Even though I follow the news on a regular basis, I was not anticipating the insurgency in Northern Iraq; even though the writing was on the wall for quite some time. My background is in Latin America, but I am still embarrassed to admit that I knew little about what was happening in Northern Iraq until it hit major news sources last week. Based on what I have read so far, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) had been festering since the United States overthrew the Saddam regime in 2003. However, ISIS hit the mainstream media once it began assisting the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in combating Al-Assad's regime. What caused the most alarm for policy makers and viewers alike was the relationship between ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Both call for jihad and have no issues with committing gross human rights violations in the process. After the vetoes from both China and Russia on the UN Security Council on the use of peacekeepers in Syria, the US opted to send supplies to the FSA in 2013. Many feared that these supplies would end up into the hands of ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
A year has passed. ISIS is now the strongest force in Syria's rebel-held territories and has no issues fighting the FSA, it's initial ally, in asserting dominance over the region. Al-Qaeda has even cut ties with ISIS. As ISIS closes in on Baghdad, one thing is certain; ISIS never needed US supplies to accomplish it's goals. From fierce fighting in Syria, ISIS gained access to armories on Syrian military bases and it's initial connection with Al-Qaeda kept a steady stream of combatants and arms to the region. With it's successful operations in the Anbar region and the recent conquering of an Iraqi base in Tikrit (once a former US base), ISIS has been pillaging what it needs. ISIS is not just another extremist organization, they are an experienced regional army that continues to grow in size and influence. With Iraqi cities under siege and quickly falling, ISIS will continue to acquire the resources it needs to sustain; including financial resources.
Image taken from BBC News, further citation in image
With talk of possible US airstrikes and Iranian military involvement, the issue continues to grow more complicated.