BY SHANNON WILEY
As world leaders make plans on how to fight against the terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Salisbury University students are reacting and speaking out about how they feel towards ISIS and how they believe the conflict in the Middle East should be dealt with.
“I am really fearful of the U.S. getting into another war,” senior Ryan Russel said. “I think we have to set the standard for how to react to ISIS, but I am worried about us trying to police the world when we still have to figure out our own issues.”
The organization, which was originally founded under the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 1999 as Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, began in Iraq. The group became a branch of al-Qaeda in 2004 and changed their name to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
In 2006, Majlis Shura al-Mujahedin (MSM) was created out of AQI which combined other Iraqi insurgent factions and in October 2006 an announcement was made that said from MSM, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) would be established. The group focused on governing and heavy criminal punishment in line with a narrow view of Sharia law.
Since its founding, ISI has expanded and after growing into Syria, became ISIS.
“We know that many people have fled or have been killed by ISIS authorities, but we also know that they have tried with some success to build public support for their cause in the areas they currently control through stabilizing economic activity, establishing security, and even providing financial support to communities and cities,” assistant history professor Joseph Venosa said, who will be teaching a class on Modern Middle Eastern history this coming spring. “This is also a battle for hearts and minds. The impact of ISIS’ presence goes well beyond Iraq and just issues of religious interpretation. It impacts broader economic, political, and social issues that exist across the modern Middle East.
Although enthusiasm and support for the organization has remained substantial and garnered support from less recognized sheikhs, or Islamic leaders, other Islamic jihadist groups have moved away from ISIS and joined the opposition. Independent jihadist ideologues have renounced ISIS and in February al-Qaeda disaffiliated.
“ISIS is a deviant organization from the path of truth, [they are] aggressors against the Mujahidin (MSM), mentor to Zarqawi and independent jihadist scholar” Maqdisi said in an announcement.
Over the summer ISIS started attracting media attention. The Islamic militant group has claimed responsibility for the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British Aide Worker David Haines, as well as thousands of killings and exiles of Christians and other Iraqi and Syrian citizens.
On Sunday, the United Nations Refugee Agency said that at least 70,000 Syrians crossed into Turkey in the past 24 hours in order to escape the fighting.
World leaders are now planning to and have begun taking action in order to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, as President Barack Obama said in his Sept. 20 Weekly Address.
“I think ISIS could be a threat to the U.S. if we do not take them out now,” senior Dan Feeney said. “I think the Obama administration has been a little slow to recognize ISIS as a threat until after the beheadings.”
Although United States intelligence has not yet discovered explicit ISIS plans against the U.S., the group has threatened the U.S. and its allies, so the Obama administration feels they must stop ISIS before they pose a bigger threat.
“One thing is certain, and that is that nothing is certain,” Venosa said.
Last month Obama ordered airstrikes on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. U.S. ally France also began dropping airstrikes. A majority of democrats and republicans in congress approved a plan for U.S. troops to train Syria and opposition fighters.
“I won’t commit our troops to fight another ground war in Iraq or in Syria,” Obama said in his Sept. 20 address, as well as in other addresses and press conferences. “It is more effective to use our capabilities to help partners on the ground secure their own countries’ futures. We will use our air power, we will train and equip our partners, we will advise, and we will assist. And we’ll lead a broad coalition of nations who have a stake in this fight.”
“(The air strikes) is going to cause a whole other issue, but at the same time we have to take action,” freshman Jessica Crumlich said.
“Whatever plan is ultimately approved, it will not likely end the circumstances from which groups like ISIS emerge in the first place,” Venosa said. “Unless the cycle of grinding poverty, institutional breakdown, sectarianism, and foreign intervention that has destroyed much of Iraq is stopped, ISIS and other similar organizations will continue to emerge from the instability.”
Over 40 countries have offered to help in the fight against ISIS, according to Obama’s Sept. 20 address, including training and equipment, humanitarian relief and flying combat operations. This includes 10 Arab nations that have committed to some military aid.
“We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensue they face justice,” Britain Prime Minister David Cameron said after the slaying of David Haines.
“We have all these problems at home, are we going to be able to solve our problems if we go to this?” senior Hal Erickson said. “I think it has to be a world effort.”