Posted: 6:51 a.m. Tuesday, June 17, 2014

US Deploys troops in response to Iraq crisis


Mideast Iraq photo
Karim Kadim
Iraqi federal policemen watch as Shiite tribal fighters deploy with their weapons in the northwest Baghdad's Shula neighborhood, Iraq, Monday, June 16, 2014. Sunni militants captured a key northern Iraqi town along the highway to Syria early on Monday, compounding the woes of Iraq's Shiite-led government a week after it lost a vast swath of territory to the insurgents in the country's north. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

By Jana Katsuyama

OAKLAND, Calif. —

More than two years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, President Obama announced the deployment of 275 troops Monday to help protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Advances by an international Sunni militant group is threatening to further destabilize the country under Iraq's mostly Shiite government led by Nouri al-Maliki.

The U.S.S. George H.W. Bush has joined three other Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf putting U.S. fighter jets, Osprey aircraft and Tomahawk missles within reach of Baghad.

The tensions are escalating after advancing militants with the Sunni group ISIS posted graphic photos and video this weekend showing an alleged massacre of Iraqi Shiite troops. The militants' swift advance across Syria's western border with Iraq has led to the fall of Mosul, Tikrit, and other cities Americans have come to know since U.S. troops marched on Saddam Hussein in 2003 during the Iraq War.

U.C. Berkeley Professor of Political Science Steven Weber says there are many reasons all Americans should be concerned about the escalating violence.

"We've spent possibly trillions of dollars, untold numbers of American, U.S. and other lives to create a government which is probably not going to last the decade. May not even last a year," Weber told KTVU Monday.

Weber says the ISIS, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (al-Sham) has gained support from the Sunni minority in Iraq which has been largely excluded from Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki's Shia-controlled government.

ISIS, he says, is an international group that gained power during the conflict in Syria and has been deemed radical even by Al-Qaeda's current leader. "Ayman al-Zawahiri. who is thought to be the head of al-Qaeda following Osama bin Laden's death, extruded this group from Al-Qaeda for actually being too radical and too vicious in its behavior," said Weber.

"I don't know how this is going to play out, but it may very well be that Iraq in 2020 looks a lot like Afghanistan did in 2000 just before 9/11," Weber warned.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the deteriorating crisis might even force some sort of partnership with longtime U.S. adversary, Iran.

"They are not the whole answer, but they may well be one of the options that are important to be able to stem the tide," Kerry said in an interview with Katie Couric on news.

Aaron Hinde, an Iraq War veteran who lives in Oakland, was deployed to Iraq with the Army's 101st Airborne Division in 2003.

He says his thoughts are with Iraqi civilians caught in the violence and he is heartbroken to see the militants invade cities he and other troops had hoped would find peace and stability after a decade of conflict.

"When I left Iraq in 2004 we had just captured Saddam and I was thinking – “Awesome, we are going to be out of Iraq soon and the country will be able to stabilize itself,’" Hinde told KTVU.

He also says the long conflict and multiple deployments have taken a toll on many fellow veterans.

"The psychological and emotional issues that they are struggling against have gotten compounded through repeated deployments," Hinde said.

As the U.S. weighs its options, experts say the biggest fear is if ISIS gains more control, it could pose a larger threat to U.S. security in the long term.

"Essentially what could happen in Iraq now, is what President Bush and President Obama said again and again they would never permit happen, the creation of safe sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and other radicals on territory in the Middle East," Weber said.

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