The beginning of the end for ISIS
U.S. airstrikes and international military support to the Iraqi army and peshmerga are just the beginning of a war to eliminate ISIS
American airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria began in early August. The organization has retreated due to these strikes, which are supported by the Iraqi army, Kurdish fighters and tribal forces on the ground.
These strikes were only carried out after a new prime minister was assigned to replace Nouri al-Maliki, whose policies helped ISIS grow. The organization easily seized Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city, on June 10. This boosted its power, leading to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's announcement of an Islamic caliphate on June 29.
ISIS retreat in Iraq
Kurdish peshmerga fighters regained control over Mosul's dam on Aug. 16, after ISIS seized it earlier that month. Joint forces, supported by U.S. airstrikes, also broke the ISIS siege on the Shiite-majority town of Amerli. The peshmerga and Shiite militias captured the town of Suleiman Beik, south of Kirkuk, on Sept. 1, as well as the town of Yengejeh. The Iraqi army is also trying to retake the city of Tikrit.
The U.S. air force has attacked ISIS posts in the Christian town of Telkaif, 15 kilometers away from Mosul. The peshmerga are preparing to enter the town as ISIS fighters are evacuating from some areas in Mosul. The peshmerga is about to completely encircle the town of Jalawla in Diyala province. It has also deterred a three-pronged attack against the Turkmen-majority town of Tuz Khormato.
On Sept. 3, U.S. President Barack Obama ordered the dispatch of some 350 soldiers to Baghdad to protect the American embassy. He also decided to send senior officials to the Middle East "to build a stronger regional partnership" to confront ISIS. This comes amid increased fears over the lives of Iraqis and foreigners in ISIS-controlled areas.
The United Nations said in early September that the number of those killed in Iraq in August is 1,420, with 1,370 injured. It added that 600,000 are displaced. The U.N. Human Rights Council agreed to send an investigative team to Iraq, as ISIS is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Germany on Aug. 31 said it had sent enough weapons and military gear for 4,000 Kurdish fighters. This deviates from its policy since World War II of not sending weapons to conflict zones. Also on Aug. 31, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his country would join Canada, Italy, France, Britain and the United States in delivering arms and humanitarian aid, and would supply Kurdish forces against ISIS in northern Iraq.
That same day, Kurdish security officials said U.S. airstrikes were paving the way for the withdrawal of ISIS from Mosul. This correlates with reports that Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph, fled to Syria after American airstrikes targeted ISIS strongholds in Iraq, forcing its fighters to retreat from Zumar and around the borders of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Eyewitnesses have said the organization's members in Mosul have begun to blend in with the city's residents. This makes targeting them difficult.
ISIS atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq - such as the Yazidis in Mount Sinjar and Christians in Mosul - and its executions of American journalists James Foley and David Sotloff, were the last straw for the international community.
U.S. airstrikes and international military support to the Iraqi army and peshmerga are just the beginning of a war to eliminate ISIS.
However, a major problem remains in defeating the organization in Syria, where government policies allowed it to expand for the sake of distorting the Syrian revolution. Will the West support the moderate Syrian opposition in its confrontation against ISIS? Perhaps this is the missing piece of the puzzle.