The Middle East is currently facing conflict with border conflicts, air strikes, hostages and militant groups. ISIS, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, guided by leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is causing much of that extreme havoc in the Middle East.
The primary goal of the terrorist organization is remapping their region’s borders in the Middle East. ISIS rules by Sharia law and is widely recognized for their killing sprees, public executions and crucifixions.
The problem in combining Syria and Iraq to form a continuous state lies in the sectarian divide between competing Muslim religious groups, Sunni and Shia.
As of now, the Shia population controls Iraq’s government, while the ISIS militants gaining control in Iraq are Sunni.
According to the BBC, Iraq is one of a few countries with a Shia majority. The increasing violence between the Islamic militants and the government has threatened to become an even greater regional conflict.
The Sunni militants’ advanced military weapons had previously caused concern in the United States, but until rebels entered the northern city of Erbil and trapped hundreds of refugees on a mountaintop, the U.S. has not been directly involved.
Erbil plays a significant role in the U.S. movement in Iraq. Over 800 military personnel were placed in the city early this year. The Kurds have become a major ally to the U.S. and a stabilizing power among the divided religious factions in Iraq.
From the beginning of the ISIS campaign, Kurdish forces, also known as the Peshmerga, have proven the most impressive group to fight against the militants. Too many of Iraq’s own security personnel left behind their posts, uniforms and weapons as ISIS advanced. ISIS promises to kill any Kurd if they do not convert to Islam.
The U.S. started a campaign of airstrikes and humanitarian-aid deliveries to the trapped Iraqi civilians in early August. The airstrikes target ISIS artillery and installations while providing support to Kurdish forces protecting Erbil.
In addition to supporting the Peshmerga with airstrikes, the U.S. is also directly supplying weapons. Australia, France and Britain have all offered aid to the trapped refugees in Erbil, but decided against military action. Iran has expressed an interest in defeating the Sunni militants. It is still unclear what role Iran is currently playing.
Obama has dismissed the idea of sending U.S. ground troops into Iraq, but warned that American involvement against ISIS will be a long-term process. The problem will not be solved in just weeks.
The videoed beheadings and threats by ISIS have turned the group into one of the most urgent threats against the U.S. president. The Islamic militant group released a video on Sept. 2 showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff and placed the blame on President Obama for the murder. The video increased the pressure on the president to order military strikes on the group in its sanctuary in Syria.
The exact timing of Sotloff’s execution is not clear. Many American counterterrorism and intelligence officials had assumed that he died earlier, possibly the same time as James Foley, the first journalist to be executed on video, roughly two weeks ago.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the “core coalition” to fight the ISIS militants in a rushed organized meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit debates.
Diplomats and defense officials from the United States, Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark came together to construct a new two-part strategy involving strengthening allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria, while bombing Sunni militants from the air.
Editor’s Note: Information from CNN, NBC News, BBC and The New York Times was used in this report.