Local expert and an Iraqi war veteran weigh in on terror group taking over Iraq


POSTED: Friday, June 13, 2014 - 10:48pm

UPDATED: Saturday, June 14, 2014 - 11:02am

After more than a decade of war, billions of dollars spent, lives lost, and millions of people displaced, it seems as though Iraq is falling in the hands of a very dangerous terrorist group.

Experts say stability in Iraq was short-lived after American forces withdrew in 2011.

Now, gunfire echoes through the neighborhoods of Iraqi cities like Mosul, as heavily armed men with covered faces quickly take over, brandishing weapons left behind by the US forces for the Iraqi army.

A jihadist organization known as ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is taking over parts of Iraq at lightening speed.

Their goal is to set up an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East, to implement Sharia law.

"An ideologically motivated group of individuals that really wishes to rollback any type of globalization and any type of Western-inspired development in the Middle East," said Dr. Gaspare Genna, a political science professor at UTEP.

Analysts call ISIS the world's richest and most dangerous terrorist group - so ruthless even Al-Qaeda has disowned them.

"I don't think it's a big surprise to anybody who has been there or who has been in the military or policy making that this is happening now," said Leonard Gruppo, a physician's assistant and retired Lieutenant Colonel, who served 14 years with Army Special Forces.

Gruppo served in Baghdad in 2007.

He says the United States gave democracy in Iraq a chance.

"Some measure of support needed to be maintained more than it was," said Gruppo.

But Gruppo agrees with Professor Genna that the Iraqis need to pull their own weight in keeping efforts for a democratic country going.

"All the United States or any country can do is basically provide the tools. They can't be doing the job. The job is the Iraqi people's job and the government isn't doing that," said Professor Genna.

He argues a dysfunctional Iraqi government has led Iraqi soldiers to abandon their positions, and ISIS is taking advantage of it.

The ongoing Syrian war next door and hostility between different Muslim groups, Professor Genna argues, is only making matters worse.

"Are we vulnerable to barbarians like these these terrorists? You bet we are," said Gruppo.

On Friday, President Obama announced the United States will not be sending ground troops to Iraq but other options like airstrikes, surveillance, and funding are still on the table.

Meanwhile. ISIS is moving in on Baghdad, Iraq's largest city and capital, after capturing Mosul earlier this week.

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