Arab and Gulf Countries Must Take the Lead in Iraq

Aug 08, 2014

I cannot shake the images of Vian Dakhil, the Iraqi member of Parliament, screaming at her colleagues that her people are being slaughtered, children are being murdered and the women are being taken into slavery or killed. Her constituents have fled their villages and are taking refuge in the mountains, where they are dying of heat.

Ever since ISIS entered Iraq and started advancing like the Mongol conquest in the 13th century, it has been killing people, purging the country of its religious minorities — Shiites, Christians, Yezidis and others — and destroying monuments. The legacy of ISIS is destruction, devastation and genocide. It has become quite obvious that the Iraqi government and army are incapable of stopping the invaders.

This carnage should be an opportunity for Washington to work with responsible actors in the region to form counterterrorism partnerships.

That leaves the international community holding the bag. Iraq’s immediate neighbors and fellow Arab governments have been condemning the atrocities of ISIS, but until Thursday afternoon when Kurdish media reported airstrikes of an unknown origin on ISIS positions no country had lifted a finger to stop the atrocities. This is despite the fact that they very familiar with the incompetence and corruption that pervades the Iraqi government and its army. Once again it was expected that the United States step in and try to rescue whatever is left of Iraq and its minorities.

President Obama’s signature policy has been that the United States should form counterterrorism partnerships with other countries. This carnage should be an opportunity for Washington to work with responsible actors in the region. Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council countries should take the lead and provide humanitarian and military aid in the form of air power and ground troops to defeat and uproot ISIS, as it is already a coming attraction for Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Maybe this Thursday afternoon's intervention will embarrass enough members of the Arab League to step up to what is expected from them.

Originally published in The New York Times Room for Debate.

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