IRAQ: How the U.S. Can Stop ISIS – Peacefully

Before we hear Pres. Obama’s national address tonight, where he is expected to make the case for a “limited,” three-year “boots on the ground” reinvasion of Iraq (in addition to the 1,000 troops currently stationed there), let’s hit the pause button and consider non-military options. Yes, ISIS, a brutal offshoot of al-Qaeda that stretches from the Mediterranean in northwest Syria to the Persian Gulf in southeast Iraq, needs to be stopped. The questions are how and by whom. The U.S. has many options. Is Obama considering them all before he sends our men and women back into battle? I’ve drafted a brief petition to the President and Members of Congress with 7 steps to stop ISIS – peacefully. Will you please take a moment to consider signing it? If you feel as strongly as I do that more war is NOT the answer, please forward this page to your friends. Let’s get 10,000 signatures before the President’s speech tomorrow night! Congress has just reconvened. Today is the day to contact them and raise these non-military intervention options to stop ISIS — peacefully. As you know, I traveled to Iraq before and after the U.S. invasion, spent a summer in Syria working with Iraqi refugees and spent last summer in Beirut interviewing Syrian refugees. I

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am appalled that the President seems to be moving toward military reengagement without a full, public airing of the non-military options. I’ve met the people whose lives and families are shattered by my country’s rush to war. Can we prevent more casualties on America’s conscience? Here’s the petition with sources listed below: To President Obama and Members of Congress: Before we commit to a “limited,” “boots on the ground” reinvasion of Iraq, can we please hit the pause button and consider non-military options? Yes, ISIS, a brutal offshoot of al-Qaeda that stretches from the Mediterranean in northwest Syria to the Persian Gulf in southeast Iraq, needs to be stopped. The questions are how and by whom. The U.S. has many options. Will you exhaust them all before you send our men and women back into battle? Please consider the following 7 points to stop ISIS peacefully: 1. Consider all the steps between doing nothing and dropping bombs. The world witnessed a miraculous example of successful diplomacy last summer: It was considered a “done deal” that Washington would unleash limited bombing on the outskirts of Damascus to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. Then a seemingly off-the-cuff remark by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry set in motion a diplomatic solution that resulted in Assad turning over his stash of chemical weapons, thereby successfully ridding the world of one of the last major caches of chemical weapons – and avoiding more casualties on America’s conscious. Disarming proved to be much more successful “punishment” than bombing.

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We realize this tactic worked because Obama’s threat to bomb Syria was perceived as real. Could this tactic work again? Or are you planning to reoccupy Iraq? We implore you to employ non-military options first. 2. Stop considering Syria and Iraq in separate vacuums; a regional viewpoint is necessary. For example, the regimes of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and neighboring Iraq’s Nouri al-Malika (who has just retained political power by being named vice-president) are allied. They share a common opposition to ISIS. Yet, the U.S. funds the Iraqi government while also funding fighters who oppose the Syrian government, ignoring that some of those opposition fighters affiliate with ISIS and spill from Syria into Iraq. Thus, American tax dollars support opposition fighters trying to undo a government supported by American tax dollars! 3. Stop justifying military funding, arming and intervention in Syria or Iraq by referencing human rights abuses. Yes, it’s excruciating to view photos of hundreds of children gassed to death and not want to punish, but the larger truth is every side in Syria and Iraq are engaged in human rights abuses. Adding more “boots,” guns or military money does not suddenly make soldiers or insurgents more humane. 4. Work regionally to cut off supply routes of weapons. Fewer weapons means less fighting and fewer casualties – and fewer generations of traumatized children raised to believe violence is the only option. Syrian rebels’ weapons flow through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. The U.S. should be a leader in negotiating a regional effort to stem this flow of weapons; instead it provides weapons to Syrian fighters assuming they won’t land in ISIS fighters’ arms. 5. Dry up the black market for crude oil and gas. After benefitting from oil and gas takeovers in eastern Syria, ISIS has seized oil facilities in Mosul and Kirkuk and is selling the Iraqi crude at a deep discount on the global black market, raising $3 million/day and making it the wealthiest terrorist organization on the planet. It’s estimated they could make $1 billion/year. 6. Engage the United Nations. The U.S. is about to assume the presidency of the U.N. Security Council. ISIS creates an unusual opportunity for opposing factions to work together: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Gulf States and the U.S. and its western allies all see ISIS as a security threat. On Sept 24, the Security Council will consider a U.S. proposal to “prevent and suppress” the recruitment and travel of foreign fighters to join terrorist groups. It is estimated that 12,000 rebels from 74 countries have joined extremist groups in Iraq and Syria. While stemming the flow of fighters is a good step, it is open to abuse. And it’s a bit like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike. Better to engage the U.N. in pressuring countries to stop arms movement and black market oil purchases. Uniting opponents to ISIS is a unique opportunity to get these countries to suspend their proxy wars. 7. Stop doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. Iraq didn’t have any terrorist groups until after the U.S. invasion. Al-Qaeda bubbled up in 2004. If 100,000 U.S. troops with “boots on the ground” couldn’t wipe out al-Qaeda in Iraq, why do we think we can now without another full-scale war? Targeted precision strikes, such as what Obama is likely to propose, leads to political instability and the perpetuation of extremism. Are these suggestions more complicated? More time-consuming? More challenging? Yes. But they are far less destructive for Iraqi, Syrian and American children forced to grow up assaulted by war. Thank you for your consideration. Sources:, Sept 6, 2014, “ISIS Fast Facts” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2014: “Advanced U.S. Weapons Flow to Syrian Rebels” Reuters, July 13, 2012, “Where Syrian Fighters Get Their Weapons From”, Aug 21, 2014, “ISIS Profits on Black Market Oil in Iraq” The Guardian, Sept 10, 2013, “John Kerry on Syria: How a Gaffe Could Stop a War” Reuters, Sept 9, 2104, “U.N. Security Council Plans to Suppress Foreign Extremist Fighters”