The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, continues to prove that it's a threat to be reckoned with. And while America agreed to send Iraq 300 "military advisors" -- or Special Forces -- to help with this threat, Russia one-upped America and sent in military experts and Sukhoi Su-25 fighter planes. Here's what you need to know.
As I detailed last week, there are a number of reasons behind the ISIS uprising, but a large factor is the divided, "Shia-controlled" government, as well as ISIS's desire to establish an Islamic caliphate, and caliph, in Iraq and Syria.
Regrettably, last Sunday, ISIS came one step closer to its goal by renaming itself the "Islamic State," declaring statehood as an Islamic caliphate, and proclaiming that the group's new caliph is Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. Luckily, ISIS declaring statehood and actually becoming its own Islamic caliphate are not one in the same, as it has yet to defeat the Iraqi military.
But of concern is the fact that thanks to the Islamic State, the Iraqi government, and the country, are on the brink of collapse. At the opening session of the Iraqi parliament on Tuesday, Shiite leaders failed to nominate a replacement for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. This caused Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers -- who want a replacement for Maliki -- to walk out of the session, thus ending it in "chaos," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Russia takes on the fight against terrorism; America ups the ante
The good news for Iraq is that Russia is taking this threat very seriously, and has already delivered Russian warplanes and military experts to help Iraq fight against Islamic State militants. Moreover, The New York Times reports that Russia's move is an "implicit rebuke" to America, which has been slow to respond to the Iraqi government's request for aid.
That's not to say America hasn't responded. Whether in response to Russia's increased involvement or not, this last week, America agreed to sell Iraq a number of Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) F-16s, and Congress stopped stalling the sale of up to 24 Boeing (NYSE:BA) AH-64E Apache helicopters -- the helicopter deal alone is estimated to be worth $4.8 billion. Additionally, The Hill reports that the Pentagon notified Congress of its plan to sell 200 Humvees to Iraq for $1 billion, and Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren stated: "We have one of the largest FMF and FMS programs [with Iraq], [which] includes approximately $15 billion worth of equipment and training. ... We've sent them, recently, 300 Hellfire missiles, millions of rounds of small arms, thousands of rounds of tank ammunition, and 10 Scan Eagle surveillance [drones] are on schedule for delivery for later in the year."
What to watch
As I previously wrote, there are two main forces that could prompt increased American involvement in Iraq: "sunk cost," basically a situation in which you've put so much money into an investment -- like Iraq -- that walking away seems unacceptable, or painful; and the continued destabilization of the Middle East.
Unfortunately, last week's increased destabilization has done exactly as predicted. The turmoil in Iraq is already proving beneficial to defense companies like the those listed above, and it could prove to be even more beneficial if America is drawn into another Middle Eastern conflict -- between 2000 and 2010 the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were largely funded through emergency spending bills, which exceeded $980 billion. The bad news is that there's no way to know how involved America will become -- however, increased troop deployment, as well as the recently agreed-upon F-16 and Apache weapons sales, aren't the best signs. Consequently, this is something to watch.