National Security & Defense

No Cause for Optimism on ISIS

Condemn the CIA for interrogating a few terrorists, but remain on the sidelines while ISIS glories in child rape and decapitation?

Thanks to Senator Feinstein, and quite extraordinary media bias, the CIA is now apparently an enemy of the state. Yet beyond this stale Washington waltz, America’s enemies are on the prowl. The Islamic State, for example, is taking full advantage of our distraction.

South of its de facto Iraqi capital, Mosul, ISIS is harassing Ramadi, Anbar’s provincial capital. ISIS already controls many key towns in Anbar and moves quite freely along the arterial highways into Syria. But today, the group also threatens Anbar’s Ain al-Asad air base, home to American advisers. Worse, ISIS is also skirmishing near the cities of Karbala and Samarra, home to some of Shia Islam’s holiest sites; both are now defended by Iranian-led militias.

Iraq, put simply, isn’t looking good, and there is little cause for optimism. Describing ISIS advances, a source put it this way: “They’ve been slicing through it like butter recently.” Every day that ISIS grows in strength, Iraq’s sectarian infection deepens. Forcing Sunnis to choose between kneeling or dying, and “purifying” Iraqi Shia and minorities, ISIS is suffocating any chance for consensual politics.

In turn, as I and others such as Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi and Jonathan Spyer have outlined, Iran finds advantage in playing the role of an indispensable guardian. In return for security, Iran has tightened its velvet stranglehold over the Iraqi government and empowered its own theological project: Khomeinism’s regional advance. But the Ayatollah’s velvet glove always conceals a leash of spikes, as Lebanon proves.

This division of sectarian hatred is also a growing threat to international security. The chaos feeds on itself, whether it’s ISIS selling jihadism to malcontents across the globe, or Iran flexing its muscles and setting off fears in the Sunni Arab monarchies (fear of Iran is one reason Kuwait and Qatar allow their citizens to donate to fanatical Salafi-Jihadists). In recent weeks, ISIS has been circulating pamphlets among its holy warriors that prescribe child rape. And every day, those who oppose ISIS are tortured, executed, and then desecrated; a recent video shows a Syrian soldier being decapitated and then used as a toy by a crowd of children. With an enemy such as this, failure is not an option.

Were the United States to arm the Sunni tribes in Anbar and Deir ez-Zor (remember, we did it before) and deploy Special Forces, we could multiply our air campaign’s effectiveness dramatically. But first our politicians must abandon their reeking moral hypocrisy: weeping for a few interrogated terrorists in the name of “honor” and “who we are” as a nation while ignoring thousands of victims in the name of “respect” and “non-interference.” But even if we do not care about Muslim civilians, then let us care about ourselves. As long as ISIS exists, so will it spread terror like that now unfolding in Sydney. (Regarding Australia, if you’re interested, here are some of my thoughts on the rise of ISIS-inspired homegrown terrorism.)

This ideology is both an engine and a magnet for evil. We must destroy it.

Tom Rogan, based in Washington, D.C., writes for the Daily Telegraph and is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group. He holds the Tony Blankley Chair at the Steamboat Institute and tweets @TomRtweets.

Tom Rogan is a columnist for National Review Online, a contributor to the Washington Examiner, and a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Email him at


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