ISIS, Iraq, and Why it All Matters

By Michael Jones (michael.jones@tsiglobalconsulting.com)

WaziriyaAutobombeIrak.jpg
WaziriyaAutobombeIrak” by U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin – http://www.navy.mil; exact source. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

 

In America, the issue of Iraq has largely been seen as cleaned up over the past few years.  We went in, took Saddam Hussein out of power, and withdrew our troops, and due to the messy and morally grey area of the conflict, most Americans were happy to put it out of our collective minds.  Since  the end of the Iraq War, different conflicts in the Middle East have flared up, and now Egypt, Syria, and continued conflicts in Afghanistan have caught our national attention.  Of course, even without the U.S.’s eyes on it, life went on in Iraq after we left.  The new government has consistently struggled to maintain order within the country, and many Islamic militant groups have risen to fill the power vacuum.  It looked like Iraq would simply be another failed state: doomed to failure, but not unique in its situation.

However, in a shockingly short time, the situation has changed, and Iraq has turned into a threat to global security.  As you may have already heard in the news, the Muslim militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has seized significant areas of territory within Iraq, including major cities such as Mosul and Tikrit, within the last month.  These victories have instilled new confidence in ISIS, leading to advances on the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.  If Baghdad is captured, then ISIS will be able to fulfill its goal of establishing a full-on fundamentalist state in Iraq, and will be able to rule as they see fit.  So far, the government has been able to stall the advancing militants, but victories have mostly been back and forth, and the international community has largely been silent on the issue.  Many experts are worried right now that success is just within ISIS’s reach.

So why is this a problem?  Well, there are several reasons why.  First of all, ISIS is by far the most hard-line of the Islamic militant groups that have been formed in recent years, to the point where even Al-Qaeda cut ties with them, citing their “wanton brutality”.  Yes, ISIS is too extreme for Al-Qaeda.  Al-Qaeda.  That sentence alone should illustrate why their establishment of a new state in Iraq would be a problem.  Since the fighting started, ISIS has been responsible for numerous bombings, kidnappings, beheadings, and the freeing of other militants from Iraqi prisons, and promises that, should it succeed in creating an Islamic state, it will go the path of a fundamentalist Sharia Caliphate with strong anti-western leanings.  The world has already had an example of what a group like ISIS could do in power: Afghanistan’s former Taliban government.  Only in this case, ISIS would likely be even more extreme in its brutality in governance.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a global crisis if other global actors were not somehow involved.  Another of the acts that the primarily-Sunni ISIS is responsible for committing during the fighting is the killing of Shia Muslims.  The problem here is that these killings have caused Iraq’s Shia-majority neighbor, Iran, to become involved in the fighting.  Now, Iran has gotten involved in some of the other conflicts currently going on in the Middle East,but not with the same bad blood as conflict with ISIS would entail.  Not only would Iran have reason to go in guns blazing due to the killing of their fellow Shias, but the two countries already have a long, violent history together, dating back to the 1980s when the two countries fought against each other.  Another conflict between an ISIS-controlled Iraq and Iran would have the potential to destabilize the region even further.   Given Iran’s new position as a rising global power, this could have significant consequences for the world’s political and economic system.

However, what is probably the most important consequence of ISIS taking control of Iraq is the same thing that all conflicts in this region boil down to: oil.  Iraq has the world’s 5th largest supply of oil, and the government has just recently begun to tap into that supply for export.  Should ISIS manage to assume control of Iraq, we can reasonably assume that that production would stop, or at least be put on hold for dealings with the west.  I cannot overstate how much of the world’s economy this would affect: oil prices would skyrocket, creating chaos in all industries across the world, potentially leading to a resource disaster worse than the 1970s Oil Crisis.  This is big, and everyone involved in international business needs to take notice of this situation now.  This is why ISIS and Iraq are important to you, our TSI clients.

Without more response from the international community, all that most of us can do now is prepare for the contingency that ISIS is successful in its goals.  Hopefully, further conflict can be avoided and Iraq can return to building its fragile democracy, but the situation right now is certainly scary from an international business perspective.  If you have concerns about how your business might be affected by this crisis, please contact TSI Global Consulting at 210-757-0618 for a consultation today.

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