More from Strategy Page on the situation in Iraq and how it relates to the winding down of the revolt in Syria:
Currently ISIL is trying to gain complete control over eastern Syria and western Iraq. That is proving difficult because of continued resistance in Syria by government forces and Kurds as well as some rival Islamic terrorist groups (mainly al Nusra). In Iraq the Shia controlled government sent so many of their best units to Anbar that the security forces in Mosul collapsed and handed ISIL an unexpected victory. That appears to be backfiring because now the Shia government of Iraq has given in to years of Kurd demands that the autonomous Kurds of northern Iraq be allowed to take control of Mosul and Kirkuk and nearby oil fields. At this point the Iraqi government doesn’t have much choice. The Kurds will have to fight hard for Mosul and Kirkuk, but the Kurdish army (the Peshmerga) have been defeating Sunni Islamic terrorists for a long time. In this fight, the ISIL is the underdog. ISIL can afford to give up Mosul and Kirkuk because these are not historically Bedouin lands but rather Kurdish. The Kurds will be fighting harder for them. Ultimately ISIL wants to control their own homeland to the south. Once that is done ISIL believes their Holy Warriors can gain control of all of Syria and Iraq and then the world. This has never worked, in large part because of the extreme brutality these Holy Warriors use against their opponents. ISIL has been deliberately murdering Shia, Christian and Kurdish civilians in an effort to terrorize their groups into surrender. That is not working and rarely has in the last few centuries. All these groups have powerful foreign allies who work hard to help their kinsmen fight back.
Despite these problems ISIL is real and dangerous. There’s a reason for that. Islamic terrorists have long been depicted in Arab culture as noble and pure warriors fighting to protect Islam. This is partly religion and partly culture but the reality is no Islamic radicals have ever managed to do any permanent good for the Moslem world. This truth gets realized and accepted eventually and then forgotten again. For example after the 2008 defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, and the 90 percent decline in al Qaeda attacks there it was believed that Islamic terrorism was on the ropes once more and many Arabs were visibly relieved. But the Arab Spring changed all that. Terrorist attacks worldwide, most of them by Moslem religious radicals, more than doubled from 7,200 in 2009 to 18,500 in 2013.
There have been many outbreaks of Islamic terrorism in the past but his time around the chief cause was state sponsored Islamic terrorism by Pakistan and a recent boost by the Arab Spring uprisings and continued financial support by wealthy Arabs in the Persian Gulf and fanatic young men throughout Arabia. The Pakistani policy of covertly supporting and encouraging Islamic terrorist groups began in the late 1970s and after September 11, 2001 there Islamic terrorists were increasingly out of Pakistani control. Thus Pakistan found itself in the position of continuing to support Islamic terrorists who attacked India and Afghanistan while fighting a growing number of disaffected terrorist groups at home that had declared war on Pakistan. The result was a huge spike in Islamic terrorist violence. For the Arab Spring countries it meant prolonged unrest and more Islamic terrorist deaths. Worse, it isn’t over, especially in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Algeria. Over 200,000 have died so far in the Arab Spring countries, and millions more wounded, imprisoned or driven from their homes.
Go here to read the rest. I think the Iraqi government will be able to beat off the ISIL attempt to establish permanent control in any part of Iraq. ISIL simply does not have more than a few thousand troops and the Iraqi government can call on endless manpower from the Shia of the south, along with support from Iran. The long term problems in Iraq are an ongoing low level, at best, civil war between Sunnis and the Shia dominated government of Iraq, growing Iranian influence and a Kurdish state in the north. From the perspective of the US, the Kurds are pro-American, growing Iranian influence in Iraq is worrisome so long as the current regime in Iran is in power and continued Sunni-Shia strife is tragic but inevitable. Whoever wins in all this, I can guarantee that it will not be ISIL, the terrorist group grabbing all the largely clueless headlines in the West.