By Mark Ellis
With breathtaking speed, the creation of the first jihadi state in modern times is almost a fait accompli, stretching from central Syria to central Iraq – led by a Sunni terrorist group considered too radical even for al Queda.
“This is shaping up to be the biggest Arab-jihadi victory since the 12th Century – 1187 – with the fall of crusader Jerusalem,” Lt. Col. Ralph Peters told Fox News. “This is momentous! I can’t overstate the importance,” he said.
Boundaries and borders seem meaningless to the jihadists. “That line on the Rand McNally map dividing Iraq from Syria is gone,” he added. “It’s now a true jihadi state.”
In the last few days, the second largest city in Iraq, Mosul, fell to the offensive conducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Iraqi troops trained by the U.S. abandoned their weapons and fled the city, along with 500,000 refugees. Since Wednesday, the militants rolled into Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, and seized oil fields further to the south.
ISIS forces also looted the central bank in Mosul of $420 million, took 48 employees of the Turkish consulate as hostages, and seized American Humvees, helicopters and weapons. They are only 80 miles from Baghdad and vow to take the city.
So far, President Obama has denied requests by the Iraqi government for airstrikes against the militants, according to the New York Times.
“Airstrikes could help impede the jihadi movement…but it won’t stop the assault on Baghdad,” Lt. Col. Peters noted. “The Iraqis have to do that. The Iraqi army is in collapse. I hope it can gather together.”
There is one telling contrast between the militants and the government troops – a readiness for martyrdom. “If you’re a jihadi militant you believe in your cause and are willing to die for it. The Iraqi military isn’t willing to do that,” Lt. Col. Peters observed.
ISIS is currently led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2011 by the U.S. State Department, and the government offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture or death.
His group is considered more extreme than al-Qaeda. “It is even more brutal than al-Qaeda,” Lt. Col. Peters noted. “It is ‘Son of al-Qaeda’ on steroids.”
“As I pointed out a few years ago, what if Osama bin Laden is not the terrorist messiah? What if he is just John the Baptist? And Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, is chilling in his resolution, brutality, and hatred for civilization.”
The U.S. spent $14 billion on the Iraq war and suffered 4,487 dead and over 32,000 wounded. “All the death, all the bleeding, all the money, was for naught,” according to Lt. Col. Peters, because the administration failed to grasp the strategic importance of Iraq and bowed to political pressure to end U.S. involvement.
He believes a residual force of 10,000 to 20,000 troops should have been left in Iraq to serve as a deterrent. “The Obama administration doesn’t want to do anything militarily in Iraq, no matter what the price is,” he maintained.
“The only way to do airstrikes and make it work would be to put special ops spotters on the ground and we’re not going to do that. The only way to stop this onslaught would be to put troops on the ground and we’re not going to do that,” he told Fox News.