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[IWS] CRS: THE "ISLAMIC STATE" CRISIS AND U.S. POLICY [12 November 2014]

IWS Documented News Service

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Institute for Workplace Studies-----------------Professor Samuel B. Bacharach

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Congressional Research Service (CRS)

 

The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy

Kenneth Katzman,Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Christopher M. Blanchard,  Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Carla E. Humud,  Analyst in Middle Eastern and African Affairs

Rhoda Margesson,  Specialist in International Humanitarian Policy

Alex Tiersky,  Analyst in Foreign Affairs

Matthew C. Weed,  Analyst in Foreign Policy Legislation

November 12, 2014

http://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R43612.pdf?

[full-text, 31 pages]

 

Summary

The Islamic State is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that has expanded

its control over areas of parts of Iraq and Syria since 2013. It threatens the governments of both

countries and potentially several other countries in the region, and has drawn a military response

from the international community. There is debate over the degree to which the Islamic State

organization might represent a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland or to U.S. facilities and

personnel in the region.

 

The forerunner of the Islamic State (IS) was part of the insurgency against coalition forces in Iraq,

and the organization has in the years since the 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq expanded its

control over significant areas of both Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State has thrived in the

disaffected Sunni tribal areas of Iraq and in the remote provinces of Syria torn by the civil war.

Since early 2014, Islamic State-led forces, supported by groups linked to ousted Iraqi President

Saddam Hussein and many Sunni Arab tribalists, have advanced along the Tigris and Euphrates

rivers, seizing multiple population centers including Mosul, one of Iraq’s largest cities. Since

then, IS forces have massacred Syrian adversaries and Iraqi civilians, often from ethnic or

religious minorities, and executed two American journalists who the group had captured while

they were working in Syria. Islamic State fighters also have come close to capturing a key

Kurdish enclave in northern Syria. The Islamic State’s tactics have drawn the ire of the

international community, increasing U.S. attention on Iraq’s political problems and on the civil

war in Syria.

 

On September 10, President Obama announced a series of actions intended to “degrade, and

ultimately destroy” the Islamic State organization. The United States is leading and seeking to

expand a multilateral coalition that is undertaking direct military action; providing advice,

training, and equipment for partner ground forces in Iraq and Syria; gathering and sharing

intelligence; and using financial measures against the Islamic State. The objective of these

measures is to progressively shrink the geographic and political space, manpower, and financial

resources available to the organization.

 

The U.S. effort to show progress against the Islamic State, and the recruitment of regional

partners, raises questions of whether the U.S. mission and commitment might expand. The

Administration has ruled out deploying combat forces to either Iraq or Syria, but it has not ruled

out providing forward aircraft controllers, additional military advisors, or other related ground

military assets. Some experts assert that coalition partners inside Iraq and Syria—Iraqi

government forces and select Syrian opposition groups—are too weak to defeat the Islamic State

and will eventually require help from U.S. combat troops. Several of the regional coalition

members apparently seek an expansion of the U.S.-led mission to include an effort to oust

President Bashar al Asad of Syria, arguing that the Islamic State cannot be defeated until the

Syrian political situation is altered.

 

For details on Islamic State operations in Iraq and U.S. policy toward Iraq since the 2003 U.S.

invasion, see CRS Report RS21968, Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights, by Kenneth

Katzman. For further information on the Islamic State’s operations in Syria, see CRS Report

RL33487, Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response, coordinated by Christopher M.

Blanchard.

 

Contents

The Islamic State ............................................................................................................................. 1

Background................................................................................................................................ 2

The Situation in Iraq ........................................................................................................................ 2

Iraq Government Alterations ..................................................................................................... 4

The Situation in Syria ...................................................................................................................... 5

U.S. Responses and Options ............................................................................................................ 7

U.S. Strategy .............................................................................................................................. 7

Strategy Evolution and Implementation .................................................................................... 8

Mission to Advise, Assist, Train, Target, Protect Personnel and Facilities, and

Gather Intelligence ........................................................................................................... 8

Airstrikes ........................................................................................................................... 10

Weapons Sales to Iraq ....................................................................................................... 10

Humanitarian Airdrops ...................................................................................................... 11

Building Up a Local Partner Force in Syria ...................................................................... 11

Combat Deployments? ...................................................................................................... 12

What Has the Strategy Achieved to Date? ............................................................................... 13

International Coalition ............................................................................................................. 14

Turkey ............................................................................................................................... 15

Saudi Arabia ...................................................................................................................... 16

Jordan ................................................................................................................................ 17

Europe and Other Allies .................................................................................................... 18

Iranian Involvement in the Iraq Crisis ............................................................................... 18

Selected Additional Issues Raised by the Crisis ............................................................................ 22

Authority for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State and the War Powers

Resolution ............................................................................................................................. 22

Humanitarian Impact and Response ........................................................................................ 23

Responses to Threats to U.S. Personnel, Facilities, and Citizens ............................................ 25

Possible Questions for Congressional Consideration .................................................................... 27

 

Figures

Figure 1. Iraq, Syria, and Regional Unrest .................................................................................... 20

Figure 2. Evolution of IS/ISIL and Extremist Groups in Iraq and Syria, 2002-2014 .................... 21

 

Contacts

Author Contact Information........................................................................................................... 28

 

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