With all of my attention fixed on the Gaza Strip for the last month, I’ve neglected to update you on the activities in Iraq.
Not surprisingly, the situation continues to deteriorate as the government of Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki clings to power in Baghdad. ISIS (which has now adopted a new name, the Islamic State) is consolidating power and growing more aggressive every day.
When we last checked in on the Islamic State, it had just declared a caliphate in the territories it holds in Syria and Iraq. Since then, the group has tightened the noose on al-Maliki’s government by inching ever closer to Baghdad.
Perhaps more importantly, the Islamic State has also targeted strategic assets around Iraq… and the militant terrorists now have control of Iraq’s largest dams.
This may not sound like much, but water could end up being the Islamic State’s most powerful weapon in its fight against Baghdad. More specifically, if the terrorists reach their goal – the Mosul Dam – they’d have the ability to send a 15-foot wall of water crashing through Baghdad.
The Ultimate Bargaining Chip
The leader of the Islamic State, once known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is now Amir al-Mu’minin Caliph Ibrahim.
As the Caliph, he’s considered both the head of state and the head of religion in the new country. That makes him an absolutist theocratic leader. Such a government is the ultimate expression of Sharia law in the Sunni Islamic world, and is considered by many Muslims to be the perfect form of governance.
For their part, Americans and Europeans have a difficult time understanding Islam because it isn’t a religion like any with which they’re familiar.
Islam is also a political system, and it seeks total domination over its citizens. That’s why the Islamic State murders non-Sunni Muslims as it captures territory seemingly without a care.
It’s also why the United Nations reports that as many as 200,000 people are displaced and fleeing the Islamic State advance… and why that number is likely about to rise sharply.
You see, the Islamic State had previously bypassed the many strategic jewels that the Kurdish population controls in northern Iraq. (The Kurds had used al-Maliki’s weakness against him and took over key energy infrastructures where their population is concentrated.)
But now, the Islamic State has decided it wants those energy resources.
And, using weapons it took from the Iraqi Army, the Islamic State has captured two oil fields and two predominately Kurdish towns in the north, Sinjar and Zumar.
The real prize – the Mosul Dam – is 50 kilometers (km) north of Sinjar.
Built on the Tigris River in the 1980s with the help of German technical support, the Mosul Dam is a major source of water and electricity in Iraq.
It would also provide the Islamic State with an incredibly powerful and deadly weapon.
You see, the Islamic State could use water to both intimidate and kill its enemies. For starters, rain is sparse during the summer, and populations are dependent on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers for drinking and agricultural production.
On top of that, Foreign Policy magazine hypothesized that “Mosul could be completely flooded within hours, and a 15-foot wall of water could crash into Baghdad” if the Islamic State decided to drain the dam.
Obviously, the threat of such damage would be a huge bargaining chip against Maliki’s government.
So if the Mosul Dam does fall into the hands of the Islamic State, the Caliph will have the ability to unleash horror on the millions of people who live and work on the banks of the ancient Tigris River.
How’s that “victory” in Iraq looking now, Obama?
Your eyes on the Hill,