The March of ISIS

I want to share with you one of the most amazing things that has happened in the modern Middle East, and while it most likely will not rival the collapse of the Soviet empire in importance, it has the potential to re-write regional maps. And yet there’s a danger that most Americans will miss it (or not believe its importance) until it’s too late.

When the current administration announced a timetable to end (rather than win) the war in Iraq, a then-small terrorist insurgency group affiliated with al-Qaeda began to mobilize in northern Syria to wait out the American withdrawal. After it broke away from al-Qaeda, that group came to be known as ISIS (an acronym for the name they gave themselves, “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham”; al-Sham refers to the “Levant,” or the region of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel), and within the last week they have rapidly pushed forward militarily into Iraq with the clear intent of taking over the nation.

On Tuesday of this week, ISIS captured the second largest city of Iraq, Mosul (the ancient city of Ninevah), as the Iraqi military (such as it is) crumbled or melted back in their wake. Just today, it has been reported that ISIS has moved south and taken the major city of Tikrit, and they now stand poised to push into Baghdad.

The red slanted lines on the Fox News map below show the territory that ISIS has won and now controls, most of it in less than a week. They could be ready to attack Baghdad in a matter of days. The white area on the map inside Iraq, to the right (east) of the ISIS-controlled area, is land controlled by the Kurds. Moments ago (this is how fast all of this is unfolding) the Kurdish paramilitary forces, known as peshmerga, announced that they have taken control of major military installations in and around the city of Kirkuk, as a way of stabilizing their control over what they consider to be their land.

Map of ISIS progress in Iraq

The Balad Air Base, which sits between Tikrit and Baghdad, today executed an emergency evacuation of all U.S. military personnel and American non-military contractors. Clearly, they believe the ISIS momentum is real and serious.

Our Vice President has, earlier today, sent word to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that the United States pledges to “intensify and accelerate [its] security, support and cooperation with Iraq” as this threat continues to mount. What form this redeployment of assistance will take has, as yet, not been made public.

HERE’S THE TAKE-AWAY FROM THIS: How does this rise to the level of a geopolitical earthquake? Think about it. If ISIS takes over the capital city of Baghdad, they will lay claim to controlling an entire nation – the first terrorist group in modern times to achieve that goal. We’ve known of state-sponsored terrorism for years now (e.g., terrorist cells supported by Iran, Syria, Saddam’s Iraq, etc.), but this would be the first time that a terrorist group itself has militarily fought for and captured an entire nation.

ISIS is a self-declared implacable foe, with an avowed hatred, of the “Little Satan” of Israel and the “Great Satan” of America. It is true that their military push into Iraq may be foiled or sputter and die of its own weakness. But, if ISIS were to succeed in taking most or all of Iraq, and claiming control and leadership of the nation, then for the first time we would be facing the potential threat of attacks and/or war – not from small, disparate groups of terrorist insurgents (and we’ve seen since 9/11 how much damage they can do) – but from a true terrorist state, intent on our destruction and with all of the oil-rich resources of an entire nation behind it.

Christ was very clear: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!” (or “Be alert!”). I will do my best to bring to you this information, and its portent for our lives, as it unfolds.