Even with frequent coverage in the media, understanding what is going on in Syria and Iraq can be difficult.
However, knowing the situation in the Middle East should be a priority for American citizens, according to Dr. Amy Stumpf, professor of society and religion at California Baptist University.
“As voting citizens of the world’s only superpower, we should know how our country is impacting the situation,” Stumpf said.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is a militant group consisting of extremists from the Sunni sect of Islam. This militant group’s name is frequently debated in various political and media circles. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or even just the “Islamic State” (IS) are synonyms for the same entity, with the variations coming from a desire to respect the differences Muslim leaders and citizens distinguish themselves by, as well as some political leaders’ desires to disassociate Syria from the conflict.
Although originally an Iraqi branch of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda officially disavowed ISIS in February because of its extreme tactics.
“If al-Qaeda says you’re nuts, then you know you’re out there,” Stumpf said.
ISIS has infiltrated much of Iraq and Syria in an attempt to create a caliphate, or an Islamic state ruled by a religious leader.
It has funded its massive project with revenue generated from captured oil refineries, which are estimated to bring in up to $3 million a day.
For the United States, stopping ISIS and its violent crimes is complicated given Syria’s background and current civil war. Syrian President Basher al-Assad is reportedtly a tyrant who has brutally murdered more than 100,000 Syrians through chemical weapons, barrel bombs and torture. However, a side effect of making an effort to stop ISIS in Syria would be granting al-Assad more power, though the United States denounces his actions.
On Sept. 10, President Barack Obama revealed the United States’ role in the fight against ISIS in his state floor address to the nation.
“Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” Obama said. “It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.”
The United States has assisted in the fight against ISIS by training and equipping armed Kurdish fighters known as Peshmerga, providing $40 million in military aid and another $2.9 billion in humanitarian aid. The United States has also launched efforts to train rebel forces within Syria.