Rafik Hariri Center Nonresident Fellow Ramzy Mardini writes for the New York Times Room for Debate on why US intervention in Iraq is not the best solution to the ongoing crisis there:
President Obama would be best served by demonstrating military restraint. Armed intervention will not end the civil war in Iraq, and therefore will not end the atrocities being witnessed today. The horrors experienced by Iraq’s religious minorities at the hands of militants are indeed catastrophic, and the United States should do all it can short of direct military engagement to assist their safe passage – especially with regards to humanitarian aid, logistics and intelligence.
ISIS is certainly a problem that must not be ignored, but it does not sufficiently constitute a strategic threat to the United States. The logic to exercise military force remains weak. The more the U.S. becomes militarily entangled, the more likely that localized insurgent movements will incur transnational aspirations, thus exacerbating the blowback risk of terrorism against U.S. interests. In the end, armed intervention does little to quell insurgencies that receive popular support on the ground, while retaining the likelihood of making a bad situation worse.
At the moment, ISIS remains integrated within the wider Sunni Arab insurgency directed against the Shiites. Therefore, any U.S. military action will extend beyond simply downgrading a terrorist organization, but becoming a full-fledged participant in a wider, sectarian civil war. It is important for the United States to demonstrate a strategic level of neutrality, especially toward a complex conflict that is integrated in a wider competition among regional powers.