The U.S. and its allies should be concerned over the tactics used by Islamic States of Iraq and Syria/Levant, or ISIS, to capture and hold territory in the region, according to a leading foreign policy expert.
Gartenstein-Ross says ISIS has a long history in Iraq. The group formed in April 2013, and grew out of Al Qaeda's affiliate organization in Iraq.
The group’s predecessor “became notorious for its brutality and its sectarian killings focusing on Shias … became the dominate force in Iraq’s Anbar province; however, they overplayed their hand significantly, got beaten back and were considered a ‘dead organization’ [by Iraq],” said Gartenstein-Ross. “ISIS’ return demonstrates the resiliency of many of these groups.”
Regional leaders are concerned Iraq will fall into a civil war similar to Syria. Gartenstein-Ross says it’s unclear if that’s the case, but there are some indicators that suggest so.
“If you look at ISIS’ advance – not big enough to hold on to the territory they’ve captured, but they are dependent on a variety of other organizations working beside them like former Baathists and rebels against the former U.S. occupation,” said Gartenstein-Ross.
Violence between Sunnis and Shiites, he points out, is not at the same level yet as nearly a decade ago. Al Qaeda back then was able to use that tension to its benefit and provoke both sects against one another.
There is indication that ISIS is trying to use that strategy.
“They have released videos of ISIS captors executing captured Shia soldiers,” said Gartenstein-Ross. “ISIS certainly hopes they will engender the kind of revenge killings that you had previously during the course of the Iraq War.”
Watch the full interview with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross above.