bombing and ISIS occupation.

The ISIS war is beginning to feel like an extended conflict with no end in sight as neither side is making any definitive moves to assert itself. The U.S. is continuing with a somewhat anemic battle plan: bombing runs are much fewer than other conflicts in the region in the past several years. The targets being hit by U.S. are not worthy of the high tech munitions being employed to blow up trucks and other soft targets.

If no body bags are sent back to the U.S., Americans will probably not object to a standoff in the Middle East. But, it’s likely that the new Congress will start asking tough questions about the mission, the direction of the war and the likelihood of defeating ISIS.

Environmental Security Versus Economics

By Sal Bommarito

On the heels of the “landmark agreement” between President Obama and President Xi of China, I decided to write a piece about the issues impacting greenhouse gases. I am not an expert on the environment, yet I have strong opinions about the long-term impact of efforts to fight pollution.

From my perspective, the issues that are most relevant relate to the well being of our planet, economics and politics.

Every intelligent human wants a healthy environment for themselves, their families and their descendants. So, environmental yapping about conservatives not caring about clean air is utter nonsense. No doubt, legitimate differences arise when implementation of new clean air standards are debated. It seems that every interested person either is for unrestrained new regulations, or limited government interference, and no one is in the middle. Neither of the first two positions will result in compromise, so I would like to make a case for peaceful and collaborative deliberations.

The science about greenhouse gases is universally accepted (humans and fossil fuels are responsible for most detrimental emissions, and gases may increase the temperature of the Earth over time). We can easily agree that man must alter his behavior in the future to save Earth.

Coal-fired utility companies, automobiles and general industry generate the preponderance of gases. Therefore, these activities are the ones that politicians, planners, scientists, technologists, business people and environmentalists should focus on. Strong resistance arises when environmentalists encourage the government to move against businesses without enough consideration to the economic impact.

Electric utilities create an enormous amount of pollutants. Aggressive clean air advocates are calling for increased pollution control on these facilities and even the banning of this type of energy generation. The justification is that in a short period of time significant reductions in greenhouse gases can be achieved. This type of flippant response to the problem is unacceptable.

Pollution devices dramatically increase the operational costs of electrical utilities. A multi million dollar expenditure for scrubbers results in zero revenues and so it decreases profitability. Of course, the response to this is that the environment improves, which is desirable. And, environmentalist might say that the facility’s profits were artificially propped up at the expense of the environment. Yet, the economic and practical considerations could be devastating.

Closing electric generation facilities would dramatically decrease the need for coal. This would have a devastating impact on states that produce coal such as Kentucky. I hasten to point out that the presumed leader of the newly elected Senate is from Kentucky. It would be political suicide for any politician from a “coal state” to come out against coal.

Secondly, closing or making these facilities unprofitable would result in a significant decline in electrical output. What is the replacement? This type of dramatic change can only be done over a generation or longer.

The second greatest producer of greenhouse gases is the automobile. The writing is on the wall, and significant progress has been made in making cars cleaner. Additionally, the conversion of fossil fuel cars to electric power is becoming a reality. Yet, an immediate prohibition on fossil fuel cars or a burdensome requirement for significantly greater pollution controls would have a devastating impact on car companies, the thousands of companies and their employees who supply car companies and oil companies.

And finally, industrial companies can be mandated to radically increase pollution control in the short-term. Some of these companies would suffer the same fate as electric facilities, if the mandates were onerous. But, there is another consideration. Competition from companies in places where pollution control is not imposed would have a significant advantage. All things being equal, the company that must pay for pollution control will have higher costs than the company in China or India that does not pay these costs. A significant mandate from the federal government could make the U.S. less competitive overnight.

One other issue that represents a cloud over this controversy is politics. I mentioned one form of politics relating to Kentucky and other coal producing states. But, there are political considerations on the other side of the aisle. For instance, President Obama’s deal with the Chinese could be fraught with politics. It would be inane to agree to burdensome pollution requirements, without significant due diligence, to gain an edge in the next presidential election.

The environmental controversy is complex and must be dealt with carefully. There is no need to rush into a program that could potentially create huge hardships for large groups of Americans or American businesses. Having said this, it is equally unwise not to recognize the long-term impact of abusing the environment. So, sacrificing the environment for profits is not acceptable either.

Caliphate Leadership Is A Huge Issue In ISIS War

By Sal Bommarito

On rare occasions, I agree with Tom Friedman, columnist at the New York Times. He wrote a very insightful article about the conflicting forces in the Middle East and how they might impede the effort to defeat ISIS.

An unbiased observer could reasonably conclude that ISIS should be the principal concern for all the key players in the Middle East. After all, ISIS has threatened to kill all non-Arabs and non-Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria in an effort to create a Sunni caliphate. Moreover, ISIS fighters are approaching the borders that abut Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan foretelling future violence.

Since the current ISIS brouhaha began a few months ago, many have wondered why Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have not been more concerned with the rampaging radicals, and why they are not more engaged in the fight. Friedman has unveiled the answer: these Arab nations have other issues that are equal to or greater in importance than ISIS.

The Middle East has been on the front pages of the newspapers for years. In recent times, oil supply, two Iraq wars, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and now the ISIS encounter have directed attention towards the region. Intermittently, different antagonists have incurred the wrath of Arabs. For years, the Israeli state has been a thorn in the sides of Arabs. The U.S.’s all too frequent incursions into the area, along with its support of Israel have confounded Arab leaders. But Friedman believes the most important underlying issue has been something else.

All the sturm and drang is a masquerade that diverts everyone from the real truth: the centuries old feud between Sunnis and Shiite. It is useful to consider Friedman’s take on this notion.

Iran has made it abundantly clear it wants to develop a nuclear weapon. Understandably, the rest of the civilized world is against this ambition. Why is it so important to Iran? The answer is that Iran intends to use this newfound club to bully Arabs into a Shiite caliphate, or a state led by a supreme religious leader.

Iran is the unchallenged leader of the Shiite world. According to Friedman, “[Iran] has taken control of four Arab capitals: Beirut, through the Shiite militia Hezbollah; Damascus, through the Shiite/Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad; Baghdad, through the Shiite-led government; and . . . Sana, where a pro-Iranian-Yemen-Shiite offshoot . . . recently swept into the capital of Yemen [to dominate Sunnis].”

Up north, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erodogan, has abandoned the dream of democracy for the region. He now hopes to establish a Sunni caliphate that will dominate the Middle East under his leadership. Turkey has other issues that it believes are equally as important as the ISIS threat. They include the Kurdish aspiration of independence and the continued existence of the Assad regime in Syria. Turkey intends to pursue ISIS along with the aforementioned concerns on an equally aggressive basis, unless or until ISIS steps over its border.

And finally Saudi Arabia will play a large role in the Middle East drama. Its leaders also long for a caliphate that is Sunni, but Saudi-led. Just like the Iranians, Saudis have unleashed insurgents into Shiite strongholds to provoke violence and instability. No Saudi decision will be made regarding ISIS without first considering religious ramifications.

How ISIS will be defeated is unknown at this time. Many believe ISIS cannot be repelled without efficient ground support. Unfortunately, no nation is able and prepared to provide foot soldiers. Nevertheless, if ISIS is neutralized, the conflict in the region will continue in the form of new confrontations between Sunnis and Shiites.