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The mess in Iraq: What to do?

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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Monday, June 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

The United States finds itself between the proverbial rock and a hard place with the disintegration of Iraq.

War-weary Americans, feeling burned by their country's last intervention there and, perhaps, with insufficient understanding of what's truly at stake, have no appetite for re-entering the fray in any form. But there is no question that applying cosmetics to the situation or doing nothing at all are not options. For that surely would embolden terrorists and pose a direct threat not just to the security of the Middle East but to the security of the United States.

The relatively small forces of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an outcast al-Qaida spinoff, stunned Iraq, if not the world, last week with their lightning-fast takeover of most of northern Iraq. Many Iraqi security forces tucked tail and ran. Others were captured and might have been executed en masse. By early Monday, some Iraqi forces were striking back.

President Obama, weighing the options — Airstrikes and risking a wider fight? Working with neighboring Iran and risking dealing with another terrorism devil? — on Sunday pushed the warring factions to mend their sectarian rifts among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds and form a unity government. That sounds like a pipe dream given the situation on the ground.

ISIS is vowing to take Baghdad. And if the Iraqi capital falls, a wider conflagration virtually is assured. Iraq and parts of Syria will have been conscripted by the ugliest of terrorists. Lebanon and Jordan next would be at certain risk. And the United States once again would be ripe for attacks domestically.

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