Arab leaders in the Middle East can no longer sit back and watch — with trepidation, no doubt — as Islamic State militants continue their brutal occupation of large swaths of Iraq. No country in the region is safe so long as the Islamic extremists believe they’re invincible because of their religious crusade.
Their brutality was on full display this week when they released a video showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who went missing in 2012 while covering the civil war in northern Syria.
The militants have threatened to kill another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, who was kidnapped on the Syrian-Turkish border last year.
Islamic State militants said Foley’s execution was in retaliation for U.S. air strikes in Iraq that are designed to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces create a buffer zone around Mosul Dam.
President Barack Obama gave the green light earlier this month for American fighters and drones to strike at the militants’ strongholds and also ordered the deployment of American troops to serve as advisers and bolster security at the American embassy in Baghdad.
Since then, more than 70 Islamic State targets, including security checkpoints, vehicles and weapons caches, have been struck.
With American support, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have been able to drive the militants from key areas, including the Mosul Dam, and to stop them from moving toward Baghdad.
Obama made it clear Wednesday that Foley’s gruesome death and the threat to Sotloff would not result in the U.S. pulling back. Indeed, the administration is weighing sending even more American troops to Iraq.
“We will be vigilant, and we will be relentless,” the president said. He denounced Islamic State as a “cancer” threatening the entire region.
Given the IS threat to the region’s stability and the blood it has spilled in Syria and Iraq, Arab leaders are deluding themselves if they believe their countries are somehow safe from these religious fanatics.
Creation of caliphates
They have made their intentions known: The creation of caliphates throughout the Middle East with Shariah law governing all aspects of life.
The militants have shown little mercy for non-Muslims and others they view as infidels. The persecution of Christians and members of other religions in Iraq has triggered widespread condemnation, but as yet only the United States has reacted with the necessary force.
The execution of Foley has prompted Western nations to step up efforts to counter the threat posed by Islamic State. Germany announced it would supply the Kurds with weapons, while Italy is likely to contribute machine guns, ammunition and anti-tank rockets.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Foley’s killing showed the true face of this “caliphate of barbarism.”
But, the silence in capitals in the Middle East was deafening — even from leaders in Syria and Iraq, where Islamic State is the strongest and poses the greatest threat to the stability of those countries.
The fact that the militants have been committing atrocities against Iraqis and Syrians for years should be reason enough for those and other nations to join with the United States to wipe out the IS, which fashions itself as a successor to al-Qaida, once the world’s leading terrorist organization that was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on America’s homeland.
But, the killing of al-Qaida’s founder and leader, Osama bin Laden, by American forces crippled the global terror organization.
Islamic State must not be allowed to grow in strength and reputation.