Reams of paper have already been spilled about the past, present, and potential future of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East but in order to attempt to simplify things a little, we offer 5 maps that answer: What ISIL already have..., What they want..., What they will gain control of if they win..., and where all the allies.. and enemies are...
The updated map of the situation in Iraq... (what they have...)
As WaPo reports, the remarkable success of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in capturing huge swaths of land in Iraq and Syria is even more surprising when you consider the scale of the lands captured: Iraq and Syria are big countries, and ISIS controls a lot of them.
This map helps to put ISIS' reach into perspective for U.S. readers. As you can see, it pretty much stretches from Illinois to Virginia.
There's another remarkable factor here. ISIS troop numbers are not huge: According to The Guardian, just 800 militants managed to force 30,000 Iraqi soldiers to flee in Mosul. In total, there are believed to be between 7,000 and 10,000 fighters.
Here is the oil and gas pipelines around Iraq's oil hub in Kirkuk (via Platts) which ISIL will gain control of (if allowed)
"This entire system is disintegrating like a house of cards that starts to collapse," Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said.
As WSJ reports, the group—known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham—isn't a threat only to Iraq and Syria. It seeks to impose its vision of a single radical Islamist state stretching from the Mediterranean coast of Syria through modern Iraq, the region of the Islamic Caliphates established in the seventh and eighth centuries.
Governments and borders are under siege elsewhere, as well. For more than a year, Shiite militias from Lebanon have moved into Syria and operated as a virtual arm of the Syrian government. Meanwhile, so many Syrian refugees have gone in the opposite direction—fleeing into Lebanon—that Lebanon now houses more school-age Syrian children than Lebanese children.
And in Iraq, the Kurdish population has carved out a homeland in the north of the country that—with the help of Turkey and against the wishes of the Iraqi government—exports its own oil, runs its own customs and immigration operations and fields its own military, known as the Peshmerga.
The mess puts Mr. Obama in a box. A few weeks ago he laid out in a policy speech his rationale for staying out of the mire of such sectarian conflicts, since they seem far removed from concrete U.S. interests. Yet, he now seems to acknowledge the U.S. must do something.
The danger for the president is the U.S. are being drawn back into the fray, but with very few options, never mind good ones.
Especially when one considers the Sunni-Shiite splits across each and every nation in the region that the US is trying to befriend...