Let me begin by saying that we have to understand who ISIS is. ISIS is a radical Sunni group. They cannot just be defeated through air strikes. Air strikes are a key component of defeating them, but they must be defeated on the ground by a ground force. And that ground force must be primarily made up of Sunni Arabs themselves, Sunni Arabs that reject them ideologically and confront them militarily.
Fourth, we will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.
We as outsiders can't differentiate between Sunni and Shi'ah, but leave it to them and they'll get over the difficulty by some kind of hanky panky, just as the Turks did, and for the present it's the only way of getting over it. I don't for a moment doubt that the final authority must be in the hands of the Sunnis, in spite of their numerical inferiority; otherwise you will have a mujtahid-run, theocratic state, which is the very devil.
Saudi Arabia isn't the enemy, but it is a problem. It could make so much positive difference in the Islamic world if it used its status to soothe Sunni-Shiite tensions and encourage tolerance. For a time, under King Abdullah, it seemed that the country was trying to reform, but now under King Salman, it has stalled.
To the extent that the (ISIS's) advance is a series of urban revolts against the government of PM Nouri al-Maliki, the US would end up bombing ordinary city folk. For the US to be bombing Sunni towns all these years later on behalf of Mr. al-Maliki would be to invite terrorism against the US.
I started out as a writer with an hour removed from Kingdom of Heaven. You have to make one print for the entire world, and that's something that influences the theatrical cuts of pictures to an enormous degree. It's a reality. You can't have one cut for the Sunni, and one for the Shia, and one each for Tories, Whigs, vegetarians, one cut for the Cineplex, and one for literary intellectuals.
Many of the fights that are going on are not ones that the United States has either started or have a role in. The Shi'a-Sunni split. The dictatorships have suppressed people's aspirations. The increasing globalization without any real safety valve for people to have a better life. We saw that in Egypt. We saw a dictator overthrown. We saw a Muslim brotherhood president installed, and then we saw him ousted and the army back.
As commander in chief, I will not speak to Vladimir Putin until we've set up that no-fly zone; until we've gathered our Sunni-Arab allies and begun to deny ISIS territory; until I've called the supreme leader of Iran and told him new deal - new deal. We the United States of America are going to cut off the money flow, which we can do; which we don't need anyone's permission or collaboration to do.
At the end of the day...if your army won't fight, it's because they don't trust their incompetent, corrupt generals, they don't trust each other. This is an enduring civil war between the Shia, the Sunni, and the Kurds. So I don't think we've got any options and we'd be ill-advised to start bombing where we really can't sort out the combatants or understand where the civilian population is.
And on this issue of the Shia in Iraq, I think there's been a certain amount of, frankly, Terry, a kind of pop sociology in America that, you know, somehow the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq's always been very secular.
Our enemies - whether Shiite or Sunni - are followers of a totalitarian ideology based on Islam, which tells them that Allah wishes to rule the world through them. Israel is a central front in this war. Given the weakness of Western support for the Jews, jihadists see attacking Israel as a strategic tool for eroding the West's ideological defenses and shoring up their supporters throughout the world.
Never mind that to me, the face of Afghanistan is that of a boy with a thin-boned frame, a shaved head, and low-set ears, a boy with a Chinese doll face perpetually lit by a harelipped smile. Never mind any of those things. Because history isn't easy to overcome. Neither is religion. In the end, I was a Pashtun and he was a Hazara, I was Sunni and he was Shi'a, and nothing was ever going to change that. Nothing.
The Sufi Islam practiced in northern India is quite different from the Shi'a Islam practiced in Lebannon, which in turn is different from the Sunni Islam practiced in Pakistan. Even within a single branch of Islam there are customs and practices that vary by region and across time. Thus, the Islam of seventh-century Arabia is different from the Wahhabism that exists today in Saudi Arabia.
There is no military solution to the war in Iraq. Our troops can help suppress the violence, but they cannot solve its root causes. And all the troops in the world won't be able to force Shia, Sunni, and Kurd to sit down at a table, resolve their differences, and forge a lasting peace. In fact, adding more troops will only push this political settlement further and further into the future, as it tells the Iraqis that no matter how much of a mess they make, the American military will always be there to clean it up.
The Iranian people were converted to Islam not very much longer after the conquest of the Arab world by Islam, but they refused to adopt the Arabic language, and it's a great point of pride to them that Persian culture and the Persian language and Persian literature survived the conversion to Islam. And the conversion to Islam also was for most of them not the Sunni majority form, but the Shia one. So there's a great discrepancy between Iranian society and many other of what we think of as Arab Muslim States and systems.
By the end of 2004, U.S. operations in Iraq had been rough enough to antagonize the Sunni population without imposing the draconian methods armies habitually employ to control a population. In the spring of 2006, the coalition was losing on the two major fronts that accounted for most of the fighting. In Anbar to the west, al Qaeda controlled the population; in Baghdad to the east, Shiite death squads were driving our the sunnis, while al Qaeda's suicide bombings continued. Yet, the conditions had already been set for a turnaround without precedent in combating an insurgency. In less that three years, two giant institutions steeped in 200 years of traditions-the Army and Marines-adopted new doctrines and turned around a losing war. This was equivalent to GE and Ford starting afresh in new business lines and turning a profit in three years. A lack of soldiers is frequently cited as the basic flaw after the invasion. This is mistaken. There were 140, 000 soldiers, plus 100, 000 contractors in support roles, in Iraq in 2003. Adding troops would not have accomplished much because the two-headed command... lacked a plan, a counterinsurgency doctrine, and proper training. With the Pentagon's agreement, Bremer had disbanded the Iraqi Army, and the Iraqi police were ineffective. More American troops operating alone under a doctrine of attack and destroy would have exacerbated the rebellion.