Over at The Debate, Ben Reynolds demolishes American pundits who, fearing the U.S. and Iran will cooperate on a shared interest, have tried to blame Iran and its allies for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
I have no doubt that Bashar al-Assad welcomed ISIS’s rise in the insurgency. An Alawite family does get to rule over Syria for decades by failing to recognize opportunities that land on its doorstep.
And while I disagree with aspects of Reynold’s piece, his argument that the U.S. did far more to facilitate ISIS’s rise than Iran is virtually undeniable. To briefly recap: In 2001 the U.S. was attacked by al-Qaeda, a Sunni Jihadist group, which claimed that America’s support for corrupt and insufficiently Islamic governments in the Middle East was preventing it from recreating the Islamic Caliphate. The U.S. responded by launching a global war on terrorism. After forcing the Taliban and al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan, the U.S. turned its sights on Iraq, a country without a terrorist problem that was led by Saddam Hussein, a secular Sunni Baathist leader that al-Qaeda was bent on overthrowing.
After toppling Saddam, the U.S. dismantled the entire Sunni-dominated Baathist state, including dismissing the military and security services and firing even low level civil servants. It then put the long oppressed Shiites in power, the leadership of whom had dedicated their lives to opposing Saddam and the Baathist. While only get mixed results most of the time, the U.S. devoted most of its military resources during the Iraq War to combating the Sunni insurgency that inevitably followed these decisions.
A Wall Street Journal profile of ISIS’s leadership this week erases any linger doubt over whether or not these decisions were instrumental to the group’s rise. The article notes that many of ISIS’s top leaders– including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi– spent time in an American military prison during the occupation. Like countless terrorist and...
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