By Claude Salhani - Trend
The threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is so serious to the stability of the region and beyond that the Iranian leadership said it would not oppose US military intervention if the Americans choose to act against the Islamists who have embarked on a rampage across Iraq.
While US President Barack Obama has been largely silent on recent developments in Iraq, the Pentagon announced Sunday that it was sending a carrier task force into the Gulf region that included the aircraft carrier George H. W. Bush, (CVN 77) into the area just in case.
Meanwhile in Iraq the army said it had launched a full counter offensive in efforts to reverse the initial victories marked by the Islamists last week. Shiite militias have deployed alongside the Iraqi army as helicopter gunships went into action Sunday against ISIL positions.
The stunning and unexpected recent victories by the Islamists are very worrisome. In a region that is not foreign to conflict, this one is particularly frightening and has far-reaching consequences, not least the effect it could have on the pricing and production of oil.
After capturing Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city in the oil-rich northern part of the country, the Islamists' next major victory came a day later with the fall of Tikrit in the center of the country and only 181 kilometers (131) miles from the capital, Baghdad, and by Friday the Islamists had reported taken over Samara, only 132 kms (82 miles) from Baghdad.
To most Western readers Tikrit and Samara hold no special meaning, but for Iraqis these two cities carry much symbolism. Tikrit was Saddam Hussein's hometown and Samara is the hometown of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ruthless leader of the ISIL, who had spent four years as a prisoner in an America internment camp in Iraq but was later released.
The fall of Tikrit and Samara sends a message to the Iraqi people that one era is over and a new one is about to begin.
A militarily successful Islamist force straddling over parts of Iraq and Syria will pose a real threat to the security and stability of those countries' immediate neighbors. Even Iran is worried, and rightfully so.
Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and of course, Israel would be the first countries to feel the effect of a takfiri victory. But it also carries ramifications for a number of other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Oman and Yemen. If successful in Iraq they is little reason to believe they would stop
Left unchecked, the Islamists could eventually pose a threat to the stability and well being of the countries of Central Asia as well.
The threat level increases with the $3.2 billion al-Baghdadi is believed to have taken out the banks in Mosul, money that can go a ong way in financing a war.
The concern is such that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated that Iran would not oppose a US tactical strike against ISIL. And even Syria, where government forces are fighting their own civil war has offered to send troops to Iraq it needed.
In Iraq Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the supreme Shiite religious leader in the country called on his compatriots to take up arms against the Islamists.
Until now however, the American leadership seems to be on vacation, or as the Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner told reporters Thursday President Barack Obama is "taking a nap" as terrorists capture Iraqi cities and move toward the capital of Baghdad.
Claude Salhani is senior editor at Trend Agency in Baku, Azerbaijan. He is an specialist on the Middle East, Central Asia, terrorism and politicized Islam. You can follow him on Twitter @claudesalhani.